SEMENYIH: Economics Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali (pic) has downplayed the government’s plans to abolish tolls in stages, saying that more studies need to be conducted on the acquisition of the highway concessions.
In denying that the proposal to abolish tolls was made in conjunction with the Semenyih by-election, Azmin explained that such plans had already been in place since Pakatan Harapan took power in the May 9, 2018, polls.
“This is one of our promises in the manifesto. But, we must scrutinise the effects of acquiring toll concessions so it will not have financial implications on other development agendas
“The acquisition of a highway toll concession must be balanced with the allocation needed for national economic development,” he told reporters when met after a ceramah at Kampung Pasir Putih on Sunday (Feb 24).
Azmin added that the proposal to abolish tolls was discussed approximately eight months ago.
“So, we have a list of what (promises) we should implement according to a schedule in order to ensure that pledges in our manifesto can be fulfilled,” he said.
Citing his previous experience as the Selangor Mentri Besar, Azmin said the acquisition of Syarikat Pengeluaran Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Splash) by Pengurusan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd did not take up much time.
“But, the planning must begin and we have already commenced that. Only when all stakeholders have reached a conclusion, then we will make an official announcement,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Gombak MP addressed criticisms by Datuk Seri Najib Razak on the proposal, reiterating that more time was needed before the tolls can be abolished in stages.
“Don’t listen to ‘Bossku’ (Najib). Let all sides finish their studies. What we want is to fulfil our promises in the manifesto.
“That is our commitment. Only time is needed to conduct studies and its implications to the country’s finances,” he said.
Najib had criticised the proposed toll abolishment in an apparent sarcastic posting on his Facebook account on Sunday (Feb 24).
“The proposal is only to abolish tolls between 11pm to 5am. This means if you want to avoid tolls, please wake up at 4am to go to work at 5am. And, don't go home straight after work, wait until 11pm before going home,” Najib quipped.
Azmin also said the government’s plans on toll abolishment were not final.
“It’s just a proposal. But, we will refer to the outcome of the negotiations between both sides,” he added.
On Saturday (Feb 23), the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that the Government has begun talks with Gamuda to negotiate the acquisition of highway concessions for four main highways.
The four highways are the Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong (LDP), Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat (SPRINT), Lebuhraya Shah Alam (KESAS) and SMART Tunnel.
In a statement, the Prime Minister's Office said that once the take-over is complete, the Government would eventually abolish the existing toll mechanism.
Pakatan had said in its manifesto during the 14th General Election, Pakatan had promised to take steps to acquire highway concessions and abolish the toll collection in stages according to the terms of the concession agreement.