KUALA LUMPUR • The Malaysian authorities said yesterday 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 that injured 30 drivers.
The programme will cost the government RM53.6 million, and is seen as part of the 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 the fuel 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 be utilised only after the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition is returned to power at the May 9 election.
The cards will be activated once they have been collected by the taxi drivers, who can spend up to RM800 for petrol and natural gas at all Petronas stations nationwide, the commission said.
The free-fuel cards were 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 alliance are taking no chances to show voters that they care.
Announcing the availability of the free-fuel cards, Datuk Seri Najib 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, Menteri Besar Azmin Ali yesterday doled out cash, laptops and iPads to his constituents in the Bukit Antarabangsa state seat and Gombak parliamentary wards.
Datuk Seri Azmin had four aid distribution events, the Malaysiakini news site reported, but he denied that the handouts were linked to the general election, saying these were part of the regular aid dished out by the PH state government.
Mr Najib had recently promised Penang motorcyclists that he would 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 vehicle users would not have to pay tolls if the PH grabs federal power. The opposition pact has promised to do away with tolled roads in phases if it comes to power.
Mr Najib has also promised to raise the government's maximum annual BR1M (1Malaysia People's Aid) cash handout - paid to seven million recipients - to RM2,000, up 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 the new projects coming to their districts or states.
Johor Menteri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin last Saturday said the state would build three entertainment parks worth almost RM8 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 a new tourism centre on the Desaru coast.