Barely a month into office, it raises fuel price by 13%. It takes effect today, a week ahead of public anticipation, to beat panic buying and hoarding.
The action looks even more unpopular when compared to rival Democratic Progressive Party’s shrewd election manoeuvre of freezing domestic fuel prices last November.
But Ma Yong-jeou is only being realistic given soaring crude oil prices.
Fuel is a politically sensitive commodity in many countries, especially in Asia:
President Yudhoyono is seriosly weighing the need to reduce subsidies, which eat into Indonesia’s budget, against lessons in history. Such an action had not only toppled Suharto’s government in 1998, it had also sparked violence and rioting across the nation.
Malaysia, too, is preparing the public mentally for eventual subsidy reduction. For now, it has taken the step in banning Singapore and Thailand vehicles from pumping at stations within 50km of the borders.