Fuel prices are down today, but it was on an upward trend prior to this week’s dive. Rising transport costs have been affecting those in the lower income ground and now, there are calls from consumer associations for the government to bring back cheaper RON 92 petrol, The Sun reports.

Deputy president of Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations Yusof Abdul Rahman said it was timely for the government to bring back RON 92 to offset the rising cost of living. “RON 92 could be used for vehicles with lower engine capacity, which mostly belong to those in the lower income group,” he told the daily, while suggesting that the government provide a subsidy on RON 92 to assist those in the B40 (bottom 40% in income) bracket.

Heard the call before? In September 2013, then deputy finance minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan suggested that RON 92 be brought back as a cheaper petrol option after the price of RON 95 went up by 20 sen.

RON 92 petrol was discontinued in 2009, replaced by the current RON 95 as the default petrol grade. The report pointed out that in Singapore, SPC’s LEVO 92 grade currently retails at S$2.19 per litre (RM6.66), slightly lower than the S$2.23 (RM6.78) of LEVO 95.

The Malaysian Muslim Consumer Association suggests a different approach. Chief activist Datuk Nadzim Johan said studies need to be done on RON 92 to establish its impact on the environment. “It may not be suitable for the environment and all vehicle types,” he said, adding that the government could alternatively introduce a targeted subsidy initiative. “For example, petrol subsidy could be given to those earning below RM3,000 per month,” he said.

Bringing back RON 92 is not viable, according to Petrol Dealers Association of Malaysia president Datuk Khairul Annuar Abdul Aziz. “New cars are made for RON 95 and above. Going back will only create havoc to the industry,” he said, adding that instead of that, the government should ensure that fuel options are priced and subsidised fairly.

The government has taken note of the situation and says it is looking into appropriate measures to reduce the impact of rising global petroleum prices. It will introduce these should the price of RON 95 and diesel in the country exceed RM2.50 per litre consecutively for the next three months.

“The government is concerned and understands the impact following the rise of global crude oil prices that are presently more than US$60 (RM250) per barrel. Currently, the government has implemented a rationalisation step towards subsidising petroleum products in line with the trend of rising or decreasing world crude oil prices. This measure has been successful in reducing leakage and ensuring targeted subsidies,” the ministry of finance said in a statement.

The government says that it still subsidises fuel in this new managed float system. “Although we went through (a change in) fuel price mechanism, the government still subsidises (fuel prices) sometimes. In certain periods if it goes up, we subsidise a bit,” treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah said last month.

“We still subsidise a few hundred million (ringgit) a month, but I don’t know what will happen in the future. Formerly, we subsidised RM22 billion, after rationalising, around hundreds of million,” he added.