Thursday, February 02, 2017

No clarity, more obfuscation: BN Strategic Communications Team's lengthy answer on how the Government arrived at a painful 20 sen hike for February petrol prices

I had issued a statement yesterday demanding that Dato’ Seri Najib Razak explain exactly how the Government arrived at a painful 20 sen increase for petrol prices.

RON95 and RON97 prices went up by 20 sen to RM2.30 (9.5%) and RM2.60 (8.3%) respectively while diesel cost went up by 10 sen to RM2.15 (4.9%).

This follows from the already big hike Malaysians have experienced since January where all types of fuel already increased in price by 20 sen.

Malaysians deserve a straightforward answer from the Government because they cannot fathom why the prices of fuel was upped significantly even though global crude oil prices have declined over the past month. What’s more, the beleaguered Ringgit actually recovered marginally which should ease the price pressures further.

Instead of receiving any response from any responsible Minister, much less the Finance and Prime Minister, we got a reply from the “BN Strategic Communications Team”. We don't know who they are, or even know what is their capacity to respond on behalf of the Government.

Regardless, taking their response at face value, they failed to provide any clarity on how the Government arrived at the painful 20 sen quantum of hike. If they could write such a lengthy essay to rebut my simple question, why couldn't they just attach the spreadsheet to justify the increase?

It explained that the pump prices was calculated from the average refined oil prices as measured by the “Singapore Means of Platts” (MOPS), which is already a widely acknowledged fact.

However, all that was further relevant from the statement was a paragraph which said, “a check on the MOPS would show that the average price of motor gasoline 95 unleaded for January had stabilised in a range of US$69 to US$70 per barrel and was materially higher than the average price in December 2016 where the price had steadily increased from US$62 at the beginning of the month to US$68 by December’s end.”

If the BN Strategic Communications Team is so confident of the numbers, why did they try to obfuscate the statistics with a fuzzy range of numbers, instead of just providing the specifics to justify the 20 sen hike?

I did the BN Strategic Communications Team a favour by doing the calculation on their behalf.

The average MOPS95 price for December 2016 is US$66.553 per barrel or US$0.4186 per liter. That works out to RM1.8753 per liter at the then exchange rate of US$1:RM4.48.

MOPS95 averaged slightly higher at US$68.820 per barrel or US$0.4328 per liter in January.  In turn, it translates to RM1.9130 per liter (US$1:RM4.42).

Hence based on the exact explanation provided by the BN Strategic Communications Team, the difference in price is only 3.8 sen more for January.

If so, why did the Government increase by so much more at 20 sen?

Therefore, my question raised yesterday remains unanswered, and Dato’ Seri Najib Razak, as both the Finance and Prime Minister, must explain why the price of petrol has increased so significantly despite the above.

The Ministry of Finance must disclose if the Government is actually imposing hidden taxes on the consumers to cover up for Government budget shortfalls.

Once again, we call for the full disclosure of the data, formula and exact details on how the fuel price hikes are calculated so that Malaysians know exactly why they have been forced to suffer as a result of the Government’s policies.
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