Much has been written about the 'crooked' bridge that is going on post-haste to replace the Malaysian side of the Causeway.
The reasons given at various stages of the drama are:
- It will allow leisure and pleasure craft to sail around the southern tip of West Malaysia.
- It will cleanse the Johor Straits of the muck that has accumulated over the past decades.
- It will link up Pasir Gudang port with Tanjung Pelepas.
The cost has increased from more than RM1 billion to the latest estimate of more than RM2 billion within a time span of about three years.
While some beautiful graphics have been published of the musical design resembling a harp and providing tourists with an "impressive gateway" to Malaysia, very little has been mentioned on how this expensive project is going to be recovered.
No project papers have been published on how the water quality is going to be improved with the opening of the Causeway; it is quite possible that there could be a natural point along the Tebrau Straits where the water is going to stagnate anyway.
How many pleasure or leisure craft are owned by ordinary Malaysians? Since the bridge is for their benefit, they should also pay some toll to recover costs.
What is really baffling is how we can commit so much funds on a project that has no economic reason.
Anyone who uses the Causeway knows that the traffic jams are clogged up at the customs, immigration and quarantine booths because they are never fully deployed.
For example, about five years ago, the Johor Baru entry point was expanded with multi-channel immigration booths in one section.
However, these booths are never 100 per cent manned unless some big-shots are visiting. The roofs leak badly during heavy showers and the floor does not drain properly - which is another story of bad design and incompetent contractors.
The manner in which this multi-billion ringgit project has been awarded is also cause for concern. No public tender was called and almost total secrecy shrouds the project.
If we consider the double-track rail project that has been halved in cost, indicates that there is plenty of scope for 'horse-trading' under such privatisation deals. Once the glamour of the project wears off and the company cannot recover adequate profits, perhaps highway concessionaire Plus will have to absorb this 'crooked' project.
The cabinet should not be allowed to award off-budget contracts except in the following circumstances:
- It must be in the national interest;
- It must be economically feasible; and
- It must not exceed RM100 million
The 'crooked' bridge does not qualify, just because the PM says so and no one dares to challenge him. This is the Malaysian version of 'The Emperor's New Clothes.'