Former Damansara MP Tony Pua claimed that a former adviser to Dr Mahathir Mohamad had objected to the first Pakatan Harapan government’s toll rationalisation plans along racial lines.
He alleged the adviser believed DAP was trying to benefit the non-Malays from the plan.
“There was a former adviser to the prime minister (Mahathir), an economic adviser, who said that this was DAP’s way to profit Chinese companies.
Pua did not name the adviser.
He had said this on a podcast hosted by fellow DAP comrade, Ong Kian Ming.
In 2019, the Harapan cabinet moved to take over from Gamuda Bhd and its associated companies their stakes in four highways – the Shah Alam Expressway (Kesas), Smart Tunnel, Sprint Highway, and the Damansara Puchong Expressway (LDP).
The buyout was agreed to for RM6.2 billion, before deducting debts assumed or RM4.5 billion cash.
The move would have seen toll fees replaced with congestion charges, in which highway users during non-peak hours could travel either for free, or at a discount.
The government, at the time, estimated that users of the four highways would save an accumulative RM180 million per year.
While Harapan was unable to see the plan through, the Ismail Sabri Yaakob administration secured a similar deal last year with Gamuda – sans congestion charges – that ensured that there would be no more toll hikes on the four highways.
Pua – who was political secretary to then-finance minister Lim Guan Eng from 2018 to 2020 – explained that Putrajaya would have to pay billions to toll concessionaires either way as compensation for not raising toll rates.
“It’s whether they finish the concession and get even more, and worse our compensation to Gamuda themselves will add up to more than the amount we’re going to pay them upfront,” he said.
Besides pushback and bailout narratives against the toll rationalisation, Pua said another challenge involved the cabinet itself.
“The number two challenge that I have come to realise, is that 80 percent of the ministers can’t count,” he said.
Pua said those with poor mathematical abilities included Mahathir himself.
“My boss Lim saw him (Mahathir) and he couldn’t believe the numbers, there was sheer disbelief that you could reduce compensation payments, reduce toll and the concessionaires still make a profit.
“That reflects that we must have signed a screwed-up deal when the concession was first signed,” he said.
The former lawmaker posited that it was likely true that Mahathir had been misled by civil servants when he decided to privatise highways. – Malaysiakini