Malaysians prefer public transport, walk after fuel price hikeJune 22nd, 2008 - 3:41 pm ICT by IANS
Kuala Lumpur, June 22 (IANS) Trading cars for motorcycles, switching to public transport, or simply walking to work - Malaysians are tackling the massive fuel price hike in different ways. They have settled down to fuel-saving measures after a spurt of protests in the national capital and some other cities saw thousands of people converge on the streets.
As per an announcement by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on June 4, gasoline pump prices jumped 41 percent overnight and diesel prices surged a stunning 67 percent.
This has become a major issue in Malaysia, a prosperous tiger economy with burgeoning farm and factory production. Opposition political parties did their share of protesting too as the government braced to meet the economic challenge the fuel price hike posed.
It compensated the commuters in the form of fuel subsidy to the tune of RM three million ($900,000).
Trips and travel schedules of ministers have been curtailed. People have been asked to follow a simple life, like be vegetarian, to meet the economic challenge.
The crime chart has since shown that car thieves have turned to stealing petrol.
For a brief period, the authorities ran a separate rate for cars with ‘foreign’ number plates, mostly from neighbouring Singapore and Thailand, partly to assuage the local sentiments.
“Going public”, is how The Star on Sunday headlined a survey that speaks of many people walking to work or taking the public transport.
Women are switching over from cars to riding scooters.
Sales of motorcycle dealers have improved by almost 25 percent with demand now outstripping supply.
Many, including white-collared workers, are in the waiting list of people wanting to buy motorcycles.
Of Indian origin, M. Dharmalingam, 61, who runs a small business in Kuala Lumpur, said that since parking charges had gone up, he uses public transport, saving an estimated RM 20 ($ 6 approx).
Dharmalingam is planning to buy a monthly pass for public transport, which costs RM 100.
The number of vehicles on the roads has also come down drastically.
Indian origin cardiologist Ramesh Singh Veriah finds that he now takes just 10 minutes to drive the 5 km from his home in Bangsar to his workplace at the University Malaya Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur, which earlier took around 30 minutes.
Kuala Lumpur City Hall recorded a drop of almost 12,000 cars entering the city daily a week after the fuel price hike. A bus company in Putrajaya has recorded a 10 percent increase in the number of passengers.
Daily traffic volume on the busy and choked Penang Bridge has dropped by 7 percent from the previous daily volume of 67,000 vehicles, the newspaper survey said.
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