The Government Should Offload Its Burdens

Will we see the re-introduction of fuel subsidies?

I find it puzzling that the government has shut its doors on Maju Holdings’s intention of buying the PLUS concessions (Govt Shuts Door On Maju’s Bid for PLUS – Malaysian Digest, 26 November 2017) when I don’t think they have actually met with Maju Holdings to discuss the proposed deal.

Although the Second Finance Minister said in September that the Finance Ministry would first and foremost get some clarification from Maju Holdings on how they plan to execute the no-toll-hike deal before deciding whether or not to allow the deal to happen, I can bet my bottom dollar that at the time of writing this post, they have not met.

The Second Finance Minister wants to obtain clarification from Maju Holdings before deciding

I have written on this matter before and I have laid down my reasons and Tan Sri Abu Sahid’s explanation that he made to the press during his interview sessions, but I am writing this again because I am alarmed at how the government has made a decision without even doing its due diligence on the matter.

The government’s decision to do away with four tolls beginning 1 January 2018 may be good news for those in the Klang Valley and those who go shopping at Bukit Kayu Hitam or drive into Thailand, but we also know that it costs 20 sen to 30 sen to use a public toilet.  So, nothing is for free.  While the people in the areas mentioned above enjoy their toll-free highway, the rest are made to pay in the form of an extension to the conclusion of the concession of other highways operated by PLUS beyond 2038.

That is not all.  The government would have to fork out RM110 million a year as compensation to PLUS, not inclusive of the compensation the government would have to pay every time they disallow a toll rate hike.  Multiply that figure alone by 20 years, it would come up to RM2.2 billion.  Now that is not a small sum of money.  RM2.2 billion could get you 22 80-bed hospitals that could benefit especially the rural areas of Sabah and Sarawak, or in a term that I am more familiar with, four squadrons of the KAI FA-50 supersonic advanced trainers and light combat aircraft. That is almost 50 badly-needed aircraft altogether.

Not only does the government have to think about finding money to compensate PLUS every year for the loss of income from the four tolls, the government also has to think about compensating PLUS and other concessionaires every time they are allowed to increase their rates.

With the global oil price rebounding, the government has also announced that it would think of a measure to not allow retail petrol (RON95). That sounds like more money flying away in the form of a subsidy – something the government has fought hard to do away with.

The proposed deal by Maju Holdings sounds sweet to me now.  Question is, what is the Finance Ministry and/or Khazanah afraid of?

Is it because Abu Sahid is perceived as Mahathir’s crony?  Then again, which owner of a Malaysian conglomerate isn’t a crony of Mahathir’s?  Out of the 10 richest persons in Malaysia in 2016 perhaps only a couple are not Mahathir’s cronies.

Is it because the Finance Ministry and/or Khazanah thinks that Abu Sahid does not know what he is talking about because he only operates a 26-kilometre highway therefore what does he know about a 800-kilometre one?  The question is what highway did UEM even operate before it was given PLUS? How different is Maju Holdings to MTD Prime and Anih Berhad that are now running the 358-kilometre East Coast Highway after running only the 60-kilometre KL-Karak highway?

Or are people on different levels making PLUS their cash cow? I’m just throwing my thoughts here because I cannot see what are they so afraid of if someone can help them lower their financial burdens.

The Finance Ministry keeps saying that it does not want to have to bail out Maju Holdings should the deal go wrong in the future, I ask myself, and perhaps the Finance Ministry and Khazanah too, should they not pray for the Maju Holdings to fail?  Abu Sahid wants to give the UEM and EPF RM4 billion in cash for free as a return on investments made in PLUS. That is a 20 percent Internal Rate of Return (IRR).

On top of that Abu Sahid through Maju Holdings, with the backing of his financiers, seeks to forfeit the government’s compensation of about RM900 million owed to the toll road operator, which arose as a result of toll hikes not being implemented.  Imagine what the government could do by chanelling this money to sectors that badly need such funds.

In other words, the government should pray for Abu Sahid to fail after giving him PLUS – the government takes back the highway which is already toll-free then as there would not be any concessionaire, while Maju Holdings would have to face its financiers.  The highway and all its infrastructures already belong to the government no matter what, and the government can still impose tolls albeit minimal to help maintain the PLUS highways.  So, what has the government got to lose?

Loss of income by EPF that affects its contributors?  I find that hard to swallow.  EPF has so much money that it would seek to re-invest in PLUS even after the deal takes place.  EPF needs to make money for its contributors. Or it could just seek to invest in another company.  EPF has so much money that it is investing in both money-making and money-losing companies as it is now.

Therefore, as a rakyat, I reiterate my concerns taking into account the amount of money needed to compensate PLUS for abolishing the four tolls, the amount of money needed to compensate PLUS and other concessionaires to not increase toll prices, and the imminent need to subsidise RON95 – has the government seen the assumptions made by Maju Holdings? Has the government called Maju Holdings or its financial adviser Evercore for a meeting like it said it would, before even deciding to shut the door on Maju Holdings? Has the government done a due diligence on the proposal by Maju Holdings?

The government should seriously rethink its stance in this issue.  There is just too much money that needs to be involved if the government continues to keep PLUS.  This is money that could be used to pay the other concessionaires to not hike up their rates as PLUS under Maju Holdings would not be increasing theirs until the concession agreement runs out.  Or the savings could go to building more schools, hospitals or buy more fighters for the Air Force.

The government has an opportunity to offload its financial burdens.  But why is it so afraid to take that step?

Read So Your Worries Don’t Take Its Toll

   
 
FAQ ISU KENAIKAN KADAR TOL   
SOALAN : MENGAPAKAH PENGUMUMAN KENAIKAN KADAR TOL DIBUAT OLEH SYARIKAT KONSESI?   

Pengumuman mengenai kadar tol yang baru di 18 lebuh raya tol bermula 15 Oktober 2015 telah dibuat sendiri oleh syarikat-syarikat konsesi lebuh raya yang berkaitan memandangkan mereka mempunyai tanggungjawab untuk menguruskan lebuh raya masing-masing untuk satu tempoh masa berdasarkan Perjanjian Konsesi yang ditandatangani.     

  
SOALAN : ADAKAH MELALUI PERJANJIAN KONSESI (CA) SESUATU KADAR TOL PERLU DINAIKKAN?   

Didalam Perjanjian Konsesi yang ditandatangani, ada beberapa komponen seperti jadual kadar tol sepanjang tempoh konsesi di mana penentuan kadar tol dan tempoh kenaikan kadar tol adalah mengambil kira kos operasi, penyenggaraan, unjuran trafik dan kos pembiayaan kewangan (loan repayment).  Atas faktor-faktor inilah, tempoh kenaikan kadar tol perlu dikaji secara puratanya di antara 3 hingga 5 tahun.   Oleh yang demikian, kenaikan kadar tol adalah diperlukan oleh syarikat-syarikat konsesi yang terlibat untuk membolehkan mereka menampung kos-kos operasi dan penyenggaraan di lebuh raya masing-masing demi memastikan keselamatan dan keselesaan pemanduan yang optimum.  

  
 SOALAN : APAKAH PERKARA YANG DIAMBIL KIRA KERAJAAN DALAM MEMBUAT KEPUTUSAN KADAR KENAIKAN TOL PADA TAHUN 2015?  

 Bagi tahun 2015, kenaikan kadar tol telah dikaji dengan teliti dengan mengambil kira beberapa parameter. Antara parameter yang telah digunakan adalah penstrukturan semula dasar subsidi nasional di mana kenaikan kadar tol ini dapat menjimatkan perbelanjaan Kerajaan yang dianggarkan sebanyak RM580 juta yang seterusnya boleh digunakan untuk tujuan pembangunan lain yang lebih memerlukan. 
SOALAN : APAKAH KESAN KENAIKAN TOL KEPADA KEWANGAN KERAJAAN ?   

Kenaikan kadar tol mulai 15 Oktober 2015 seperti yang diumumkan oleh syarikat-syarikat konsesi lebuh raya perlu dilihat dari segi penjimatan kepada kewangan negara. Setiap tahun, Kerajaan perlu membayar pampasan penangguhan kenaikan kadar tol kepada syarikat-syarikat konsesi lebuh raya sekiranya kadar tol tidak dinaikkan. Dalam hal ini, Kerajaan perlu membayar pampasan yang dianggarkan sebanyak RM580 juta kepada syarikat-syarikat konsesi lebuh raya sekiranya kadar tol tidak dinaikkan pada tahun 2015. Penjimatan sebanyak RM580 juta ini boleh digunakan untuk membiayai perkara-perkara seperti berikut:   penurapan semula 380km jalan-jalan sediada; pembinaan sebanyak 380 buah jejantas baru; pembinaan 19 jambatan baru; dan pembinaan 58 sekolah rendah yang baru.   Kenaikan kadar tol adalah salah satu langkah awal yang perlu diambil oleh Kerajaan untuk mengawal bilangan kenderaan yang masuk ke Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur. Sekiranya langkah ini tidak dilaksanakan, ianya dikhuatiri akan menyebabkan kesesakan yang agak kritikal di Kuala Lumpur.   

  
SOALAN : APAKAH KEBAIKAN PENJIMATAN PERBELANJAAN KERAJAAN HASIL DARIPADA KENAIKAN KADAR TOL?   

Melalui penstrukturan semula dasar subsidi ini, Kerajaan dapat menumpukan perhatian dalam membangunkan ekonomi negara yang pada akhirnya akan memanfaatkan rakyat sekalian.   
SOALAN : APAKAH TINDAKAN MITIGASI OLEH KERAJAAN DALAM MENGURANGKAN KESAN KENAIKAN TOL KEPADA RAKYAT DI BANDAR ? DAN APAKAH SOLUSI UNTUK RAKYAT YANG MEMBAYAR TOL NAMUN MASIH TERPERANGKAP DENGAN KESESAKAN JALANRAYA?   

Pemantapan sistem pengangkutan awam darat adalah antara usaha Kerajaan untuk mengurangkan kesan kenaikan tol ini dengan menggalakkan pengguna beralih kepada penggunaan pengangkutan awam.  Ini kerana kadar tol untuk bas tidak akan dinaikkan dan akan kekal seperti mana sekarang.   Rakyat mampu memperolehi penjimatan untuk urusan seharian mereka apabila mereka tidak perlu mengeluarkan perbelanjaan tambahan untuk tol, kos bahanapi serta mampu meminimakan risiko kemungkinan berlakunya kemalangan akibat sikap pemandu di jalanraya.   Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat (SPAD) melalui Government Trasnformation Programme : NKRA Urban Public Transport mempunyai perancangan jangka panjang dalam meningkatkan sistem pengangkutan awam darat. Tiga (3) bentuk approach telah dikenal pasti iaitu:     pembangunan sistem rel (MRT, LRT & monorel); pembangunan hub pengangkutan awam darat (hub utara di Gombak, hub selatan di Bandar Tasik Selatan dan hub utara di Sungai Buloh); dan pembangunan sistem pengangkutan awam seperti teksi dan GoKL.   Usaha ini mampu mengurangkan kesesakan di bandar besar seperti Kuala Lumpur.   Pembinaan Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) juga adalah salah satu aspek yang dikenal pasti untuk mengurangkan kesesakan di kawasan-kawasan yang mempunyai tahap kepadatan penduduk yang tinggi. Fasa pertama yang menghubungkan kawasan Subang, USJ dan Sunway telah siap dan buat masa ini, ridership BRT di kawasan tersebut sedang meningkat.   Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) telah membina dua (2) kawasan park-ride di Stesen LRT Sungai Besi dan Bandar Salak Selatan bagi kemudahan pengguna-pengguna LRT yang ingin ke bandaraya Kuala Lumpur. Satu lagi kemudahan park-ride sedang dibina oleh DBKL berdekatan dengan Taman Segar, Cheras untuk kegunaan para pengguna MRT.   Oleh yang demikian, Kerajaan berharap agar usaha penambahbaikan  sistem pengangkutan awam darat ini mampu menyediakan prasarana yang boleh membantu mengurangkan beban perbelanjaan dan kos sara hidup atau sebagai alternatif kenaikan kadar tol di lebuh raya-lebuh raya.     

  
SOALAN : APAKAH USAHA KERAJAAN MENGURANGKAN BEBAN KEWANGAN PENGGUNA LEBUH RAYA?   

Kerajaan pada dasarnya prihatin terhadap peningkatan kos sara hidup rakyat. Oleh yang demikian, beberapa pendekatan telah diperkenalkan oleh Kerajaan untuk mengurangkan kos sara hidup rakyat yang berkaitan dengan kadar tol. Antara pendekatan yang telah diambil oleh Kerajaan adalah seperti berikut: Penutupan Awal dan Pemansuhan Kutipan Tol   Sejak 1993, Kerajaan telah melaksanakan penutupan serta pemansuhan kutipan tol di lapan (8) lokasi seperti berikut :   11 Januari 1993 – penutupan Plaza Tol Slim River, Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (PLUS) 1 Mac 2004 – Pemansuhan kutipan tol di Plaza Tol Senai, Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (PLUS); 18 Mac 2004 – Penutupan awal plaza tol di Jalan Pahang, Lebuhraya Hubungan Timur Barat (Metramac) (Tarikh sebenar penutupan mengikut perjanjian konsesi adalah  pada 31 Mac 2004); 14 Februari 2009 – Pemansuhan kutipan tol di Plaza Tol PJS2 (arah Kuala Lumpur), Lebuhraya Baru Pantai (NPE); 24 Februari 2009 – Pemansuhan kutipan tol Plaza Tol Salak Jaya di Lebuhraya Sungai Besi (BESRAYA);   21 Disember 2009 – Penutupan awal Plaza Tol Teluk Kapas, Lebuhraya Pintas Selat Klang Utara (NNKSB) (Tarikh sebenar penutupan mengikut perjanjian konsesi adalah pada 29 Disember 2009); 16 Mei 2011- Pemansuhan kutipan tol di Lebuhraya Hubungan Timur Barat (Metramac); dan 2 Mac 2012 – Pemansuhan kutipan tol di laluan ke Kuala Lumpur, Plaza Tol Batu 9 dan laluan Ke Kajang, Plaza Tol Batu 11, Lebuhraya Cheras – Kajang (GRANDSAGA).      Pengurangan Kadar Tol   Sehingga kini, pengurangan kadar tol telah dilaksanakan di tiga lebuh raya, seperti berikut:   1 September 2007 – Pengurangan kadar tol di Plaza Tol Sungai Nyior, Lebuhraya Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR), dari RM0.90 ke RM0.50 sejak tahun 2007; 18 Februari 2011 – Pengurangan kadar tol di Plaza Tol PJS2 (arah Subang), Lebuhraya Baru Pantai (NPE) bagi kenderaan Kelas 1 dari RM1.60 ke RM1.00 sejak tahun 2011; dan 15 Januari 2013 – Pengurangan kadar tol di Lebuhraya Shah Alam (KESAS) bagi kenderaan Kelas 1 dari RM2.20 ke RM2.00 bagi tempoh 2013 hingga 2015.    Penstrukturan Semula Kenaikan Kadar Tol   Kerajaan juga pada masa yang sama telah melaksanakan penstrukturan semula kenaikan kadar tol di lebuh raya-lebuh raya di bawah kendalian syarikat Plus Expressways Berhad (PEB) dan Kumpulan MTD. Penstrukturan ini dilaksanakan melalui tiada kenaikan tol bagi lebuh raya-lebuh raya di bawah kendalian PEB untuk tempoh dari 2011 hingga 2015. Manakala, bagi lebuh raya-lebuh raya di bawah kendalian Kumpulan MTD pula, tiada kenaikan tol dari tempoh 2011 hingga 2014.   Lebuh raya-lebuh raya di bawah kendalian PEB yang terlibat adalah seperti berikut:   Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (PLUS); Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan Hubungan Tengah (ELITE); Lebuhraya Laluan Kedua Malaysia