KUALA LUMPUR: Jul 16, 2008 By TEH ENG HOCK and ZULKIFLI ABD RAHMAN
Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek took on PKR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in a rarely seen debate on live television.
The one-hour debate, entitle Hari ini membentuk kerajaan, esok turun harga minyak (“Today we form the Government, tomorrow the fuel prices will go down) proceeded smoothly with both speakers backing their points with facts.
Anwar started off the debate by promising to reduce the fuel prices by 50sen to alleviate the economic burden faced by the people.
Shabery stressed that the inflation faced now could not be attributed solely to fuel prices, as major oil producers such as Venezuela and Iran were hit with higher inflation levels although the price of fuel in those countries were much lower.
"In Venezuela, inflation is 30%, while Iran is one of the eight nations worst hit by inflation.
"It is not just oil prices that had gone up, but the food crisis as well. Our rice is cheaper than Thailand, and that is because of our policies. We don't have to demonstrate on the streets or organise improper concerts," he said.
Anwar countered by saying that the drastic increases in fuel prices within a short period had pushed inflation levels up.
"It has been said that while prices go drastically up, inflation levels would not rise. Who was the one who taught that economic theory?" he asked.
Anwar also said that as an oil producer, the country would profit when the price of crude oil went up.
Shabery responded by saying Malaysia was only a minor oil producer and was not even in the top 20.
"In 2015, Malaysia will become a net importer of oil. By then, would we not be forced to raise the price of fuel (more) drastically (compared to today)?" he asked.
Anwar said the Petronas report stated that Malaysia would only become a net importer of oil if no new oilfields were discovered in the next 10 years.