MP: Best to keep profitable PLUS in govt hands

KUALA LUMPUR: A member of parliament has joined the tide of concern over the possibility of PLUS Malaysia Bhd being acquired by a private party, saying the profitable highway operator should remain in government hands.
Anuar Manap, the MP for Sekijang, raised this concern, citing previous cases where private entities that owned strategic businesses or assets had to be bailed out by the government.
“PLUS is now owned by the government via UEM and EPF. This investment has given good returns to the 14.5 million EPF contributors and also the government, in terms of the yearly dividends and taxes,” he said in a statement here yesterday.
Anuar was responding to a proposal made by entrepreneur Tan Sri Abu Sahid Mohamad to purchase PLUS Malaysia through his flagship company, Maju Holdings Sdn Bhd.

Khazanah Holdings Bhd owns 51% equity stake in PLUS Malaysia through UEM Group Bhd and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) 49%.

“It would not make investment or economic sense for EPF and the government to give up this investment.

“We cannot take away the benefits already enjoyed by 14.5 million EPF members only to benefit individuals or a private entity.”

Anuar questioned how EPF will find a replacement for its stellar investment.
“There is only one PLUS as a giant infrastructure investment. Why give up our own infrastructure investment development in PLUS then? Wouldn’t the 14.5 million EPF members question EPF’s move to exit such a good investment.

“PLUS has not had a toll hike for more than 10 years. If PLUS gets compensated for this, it is merely a left to right pocket move, with the funds still remaining in government hands. Ultimately, it will still benefit the 14.5 million EPF members,” said Anuar.

He said the offer of a toll increase freeze for the next 20 years as proposed by Maju Holdings might look good from the people’s perspective and cost savings to the government.

"However, we have seen cases previously where private entities that owned strategic businesses or assets had to be bailed out by the government.

"Will there be another bailout say 10 to 15 years down the road, with no toll hike and to keep the same standard as what PLUS has done now amidst rising cost of raw materials?" he said.

PLUS operates, among others, the 770km North-South Expressway, the "backbone" of Peninsular Malaysia. The expressway, built as part of a public-private partnership project, was nationalised when UEM and EPF acquired it in 2012. – Bernama