Look what Santa pulled out of his sack – again – for Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary! The well-connected tycoon, the eighth wealthiest Malaysian with a net worth of RM5.3 billion according to Forbes, has reportedly landed Penang Port, days after his MMC, along with Gamuda, was awarded the job of KL MRT project delivery partner.
See Insider report here. The news is made public at a time when most Malaysians are in holiday mode and soon after MCA president Chua Soi Lek was appointed as chairman of Penang Port Commission. The chairman of Penang Port Sdn Bhd is Hilmi Yahaya, a Penang state assembly member from Umno. Redza Rafiq Abd Razak,a PPSB director, is the head of the Umno Cyberjaya Centre branch and Chief Executive of The Northern Corridor Implementation Authority
Appallingly, the port has not been handed over to the Penang state government to manage. The federal government had already spent about a billion ringgit of public funds in upgrading the port areas in Penang. Now, it looks as if even the iconic Penang ferries will also fall into private hands.
The larger issue, apart from handing over public assets to well-connected individials/firms, is the scourge of privatisation (at what valuation?), which undermines the spirit of public service and community solidarity.
Syed Mokhtar now has an interest in many of the biggest infrastructure projects in the country. He already controls some of the largest ports in Malaysia, Port of Tanjung Pelepas and Pasir Gudang port in Johor and now Penang Port as well as Senai Airport. Will this one man now be in a position to virtually dictate terms to exporters in the northern and southern regions?
Syed Mokthar’s Tradewinds recently gained control of Bernas, which has a monopoly of rice distribution in the country. Tradewinds also controls Central Sugars Refinery Sdn Bhd and Kilang Gula Padang Terap Bhd.
In 2007, Gamuda and MMC were awarded the northern portion of the rail double-tracking job for RM12.5 billion.
In April 2010, DRB-Hicom, whose controlling shareholder is Syed Mokthar, reportedly received a letter of intent from the government to manufacture and deliver a dozen variants of the Malaysian AV-8 armoured wheeled vehicle.
The tycoon also has an interest in Malakoff Corp, the country’s largest independent power producer.
Now, let’s watch and see how much the port is valued at, bearing in mind that recent upgrading work using public funds amounted to RM1 billion.
Meanwhile, other public assets are now up for grabs. A RM2-company Jelas Ulung has suddenly emerged out of nowhere to offer RM26 billion to take over the North South highway at a time when government-controlled UEM-EPF had already offered RM23 billion.
Is the Great Malaysian Christmas/New Year Sale of public assets now underway before the next general election?