KUALA LUMPUR: The price of oil can shoot up to US$50 (RM190) a barrel if the United States goes to war against Iraq, Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.
The Prime Minister believed that Iraq would burn its oil fields if it was attacked and this would cause a shortage of oil around the world.
“Fortunately for us in Malaysia, we have oil. We gain US$54mil (RM205mil) (a year) when there is just a US$1 (RM3.80) increase in price. But in Japan, a rise of US$1 will cause it to lose more than US$3bil (RM11.4bil),” he said yesterday after chairing the Umno supreme council meeting.
Dr Mahathir said other countries that were not as rich as Japan or did not have oil resources would suffer even more.
“So, we are grateful that we have some oil,” he added.
Malaysia exports Tapis crude oil, which was trading at US$34.40 (RM130.72) yesterday. The UK standard Brent crude was trading at US$32.80 (RM124.64) while light sweet crude was at a high of US$37 (RM140.60).
The Umno president also touched on the massive worldwide demonstrations calling for peace on the Iraq issue.
He said they showed that opinions were turning against the United States but “of course, the US can claim that these people don’t reflect the total opinion of the people”.
He noted that in Malaysia, when there were reformasi demonstrations of only 200 to 300 people, “they” (US) suggested that the Government here should resign.
“Now that millions are demonstrating worldwide, they (US) do not talk in the same way,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said the Iraq issue would be one of the main issues at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit here because countries were not happy that military attack was being considered as a way to solve problems, adding that they also did not agree with the US policy of pre-emptive strikes.
To a question on North Korea calling on NAM to issue a statement blaming the US for the tensions in the Korean peninsula, Dr Mahathir said this would depend on the views of other member countries.
He said he was told that the US was not willing to attack North Korea because Pyongyang had weapons of mass destruction unlike Iraq.
“So already, they are admitting that Iraq is less of a danger than North Korea. It is strange why they are focussing on a less dangerous and weaker country,” he added.
On a different matter, Dr Mahathir said the youth of today should take a lesson from the victory of Mohd Hafiz Hashim in the recent All-England men’s singles championship.
He said although Hafiz was trailing in the game, he continued fighting and went on to win the title.
“This is the sort of spirit that should be emulated by the youth. They should not admit defeat easily and should strive until they achieve victory,” he said, adding the party expressed pride at Hafiz’s victory and congratulated him.
Dr Mahathir said his advice that the young shuttler should not be spoiled by million ringgit land gifts and lavish incentives did not mean that the victory was not appreciated.
“They can reward him but in an appropriate manner. They should not, however, overdo it and spoil him.”
On the issue of Islamic education in national schools, Dr Mahathir said the current curriculum was being revamped so that students learned about the fundamentals of the religion rather than be caught up on smaller issues such as clothing and the colour of one’s kopiah (skull cap).