Hopes for toll-free highways fizzle out

27 May 2019 / 20:08 H.

PUTRAJAYA: Any hope that commuters will get to use the many highways in Malaysia for free has effectively fizzled out.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today the government will not accede to any request to abolish tolls for now.

“The people may be happy if they don’t have to pay toll, but the government just cannot afford it,“ he said.

He said abolishing toll is part of the Pakatan Harapan manifesto but it is beyond the government’s financial ability to keep that promise.

Therefore it will not be implemented, he added.

“If we were to buy the PLUS highway it would cost the government RM30 billion.

“It would be better if that money is used to pay down the government’s debt.

“This will help to reduce the government’s debt burden,“ he said at a press conference after attending the National Finance Council meeting.

Mahathir said there have been proposals put forward by the private sector to reduce the toll but the percentage has not been decided.

The prime minister was commenting on a proposal by Tun Daim Zainuddin that the toll rate can be reduced by 25%.

He said that during the council meeting it was decided that the government would write off state government debts amounting to RM3.8 billion.

He said this debt is specifically the money borrowed by state governments from 2001 to 2018 for their water restructuring plans.

“All state-based water companies must complete their restructuring programmes by Dec 31 this year to qualify for this,“ he said.

Mahathir said this is to help the states provide higher quality water services to rural areas.

On the call to give bumiputra contractors 20% of the East Coast Rail Link construction contracts, he said the government has agreed to give 40% of the contracts to locals but it has yet to decide on the bumiputra quantum.

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