MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Monday, May 3, 2021

'No financial sense' - Pua says PN's toll policy costs taxpayers, road users more


Damansara MP Tony Pua has criticised what he called the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government's lack of financial sense for ditching the previous Pakatan Harapan administration's plan to take over several tolled highways in the Klang Valley.

He said this has resulted in the PN government having to fork out RM2.25 billion to several highway operators in order to freeze toll rates under the old system at a time when the country is in serious need of money.

This includes the Shah Alam Expressway (Kesas), Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway (DUKE), Damansara-Puchong Expressway (LDP) and the Kuala Lumpur-Putrajaya Expressway (MEX).

Last Friday, Works Minister Fadilah Yusof said the government had postponed the increase in toll rates for three highways on Jan 1 and also froze the hike for another 21 highways at a cost of RM2.25 billion.

Pua said that had the government proceeded with Harapan's plan, it would not have only saved hundreds of millions but also reduce toll rates for road users.

"The PN government would have easily saved at least a few hundred million ringgit of the compensation to be paid had it continued the proposed acquisition of the highways owned by Gamuda Bhd as announced by the finance minister for the 2020 Budget.

"In our proposal, the government would have acquired these highways for RM6.2 billion but the government would not have to pay a single sen for it because it would have been funded via the existing toll collection.

"As a result, the government no longer needs to pay these concessionaires any future compensation for ‘freezing’ toll rates - saving the government a few hundred million ringgit in 2021 alone," said Pua, who was a special officer to Bagan MP Lim Guan Eng when the latter was the finance minister.

The highways targeted by the previous Harapan government included Kesas, LDP, Sprint Expressway and Smart Tunnel.

Pua said these highways made up nearly 50 percent of the toll collection in the Klang Valley.

Damansara MP Tony Pua

The Harapan government had planned to finance the take over through bonds which would then be serviced through the collection of congestion charges that would vary based on peak and non-peak hours.

"Over the entire term of the highway concession period, the government would save more than RM5.3 billion.

"These funds could have been spent on the welfare of the rakyat or on new infrastructure projects, instead of being paid to the highway concessionaires.

"In addition, under the above arrangement, the Harapan government would have been able to reduce toll rates up to 30 percent immediately and no longer need to raise toll rates ever again, reducing the burden on the rakyat," he said. 

"In the first year alone, the rakyat would have saved more than RM180 million," he added.

Instead, the DAP lawmaker said the PN government ditched the plan and the concessionaires still own the highways and will continue to increase toll rates every two to three years.

"If the government freezes toll rates as expected, then they will be paying ridiculous amounts in compensation to these concessionaires amounting to RM5.3 billion.

"And the rakyat will not get any further discounts from the toll," he added.

Pua urged the PN government to revive Harapan's highway acquisition plan immediately to the benefit of both the government and highway users.

"Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, a former investment banker, must educate his cabinet colleague Fadilah as well as the prime minister on policies that make financial sense," he said. - Mkini

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