Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shahrir says Malaysians are greedy

Datuk Shahrir Samad, the minister who has faced the brunt of criticism over oil prices, courted even more controversy today when he suggested Malaysians were greedy if they expected subsidies to continue.

The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister, whose job is to regulate prices, said subsidies are meant to only cushion the burden of high prices.

"When prices come down it will just be greed on the part of consumers to insist that they be subsidised," he said.

Shahrir's comments come as more Malaysians have accused the government of reneging on the promise to maintain a 30-sen subsidy on petrol and diesel.

While the government continues to subsidise diesel, it has stopped subsidies on petrol sales.

A quirk in the method in which pump prices are set and the steep drop in global oil prices have now resulted in the government collecting a "tax" through revenue gained from the difference between pump prices and the actual market price.

"It is not that we are not keeping our word. It is because the drop in prices has been faster than the 30-sen subsidy," he said.

He said it would be destructive to bring down prices quickly, but he offered no explanation for such an argument.

The minister also brushed aside suggestions that consumers were now subsidising the government.

"The Government collects taxes. It is Government revenue. When the price is high, that is when the Government extends it as subsidy," he said.

Oil prices have played a major part in Malaysian politics over the past year.

The opposition successfully used rising oil prices as an effective weapon against the ruling Barisan Nasional government in the March general election.

Playing on widespread dissatisfaction over rising oil prices then, the opposition succeeded in wresting five state governments and also denied for the first time in the country's history BN's two-thirds parliamentary majority.

While pump prices have fallen sharply recently because of a softening global economic outlook widespread unhappiness remains because the government has effectively removed subsidies on petrol sales.

Shahrir says Malaysians are greedy
The Malaysian Insider, Malaysia

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