Diesel price fuels fiery Dewan Rakyat debate

KUALA LUMPUR: A heated discussion between the Opposition and government blocs took place in the Dewan Rakyat as Finance Minister II Datuk Seri Amir Hamzah Azizan tried to explain the diesel subsidy rationalisation.

Putrajaya MP Datuk Seri Radzi Jidin, of the Opposition Perikatan Nasional, said the government should not be detached from reality when most industry players were already contending with the recent service tax hike from 6% to 8%.

Pakatan Harapan’s Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin argued that the move was necessary because blanket subsidies were not sustainable.

“What has been played up is only politics,” he said.

The second finance minister also called on the MPs not to politicise the matter, saying that it should be discussed rationally and backed with data.

“We never removed the subsidy, we have only targeted the subsidy at people who are in need. We don’t want to subsidise Thai nationals,” said Amir Hamzah, alluding to the smuggling of the fuel at the nation’s borders.

He added that retail sales of diesel decreased by 30% during the first week after the announcement of diesel prices, which took effect on June 10.

The figure, he said, equals eight million litres per day, while commercial sales of the fuel increased by as much as four million litres daily during the same period.

“The trend of increasing sales of commercial diesel reflects a positive sign that the leakage of subsidised diesel has been reduced.

“From the information received from one of the oil companies selling diesel at the border, it shows a 40% decrease and confirms that there was previously diesel-smuggling activity to the border country,” he said.

Amir Hamzah said enforcement agencies have been actively working together and organising various operations to curb smuggling activities and prevent profiteering.

The task force involves the Home and Domestic Trade and Cost of Living ministries, in collaboration with the Malaysian Armed Forces, police, Customs Department, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, Immigration Department, and Road Transport Department.

Ops Tiris 3.0, which took place from Jan 1 to June 22, recorded 570 cases involving the seizure of more than 5.1 million litres of diesel with an estimated value of almost RM12mil.

“The value of confiscated assets and equipment totalled RM46mil and 275 arrests have been made on the individuals involved,” he added.

Amir Hamzah also said that as of June 20, some 73,000 logistical companies involving 223,000 vehicles have submitted their applications for diesel fleet cards.

He added that 129,000 fleet cards have since been issued by petroleum companies following the applications.

“For Budi Madani, as of June 19, there were a total of 100,000 individual and Agri-Komoditi applications approved.

“Of the total number, 76,000 applicants have received the RM200 monthly cash assistance as early as June 10,” he said.

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