DAP revealed that highway concessionaires in Malaysia made a clean profit of nearly RM15 billion since their inception in the 1980s.“So why is there a need to hike up toll rates from time to time when they are making exorbitant profits?” asked party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng.
Toll hikes have been a contentious issue over the years, with critics arguing that highway operators cannot justify the need to increase toll prices.
In January, about 500 people held a demonstration at the Kajang-Seremban Expressway (LEKAS) as the highway operator mulled hiking up its rates based on its agreement with the government. The plan was shelved for the time being.
Using the data provided by the Works Ministry as of December 2010, Lim said the 27 highway operators in the country were making exorbitant profits at the expense of ordinary Malaysians.
“And the worst part is their concessions have yet to expire.
“One operator even holds an agreement that lasts for 50 years, that is the North-South Highway (PLUS) which expires in 2039,” he told a press conference here.
Lim, who is also Penang chief minister, then accused the Barisan Nasional government of protecting its cash rich highway operators at the expense of the poor.
“And as per the agreement, whenever the government disallows the concessionaires from hiking rates as agreed, the former has to compensate the latter using taxpayers’ money,” he said.
On another matter, Lim called the government’s decision to privatise Indah Water Konsortium (IWK) under an agency of the 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) as a “piratisation” project.
“At the end of the day, it’s taxpayers money that will be used to save IWK,” he said.
It was previously reported that the deal was still being studied but had been given the green light by the National Economic Council, chaired by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
This would be the second time the IWK is being bailed out. In 2000, then premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad channelled nearly RM200 million to nationalise the company.
The DAP leader then questioned the government on why an open tender was not called for the IWK privatisation project.
“Why give it straight to 1MDB? No matter, as the ‘piratisation’ project is doomed to fail again at the expense of our money,” said Lim.