EDL: Acquisition a mistake and due to pressure from PR, says Jazlan
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 2 — The government’s decision to acquire the Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) in Johor Baru is at least in part due to pressure from wrong information spread by the opposition and is not a good move, said Umno’s MP for the Johor consituency of Pulai.
Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed (picture), who is also the Pulai Umno division head added that the government should not reverse a privatisation deal that was the result of years of deliberation and after the contract had already been signed.
“The government reversed the decision because Pakatan Rakyat (PR) also is fooling people with their Buku Jingga where they promise things they know they can’t fulfil like toll free roads,” Nur Jazlan told The Malaysian Insider.
“We need infrastructure to be privatised and paid for by the public.”
PKR’s strategy chief Rafizi Ramli has said that the government’s proposed takeover of the EDL that was reported Thursday actually confirms that the fundamental economic principles in the Buku Jingga can be carried out and are beneficial.
He also said that Putrajaya’s move to prevent an expensive toll fare hike appeared to be lifted from among the 10 economic policy proposals laid down in Buku Jingga.
The Buku Jingga or Orange Book is a document that outlines the general policy framework devised by the federal opposition pact that they say they will use should they come into power.
But Johor Baru MP Tan Sri Shahrir Samad said in response that there was nothing for the government to copy as no toll was allowed to be imposed on users since the EDL opened in April.
“He should ask Johor PKR leaders to really read up on Buku Jingga because they didn’t refer to Buku Jingga when PKR Johor made their protests,” said the veteran Umno leader.
He also said that he himself had long been against the principle of toll collection on the EDL without providing alternative routes.
“We were debating it because you cannot impose a toll without providing an alternative road,” he said. “This is the principle. There should be an alternative.”
Shahrir also said Pakatan Rakyat itself appeared to be inconsistent with the Buku Jingga as Selangor state agency PKNS still holds an indirect 25 per cent stake in Genting Sanyen Power despite the Buku Jingga being against subsidies for Independent Power Producers.
The move to bar EDL from collect tolls since it opened in April is widely seen as an attempt to stave off any backlash in the Umno stronghold state of Johor ahead of the general elections but had the effect of severely impacting the financial prospects of the toll concessionaire, MRCB Southern Link Bhd.
The steep increase in tolls — which could have forced motorists making roundtrips to Singapore via the Johor Causeway to pay as much as six times more the present rate of RM2.90 — could have provided fodder for the opposition, especially PKR which held its national congress in Johor late last year signalling that it is ready to take over the state despite not winning a single seat in the Umno fortress at the last general election.
Over 50,000 vehicles cross the causeway daily, mostly Malaysians living in and around the state capital who commute to Singapore to work.
The government’s proposal to takeover the RM1 billion highway from MRCB is perceived to be a last resort solution to the lack of a new revenue model for the EDL.
While details of the buyout were not revealed yesterday, observers expect the deal to cost taxpayers at least RM1 billion which could bump up the federal debt from about 53 per cent of GDP last year.
The lack of revenue prospects since the new highway opened caused the Islamic bonds issued by MRCB Southern Link Bhd — to be downgraded by RAM Ratings earlier this month.
RAM Ratings chief economist Yeah Kim Leng told The Malaysian Insider in an interview published yesterday that the takeover of the EDL by the government could make things more uncertain for future toll projects given that they have to be mindful that the government could reverse support due to public pressure.