The drastic hike in fuel prices announced by Prime Minister cum Finance Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday took Malaysians by surprise. Just a couple of days after being informed that the fuel prices will only be reviewed in August, the latest development has aroused the feelings of dissent and disappointment among the people. According to former United Sabah Chinese Communities Association (USCCA) Youth Chief Steven Liau, the hike will burden the people, especially the low income earners. “If the hike is about 40 sen, we would understand but to raise it by 40 per cent is too much. It does not make sense for citizens of an oil producing country like Malaysia to pay so much for fuel,” he said. Abdullah announced’ late yesterday afternoon that the price of petrol will be increased by 78 sen per liter whereas diesel vehicle owners will have to fork out additional RM1 per litre. The new prices of petrol and diesel effective midnight yesterday are RM2.70 per litre and RM2.58 per litre respectively. “I understand that because of circumstances, the Government has to increase fuel prices but to do so by about 40 percent is overboard. Countries which do not produce oil can sell the commodity at a high price because they spend money to purchase it but it should not be the case for Malaysia,” Liau contended. “In an oil producing country, the Government should be able to control the price,” he said. Liau also pointed out that during the last fuel price hike, Abdullah said the RM400 billion saved in subsidies would be used towards improving infrastructure in the country. “But so far we have not seen anything of that sort yet,” he said, adding that the latest increase would deter young Malaysians who are studying overseas from returning to the country to work. “Our wages remain the same and cost of living is getting higher, so i don’t think that many of the younger generation overseas will be interested to come back to work unless something is done,” he stressed. According to Liau, the Government does not feel the pinch of the price increase as its fuel is paid for by taxpayers. “For those in the Government, their fuel is free, so they don’t suffer like the layman,” he said, suggesting that the Government consider using the money paid for its departments and agencies’ use to subsidize fuel for the people.