Tony Pua blasts PN government for delaying PLUS highway acquisition

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Damansara MP Tony Pua today lambasted the Perikatan Nasional (PN) administration for failing to follow through with acquiring intercity highways in the Klang Valley that could have saved it billions of ringgit in compensation to highway operators.

In a statement today, Pua criticised the government’s recent move to delay toll hikes in three highways, including paying RM2.25 billion in compensation for 2021 — with more than RM1 billion to be paid to PLUS Expressways.

“Had the agreement been completed on schedule in 2020, it would mean that the government would not have to pay a single cent in compensation to PLUS for the 18 percent discount.

“However, because of the sheer incompetence of the PN government in failing to complete the agreement, we now have to compensate PLUS not only for freezing the toll rates which were scheduled to increase between 5–10 percent every three years, we have to compensate them additionally for the 18 percent discount already implemented.

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“Seriously, how financially stupid can the Muhyiddin government be? The rakyat should offer no sympathy to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who had lamented that the treasury is running out of funds when it is utterly incompetent in managing the rakyat’s money, wasting billions of ringgit in unnecessary compensation,’’ he said.

Previously in December 2019, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government had negotiated the acquisition and restructuring of the PLUS from Khazanah Nasional and Employees Provident Fund (EPF).

In the proposed deal, Pua explained that highway users would be able to enjoy an 18 percent discount on the current toll rates without any increase in future toll rates, with the 5 percent toll rate hikes scheduled every three years to be permanently abolished, immediately saving Malaysians up to RM1.1 billion in 2020, and RM43 billion over the entire concession period until 2038.

The deal will also meant that the government will no longer be required to compensate PLUS for freezing or reducing toll rates, saving at least RM26 billion which can be channelled towards Malaysian all over the country, including Sabah and Sarawak, in terms of welfare and development programmes said Pua

Pua explained that Khazanah and EPF are fully protected in the restructured deal with the RM7.5 billion acquisition executed via the issuance of debt securities to Khazanah and EPF by PLUS and will be financed in its entirety via the discounted toll collections.

“In simpler terms, the government will pay nothing for the acquisition of the highway, as the acquisition cost will be repaid via the discounted toll collection over time.

“The above is a fantastic deal for all stakeholders — the government, the commuters, and the shareholders. It was one of the major tangible achievements by the Pakatan government just before it was toppled by those who betrayed the rakyat’s mandate to Pakatan Harapan in 2018.

“Hence, it is mind-boggling how the Perikatan Nasional (PN) backdoor government has failed to complete the agreement after more than a year, to ensure that the government never had to pay a single cent in compensation to PLUS Expressways ever again,’’ he said.

On April 30, Senior Minister (Works) Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof announced the postponement of toll hikes at the Shah Alam Expressway (Kesas), South Klang Valley Expressway (SKVE), and East Coast Expressway Phase Two (LPT2). – MMO