Friday, January 7, 2011

Fewer lamps in longhouses as kerosene price soars

Joseph Tawie

KUCHING: Some 80% of the more than 6,000 longhouses and villages in Sarawak’s interior do not have electricity and depend on kerosene for lighting and cooking.

While on paper the latest federal government announcement of a 10 sen in increase in kerosene to RM2.50 per litre may seem insignificant, in the interior Sarawak it will mean fewer lamps are lit and perhaps even lesser meals for the family.

For in Sarawak’s interior, the cost of kerosene could go up as high as RM4.50 a litre or more because of logistical and transport cost, said Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian.

“It’s a heavy burden for the poor people of Sarawak, especially the rural population in the interior who pay substantially more for their petrol, cooking gas and other essential consumer items like food and clothing upriver owing to high logistics and transport costs,” he said.

And while the federal Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs continues to claim that the increases are “minimal and unlikely to adversely” affect the rakyat, a glass of regular teh tarik and kopi ‘o’ at the coffeeshops in Sarawak (and Sabah) is expected to cost more (50 sen).

“Market talk has it now that the prices of beverage drinks in coffeeshops like coffee, tea and Milo will also likely increase throughout Sarawak come mid-January.

“In Sibu, people wanting their normal bowl/plate of noodles have to pay 30 and 50 sen more.

“As a result of the fuel price rises, restaurant and coffeeshop operators throughout the state have begun to increase their prices, ” he said.

10% increase in CPI

Bian said since the 2006 state election when the current BN state government took office, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of Sarawak had risen from 104.0% to 113.8%.

“The CPI has shot up 9.8 percentage points over five years, or about 2 percentage points every year.

“Given the significant petrol, diesel and LNG price increases in July 2010 and December 2010, we can safely anticipate that the annual CPI for Sarawak will register another jump again for 2010 and into 2011.

(RON95 petrol now costs RM1.90 per litre, RON97 is RM2.50, diesel costs RM1.80 per litre, LPG RM1.90 per kg; and sugar costs RM2.10/kg.)

“The current price rises of nearly 10 percentage points in essential goods and services since 2006 may not mean much to the rich people like (Chief Minister) Taib Mahmud and his BN cronies who have lots of money and do their shopping overseas in Canada, London, California, Australia, Monaco, Singapore, Hong Kong and beyond.

“But to rural Sarawakians it is a question of affording basic necessities,” he said.

Lamenting at the BN’s lavish ways, Bian said the government was doing “little” to alleviate the plight of people as a result of the rising cost.

Sarawak is the fourth poorest state in Malaysia. Neighbour Sabah is the poorest state in country.

“Although given the mandate to control inflation and rising costs of essential goods and services, the state BN government is doing little to alleviate the plight of people as a result of these rising costs.

“Instead of being prudent in their expenditure of public funds, the state BN government is squandering billions of ringgit in public funds on useless projects like Bakun, Murum and a further dozen hydroelectric dams.

“It is busy the stealing the NCR lands of native communities and giving out highly inflated contracts to companies linked to the chief minister’s family.

“At the national level, the BN government is wasting billions of ringgit on submarines, fighter jets and other mega-projects which do not benefit Sarawakians, ” he said.

Bian added that bearing this in mind, any vote for BN would simply mean a vote for “Barang Naik!”

“The time has come for the electorate of Sarawak to take a stand to reclaim their livelihoods from the rapacious wastefulness of this BN government.

“What is now clear is that this BN government does not stand for the rakyat. Instead, BN stands for ‘Barang Naik’,” he added.

Taken from Free Malaysia Today.

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