Declassify all toll contracts, Amanah tells Putrajaya

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Following outcry over the highway toll hikes announced last week, the government has been urged to declassify concessions agreements for scrutiny and review.

Calling for more transparency in the concessions agreements, Amanah Youth vice-chief Muhamad Azan Safar said the existing contracts were a "gold mine" for the concessionaires, but they required revision due to rising living costs experienced by the people today.

"Therefore, we urge the government to take into account the cost burden that people have to face that is increasingly difficult due to economic factors, and revise the contents of the agreements [...]," said Muhamad Azan in a statement.

"As such, we urge the government to declassify the status of concessions agreements so that they are no longer under the Official Secrets Act 1972, and to allow public access to them to assess the contents of each concession that has been agreed upon by the government and the toll concessionaire," he said.

He said awarding the agreements without open tender and keeping the contracts secret "is a form of clear betrayal of the (prime minister's) promise of 'people first'".

Keeping the contracts secret, he added, was aimed at "exploitation and profiteering" at the expense of the people, to the benefit of a small group of cronies.

Muhamad Azan questioned if the contracts were justified and if they fulfilled the primary aim of benefiting the people by providing badly needed infrastructure.

Citing a parliamentary reply on May 7, 2008, the 22 concessions agreements had allowed the companies to earn a total of RM27.6 billion from the day of privatisation that amounts to cumulative profit of RM3.5 billion.

"This is clearly the result of the contents of the agreements that do not prioritise the public, but whose primary factor is to enrich the concessionaire [...]," he said.

These, he said, include the privately negotiated 50 years concession worth RM1.55 billion awarded to AZRB with a loan of RM635 million, and the 60 years concession for the West Coast Highway worth RM1.55 billion awarded to Europlus with a loan of RM635 million.

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