We want lower tolls, not taking over of concessions

TK Chua

Modified 25 Feb 2019, 4:12 am

LETTER | I read news reports stating that the government will make an announcement on “toll collection” soon.

I hope this time the Pakatan Harapan government will be careful and truthful in its announcement and not end up like one of those half-baked measures put forth by National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN) but only to rescind later.

After all, I believe sufficient time has elapsed since Harapan came to power. How much more time is really required to study further when the matter is pretty straight forward?

I am not a frequent traveller, but I feel that the tolls in this country are really expensive. On per kilometre basis, it is more expensive than petrol. There are many intra-city tolls (tolls within cities) too, which “tax” the people heavily in addition to diverting traffics and causing unnecessary congestions.

As cities expand, it is the job and responsibility of the government to provide roads and other facilities.

Whether we like it or not, tolls are the legacy of past excesses. Over costing, either real or due to cost padding, was the main reason. Besides, when the government guaranteed traffic volume and revenue, why should the returns of toll concessionaires be any higher than normal “risk-free” businesses?

Before the 2018 general election, there were tonnes of analyses and complaints highlighted by “Harapan finance wizards” on unreasonable tolls and profiteering by concessionaires. Now, I wonder where the voices have gone to?

Unfortunately, the latest argument is, the new government is saddled with high debts and committed expenditures. Therefore, it is unable to reduce or abolish tolls as quickly as it should be.

But who is asking the government to compensate toll concessionaires if it wants to reduce or abolish tolls? Was this not what the previous government was doing – paying compensation and extending concession period whenever toll increase was due?

I think the people are expecting the new government to strike a new deal with all toll concessionaires, but not through compensation or extension of toll collection.

Toll deduction must be based on concessionaires collecting less, making less profit and be more efficient and cost-effective in management.

I hope the government will be firm and focused on reducing intercity tolls and abolishing intracity tolls. Please don’t let the concessionaires hoodwink the people with “time” or “festive period” discounts. The high cost of living is what the people face every day, not once in the blue moon.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.