Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Petronas’ RM600 billion profit: Where has it all gone?

by Anil Netto

So the figure has been revealed. Petronas’ group profit before taxes, royalties, dividends and export duties amounted to RM570 billion for the period from its establishment in 1974 to 31 March 2007.

If you include the figure for the period until 31 March 2008, then you are probably looking at a figure closer to RM700 billion, with the higher oil prices.
Let’s see the breakdown of that RM570 billion:

Payments to the government (royalties, export duties, taxes and dividends) - RM359 billion

Allocations for shareholders, royalties and taxes abroad - RM41 billion

Profits re-invested in Petronas operations - RM170 billion

Total RM570 billion

(In case you are wondering where I got these figures from, they are from an oral response in Parliament to a question put forward to the Prime Minister by the MP for Bagan, Lim Guan Eng.)

So the government has received RM359 billion from Petronas over the years. If we include the year ended 31 March 2008, the figure would be in the RM400 billion range. The big question is, has the government made the best use of all that money? You and I know the answer to that. If the money had been used effectively, we could have provided affordable housing for everyone in this land, invested in an excellent public transport system and come up with a first class public health care system providing universal access to all Malaysians.

But have we? Look how much has been wasted and squandered over the years. Think of all the natural gas subsidies dished out by Petronas to the Independent Power Producers (private electricity companies), which have been raking in billions in profits over the years. (And now they want to reduce the subsidies for ordinary Malaysians.) Think of the billions spent on bailing out banks. And remember the colossal sums spent on building Putrajaya, building the Twin Towers, hosting the Malaysian Grand Prix, sponsoring the Petronas racing teams and setting up the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. All this while there are people without homes of their own, without a balanced and nutritious diet, without electricity and water in rural schools…

It is truly a lost opportunity, considering that we will soon become a net importer of oil in a few years’ time.

Meanwhile, ordinary Malaysians have no access to Petronas’ detailed accounts. Where is the accountability and transparency in the use of these massive amounts of public funds?

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