Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fuel price hike unjust, says Anwar

Arfa’eza A Aziz (malaysiakini)
Mar 15, 06 11:05am

The government is being unjust in burdening Malaysians with a fuel price hike when billions of ringgit in profits for national oil company Petronas are only distributed among its cronies, alleged Parti Keadilan Rakyat adviser Anwar Ibrahim.

In a brief e-mail communication, Anwar said it was regrettable that profits amassed by Petronas are not being spent in a transparent manner.

Anwar, who was finance minister from 1991 and 1998, stressed the need for the oil company to be made answerable to Parliament.

Petronas has been recording high returns but yet it is answerable only to the prime minister and not to Parliament,” said the former deputy premier currently a visiting professor at Georgetown University in Washington DC.

“It is regrettable that its funds amounting to billions of ringgit are not being spent in a transparent manner. Instead these are used to bail out crony companies and finance mega projects. Petronas gives little attention to stimulating economic development or showing concern for the people.”

University established

He was commenting on the government’s latest decision to reduce fuel subsidies that led to prices increasing between 18.5 percent and 23 percent. In less than two years, the petrol price has gone up by 40 percent while diesel now costs 102 percent more.

The decision had revived calls for greater transparency in state-owned Petronas which was ranked last in the 2006 survey of the ‘World’s Most Sustainable and Ethical Companies’. Spanish-based ethics rating firm Management & Excellence conducted the survey of 15 major oil companies.

Anwar said that, as finance minister, he had managed to channel some of the profits to benefit the public, for instance by overseeing the establishment of the Petronas University in Perak. “(But at the same time) there were instructions for the company to rescue family companies... some RM2 billion was to bail out Shipping Consortium Bhd, Renong, the Twin Towers (Kuala Lumpur City Centre) and billions of ringgit more for the Putrajaya government complexes,” he claimed.

“The amount spent on the bail-out exercises and the mega projects is not commensurate with the amount spent on (projects that benefit) the people.”

Asked if he had been responsible for any fuel price hike during his tenure as the finance minister, Anwar said: “No... In fact, I had increased subsidies for the lower-income groups like farmers and fishermen.

“I managed to maintain the fuel price despite increase of oil price at the world market and had lowered the price when the (global) rate decreased.”

He said efficient and responsible financial management is the key to resolving issues relating to the fuel price, as part and parcel of managing the national economy.

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