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School bus federation to PMX: Stop the threat; if we stop operating, 1.5m kids will have to skip school

Publish date: Sat, 15 Jun 2024, 10:59 AM

PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s purported ‘strong-arm’ tactic to push through the country’s fuel rationalisation exercise by threatening legal penalties on quarters attempting to profiteer from the recent diesel price hike has hit a roadblock with one transport operator insinuating that he should ‘just back off’.

The Federation of School Bus Associations Malaysia has expressed disappointment over Anwar’s warning to revoke the licenses of errant school bus operators as resembling a threat.

Its president Amali Munif Rahmat further described the withdrawal and revocation of license as a backward step in the current state of the country facing shortage of school buses.

On the contrary, the government should focus on ensuring that problems in the implementation of the Subsidised Diesel Control System (SKDS 1.0) are properly addressed, including extending diesel subsidy to school bus operators nationwide.

Among issues that have arisen are the setting of subsidy quotas and the transparency of payment process at petrol stations as well as problems existing in the registration process under the system in question.

“Settle that first. Don’t threaten us. If we stop the operation of 16,000 school buses nationwide, 1.5 million pupils will not be able to attend school,” he told Malay language news portal Majoriti.

“Currently, many operators in Sabah and Sarawak are unable to obtain subsidies because they are registered with the local authorities (PBT) instead of the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM).

“There are also school buses owned by cooperatives which are registered with the Malaysian Cooperative Commission or buses for orphanages that are registered with the Registrar of Societies (ROS).”

According to Amali’s estimation, more than 3,000 of the total 16,000 school buses operating in Malaysia are still not registered under SKDS 1.0.

Recall that Anwar had warned school bus operators yesterday (June 14) against increasing their fees or risk having action taken against them given the government had implemented targeted diesel subsidies where certain groups such as fishermen and smallholders still enjoyed the benefit under the SKDS 1.0.

“As for school bus operators, let me warn you - you are still given diesel subsidies but if you still hike your fees, you should be careful. We will revoke your licences,” he said to thunderous applause during the Madani Aspiration Gathering at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC).

As per ironed out by Finance Minister II Datuk Seri Amir Hamzah Azizan in a recent briefing, there are more than 20,000 recipients in the public transport sphere who will benefit through the SKDS 1.0 whereby subsidies are channelled through fleet cards for 10 types of public transport vehicles.

More broadly, Amali went on to justify that the school bus fare increase - if any - is not solely attributed to the steep diesel price hike from RM2.15/litre to RM3.35/litre.

“If we raise fares, it’s not necessarily prompted by the increase in diesel price but due to increase in operating costs such as black oil, tires, spare parts and workshop wages,” he contended.

“School bus operators will not raise fares arbitrarily. If they’re able to absorb the cost, they’ll not raise the fare.”

Compounded by the existence of many ‘private’ or unlicensed school bus operators plying the streets, it will be a tedious move by the relevant authorities to clamp down on the profiteers.

After all, it will eventually be a matter of demand and supply in that if indeed the authorities revoke licenses of errant operators, there will be lesser supply of school buses, hence parents will still have to pay more for the convenience of having someone to fetch their children to and back from school. - June 15, 2024

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