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Shock and dismay over call by BN to increase electricity tariff in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU, June 7, 2011: Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) Women Chief and assemblywoman for Luyang, Melanie Chia expressed shock and dismay at the statement by the Assistant Resource Development and Information Technology Minister YB Datuk Jainab Ahmad that increasing the electricity tariff is the only logical thing to do if Sabah wants to see the power supply in the State improved. Her statement was reported in the Borneo Post on 7 June 2011.

She was quoted to have say that "It is a 'chicken and egg' situation, low tariff causes unreliable supply and unreliable supply causes low tariff."

Melanie commented that it is totally absurd to claim that the unreliable supply by SESB is caused by the low tariff which has not been revised for over two decades. SESB which was famous for blackouts and power interruptions in the last 30 years has seen improvement in its supplies in recent years. The recent improvement by SESB is despite no revision in the tariff.

The Assistant Minister seems not to be mindful that electricity supplies is a utility, which is the responsibility of the government and the government of the day therefore cannot devolve itself of this responsibility, be it to ensure adequate and consistent supply or to ensure the affordability of this utility.

The recent removal of subsidies by the government has already had an impact on the rising cost of living of the people. The recently revised electricity tariff by TNB in West Malaysia will also have its effect on rising costs which is already imminent. The effects and impact of these cost and price changes on Malaysians living in Sabah will be greater simply because the salaries and wages of people in Sabah are generally lower compared to those in Peninsular Malaysia.

Melanie hopes that the people living in Sabah should not be further burdened by any increase in electricity tariff. The claim by Jainab that SESB for years has been reporting losses due to uncompetitive tariff rate is unfounded.

"The Assistant Minister and the BN Government should look into ways to improve the salaries and wages of the people here which have also hardly changed for the last 30 years! She is being insensitive to the needs of the Rakyat in general and should not use her own affordability as the yardstick for others!"

"Consumers surely demand for good, quality services but as a utility, electricity has to be affordable. This is more so in Sabah which is a major producer of oil and gas in the country."

It is bizarre for the Assistant Minister to suggest that with the increased tariff, SESB could devise a new and more effective way of curbing power theft which were most done by the illegal immigrants. Is she confirming or condoning that rightful citizens are subsidizing or is being asked to subsidize the illegal immigrants in Sabah?

The government of the day should be mindful of the needs of the Rakyat and the people's interest first.

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