‘It’s unfair for the government to pay for everything.’
WORKS MINISTER S. SAMY VELLU, explaining the increase in the toll fees
Here are some of the reactions in Malaysiakini following Works Minister Samy Vellu’s announcement of toll hikes. To view the comments in full, click on the source hyperlinks.
Samy’s ‘cheapest’ toll rates claim misleading
Works Minister S Samy Vellu defends the coming steep rise in toll rates on grounds that Malaysia has the ‘cheapest tolls in the world’. What the minister fails to add is that other countries’ citizens don’t pay road tax and their import duties and excise duties don’t reach to 100% to 200% levels depending on the models.
An average popular car like Toyota Vios cost US$10,000 (RM36,000) in America. In Malaysia, it costs almost RM90,000 – more than twice the value as in America. Naturally motorists in America don’t mind paying a higher toll rate since cars are cheaper. But in Malaysia, we are hit with a triple whammy – we pay road tax, road tolls and pay hefty import and excise duties on cars.
When the American government builds their highways, the contracts are openly tendered and the whole process is transparent. All contracts, the terms and conditions of the highway contract agreements are opened for public scrutiny. When a contract of US$1 billion is given out, we can safely assume that it is a justifiable cost.
On completion of the highway, the operator assumes the risk of a normal business venture. There is no such thing as a government guarantee that the highway toll collected will be profitable. Any loss would have to be borne by the operator and there is no such thing as compensation if the expected profit does not materialise.
Can we say the same practice for our Malaysian highway construction? Here in Malaysia, highway contracts are given out without tender. Cost of a RM1 billion highway project is given at RM3 billion to companies dubiously connected to the ruling political party. Terms and agreement of the highway contract are so secretive that they come under the purview of the OSA (Official Secrets Act).
Naturally, when inflated values are given to the actual cost of highways, the tendency is that toll rates are calculated based on the inflated rates. What should have been a RM1 collection becomes RM2 because of the inflated cost of the highway.
The most ridiculous part of the whole highway contract agreement is that the government provides the operator with an iron-clad guarantee allowing them to increase the toll rates every few years.
If toll rate increases are not given, the government gives an undertaking to compensate the operator to the extent of the amount loss in revenue. According to the works minister, an amount of RM2.5 billion was given as compensation to a concessionaire. This alone should create further suspicions as to whether the whole structure of the highway concession agreements was done in a fair and equitable manner.
The minister should desist from comparing our toll rates with other countries especially when all other factors are not similar and equal. First and foremost, let us have a look at the highway concessionaire agreements to see if everything is above board. Then let the public judge whether the toll increase is justifiable.
Source: Malaysiakini Letters
Samy, answer these questions
What is the annual collection from road taxes by the government? What is our annual collection from the duties on imported vehicles? What is our annual collection from excise duties on all vehicles?Joey Chan: Samy Vellu, all I need you to do is to answer the following questions:
What is the annual collection from road taxes by the government? What is our annual collection from the duties on imported vehicles? What is our annual collection from excise duties on all vehicles? Then compare these with the annual road subsidies and maintenance of public roads.
In order to compare apples with apples, tell us what percentage of public roads in emerging markets (like Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, India and China) are toll roads. Then give us a comparison of the toll rates in such countries on a per km basis.
You say that the government cannot afford to continue to subsidise the tolls. Then why did your boss announce an extra RM600 million for Umno constituencies (to be used up in three months!), the RM400 million Istana project, the RM220 million Agricultural Expo project, the RM3 billion Penang bridge project? These projects can either be delayed or downsized and the surplus funds be used to lessen the burden on the public. What is the reason for not doing it?
When you answer these questions, please look at us in the eye because we are not as dumb as the journalists you faced earlier this week.
Sharon: I’m deeply affected by the toll hike. I’m staying at Lagoon Perdana and I use the toll everyday to send my son to his babysitter. I pay RM3.20 for the toll everyday. Fuel prices have increase, and so are food prices but our salary remains the same.
The kindergarden itself is so expensive. Because of this, I’m scared to have another child (currently I have only one child). I hope all the society groups can fight this toll rise. I can’t take it anymore. My stomach is burning with fire when I think about how to survive and pay for this and that.
Dhammika: The government should immediately and completely remove the toll subsidy. It hurts more to stagger the increases. ‘Semi Value’ should stop comparing rates from other countries. This comparison cannot hold water. The country’s GDP must be taken into comparison as well as the respective strength of the various currencies.
Why must the ministers call a meeting with the editors to gag them from expressing the people’s views. Be more transparent and accountable in the administration of the rakyat’s money. Confiscate the assets and money of the corrupt few to pay for the toll. I hope the ACA will investigate the US$100 million commission paid for the purchase of submarines. Well, the list can go on…
Meng: Don’t complaint, just remember all this gross injustices and remember all the excesses, and the rich MPs and town councilors who squander and rob the people. When the BN government comes with all their sweeteners prior to elections and promises of projects, remember the racial remarks, remember the petrol hike, remember the toll hikes and most of all, remember the arrogant MP who says “if you want it, pay for it.”
Who robbed the poor in Malaysia? Look at the auditor-general’s report where money supposed to be used for state development and the poor were channeled to office repairs, camera equipment etc. All this revelation has gone unchecked, and the ACA says it is hard to prosecute without evidence. The ACA should interview the auditor-general to find out about their claims.
The rakyat has one tool of evaluation and that is the ballot boxes.
Source: Malaysiakini Letters
We are not that stupid, Samy!
Once again, we bear witness to the kind of arrogance with which our government chooses to bulldoze their plan of doing anything they choose to, and with considerable impunity. Almost everything they plan and implement seems to have only their interest at heart, and not the rakyat’s. And the veil of secrecy behind it all is terribly suffocating.The recent toll hike is yet another classic case of a recalcitrant government acting on its own whims and fancies. Sure, they have been hiding many things. It all smacks of utter insincerity because the agreement with the highway concessionaires is all kept under wraps. It is for their eyes only and never to be seen by the public.And all this talk by the prime minister about righteousness and stamping out corruption is all nothing but political humbug and empty talk. Otherwise, why keep the agreements that are imposing a burden on the voting public a secret?We dare the government to bring it out into the open. But of course, that is not about to happen anytime soon, is it?It is well known that the toll concessionaires are raking in huge profits. And Works Minister S Samy Vellu, as usual, with complete nonchalance says the government is subsidising the rates. We are not that stupid, dear minister. On the other hand, we’ve elected you guys.This recent hike is terribly preposterous. It clearly indicates that the taxes and all the other rates we pay are being squandered, without any semblance of accountability. Enough is enough.
Source: Malaysiakini Letters