The removal of toll charges along several highways during the Najib Abdul Razak administration came at a price – taxpayers still had to compensate the toll operators.
According to Damansara MP Tony Pua, billions of ringgit had been paid in a move that ultimately benefited the highway concessionaires.
“That was among the reasons why BN had to punish the rakyat by collecting GST – to sustain the cost of operations for the previous government,” said Pua in a statement.
Pua, who is also the special officer to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, said had the concessionaires were not being compensated, then the concession period would have been extended for decades.
One example of this was the removal of the Batu Tiga and Sungai Rasau toll booths, which were operated by Plus Malaysia Bhd in 2018.
This was agreed upon between the Najib-administration and Plus in 2011, which saw the toll collection period extended for 20 years to 2038.
Conversely, Pua said the Pakatan Harapan-led government's new plan to nationalise highways - beginning with four this year - will see a congestion charge implemented instead of toll charges.
“The charges will be significantly lower to sustain operational and maintenance costs. The charge is not aimed at making a profit.
“If this charge is not collected, the cost will still have to be borne by the government and all taxpayers,” he said.
Pua reiterated that the ongoing plan to take over four highways will save all taxpayers RM5.3 billion in the long run.
“This is the first step in realising Pakatan Harapan's plans to reduce toll charges gradually.
“When our finances improve in the future, the government will explore new solutions to reduce cost-of-living,” he said.
Pua was responding to a Facebook post by Najib yesterday, which stated that during the BN-era, some toll booths were removed without road users having to pay anything more.
He said Harapan's formula would instead see road charges being implemented indefinitely.