Thursday, 5 June 2008

Fuel price hike... Give the rakyat an alternative.

I read it first on Malaysiakini yesterday evening. Well, I guess it's stale news by now. It's going to cost more to fill up. RM 2.70 per litre. As usual, there is the usual 'we're still one of the cheapest in the region' disclaimer. Yes, we are. Not forgetting, 'the new price of fuel is still only half compared to developed countries'. Yes, it is. But then again, not all the countries in the region are net fuel exporters, are they? And the developed countries argument, seriously, our public transportation is hardly third world standard, let alone developed country standard.

I know the hike was inevitable, what with the skyrocketting of global oil prices. I understand the need to reduce subsidies. But at the very least, protect the poor. Don't burden them further. A rebate of RM650 translates to getting to fill up at the old rate for 800 litres. I'm very sure the average Malaysian family uses about double that. So we will almost definitely have to spend more for fuel. The urban poor, will be badly hit, and more often than not, it's these people who have to use more fuel, as they stay further from the city to save on house ownership or rental cost.

An increase in fuel price is only the tip of the iceberg. Absolutely everything else will inevitably cost more due to increased transportation costs. Diesel, mind you, is a whole ringgit more now per litre. More for groceries, more for consumables, more for this, more for that. What I really want to see from this, is more effort to cushion things for the rakyat. Improve public transportation, and do it quick. More busses, more trains, extend the LRT network. Improve feeder bus service. Encourage people not to drive to work, and reward them for not doing so.

I stay in Petaling Jaya and work in the city centre. Getting to work, on time, means having to either drive to work, or take the sardine-packed LRT. Busses are out of the question, as it simply takes too long, having to change busses and all. The infrequent service doesn't help either. To take the LRT, ideally, I walk to the main road, take the feeder bus to the LRT station, and take the train. But I have waited up to an hour before for the feeder bus, so that's a no. So instead, I drive to the train station, park my car in a paid parking area, and take the train. While the train service is frequent enough during peak hours, they simply can't cope with the number of people who have to board them. The result, sardine-packed trains and snaking queues.

Since I have to drive to the LRT station anyway, more often than not, I just prefer to drive to work. It costs more, fuel, tolls, parking and what not, but it's easier. It's going to cost even more now, and while I, like other Malaysian, have the option of taking public transportation, it simply isn't convenient enough. That has to change. The government should not force people to take public transportation simply because of cost. I believe the onus is upon them to really make public transportation a viable option, and I, like many Malaysians will WILLINGLY leave the car home.

Perhaps it's also time to make Petronas' books public. I for one, want to know why as an oil exporting nation, I don't seem to see us reap rewards from high oil prices. I'd like to see Petronas profits used more for the benefit of the rakyat. After all, as tax paying rakyat, we own Petronas.

1 comment:

-m3- said...

Well said Mr.Premnath.... Public transportation wont be an ideal option for sure...Just have a look at some public buses and it's condition...I can say that I'm going to risk my life if I opt for public transport...In this situation,wil you look at the money or life? Certainly life..What we need is cheap, reliable and safe public transportation system for our country. But sorry,don’t expect that from our public Well,by looking al this,this show how negligent and irresponsible the authorities are forcing the public to drive to work in the absence of an efficient public transportation