My Anthem

Sunday, August 10, 2014

My Hari Raya Message to PETRONAS: How about sharing more with the People?

The following article appeared in the English Secction of Harakah edition of Julai 28-31, 2014, with the title slightly amended by the Editor. Here's as is piblished, with typos and awe! YL, Desi PS: I cut&Pasted "belatedly" from Harakah Online, that lazy BUMmer of a Desi, knottyaSsusual!

The'Feel Good" festive message, but more needs to be shared

YL Chong | .
Whenever a major festive season approaches, Petronas will fill the air waves with "Feel Good" advertising, especially using nostalgia as a tool to pull at the audience's heartstrings. The latest offering web film is entitled "Ke Pangkuan Bonda", again produced by Leo Burnett Malaysia, to welcome Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Thanks to the national oil corporation for doing its bit to uplift the people's spirits to prepare for either Hari Raya, Deepavali or Chinese New Year, but after the party is over, what longer-term benefits linger?
Leo Burnett stated that its current three-minute film features " a seamless journey of a family in welcoming Aidilfitri celebration and is accompanied by timeless classic song Suasana Hari Raya. Set around a humble kampung house, this film takes us through the growing years of a small family and their young daughter on the eve and the first day of Raya.
The constant winner is the adveritsing agency, which is no doubt being paid big bucks to produce the heart-touching TV commercials. Meanwhile, the big boys at the richest commercial entity in the country would have beaten their chests in self-praise whenever such nostalgic episodes win awards for the corporation and the ad producers. The question that has been bugging my mind at such festivals is: have the average Malaysians truly benefited in any way like whether his/her economic status being raised a notch or two?
As a business journalist for a decade plus, I often tracked Petronas' financial statements annually, and I am proud as a Malaysian that the national oil company under its previous Chief Executive, Hassan Merican, had built up a good reputation for its finance and funds management. (I don't know much about Hassan's successor, Tan Sri Shamsul Azhar Abbas, so I can't comment much about the past few years.)
But it would have pleased us Malaysians lots if only the accounts are reported to the Parliament every year so that the Rakyat would know for certain how well the corporation is run, and it would have improved the nation's standing in world financial integrity and transparency reporting and standing, wouldn't it? Why is the Barisan Nasional leadership so "reluctant" to do what a responsible and accountable Govcernment is expected to do -- be accountable to the country's elected representatives? Consonant with the PM's much promoted "Rakyat/People First" policy, No?
But as a blogger, I have often proposed that a Petronas Foundation be set up:How about doing something more concrete for the ordinary folks in the remote villages in Sabah, Sarawak or the peninsula, and in the urban centres, the homeless and destitute wandering the streets at night?We often read of children trekking several kilometers by foot to attend school, so why can't Petronas - it contributes almost half of Malaysia's budget revenues - set aside funds via its Foundation  to build hostels for these disadvantaged kids? How about more old folks home or shelters in all the towns in the country to cater for the vagabonds and homeless? We aspire to become a "developed nation" in six years time. Come 2020,  will we still see the beggars greeting the foreign tourists in the capital city and other towns?
We all know of the well-publicised recent face-offs between the Kuala Lumpur City Hall and the soup kitchens organisers as the homeless and vagrants in the capital city were rounded up in a much crticised operation. If the local authorities really wanted to act, the scenario is replicated nationwide. In towns like Seremban where I reside, we also witneess daily beggars and homeless in shabby clothes occupying five-foot ways or disturbing patrons at hawkers' centres who cannot not enjoy a decent meal without having to shoo them away? I may be suggesting a role that should have been played by the Education and/or Welfare Department; but obviously the agencies responsible for this appaling state of affairs seem to be sleeping on the job, so I turn to the country's richest corpoation for some charity, possible?

I reproduce the last financial results from Petronas via Star Online:
Petroliam Nasional Bhd's (Petronas) revenue rose 9% to RM317.314bil in the financial year ended Dec 31, 2013 from RM291.226bil in FY12.
Its profit after tax rose 13% to RM65.58bil from RM59.52bil as total production rose 5.8% to 2.13 million barrels of oil per day.
Petronas’ total assets increased to RM528.7bil at end-December 2013 from RM489.20bil in 2012 due to higher profit generated in the year.
In the fourth quarter ended Dec 31, 2013, Petronas said revenue for the quarter under the exploration and production rose to RM32.5bil from RM29.1bil a year ago (quoting from The Star).
As an ordinary Malaysian citizen, through the years I did not see any concrete benefit flowing to us the rakyat. The government tells me every time there is a petrol price hike that it’s because of increasing subsidies. I don’t buy that.
And every time there is an international oil price rise, the oil pump price is also raised, causing another round of inflation. But when the world oil price drops, I have not seen a single time when the pump prices were adjusted downwards!
By right, Malaysians should enjoy a decrease in pump rises with every increase in world oil prices because out nation’s crude exports are of superior quality. And hence command premium prices. Can Petronas please explain this?
Is that what a corporation, holding the nation’s top natural resource on trust of the people, all about? They enjoy the perks and privileges of a nation's wealth, but forget the ordinary man-on-the-street? Do you think you earn lasting goodwill by just putting up feel-good messages over TV come every Malaysian festive season? I doubt it, I certainly doubt it!-ES

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