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Former Malaysia prime minister Najib Razak took to Facebook on April 3, 2022 — two days after the land borders between Singapore and Malaysia reopened — to call out foreign cars pumping cheap petrol in his country.
What Najib’s post showed
In his post, Najib shared a photo clearly showing a perspiration-soaked man and a Singapore-registered car utilising a petrol kiosk pump with a yellow handle.
The yellow coloured pump dispenses Ron95 petrol, which is the cheapest grade of petrol in Malaysia at RM2.05 (S$0.66) per litre, which is typically reserved for Malaysians as the price is heavily subsidised by the state.
The sale of the Ron95 grade of petrol to foreigners is an act punishable under Malaysian law, having been classified as a crime for more than a decade now.
Individuals who flout the Control of Supplies Act 1961 could face a maximum RM1 million (S$312,000) fine, maximum three years’ jail, or both, New Straits Times reported, but it is not known the extent the law has been enforced.
The sale of Ron95 petrol to foreigners has been prohibited since August 2010.
Najib’s post came after the photo was shared widely among Malaysians.
It also comes hot on the heels of another Singapore-registered car supposedly photographed in Malaysia on April 1 using a jack to tilt the vehicle in a bid to pump more petrol.
What Najib said
In his post, Najib wrote that the Malaysian authorities should monitor the sale of petrol to foreigners more closely now that borders have reopened.
“Ron95 petrol is a controlled item because it is highly subsidised. It is against the government’s Supply Control Act to sell Ron95 to foreigners,” he said.
Najib added that Ron95 is being sold at RM2.05 per litre in Malaysia now, making it very affordable.
“It is the 11th lowest price in the world and it is cheaper than in some of the major oil-producing countries and Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Oman,” he continued.
Compared prices of petrol in Malaysia to Singapore
Najib added that Ron97, which is sold to foreigners, is priced at RM3.91 (S$1.26) per litre in Malaysia.
He then compared the price of petrol in Malaysia to the price of petrol in Singapore, without explicitly naming Singapore.
He wrote: “Malaysia allows foreigners to purchase only Ron97 here, priced at RM3.91 (S$1.26) per litre. It’s still cheaper than our neighbouring country that sells it at S$3.02 (RM9.37) and S$3.51 (RM10.90) for Ron97 as they impose high tax on petrol.”
“It is a great contrast to Malaysia where the subsidy given for Ron95 in Malaysia is around RM1.70 per litre.”
Foreigners that pump Ron95 cause Malaysia to lose money
Najib added that foreign cars that load up on Ron95 petrol will cost the Malaysia government money: “If foreigners fill 40 litres of Ron95 only, the government will lose RM68 (S$21.90) of the people’s money to foreigners.”
Najib then highlighted that the ban on selling Ron95 to foreigners was implemented when he was prime minister.
Since August 2010, Malaysian citizens driving foreign-registered cars were required to show their MyKad before they could buy Ron95.
The minister who oversaw the ban then was former domestic trade and consumer affairs minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who is now prime minister, Free Malaysia Today reported.
Malaysia trade ministry responds swiftly
A few hours after Najib’s post went up, the domestic trade and consumer affairs ministry in Malaysia announced it is putting a stop to the sale of subsidised petrol to foreign vehicles, New Straits Times reported.
Minister Alexander Nanta Linggi ordered an investigation into the image of the Singapore car purchasing Ron95 petrol that made the rounds on the internet and said more aggressive monitoring will be carried out at all petrol stations.
He also ordered petrol companies and petrol station operators in Johor to disallow the sale of Ron95 fuel to foreign vehicles, which is implicitly to clamp down on Singapore cars.
Difficult to monitor Ron95 sale
However, it difficult for petrol kiosks to carry out active enforcement of stopping Ron95 petrol from being sold to foreigners due to a lack of manpower, the Petrol Dealers Association of Malaysia (PDAM) president Khairul Annuar Abdul Aziz said, according to Free Malaysia Today.
Khairul said it may require up to 10 people at the pumps at any one time to ensure Ron95 is only used by locals.
He explained: “For three shifts, that would mean 30 staff members. With minimum wages now at RM1,500, it would cost about RM45,000 in salaries alone.”
“If we are provided with the funds, then we can engage more workers, otherwise we can’t afford it,” he said.
To cope, Khairul suggested the use of technology to assist in monitoring the purchase of Ron95 by foreigners.
Requiring individuals to produce their identification cards at the pump before making a purchase could be introduced, he said.
He also mooted the idea of a payment system to prevent purchases using foreign credit cards when topping up Ron95 fuel.
He also suggested the use of nano-tags and the levying of a heavy fine for those caught breaking the law.
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