MIRI: Sarawak Backbenchers Club chairman Paulus Palu Gumbang has slammed the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s proposed fuel subsidy scheme as unrealistic and smacks of another broken election promise.
“Why are they now talking about targeted aid mechanisms? Looks like they once again are adding another item to the already long list of broken promises,” he said yesterday.
He described the proposed mechanism as unfair to the people in Sarawak and Sabah.
PH, which rode to a stunning change of federal government on May 9 this year, had pledged in its election manifesto to lower the petrol pump price to RM1.50 per litre but this has not been fulfilled to this date.
Paulus was responding to the announcement by Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah on Wednesday that the government would announce the targeted aid mechanism to replace the current blanket fuel subsidy next year.
Calling the targeted subsidy scheme unrealistic, he said it failed to take into consideration the people of East Malaysia whose needs differ from those in Peninsular Malaysia which has superior infrastructure and more economic activities.
He said stakeholders must be consulted before any decisions are made by the federal government.
“The proposed new fuel subsidy is not realistic without taking into consideration the needs of rural dwellers in the state who use bigger capacity engines because of the difficult and hilly terrain,” he said.
Paulus was referring to the most common mode of transport on rural roads – 4WD vehicles, the work horse in rural Sarawak where the conditions of roads are a far cry from those in Peninsular Malaysia.
The three-term Batu Danau assemblyman said most rural people, particularly farmers and oil palm smallholders, had to purchase single or double cabin vehicles to transport their fresh fruit bunches (FOB) to collection centres or mills.
He figured that the proposed subsidy which would only be for vehicles below 1,300cc was not fair to the rural farmers.
“There must be some semblance of fairness for the people in the state of Sarawak and Sabah which have the highest number of 4WD vehicles in the country, not by choice but by necessity due to the circumstances,” he said, pointing to the vastness of both states, their geographical terrain and sub-standard rural road network.
The deputy finance minister was quoted by Malay Mail as saying that studies were being conducted to ensure the implementation would take place smoothly.
He had said in a written reply in the Senate earlier on Wednesday this week that the current price support for fuel would be dropped in favour of direct assistance to qualified recipients, particularly users of motorcycles with engines below 125cc and cars below 1,300cc.
Amiruddin later told reporters after officiating at the Public Policy in a Digital World conference on Wednesday that the announcement is likely to be made next year.
Prices of RON95 and diesel are both currently subsidised by the government, which froze both at the levels they were at during the May 9 general election.