Former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak has vouched for Damansara MP Tony Pua to deliver on Pakatan Harapan’s promise of abolishing tolled highways.
He noted that in 2009, Pua had claimed that it would only cost RM25 billion to abolish tolled highways – much cheaper than the RM231 billion cited by the government at the time, or the RM400 billion cited by the current government.
“Therefore, I propose that the Pakatan government should task Tony Pua in the effort to abolish all highway tolls to deliver on one of the main promises in their manifesto.
“I believe that Pua and DAP are not liars and their far cheaper estimate is correct, and not made merely to cheat people of their votes.
“Now, I am a road user paying tolls. Therefore, I too would be happy if all tolls are abolished as promised by Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto.
"Moreover, the toll concessionaires are neither my friends or my cronies, but are from the era of a prime minister who came before me,” he said in a Facebook post today.
Pua was among the DAP parliamentarians who studied highway concession agreements signed by the government when it was declassified in 2009 by Najib, who was finance minister then.
Later that year, he disputed the RM231 billion figure cited by the government as being the supposed cost of buying back 26 highway concessionaires.
He claimed at the time that it would only cost RM25 billion, considering the following factors:
1. The declassified highway concession contracts have revealed clearly under the expropriation terms of the highways that the government does not have to pay compensation for future profits, with the exception (being) the North-South Expressway (Plus) and the Penang Bridge.
2. The government does not need to buy back all highways but only those which are (clearly) making astronomical profits at the expense of daily commuters.
3. Litrak, the owner of LDP (Damansara-Puchong Highway) had for example, projected total profits of RM18.8 billion for the LDP concession, despite the cost of the highway, including interest, amounting to only RM1.327 billion.
However, Pua had only outlined the figures with the aim of maintaining or reducing toll rates, rather than eliminating it altogether.
In its 2018 election manifesto, Harapan had promised to review all highway concession agreements and negotiate its takeover, with the aim of abolishing tolls gradually while providing fair compensation for the affected companies.
Yesterday, Works Minister Baru Bian told the Dewan Rakyat that the government will postpone its plans to abolish tolls until it is more financially viable to do so.
He said that one of the main reasons is because it would cost over RM400 billion to do so, and the promise was made before Harapan knew of the full extent of Malaysia’s financial situation.
“As I said, we have examined the status of the country's finances, which we did not know before.
“After we took over the government, we found out the real situation of the country's finances, which is why we have to re-examine this again,” he said.