Cronies continue to gorge while rakyat peck at crumbs


Hazlan Zakaria, The Ant Daily

As we tighten our belts and at the government’s insistence look to change our lifestyle in the face of rising costs of living and shrinking subsidies, cronies or firms with links to the powers that be continue to gorge on the nation’s wealth unabated.

As pointed out by former finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, when it comes to oil subsidies it is “an unforgivable sin” that the government pampers independent power producing companies linked to the ruling party with RM136 billion in subsidy.

“The sad part is that while these power producers continue to enjoy subsidised fuel prices, petroleum subsidy to the consumers — which purportedly cost the government RM14 billion in 2011 — was partly discontinued recently,” he said at a recent forum.

True enough successive budgets after 2011 saw not just oil but other subsidies for the rakyat removed in what Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak termed as “subsidy rationalisation”, to disguise its real nature, which are quite plainly subsidy cuts.

The cuts despite being supposedly targeted to reduce spending, led to ballooning prices as the government failed to implement price control measures to prevent companies from raising prices under the pretense of rising costs.

Hikes in sundry prices following sugar and oil subsidy cuts have made living expense a nightmare for most low- and middle-income citizens.

Despite this, companies are allowed to increase prices to offset costs, or government controls were ineffective to stop them, while consumers shoulder the burden and some companies even continue to enjoy government subsidies.

While the Malaysian Competition Commission has taken action against ice manufacturers for artificially fixing prices, others seem to have gotten away with it, even as the government asked the rakyat to change their lifestyle instead of authorities doing their job.

Tengku Razaleigh, popularly known as Ku Li, also criticised the BN-led government for using Petronas as a “cash cow” and piggy bank to bail out government-linked corporations and fund mega projects and artistic aesthetics like the national philharmonics.

The extravagance of the government is like a vampire sucking dry the national oil company’s coffer that is supposed to hold the wealth of the nation in trust for the rakyat and invest it to develop new revenue streams for the future.

Millions if not billions feed the ego of the powers that be with monuments or bailouts of BN-linked companies.