The immediate abolition of toll cannot be carried out as it requires purchases to be made by the government, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
He said this was based on an in-depth study conducted on this matter.
Dr Mahathir noted that in the event that toll was abolished, it would still take time to alleviate the people’s financial burden.
“But we may be able to afford reduced toll rates. If anyone from the private sector has suggestions to reduce toll, these can be considered,” he said in a statement today.
The government has repeatedly come under fire since taking over federal power last year for failing to abolish tolls.
“When I (previously) mentioned there was no promise of abolishing toll, I was referring to the manifesto which stated that it would not be done immediately,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said in the PH manifesto, the coalition had only promised to abolish tolls gradually.
He included a paragraph of the promise in his press statement, which reads:
“The Pakatan Harapan government will review all highway concession agreements.
“We will renegotiate to obtain the best value for money for the people so we can take over the concessions with the ultimate view of abolishing tolls gradually.”
The government is currently studying various proposal to take over a few highway concessionaires.
The prime minister noted that a study indicated that the government would need to fork out tens of billions of ringgit to take over tolled highways immediately, and spend billions of ringgit more on maintenance.
The previous government had accumulated debts amounting to a trillion ringgit and this must be repaid to avoid declaration of bankruptcy, he said, adding that paying off the interest and principal would incur billions of ringgit.
“When this is paid, government funds will be insufficient for key infrastructure development, (especially) if the costs of purchasing and maintaining highways are added to the government’s operational and development expenditure,” he said.
“After a study, it was found that the government can’t afford to fulfil the people’s requests for projects if it is saddled with the cost of maintaining highways,” Dr Mahathir said.