16 July, 2010

"Upward price adjustment" , "subsidy rationalisation", what price hike ?

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak yesterday attempted to preempt a public backlash over the '5-in-1 price hike' by discouraging the press from using specific words in their reports.

During a special briefing at the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya afternoon yesterday, editors were told not to use the words "price hike" or its Malay equivalent "harga barang naik".

Instead, they were told to use the words "upward price adjustment" or "subsidy rationalization".

The briefing was conducted by Najib's (left) media advisors and several participants told Malaysiakini that it was a friendly atmosphere.

"They politely appealed for our cooperation, but the subtle spin was too obvious to ignore," said one participant.

The media advisors encouraged the press to explain the "rationality" of the subsidy cuts in their news reports and also prominently highlight the fact that Malaysia's fuel and sugar prices were still the lowest in the region.

Furthermore, the press were advised not to conduct street polls and some participants claim that there was obvious hints opinions should only be sought from pro-government NGOs and consumer groups.

Sources said that the media advisors also requested that the press not use the word "government savings" in their reports.

"The officials said that this will prompt the public to ask where the savings had gone into. The emphasis is to highlight reduction of expenditure rather than savings," said a source.

Yesterday, Najib's 12-point announcement stressed that the price hikes were necessary to curb a burgeoning government deficit, root out smuggling and, creatively, stating that the move would help reduce sugar consumption to help keep Malaysians healthy.

He said that the money saved from government subsidies would be spent on ensuring better healthcare and education, which are still heavily subsidised.

Read more here.



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