May 29, 2006

Demodoom

Posted in Malaysia at 1:29 am by egalitaria

It was supposed to be the climax of a series of anti-fuel hike demonstrations, yet it ended on a tragic note when police today forcefully broke up the protest with at least two seriously injured.

(taken from Malaysiakini.com – full link here

Malaysian police used batons and water cannons to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters in the capital, arresting around a dozen activists and beating several.

Some 200 people, including opposition parties, non-government organisations and student groups gathered in front of Kuala Lumpur's iconic Petronas Twin Towers in the latest of a series of rallies against steep fuel price rises.

Chanting "Protest!" and carrying banners saying "Cronies get rich while workers are oppressed", they also slammed a decision last week to raise electricity tariffs, the first hike in nearly a decade.
(taken from Malaysia-today.net, full link here). 

Questions to ask:

  1. Fuel hike and electricity price increase: necessary for the government or not?
  2. If it was necessary, has the government acted responsibly in ensuring the welfare of the lower income group is taken care of sufficiently?
  3. If it has not, why not? If it has not, in what ways have the government acted irresponsibly, and has it been for any vested interests?
  4. If it has acted irresponsibly, is this reason enough for the public to react?
  5. If so, what is the correct method in which the public should react? Legal and social restrictions?
  6. If the public has reacted and responded according to legal principles, what was the reason for the "violent" acts today?
  7. Is this something that should be brought to the Human Rights Commission, as the protestors are going to do (as reported)?
  8. And what are the implications of these on your stand towards government policy? (economic, social and otherwise)

(i'm figuring out the last one for myself too)

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2 Comments

  1. roy said,

    I disagree with many of the points raised by the protestors. A lot of it is just bad economics and are all populist notions. These people will never form government, so it doesn’t cost them anything to make promises that they will never need to fulfill.

    Even if they did, I don’t want a Chavez- or Morales-type government. Nationalizing energy and giving out cheap fuel excites the masses in the short run but it may lead to further underinvestment and waste.

    Messing around with the market set energy prices will lead to market distortions. For example, we talk about going green, reducing carbon footprints and peak oil. The high fossil fuel energy prices now might be signals that these issues are becoming more real and prices should be left high because we really do need to “change our lifestyle”.

    But no, I am no cold hearted right-wing capitalist or Najib-supporter. There are other ways the government can redistribute the oil wealth back to the people, which they haven’t.

    For one, as taxpayers and citizens, we are shareholders of Petronas. Petronas has made billions of profits. Maybe it’s time that the man on the street receive his first cash dividend cheque from Petronas?

    So the man on the street’s fuel costs rises, but his welfare loss will be compensated by the cash payout. But prices are not distorted in this case.

    I think this is more ideal than letting bureaucrats decide for the people how to spend the profits. If cash is paid out, no one can accuse anyone of acting irresponsibly or having any vested interest.

    But in the words of Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

    I wasn’t there, but reading the news articles, I don’t think there was any need for the police to move in on the protestors.

    Honestly, having the cops move in was stupid. They have made martyrs out of this issue. Now the government has made itself look really stubborn and cold hearted. Bad PR man…

  2. egalitaria said,

    thanks roy.. economist view it is. i think people are angry not so much with the raising the rates itself but the way in which funds are mismanaged when profits are reaped. the government could do more to quell fears and disgruntled citizens through a more transparent and efficient system.. cos right now citizens feel like things are being taken away but to no positive end… but i agree with you that subsidies do not make economic sense especially now. but all of this takes a responsible government to handle wisely. do we have that?


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