Jun 19, 2008

Is it their fate?

rubber tapper

Is there never a full stop for them? Poor people have been struggling to make ends meet with the rising of food costs. The drastic increase in fuel prices can derail the government’s target to wipe out abject poverty or reduce the number of the poor to 2.8 per cent by 2010. I believe the 41 per cent hike in petrol and 63.3 per cent in diesel prices in the wake of skyrocketing global oil price has made it as a big task. People's purchasing power had shrunk significantly following the revised fuel subsidy which saw petrol price rising by 78 cents and diesel RM1. Now they are hit once more with more expensive fuel while there is zero growth in their income.

In April, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Amirsham A. Aziz had expressed confidence that the government would realize its goal to rid abject poverty despite the spiraling oil price in the world market. I really doubtful on the prospect, based on today's purchasing power, more Malaysian could slip into the poverty bracket, if not below. As in previous occasions, higher fuel price means increase in prices for everything, from food to other necessities including services. The price increase of 78 cents per liter for petrol and RM1 for diesel affected the masses from all walks of life, but the poor suffered the most.Look at it this way...one has RM1 and the other has RM100. Forking out 20 cent more for the one with RM100 is nothing much compared with the one with RM1.

Even though we may not see a drastic jump in statistics, based on that simple calculation we can see more will fall figuratively into the poor category. What more with those earning below the poverty line of RM691.I don't think the current poverty line income is relevant anymore as today's cost of living is getting higher by the day. To me, it should be much higher, maybe around RM1 500. Based on the 2005 calculation, poverty line for the whole nation is RM691, while for the peninsula is RM661, Sabah (RM888) and Sarawak (RM765). The figures are based on a family of five. To ease the burden of this segment of the population, the government must allocate some amount to save the poor.

The people too should be paid dividends based on the companies' profits. Owned either whole or partly by the government such as PETRONAS and Tenaga (Tenaga Nasional Bhd) should give out cash bonuses to the people. In this case, we can follow the foot step of our neighbour country, Singapore. Singapore’s government pays bonuses to the people. Last year, every Singaporean received around S$700 or RM1 800. Cash given out of fuel subsidy would not benefit all the deserving people. It only those who owned vehicles were eligible. What about those who do not own a vehicle and rely solely on public transport. They are not eligible for the rebate whereas the hike in fuel prices has multiple effects and this group of people will also feel the crunch because prices of everything will increase as well. The government should consider a better way to help this target group. Any assistance provided should centre on three aspects, namely food, transportation and services such as health. These three aspects are vital for the poor as they need them for survival. Therefore, the government should come up with ways to ensure the target groups receive direct benefit.

These three aspects are vital for the poor as they need them for survival. Therefore, the government should come up with ways to ensure the target groups received direct benefit. I believe the government could still provide a "comfortable" subsidised fuel for the people if the quantum of Petronas' profits allocated for subsidy was based on the global market price. At the moment, the government has not explained the formula in calculating the percentage given by Petronas from its profits. They just give us the total amount.

“Kadar kemiskinan di Malaysia sebenarnya lebih 30 peratus dan bukannya 5.7 peratus seperti yang diumumkan oleh kerajaan” Dr Denison Jayasooria, President of Yayasan Strategik Sosial.

If Dr.Denison’s statement is correct, I am wondering is the Vision 2020 still available for Malaysia? More than 5o years of independence, this it what we have achieved? Poor remain poor and the rich remain rich. What’s the point we have blessed with much natural resource like rubber, tin, petroleum, fishes,palm oil and others?

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