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Monday, May 3, 2021

RM2.25b should be spent on B20 instead of toll freeze, PSM tells PN govt


The RM2.25 billion which the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government has set aside for highway operators so that they won't increase toll charges this year should instead be spent on the B20 community which is struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic, said PSM central committee member Sharan Raj.

"The RM2.25 billion can be used to provide RM900 a month of Modified Universal Basic Income (MUBI) for at least a year to about 200,000 B20 household to alleviate their financial distress," he said in a statement today.

The government had said it was freezing expected toll hikes for 24 highways at a cost of RM2.25 billion in view of the rising cost of living due to the pandemic.

However, Sharan said the most vulnerable, particularly those in the bottom 20 percent (B20) income earners, will not see any material impact from the toll freeze.

He added that some were unable to earn any income during the pandemic, leading to evictions, lack of nutrition and some turning to loan sharks and suicide.

PSM central committee member Sharan Raj

Sharan said the highway projects, pushed since Dr Mahathir Mohamad's first stint as prime minister from 1982 to 2003, essentially provided risk-free fixed profit when the government guarantees compensations.

He added that it was "shameless" to provide RM2.25 billion to highway operators amid the Covid-19 situation.

In the same way the government had invoked emergency powers to take control of private hospitals, Sharan said it can do the same with these highways.

Earlier, Damansara MP Tony Pua had also criticised the compensation to toll operators. 

Pua, who had served as a special officer to the finance minister under the previous government, had said Pakatan Harapan's plan to take over certain highway tolls in the Klang Valley would have saved the government more money and also provide discounts to road users.

The PN government had scrapped the plan after coming to power. However, it is now looking at alternative proposals. - Mkini

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