So the government has put off the highway toll hike to the end of the year.
But before you rejoice, think about this: the government will have to pay RM287m in compensation to the concessionaires:
- Plus – RM195m
- Sprint – RM36m
- Akleh – RM27m
- Besraya – RM9m
- NPE – RM20m
That’s our money going straight into the concessionaires’ pockets. Easy money for doing nothing.
By the way, Plus Expressways Berhad made a profit before tax of RM1.5 billion for the year ended 31 December 2008 – up from RM1.3 billion the previous year.
Last year, the government paid RM245mil to Plus, Akleh and Sprint as compensation for a scheduled increase from January 2008 year that never took place.
The BN appears afraid of the impact of these toll hikes on the coming by-elections. They have also learnt their lesson after the sharp petrol price hike cost them dearly on 8 March 2008.
The BN is trying to pull a fast one. Either way – toll hike or no hike – we end up paying. It’s just that the compensation is less obvious as it comes out of public funds that the BN government controls.
As it is, the concessionaires are profiting from ever-increasing traffic volumes.
Who drew up these lop-sided agreements that favoured the concessionaires in the first place?
It’s time to nationalise the hightways – the whole lot of them – once and for all. If the highways are nationalised, then the entire profits can be used for improving public transport and other development projects for the poor.
It’s not as far-fetched as it might seem. As it is, the government owns 64 per cent of Plus via Khazanah/UEM. Another 10 per cent is held by the EPF and 7 per cent by government-run unit trust and pension funds.