Prime Minister Najib Razak should scrap plans to privatise the operations of Penang port to Syed Mokhtar’s Seaport Terminal Sdn Bhd, which already controls Johor Port and Port of Tanjung Pelepas.
There is no reason to privatise the Penang port, especially to a crony who already controls other ports and transport infrastructure, as well as other key strategic assets. The port should be handed to the the people of Penang and its operations come under their elected state government.
Early last year, the federal government issued ‘requests for proposals’ for the privatisation.
According to The Edge (25 June), four groups registered their interest:
- Dubai Portsworld
- International Container Terminal Services Inc
- Seaport Terminal and
- a private group led by businessman Siew Ka Wai
But then the Penang state government correctly gatecrashed the ‘party’ and requested that it be allowed to take over the port.
We don’t want what is happening now in Selangor – where a private water firm can effectively hold the state and its people to ransom – to happen in Penang.
Chua Soi Lek, during his debate with Guan Eng, complained about the poor performance of Penang port as the justification for privatisation. But whose people are managing the port now? The Edge reported that there are powerful vested interest groups, who enjoy cosy business contracts from the port – and they too are lobbying against the privatisation. The weekly cites a source as saying: “The whole port operates like a private enterprise and breaking the cabal is going to be harder than getting control over the port.” Who are those with vested interests in the port?
The state government, if it takes over, can revamp the management and plug the ‘leakages’. After all why is Penang port’s throughput per metre only 7363 freight weight tonnes/metre compared to Port of Singapore Authority’s 31,459FWT/m in 2011? Even PTP’s 26109FWT/m lags behind PSA’s.
The Edge added that under the deal, the government would receive RM100m from Sea Terminal. Sea Terminal would also assume Penang Port’s debt of RM1.3bn.
So what’s in it for Sea Terminal if it is willing to cough up so much money? Surely, it is a gold mine that has immense potential.
A few other points should be kept in mind:
Who is responsible for the siltation in the port that requires extensive periodic dredging that runs into hundreds of millions of ringgit?
What is the impact of land reclamation on the island and mainland? If private companies are responsible for the siltation in the northern channel, then they should foot the bill for the dredging and the dredging cost should NOT come out of public funds.
The extension of the North Butterworth Container Terminal all the way up the northern coastline of Seberang Perai – with plans for even further extensions – has affected the livelihood of fisher folks in Bagan Jermal and Bagan Ajam on the mainland as catches dwindle. No wonder the price of fish is rising!
To what extent have port activities polluted the sea water? And how has this affected our beaches? Who pays for the sea pollution and the impact on marine life? The public bears the environmentals cost while the port operators and other private firms reap the profits?
NO to privatisation of (port operating) profits and socialisation of (environmental) costs!