Since becoming a minister, Ong Tee Keat is surely taking his job seriously. Recently, he appointed his MCA colleague Lee Hwa Beng to take charge of the controversial Port Klang Free Zone. Now the Minister of Transport is taking the public transport problem by its horn.
He was aware of the traffic woes plaguing the Klang Valley and other parts of the country, Ong said effective and efficient public transport as a whole needed the concerted efforts of all agencies involved.
He said this when it was pointed out by reporters that there is a need for one overriding public policy on public transport because the Government was seen to be encouraging the purchase of cars with cheap petrol while there was no clear focus on improving public transport.
Ong said he was also well aware of the fragmented jurisdiction surrounding land transport which made it all the more challenging to ensure an effective and efficient public transport that would not be hindered by traffic or road conditions.
"The issuance of bus and taxi permits belongs to one ministry, RapidKL belongs to the Finance Ministry, the enforcement agencies are under the Transport Ministry while road maintenance is under the local councils or the Works Ministry."
When asked by a journalist from Straits Times Singapore on the oil subsidy cut, I said its pertinent for the government to look seriously at the provision of an efficient public transport system as an alternative mode of transportation if the subsidy is to be scrapped. So far, the government has committed to maintain the current subsidy until December.
If oil price stays at the same level, USD 135 per barrel, until end of the year. The government will have to fork out additional RM2k per citizen on subsidy. Half of the RM54 billion subsidy will eventually go to private cars.
The subsidy is flawed primarily because it is used to subsidy the rich more than the poor. Higher capacity cars which gush more petrol are often more expensive. Second, the high subsidy cost is unproductive and unrealistic. Industries benefiting on lower oil and gas price are not competing on real cost structure. Hence, it will become a major productivity and cost issue when the subsidy is dismantled.
I suggested that the government look into industrial productivity as well. The subsidy cannot be defended forever at the expense of much needed development.
Hence, I laud the call by Ong Tee Keat to come out with an overriding policy on public transport. Now, show us the deliverable and results.