At the end of the day, what ordinary people care are the bread and butter issues. The folks in the villages don't care what programs and grandiose projects the PM announces. They don't even care, if the PM is actually repeating mentioning the projects which he has in fact announced earlier. But probably that's because his speechwriter wasn't paying attention and the PM reads from cue.
People don't care if the PM wants or the JKR minister proposes to build a bridge linking the PM's office complex to his official residence. What they do care is whether the potholed roads in the kampong, the jalan pertanian, will be repaired. They care whether their land applications submitted score of years ago will get approved. They care of education can be subsidized. They care if the price of goods and services which they use and consume everyday are assured of supply at affordable price levels.
Right now, they are seething over the price of sugar. Malaysians consume a lot of sugar. They don't care if some MBs or the Health Minister admonished them for consuming more sugar. They have chosen to consume that little luxury which they can afford. They are not familiar with Equal or other sugar substitutes. They want their sugar.
When the sugar industry was monopolized by the Kuok group, the price was maintained for more than a decade. Even then, they Kuok and Perlis Plantation made a lot of money. Probably they were aided by subsidies for maintaining the price for so long.
Now the sugar monopoly is under FELDA Global. The price of sugar has been increasing quite a number of times. It's now priced at RM 2.30 per kilo. That could only mean the government has no money to spend on subsidies. So it is now extolling the virtues of doing away with subsidies.
But the government is attacking at the weakest sections of society- the poorer sections. Big businesses have powerful spokesmen articulating their interests. Who will fight for the weak and the dispossessed then? The IPPs have as their spokesmen important persons who can talk to government should subsidies allocated to them were to be withdrawn. Big businesses have powerful people nursing and looking after their interests. The PM goes around as a friend to big business.
What does Felda enjoy really? It enjoys a reconstituted monopoly. Subsidies are removed and abnormal price of sugar is allowed to operate. The monopoly over the sugar industry as with other monopolies is possible only with government protection. So in this case, the monopoly over sugar by Felda Global is possible only because the government permits it so.
In so doing, the government missed the opportunity to liberalize the market. When the monopoly by the Kuok Group ended, the government could have allowed the free market to supply sugar. Enjoying a protected monopoly buy the government is also a form of subsidy accorded to Felda. Why should a behemoth like Felda enjoy a monopoly?
Why do we need to maintain sugar monopolies? Why don't we allow as many importers to supply sugar for the domestic market? Or we lower the taxes on sugar to allow sugar price to be lower.
The monopoly situation has given rise to questions of profiteering, incompetency as well as the rationale behind allowing Felda Global to enjoy monopoly over the import and export of sugar. Felda will enjoy this abnormal profit for as long as the government bans import from the world. In other words, government stands on the side of the monopolist.