Rebutting Najib, Pua says Pakatan scored 'triple win' with new PLUS deal

Ida Lim
Tony Pua noted that the previous Barisan Nasional administration failed to achieve similar outcomes with PLUS Malaysia Berhad and the highways under its umbrella. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 22 ― The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government achieved a “triple win” by giving Malaysians lower toll rates on PLUS highways without needing to compensate the concessionaire or harm its value to shareholders, Tony Pua told Datuk Seri Najib Razak today.

Pua, who is political secretary to the finance minister, noted that the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration failed to achieve similar outcomes with PLUS Malaysia Berhad and the highways under its umbrella.

He pointed out to the the former prime minister that, in 1999, the concession period for PLUS highways was extended for 12 years to end in 2030 with a 26 per cent toll hike every three to five years until 2016.

In 2005, this was extended by another eight years to 2038 with a 10 per cent hike every three years.

He said that under BN, PLUS highway toll rates were restructured in 2011 to rise by five per cent every three years, while other highways under PLUS also had their own toll hike schedules and were extended until 2038.

Pua highlighted that the toll rates for highways were never reduced during BN's time, even when the concession periods for toll collections were extended, and that the government under deals negotiated by the BN administration even had to pay RM3 billion as compensation to freeze toll hikes.

“On the contrary, with the new structuring by the Pakatan Harapan government, the public will enjoy toll reduction for the first time in the history of PLUS highways, that is a 18 per cent discount from the current rate,”  the Damansara MP said in a statement today, referring to the toll discount that will kick in from February 1 onwards.

While the toll concession period was extended from 2038 by another 20 years to end in 2058, there will be no toll hikes until the end of the concession in 2058, the government said.

“With the structuring that will be implemented by the PH government, the toll rate will be frozen throughout the concession with an 18 per cent discount without requiring one cent of compensation at all from the government.

“This means RM26 billion in compensation can be saved by the PH government throughout the concession as compared to the toll rate during Najib's time. This huge sum will be allocated to citizens throughout Malaysia, including Sabah and Sarawak in the form of welfare and economic development, and not to highway toll companies,” Pua added.

Pua acknowledged Najib's remarks about abolishihng tolls at three PLUS toll plazas in 2018, but pointed out that this actually resulted in the government being bound to pay RM856 million in compensation that it still owed to PLUS.

The DAP lawmaker also said the new plan announced by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad meant this RM856 million no longer must be paid, enabling the federal government to reallocate this sum to other spending benefiting Malaysians.

Pua went on to say that Najib failed to fulfill BN's 2013 election manifesto to bring down toll rates and that his BN administration had in 2015 raised toll rates at other highways.

Pua listed the “triple win” scored by the PH government as including the enabling highway users to enjoy an 18 per cent discount on toll rates without any increases in toll rates “forever”, and with Malaysians to enjoy benefits worth RM26 billion that the federal government no longer has to pay in compensation to PLUS.

The third “win” is that the interests of PLUS' shareholders ― Khazanah Nasional Berhad and Employees Provident Fund (EPF) ― would not be affected, as the value of PLUS assets would not decrease in this structuring and which would in turn mean EPF's dividend payments to Malaysians are not affected.

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