Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Malaysian Oil Dilemma

Output rate. Rising global oil demand. Market forces. Economic instability. Price volatility. Big words meted out effortlessly by the small-minded Malaysian government daily in an attempt to appease an increasingly angry public. The public knows not economic theories put forth by Adam Smith or Thomas Malcus or John Keynes or the complicated formulae used in determining the price per liter of oil that they end up forking out for. Or how OPEC determines how much oil to produce per day. The public knows not these things. The public cares not on these things. Nor should they.

The public is made of Malaysian citizens. All these Malaysians want to know is why the accounts of Petronas, a Malaysian government owned body that digs out oil from Malaysian soil is not made public. They also question why, Malaysia as a net producer of oil (high quality, sulphur free oil to boot) cannot afford to subsidize her own citizens while ALL other oil producing countries seem to be doing it, with lesser problems, with at least one selling oil for as low as 16 sen per liter. They cannot comprehend why we keep comparing ourselves with countries that do not have this God given natural resource, and why, alongside high fuel, we also pay high road tax, and import duties sometimes up to 300% the value of the vehicle, and a high price for toll.

The public cannot accept, that while we are told to tighten our belts, the yearly excise and import duties collected by Customs goes up, Petronas profits are higher than ever and the toll concessionaires are raking in billions in profit.

While Petronas is a Fortune 500 company, and the Financial Times British business newspaper calls Petronas one of the new ‘Seven Sister Companies’ i.e. the most powerful oil companies in the world, rich enough to sponsor, among others, the once tallest building in the world, an F1 team, an international philharmonic orchestra, a full fledged university, but alas, according to the government it is too poor to help out with the suffering of Malaysians who pay high prices for fuel. Also according to the government, we are fast running out of oil, and soon we’ll become a net oil importer. We are also told we produce higher grade oil. Basically, in simple terms we sell gold, and buy silver. But the government tells us, when the gold runs out, we’re in trouble. The public wonders what happened to some 900 billion gained so far. The complicated, confusing answers given by the government using big terms and long accounts are beyond the public’s comprehension. It all sounds wrong.

The public cannot understand these things. Nor can it accept it. Nor should they. The problem, as they say, is the government’s. And maybe, in this case, the problem is the government.

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