Malaysia's ruling party and opposition dole out, promise freebies ahead of general election

Taxi drivers rushing forward to collect their free RM800 fuel cards in Serdang, Selangor on April 13, 2018, after the scheme was launched by PM Najib Razak. Thirty taxi drivers suffered minor injuries in the rush to get the cards.
Taxi drivers rushing forward to collect their free RM800 fuel cards in Serdang, Selangor on April 13, 2018, after the scheme was launched by PM Najib Razak. Thirty taxi drivers suffered minor injuries in the rush to get the cards. PHOTO: BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian authorities said on Sunday (April 15) that taxi drivers have three months to collect 67,000 free RM800 (S$270) fuel cards, following a mad rush at counters set up last Friday (April 13) that injured 30 drivers. 

The programme will cost the government RM53.6 million, and is seen as a part of free gifts and sweet promises being rolled out by politicians ahead of the looming general election.

The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) which oversees Malaysia’s taxi drivers said on Sunday that the cards are available at various counters all over Peninsular Malaysia, with the scheme to be launched in Sabah and Sarawak soon.

 

SPAD denied rumours that the cards could only be utilised after the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition is returned to power at the May 9 elections.

“The card will be activated once it has been collected by the taxi driver and they are allocated to spend up to RM800 for petrol and NGV (natural gas vehicles pumps) at all Petronas stations nationwide,” the commission said in a statement.

The free-fuel cards was announced by Prime Minister Najib Razak last Friday, and were among goodies being dished out, or promised, by both BN leaders and opposition parties in the last few weeks.

With cost of living cited by many politicians and analysts as the main election concern, both BN and the Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition pact are taking no chances to show voters that they care.

 
 

Announcing the immediate availability of free-fuel cards, Datuk Seri Najib had said: "I believe that with this card, your daily cost of operation will be lowered and this will help raise your daily income."

In Selangor, its Menteri Besar Azmin Ali on Sunday doled out cash allocations, laptops and iPads to his constituents in the Bukit Antarabangsa state seat and Gombak parliamentary wards.

Datuk Seri Azmin had four aid distribution events, Malaysiakini news site reported, but he denied that the handouts were linked to the general election, saying these were part of regular aid dished out by the PH state government.

PM Najib had recently promised Penang motorcyclists that he will remove road tolls for all motorcycle riders at the two bridges linking the island to mainland Penang should BN take over the state.

In response, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said all vehicles users won’t have to pay tolls if the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) pact grabs federal power. PH has promised to do away with tolled roads in  phases,  if it comes to power.

Mr Najib has also promised to raise its maximum annual BR1M cash handout – paid to seven million recipients – to RM2,000 from RM1,200 now.
PH, which had months earlier said it would scrap BR1M, has now said it will retain this cash handout.

With access to development funds, top government officials have made known of new projects coming to their districts or state.

Menteri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin on Saturday said the state will build three entertainment parks worth almost RM8 billion (S$2.7 billion) in the near future. These are a science-fiction theme park near Legoland in Iskandar Puteri, an eco-entertainment park in Kota Tinggi, and new tourism centre at the Desaru coast.