Friday, May 26, 2006

2nd-hand Teh Tarik back again?

Energy, Water and Communications Minister Dr Lim Keng Yaik has provided Malaysians with additional bad news, so shortly after the fuel price hike. He announced a 12% average rise in power rates from June 1.

Though another price increase in oil-related electricity was inevitable, this must have been a double blow straight into the guts of ordinary Malaysians.

But Dr Lim said glibly that low-income household would "not be badly affected", as the rates would be based on the amount of power consumed. He was of course talking about the tariff increase being most significant above certain wattage.

He claimed that the majority of domestic users - 59% or about 3 million households - use less than 200 kilowatts (equivalent to a bill of RM43.60). But he failed to mention that an increase in electricity price, like the oil hike, will affect other goods from the resulting cascading effect.

While fuel price hikes, and consequently electricity, are affected by the extraordinary demands of world markets (China & India joining USA & Japan in the ranks of humongous oil guzzlers) and poor supply because of the unsettled situation in the Middle East (thanks to George Bush), has the Malaysian government made any provision, for example, to index public servants’ salary to ameliorate the cost increase? How about non public servants?

It’s typical of the government in Dr Lim’s out-of-touch statement about low-income household not being badly affected when in the same breath it can spend millions sending a team to Mt Everest.

Looks like we may well have to return to 2nd-hand Teh Tarik for affordable refreshment, with the coopting of RELA* enforcers to monitor kedai kopi (coffee stalls) on pricing?

* Ikatan Relawan Rakyat Malaysia (RELA) or People’s Volunteer Corps was formed as a voluntary government security apparatus on 11 January 1972

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