Guan Eng defends delay in fuel subsidy plan amid opposition backlash

GEORGE TOWN: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng today defended the delay in implementation of a reduced fuel price plan for the poor, saying it was necessary for further refinements.

He said despite the delay in the targeted fuel subsidy programme (PSP), which saw a backlash from the opposition, fuel prices in Malaysia remained among the lowest in the world at RM2.08 per litre.

He also noted the current crude price of US$66-US$67 per barrel, compared to US$60 last week.

“When we wanted to start the targeted fuel subsidy for the poor, the opposition did not like it.

“Now, we have delayed it for further refinements and explanation to the target group, but that too is opposed.

“So I want to ask the opposition parties, do you support fuel subsidies or not? Or are you opposing just for the sake of opposing?” he said on the sidelines of an event at Batu Maung today.

“Are they okay with the fuel price being floated (according to market rates) without taking into account the effects on the people?”

His comments follow attacks by MCA on Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail’s announcement that the Cabinet had decided to defer the PSP.

He said the government is in talks with stakeholders to further study the impact of floating fuel prices once the PSP kicks in.

Putrajaya previously said about eight million people were eligible for the programme, with three million from the lower-income group and the rest from the middle-income group.

RM2.2 billion in subsidies has reportedly been allocated for the PSP.

Earlier, Lim visited the second Penang bridge in conjunction with the reduction in toll prices today from RM8.50 to RM7, as had been announced in the 2020 Budget.

He described the exercise as a “rationalisation of tolls”, saying the lower prices would push more traffic from the first bridge to the second.

He said it would also boost growth at Batu Kawan, Penang’s new industrial township on the mainland, and the Bayan Lepas industrial zone on the island.

He also said the decision to lease new government cars would be made at the next Cabinet meeting.

It was reported that 32 Toyota Vellfires for ministers and 3,000 Honda Accords for senior officials would be leased, with Spanco Sdn Bhd, Naza, Berjaya, Sime Darby, DRB-Hicom, the Samling group, Comos and Go Auto vying for the government lease.

Spanco had leased vehicles to the government for the past 25 years. Its tenure ended in 2019.