The 10% Toll Hike On The North-South Expressway(NSE) Reminds Malaysians Of The Failure Of The Government’s Privatization Policy And That The Government Not Projek Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (PLUS) Can Also Carry Out The Project
by Lim Guan Eng
(Petaling Jaya, Monday): The 10% toll hike on the NSE on 31.12.2004 reminds Malaysians of the failure of the government’s privatization policy when the government, and not the concessionaire PLUS, can also easily carry out the project. By giving out generous guarantees not only in terms of guaranteed bank loans but also traffic volume to PLUS, effectively guaranteeing minimum revenue received, any company can do the job.
Such guarantees are the reason why PLUS can carry out and become a huge company overnight despite not having any track record in building highways. If a company without any previous track record can build highways, there is no reason why the government with its engineers and experience can not undertake the job itself.
Works Minister Datuk Samy Vellu had said that the government had to pay RM 80 million compensation annually to (PLUS) to offset losses owing to the freeze on toll rates since 1998, when the annual toll increase was changed to an increase once every 3 years. The concessionaire agreement was also extended from 2018 to 2030. PLUS has collected more than RM 9 billion since 1987 with more expected to come in the next 25 years.
In September 2004, Datuk Samy Vellu said the Government has paid out RM1.04 billion in compensation to highway concessionaires as part of efforts to increase gradually toll rates over a five-year period from 1999. Apart from the RM 1.04 billion in government compensation, these companies also received RM 10.8 billion in toll charges namely:-
With such generous guarantees, it is not surprising PLUS enjoys the highest operating margin amongst toll concessionaires in the world of 82-3%, recording pre-tax profits of RM 736 million over a turnover of RM 1,580 million in 2003. Projected profits this year is expected to be RM 800 million. For the government to allow PLUS unfettered powers to increase toll rates with such high profits is not just irresponsible but also not in the interests of 25 million Malaysians.
Clearly the government is stubbornly going ahead with toll hikes despite the losses and opposition from the public. As BN can claim that the huge mandate gained in the 2004 general elections showed approval for such toll hikes, the people can only register their protest in the next general elections.
* Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary-General