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'We'll review subsidy plan'


ONLY FOR POOR: It won't affect rakyat's quality of life, says DPM

KUANTAN: The government will review the subsidy rationalisation exercise to ensure they will benefit the target groups and not affect the rakyat's quality of life, said Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

"We will review whether the subsidy rationalisation decisions could ease the burden of the targeted groups to ensure they will not be used by those who do not qualify for them," he said after visiting SK Permatang Badak here yesterday.

He said the poor and small income group must get assistance and not be burdened by the rising cost of life.

"This (subsidy rationalisation review) is the way to lessen the subsidy so that we can cater to the needs of the target groups."

He said a meeting involving ministers and the related agencies, including utility companies supplying water and electricity, as well as local governments reviewing their local council rates, should be called as soon as possible.

"This is to ensure that we can see it in a holistic manner and decide on the steps the government could take to tackle the problem."

He said the government, non-governmental organisations and associations should work together to solve the issue.

"If it cannot be avoided in the future, then at least there are ways to lessen the burden in the long run."

Muhyiddin said as the National Key Result Areas (NKRA) Delivery Task Force Committee chairman, he would discuss with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on the latest situation to get detailed feedback.

"We have six NKRAs and one of them is to act on the cost of living, and in the past we have had meetings to handle various issues."

He urged the public to use existing laws to protect themselves from indiscriminate price hikes.

"For example, the Competition Act that was passed a year ago could be used against traders who raise prices arbitrarily through a monopoly, cartel or a pact.

"Consumer associations or individuals can report to the Competition Commission so that they can take action. They have fairly wide powers to act."

Muhyiddin said there were other ways to soften the effects of rising costs, such as increasing the income of the rakyat.

"We will take action to increase the rakyat's income, like what we had done in the past for our farmers and smallholder by encouraging them to start small businesses and agro-based industries."

He said the government would ensure the cost of living will not reach a level that could be detrimental to the rakyat's quality of life.

Muhyiddin said allegations that the government was not acting on the issues were inaccurate and politically motivated.

"Certain groups out there are trying to fan the anger of the rakyat.

"They influence the rakyat into thinking that the government is not taking any action to ease their burden. This view is inaccurate and politically motivated."

Muhyiddin said the steps announced by Najib to cut spending in the government sector on Monday were just a beginning.

"The steps (announced) by the prime minister to save (money) and cut spending in the government sector is sensible.

"Of course this is just the beginning and the ministries have been directed to identify the initiatives and steps that could be taken by (government) departments and agencies to cut spending."

He said the steps taken by the Federal government was an example that state governments and other agencies could emulate.

"For example, in the case of quit rent (rates), the state governments could also look into it. I believe that when the economic condition is stronger (and) income is managed prudently in line with the 11 steps announced by the prime minister, then the nation's economy will strengthen."

Meanwhile, in his New Year's message, he said there was a need to restructure the distribution of subsidies to minimise the impact of the rising cost of living on the lower income group, as subsidies were now enjoyed by everyone.

"The distribution of subsidy is inefficient at present, as it is also enjoyed by the higher income groups and foreigners, and encourages smuggling activities."

"Subsidy rationalisation was implemented with care and in stages to ensure it has minimal impact and does not burden the people, especially the lower income group.

"The revenue saved would be indirectly channeled to the targeted group to ensure the effect of the increase in cost of living will be offset."

This, he said, was to support the nation's economic growth and at the same time ensure the well-being of the people was not affected. Additional reporting by Tharanya Arumugam

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin checking school equipment damaged by floods during his visit to SK Tanah Putih in Kuantan yesterday. Pic by Halim Mat Ali

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