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NEWS UPDATES 28 July 2010

Malaysia subsidies demanded

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Malaysia opposition and rights groups on Wednesday issued an ultimatum to the government to reverse a recent fuel price hike by December or face a mass street protest.

The demand by PROTES, a coalition of student and human rights groups as well as opposition parties, adds to pressure on the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak, which is trying to shore up its popularity while curbing the budget deficit, reuters reports.

'We will use all available avenues to give the government the opportunity to do the right thing before we go to demonstrations,' said Nurul Izzah Anwar, a parliamentarian and daughter of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

The government on July 15 raised prices of the most popular blend of petrol by 2.7 per cent and sugar by 15 percent. The move would save the government RM$750 million (S$320 million) to stem a budget deficit that hit a 20-year high of 7 percent of gross domestic product last year.

The savings were a fraction of the RM$2.88 billion originally proposed by a government body tasked with subsidy reform and were delayed for months by a government wary of upsetting voters after record poll losses in 2008.

PROTES said it would launch an awareness campaign next month and issued the government with five demands that include re-instating the fuel, gas and sugar subsidies as well as introducing a minimum wage.

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