KUALA LUMPUR – Works Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof has refuted DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng’s accusation that the government only looked after its ‘cronies’ by allowing the North-South Highway to continue unjustifiably to collect toll.
He hoped the Penang chief minister would spend more time to understand the true situation instead of issuing populist statements which were not grounded on reality, and irresponsibly labelling any and all parties as cronies.
He said in 2011, the government had privatised PLUS Highways Berhad to rationalise the overall toll structure of all highway concessions in the PLUS Group and prevent unnecessary toll increases.
Fadillah said not a single share of the concessionaire was now owned by what Lim considered as private ‘cronies’; instead, 51 per cent of it was now owned by the government and 49 per cent owned by the Employees Provident Fund (EPF).
“I am incredulous that YAB Lim considers the 14.55 million EPF members as ‘cronies’,” he said in a statement here today.
He said EPF’s ownership of PLUS Highways allowed its members to receive a stable return every year from a mature cash-generating asset.
Fadillah added that due to the timely move to privatise PLUS, it should be noted that tolls for the North-South Highway had not been increased for the past 11 years since 2005.
“In fact, with the introduction of certain discounts and rebates in recent years, actual toll rates for the North-South Highway have also gone down,” he said.
Fadillah said Lim yesterday had accused the Barisan Nasional government of only looking after its cronies to earn extraordinary profits at the expense of 30 million Malaysians by allowing the North-South Highway to continue unjustifiably to collect toll.
Lim was also reported yesterday to have urged the government to make the PLUS highway a freeway, saying that the concessionaire had already made more profit than the actual construction cost of RM5.9 billion.
Other than that, Fadillah said last year, Lim had also asked the tolls for the PLUS highways to be abolished and called for road tax collection to pay for the maintenance and upgrade costs.
“The RM2.4 billion yearly road tax collection alone is not enough to maintain the PLUS highway systems, on top of the 50,000km of toll-free federal roads and still provide annual allocations to individual states to maintain their state roads,” he added.
He said the spending on the highway made up to about RM1 billion yearly for operating costs, maintenance, patrolling and upgrading of the 986.5km highway system and billions more to widen the roads to three or four lanes in order to alleviate congestion.
He noted that under the Federal Government’s Malaysian Road Records Information System, billions were allocated to the state governments to maintain their state roads.
“This includes about RM500 million to Selangor this year, while Penang received RM94.4 million in 2014, RM101.5 million in 2015 and RM107.6 million for 2016 from the Federal Government,” he added. – BERNAMA