Alright, first the Work Minister announces that there will be a toll hike at 5 highways, with the North-South Expressway expected to have the highest toll hike. Then, with the public outcry, the Cabinet decided to DEFER (postpone, not abandon) the toll hikes indefinitely (till the end of this year).
With by-elections coming up on 7 April, this move is more likely to save themselves from embarassment. If they go on with the toll hike, they would look like idiots because we're in technical recession and the low-income people have already more than enough burden on their shoulders. Why make them suffer more? (Ya, protector of Malays... ironic I must say)
Anyway, deferment does not swing votes to BN. (Don't insult people's intelligence) Petrol hike, necessities price hike (mind you, it stays high until now), Valuecap (RM5 billion from KWSP into a volatile market), unconstitutional takeover of Perak, the pre-agreement to privatise IJN (only to suffer a setback, thank God), Perak crisis, etc... Now those issues are vote swingers from BN to PR.
Back to the toll story. PLUS Expressways Berhad made a profit before tax of RM1.5 billion for the year ended 31 December 2008. That's way better than the RM1.3 billion profit before tax for the previous year.
The government to pay RM287 million in compensation to the concessionaires:
1. PLUS - RM195 million
2. Sprint - RM36 million
3. Akleh - RM27 million
4. Besraya - RM9 million
5. NPE - RM20 million
Yup, that RM287 million is the people's money. Either we pay for the toll hike, or the government uses public funds to compensate the CONcessionaires. What a CONcessionaire deal it was. Either way, we still lose.
Now, the question is, should our national highways be nationalised once more? YES.
Look, the government owns 64% of PLUS via Khazanah/UEM. Another 10% is held by the EPF. Another 7% is owned by th government-run unit trust and pension funds. So, why not nationalise? By nationalising, we can reduce the toll rates while maintaining employment at the same time. SMART DEAL, right? From the toll collection, we can then use the money to improve public transport and do public projects to help the poor people.
However, our government seemed reluctant to nationalise the highways. Why kill the golden goose then? And so, it remains privatised till now, for whatever the interest in keeping the highways privatised is a BIG BIG question. For cronies and nepotists? Hmm... All seemed fishy... Since the government is reluctant to reform itself, the only way to nationalise the highway is to bring down the government during the next general election. Or it will be BN (Bad News) for most of the 'rakyat'.