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Malaysia: Escalating fuel protests

Fuel protests are escalating in Malaysia today. A few days ago, the opposition managed to gather thousands of people in the streets as protest to the Malaysian government's move to reduce fuel subsidies and raise fuel prices. Next month, anti-government groups vow to mobilize one million Malaysians.

Cowboy Caleb describes the situation in Malaysia the night before higher oil prices took effect:

“Traffic was being diverted from the seaside road, because it looked like a crowd was staging a demonstration. Further along the way, every single petrol station I passed by was jam-packed with cars queuing-up to pump petrol.

“Naturally, Malaysians are shaking their fists in anger. Amongst all the other oil-producing countries, Malaysia is the most expensive despite still being relatively cheap in the Asian region. This just smacks of bad governance.”

Konsyenz explains the anger of ordinary Malaysians:

“Simplistically put, a net exporting country like Malaysia should profit when global oil prices increase. Demand for oil is ever increasing, but the limited supply pushes the value of this prized commodity up.

“So, logically speaking, an oil-rich country like Malaysia, which is projected to be a net exporter until 2014, is making more money when prices skyrocket. Why is the country suffering from the effects of global oil prices then?”

But freelittlebrain thinks the oil price hike protest is unjustified and wrong. The same viewpoint is expressed by Malay Women and Malaysia:

“I was shocked and quite angry with the recent fuel price hike 24 hours after hearing the news last week but quickly realize that there is nothing we can do about it. I still maintain my stand that the fuel price protest like what Malaysians have planned for today is a waste of time.”

chantique79 believes the fuel policies of the Prime Minister reflect the leader’s “very short thinking without thinking the consequences to the people.” Former Malaysian leader Dr. Mahathir Mohamad shares his perspective on the issue:

“I believe the people expect the increase of petrol price. But what they are angry about is the quantum and the suddenness. The Prime Minister was hinting at August but suddenly it came two months earlier, just after the ban on sale of petrol to foreigners. If the increase had been more gradual, the people would not feel it so much.”

Fireangel uploads the article of a friend who tackled the impact of higher oil prices on the economy:

“The entire supply chain, from manufacturers, to distributors and retailers will now face the prospect of a “double-whammy”–paying a quarter more on their electricity bills as well as bearing the drastically higher price of fuel.

“The resulting cost increases will undoubtedly be passed on to the consumer, and might in turn precipitate a crisis in domestic production as demand for some goods falls through the floor with the diminution of real income.

“The effects of inflation, let alone hyperinflation, are unpredictable at best in a country that recently avoided paying a RM900 minimum monthly wage. At worst the combined effect of these latest developments will set a match to the powder keg of social discontent.”

Meshio.com adds:

“I have also noticed people are more pissed off with the petrol price than with the rice hike. It shows that the people are not stupid. They know the price hike is a global issue. But they also know that the shocking petrol hike is NOT so much of a global issue than it is a home-brewed one.”

Malaysian leaders have vowed that there will be no more oil price hikes this year. They said the government will look for alternative sources of revenue. Cakap Tak Serupa Bikin reacts:

“What alternative ways available? The government might consider scrapping corruption and look at ways to legalize it without doing it illegally. We have legalized civil servants’ moonlighting and working in the night; we had legalized horse racing and bettings, we had legalized casinos, sports toto, 4-Ds; well, just add one more to it.”

KTemoc Konsiders describes the oil price hike as “Truly Tragically Tsunamic.” And the blogger points out the “positive” impact of the hike:

“The only enterprise which will boom, and I say this not as a cruel joke but as an observed reality of Malaysian life, will be the 4-Ekor and gambling businesses. Poverty leads to financial desperation, and desperation leads to fantasized hopes … and fantasy leads the poor to the 4-Ekor shops.”

paultan.org notes that cars are now a luxury and a necessity at the same time:

“I guess compared with our per capita income, cars are now officially a luxury and thanks to our pathetic public transport system, a necessity at the same time! We will have to find alternate ways to cut our fuel bill without relying on public transport, such as minimizing travel and car pooling.”

Rajan Rishyakaran reviews the fuel subsidy system of Malaysia:

“It isn’t as if Malaysia’s coffer is awashed with cash: we have been in a fiscal deficit for many years now. And revenue from oil shouldn’t be spent on subsidies: it is wasteful, not targeted and inefficient. Handing out checks (a bit like what the current administration seems to be doing) is a lot more efficient.

“Of course the current government could do a lot to lower the burden. Cancel huge projects of questionable value (why Penang Monorail, for example, when refurbishing the island’s tram lines are far much cheaper) – and channel that money into tax cuts.”

Rant Cushion discussed how the fuel subsidy was abused:

“The subsidy has been abused by those who do not merit the taxpayers’ sacrifice. When a subsidized system like that for fuel creates a two-tier system, we can bet there will be corrupt siphoning of benefits across the tier, where those not entitled will enjoy benefits at taxpayers expenses.

“Removing the fuel subsidy does NOT mean the end of subsidy to those in need as there are other ways to ensure they receive the publicly funded benefits via, for example, social welfare packages which will be an improved system of ensuring the benefits actually reach the intended target population.”

Oxyeleotris marmorata asks: Did we enjoy the nation's oil wealth? Where did all the oil profits go to?

The rising food and energy prices led ShadowFox's hideout to worry about the future:

“The wealth from the parent’s generation is ending soon, now we're facing the new generation of youths who might not be as diligent or financially adequate as their parent's generations, and the lack of decent opportunities in meritocratic environment. Even in the private sector, things are not all that rosy. Young people nowadays will have a huge problem managing their finance.”

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