I was asked to give my take on the recent fuel price increase as well as they way our government handled it.
I think everyone knew that the price increase was imminent, only that the whole nation was shocked with the steep increase, not gradual increase as how it was done before. The public will now have to brace for price hike in almost every other item, except for maybe, as you know, the fuel, for now.
People are equally unhappy with the manner it was done. One day, the minister in-charge, Datuk Sharir Samad says that the planned increase would be in August and two days later, PM Abdullah announces price increase in affect the next day.
Just a week earlier, the minister announced ban of sale of fuel to foreign cars only to overturn the decision later. This flip flop policy changes does not reflect well on the government and I have personally lost the respect I had for my fellow Johorean, Datuk Shahrir. His credibility has gone down the drain the moment he became a minister.
The same goes to PM Abdullah. The way he made the announcement, the speech, body language and choice of words were extremely poor and did not give the public the confidence that the government is doing the right thing for the nation, the right way.
Already this government is facing undue pressure from the opposition, managing this (fuel price) situation was critical to prove government knows what they are doing and that they are doing the right thing, the right way. Unfortunately they flopped big time.
The public is angry. Further announcement on public bus fare hikes also angered the public. The small token, in the form of rebates would not compensate for the expected price increase on all daily necessities.
On the other hand, the World Bank/IMF endorsed economist , the Opposition leader , took the opportunity to take a swipe at the government by announcing that he can do what US, UK, China, EU and India can’t, reduce the fuel prices. What a joke, and at what expense. If he has great ideas and genuinely interested with the welfare of the public, he should share the idea with us and the government. And if his idea is implemented, he can take credit and use it to win the elections, either by-election or the snap election, whichever comes first. You want this opportunist to be your next PM? Will leave that to you.
Perhaps, the first thing he would do is simply raise the interest rates, as he did in 1998. And you know the rest of the story.
And the public is definitely not impressed with his government cost saving measures. They are not interested to know how government can reduce their cost but to know how government is going to help them to reduce the burden.
The information and announcements, coming in bits and pieces are not helpful as public does not get the picture. The reaction from key stakeholders such as transport companies and industries only shows that the government did not engage them in making decisions. They decide and then start talking to concerned parties.
I personally believe that this whole situation has been poorly managed and PM Abdullah has an uphill task to improve his already sliding popularity with the public. I have doubts now whether he can last this term.