A Possible PLUS Point

A view of the Greater London area with the 188km M25 motorway circling, clearly visible from the International Space Station

It may seem like a coincidence that during the recent Festival of Light I was driving on the Maju Expressway at night to attend an open house.  What struck me is that the expressway is lit up all along the stretch and wondered if Tan Sri Abu Sahid would light up all the PLUS highways if he gets to purchase PLUS.

Over the past couple of months I have been reading about the proposed purchase of PLUS by Maju Holdings from Khazanah and EPF.  Several people have written on it while I waited a bit to read up on the interviews given by Tan Sri Abu Sahid himself.

While other toll concessionaires strive to increase toll rates to keep up with ever-increasing OPEX, one of Tan Sri Abu Sahid’s selling points is to NOT increase toll rates until the concession agreement that was signed during Mahathir’s administration expires in 2038, and while many think Tan Sri Abu Sahid is mad, I see method in his madness.

Backing

The first question raised by many including myself was where is Maju Holdings going to raise the kind of money needed to buy PLUS from Khazanah and EPF?  Tan Sri Abu Sahid revealed that he is getting financial backing from Evercore, an independent investment banking advisory firm and a boutique investment bank.

Evercore is involved in many toll road projects around the world, and has crunched the numbers to support Abu Sahid’s claim that he could run the PLUS highways at a profit without having to increase the toll rates until the expiry of the concession.

So far, all the “experts” that have spoken against Abu Sahid’s claim have not shown any credible evidence to support their opposition to Abu Sahid’s proposal.  They counter Abu Sahid’s proposal by saying that it is not viable and may increase risks to users, without any figures to back them up.

But Abu Sahid has already shown that currently PLUS is paying about RM58 per square metre for resurfacing works, compared to just RM18 per square metre done by MEX.  And those figures are based on both operators using the same contractors for the works.  How is it that PLUS is paying RM40 more per square metre compared to MEX using the same contractors?  Neither EPF nor UEM have offered any explanation to say otherwise, let alone sue Abu Sahid if the latter had gotten his facts wrong.

The best thing for them (UEM and EPF) to do is to sell PLUS. I pay them RM4 billion in hard cash, and you have taken back whatever you invested, so it’s already free, their IRR (internal rate of return) is 20 percent. If they say it’s not enough, how much do they want? Show me how much they make on their investments,” said Abu Sahid to reporters in a recent press conference.

Abu Sahid also 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.

Dangerous For Users?

In an interview, Dr Mohamad Shazli Fathi who is the Deputy Director at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Environmental and Occupational Safety and Health Unit said that by not increasing the toll for the next 20 years will only endanger highway users.

Citing the ever-increasing cost of maintenance, especially for bitumen and cement, Dr Mohamad Shazli is skeptical of Abu Sahid’s offer.  Again, Dr Mohamad Shazli was just shooting from his hip without any figures or projections to back his claim, as with the other experts sought to “help explain” matters.

What these experts forget is that Abu Sahid could obtain these materials in bulk, thus reducing costs, through Ipmuda Berhad where he holds 31.23 percent equity interest.

And if he can do resurfacing for the 26-kilometer MEX at RM18 per square metre, it should be far cheaper, if not the same, for 974 kilometers of highways owned by PLUS through its various operating companies, because of economies of scale.

In fact, as the owner of MEX, Maju Holdings had had the expressway lit up as an extra safety measure for drivers and users, all 26 kilometers, and plans to do the same for all 974 kilometers of expressway under PLUS.  No longer are drivers required to strain their eyes in the dark, or feel scared if they suffer a breakdown at night.  If this is not safer than what the PLUS highways are now, I don’t know what is.  Try driving from Kulai to the Second Link at night and you will know what I am talking about.

If you look at the photo above of London and the M25 motorway as taken from the International Space Station, imagine how 974 kilometers of expressways lit up at night would look like from space.  That would certainly look awesome!

We Have Just Sold Our Country To The Chinese, Now We Want To Surrender Our Highways To The Americans?

Of course there is no such thing as selling our country to China (read ‘Apa Yang Strategiknya?‘, ‘Teka Bila Kem Tentera Mula Hendak Dijual?‘ and ‘The Living Forest‘). That is just people who are no longer politically-relevant talking to justify their miserable existence.

The other question that is in the people’s mind is: if Abu Sahid defaults on his payment to Evercore, does this mean that Evercore owns the highway?  Highway concessionaires only hold concessions.  The highways belong to the government.  What Abu Sahid is seeking is to buy PLUS the highway concessionaire from Khazanah-owned UEM and EPF.

When Abu Sahid proposed to sell of MEX (a deal which eventually fell through), Mahathir was angry and said, “You sell what is yours. You don’t sell what belongs to others. It could be as bad as selling APs.”  Only what is owned by MEX were allowed to be sold. The cars, the computers, the chairs, tables, tea cups. Not the highway.

The term “highway” by law includes all traffic lanes, acceleration lanes, deceleration lanes, shoulders, median strips, bridges, overpasses, underpasses, interchanges, approaches, entrance and exit ramps, toll plazas, service areas, maintenance areas, highway furniture, signs and other structures and fixtures and any other areas adjacent thereto. These are under the control and management of the Highway Authority of Malaysia (Lembaga Lebuhraya Malaysia or LLM).

It is because of that if Abu Sahid actually defaults on payments to Evercore, the PLUS highways will not be closed to traffic.

So what does Abu Sahid want from PLUS if it does not make him much money?  Access to his parcels of land so he could develop them, and provide access to land to the left and right of these highways for them to be developed.

Like it or not, mad or otherwise, Abu Sahid is a patriot at heart.  Just like the cheap and controlled price of food sold at his Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS), Abu Sahid does not want the people to be further burdened once UEM has to service its RM30 billion principal payment that is due soon.

But Abu Sahid Has A Bad Track Record – PERWAJA

Perwaja, the brainchild of Mahathir, was set up in 1982.   Even in the initial years of operating, it continuously lost money, mainly due to the global recession, lower steel prices and softer demand for steel.

Government-owned Hicom Holdings was the original major owner of Perwaja Steel with a 51% stake, which it divested in 1988.

A year later, Nippon Steel of Japan gave up its 30% stake to the Malaysian government, paving the way for a major restructuring of the company.

The government pumped some RM2 billion into the company, and new facilities were built in Kemaman, Terengganu, and Gurun, Kedah.

Despite this and several more capital infusions by the Government, Perwaja still suffered losses.

Later in 1995, the Government put Perwaja up for sale and after a delay due to the Asian Financial Crisis, Tan Sri Abu Sahid Mohamed’s Maju Holdings emerged as Perwaja’s ultimate holding company in 2003, in a deal valued at RM1.305 billion.

Abu Sahid, like Tajuddin Ramli and Halim Saad, are victims of Mahathir’s manipulation.  He had agreed to help rescue Perwaja because the then Prime Minister asked him to do a “national service.”

And despite the massive losses Abu Sahid never sold his shares in Perwaja.

I promised the government I would not sell and I didn’t. I burnt RM700 million  to keep my word,” he said to The Edgemarkets recently.

Who Is Happy And Who Is Not?

The happiest people if Abu Sahid gets to buy PLUS are the people – the users of the PLUS highways.  For the next 20 years, Malaysians plying the PLUS highways would not have to worry about the increase in toll rates.  This definitly augurs well for the government, especially in the savings it could make.  The deal also saves EPF contributors from suffering once the massive principal payment needs to be made.

The ones who do not seem to be happy are UEM (Khazanah) and the EPF, for reasons only known to them.  The best part is, without passing Abu Sahid’s proposal to the investments committee where it could be studied and recommendations made, both UEM and EPF have made it clear that they are not interested to sell PLUS to Abu Sahid.

How can they make such a call when the investment committee from both government institutions have not studied the proposal?

Is there more to the RM58 per square metre that meets the eye?  Again, only UEM (Khazanah) and the EPF can answer this, and if only they feel like answering.

For the people, this is a possible plus point for the government. In the meantime, the voters wait.

Rise Of The Grotesque 

PERMATApintar is an education program that is to nurture balanced gifted and talented individuals, giving opportunities to children between nine to fifteen to optimize their learning potential.

Among those whom have benefited from this program include 22-year old former PERMATA Pintar College student Koo Jia Hui from Pulau Pinang who is now pursuing her PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Oxford.

If it was not for this initiative by Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, God knows who would have helped her. The DAP government surely did not offer her any help despite claims to have made annual budget surpluses.

Koo Jia Hui thanked PERMATA Pintar and Rosmah Mansor for helping her achieve her dreams.


And because of the success of the PERMATA Pintar program, Rosmah is in London now to expand the Nobelist Mindset program with the cooperation of Royal Society of London and the University of Cambridge.

London, a beautiful city, unfortunately is also home to ugly fiends such as U-Turn’s Mahathir’s pet dog, Claire.


I’m sorry. For a moment it does look like Claire but a tad too pretty. Claire’s far uglier.


And earlier she let loose her pack of grotesque beings to harrass Rosmah Mansor at the Royal Society of London.

It seems that Claire does not want human beings to be smarter or have the opportunity to have a better life than the gargoyles she calls her journalists.

Here is someone trying to give children a meaningful and better life, only to be harrassed by a white bitch who feeds on the scrap handed out by a ingrate nonagenarian.

Just watch how ugly the creatures she released from a cage near the Royal Society of London to harrass Rosmah Mansor are and tell me if this is how journalists behave.

Tanggang Bin Ali Buat Hal Lagi

Siapa ingat kisah di atas? Baru lebih empat tahun dulu Azmin di anggap seperti Si Tanggang oleh ibu kandungnya sendiri.

Namun, kesemuanya kelihatan baik dan sempurna setelah Azmin menjadi Menteri Besar setelah Abdul Khalid Ibrahim digulingkan oleh rakan-rakan separtinya sendiri melalui Kajang Move.

Sejak itu, Azmin dilihat menjadi semakin lantang bersuara terutamanya dalam usaha memburukkan kerajaan pusat.


Azmin sebenarnya ingin mengukuhkan kedudukannya untuk menghadapi serangan dari dalam parti terutamanya dari kem Wan Azizah. Oleh sebab itu beliau perlu menunjukkan betapa beliau lebih layak menjadi presiden partinya berbanding Wan Azizah yang tiada sebarang pengalaman selain menjadi tempat Anwar Ibrahim meletakkan kakinya semasa duduk berehat.

Mungkin Azmin telah mendapat restu ibunya dan telah berbaik semula dengan adik-beradiknya.

Malang sekali bagi Che Tom Yahaya yang berumur 82 tahun dan kini sakit teruk, kejatuhan matawang Ringgit yang dibuat bising oleh Azmin bermakna beliau wajib bercuti di London untuk Boxing Day sales kerana ianya lebih penting dari kesihatan ibu kandungnya itu.

Lihat sahajalah luahan adiknya Ummi Hafilda.


Patutlah negeri Selangor ni semakin parah keadaannya. Menteri Besar hanya pentingkan dirinya sendiri.

Hobo Hubba Hubba

Beggars are a problem anywhere in the world. The bigger problem is distinguishing between the genuine beggars and those who are professionals. Giving alms and helping the needy is part of human nature and I can bet most say to themselves, “One day it could be me.” Which is why members of the public are angered by Adnan Mansor’s recent statements made regarding the homeless and those who feed them; and they include I.

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I could not care less who Adnan Mansor is. I am one who does not go around polishing politicians’ balls no matter what party the politician concerned represents. While I acknowledge that beggars, be they unprofessional or otherwise, are a problem, this problem have existed for as long as I have been breathing.

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In his statement above, he said that he would take the money alms-giver give to beggars and re-distribute to those who actually need the money. I hope he has the mechanism and manpower to do this as his manpower would only be those in the Kuala Lumpur City Council (DBKL). I think the Zakat collection offices as well as the Welfare Department has been doing this for donkey years and still fail. We still find the genuine poor living in sorry conditions yet government officials and party office-holders receive alms from the Pusat Pungutan Zakat as well as ownership of several units of the Perumahan Rakyat Termiskin. If Adnan Mansor wants to talk about genuine and professional beggars, please take a swipe at those people too!

Yes, both Mecca and Madinah are swamped with beggars. In fact, in 2013, there were 24,000 beggars roaming on the streets near mosques in the whole of Saudi Arabia. In the words of The Peninsula Times dated 24 June 2014:

“Saudi Arabia had 24,000 beggars roaming the streets. Yes, 24,000 people standing outside mosques asking for handout using a variety of tricks to get what they want. Starting with claiming injuries or an amputated limb even with documents proving their claims, but God only knows they’re real or not.”

Adnan Mansor may think that it is best to quote the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in its fight against beggars and ask how can it be unIslamic to get rid of them, be advised that the Shoura Council of the KSA disagreed with the KSA government’s way of handling the beggars.

“Shoura Council members criticized the on-going fight against beggars, because the conditions of poverty are the result of a failure of government policies.”

In this sense, our government is also at fault because despite the zakat collection and establishment of a welfare department, we have failed to provide red-tapeless methods to assist the needy, we still have poor Malaysians surviving from day-to-day on morsels, while the Zakat establishments continue to report surplus and profit. How can these establishments report profits when they are supposed to be giving out all the money to those in need instead? Despite the millions collected to alleviate poverty, we still have people of want. To whom and how have the funds been distributed begs the question here. And then we have the religious authorities cry foul when Muslim poor are receiving aid from Christian-backed charity organisations. Why?

How, in the name of sanity, does Adnan Mansor plan to assist these people? He even spoke about giving them jobs. Please lay your cards on the table before you utter nonsense that even your own boss have reservations about your moves (as evident in the now-deleted tweet):

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Talk about the soup kitchens, Adnan mentioned that the sight of the homeless bodies queueing up for food at soup kitchens would tarnish the image of Kuala Lumpur, HIS city, so much so that he has ordered operators of soup kitchens to move out or prepare to be fined.

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May I remind Adnan that London was declared the most visited city of 2013, with 16 million visitors. I am pretty sure in his many trips there, as I have in my not-so-many trips there, have seen homeless bodies around Queensway, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street – all tourist spots, let alone in places like Edgware, Clapham etc. There are 1,600 private homes operated to provide shelter for the homeless, and even then 300 homeless bodies sleep with the sky as their roof on a nightly basis.

Yes, there are professional beggars, such as the children from “Tahfizs” and privately-operated religious orphanages, and also people overstaying their tourist visa, as covered previously by both my blog as well as Hazrey‘s. The religious authorities as well as relevant government organisations never acted upon these fake religious institutions. And for the imported beggars who can afford stays at three-star hotels, don’t you see how the Immigration Department has failed dismally in putting a stop to this? And now Adnan thinks he single-handedly can put a stop to this?

Now stop dictating what we can or cannot do with our money. It is my right to choose to whom should I hand my money out to. They can be genuine, or they can be those people who are the consequence of government officials who swore to do their job properly, but do the exact opposite! This is where the saying “when the giving stops, the begging will too” does not hold water.

Your intention may be good, Adnan Mansor, but your method and approach are wrong!