PETALING JAYA: National Water Services Commission Malaysia (SPAN) chairman Liang Teck Meng has challenged Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to give him permission to reveal the contents of a letter from the state allegedly seeking Putrajaya’s approval for an increase in water tariffs.
He said Lim should let the application letter from the Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBA) to SPAN dated Dec 23, 2016, which he said detailed the Penang government’s approval to a request for the increase, be made public.
“This letter will prove who is the real party who wants to implement a broad and big increase in water rates across the board, separate from a water conservation surcharge for both domestic and business users in Penang,” he said.
“You will also find if it is true that this planned increase is aimed to collect more than RM150 million per year from the Penang people and businesses in order to save PBA from running into losses due to big jumps in spending,” Liang, who is Gerakan secretary-general, added in a statement today.
Liang said this in response to Lim, who had reportedly said that the former’s call for Penang’s water rates to be increased was a sign that the federal government itself wanted to hike up the rates.
This, Liang said, was “slanderous”, adding he took “great offence” to Lim’s accusation.
He told Lim, who is DAP secretary-general, that even before DAP came into power in Penang in March 2008, the state already had the lowest water rates and the lowest non-revenue water rates in the country, under the Gerakan-led state government.
“It is a big credit to the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) Penang government that in spite of four increases in water rates by the current DAP Penang government since the year 2010 that the domestic water rates in Penang still remained the lowest in the country,” Liang said.
On April 23 this year, Lim announced plans to increase the water surcharge for domestic use from 48 sen to RM1 for each 1,000 litres for consumption of more than 35,000 litres a month.
He said PBA would be writing to SPAN soon on the matter and that the new surcharge was expected to be implemented by the end of this year.
On July 20, Liang said no decision had been made on Penang’s proposal yet, and that SPAN had advised the state to have public consultation on its plan to increase the surcharge.
He added that SPAN has asked the state to explain the rationale of the proposed move.
“In the end, the Penang government should go back to the people and ask if they are happy with the 100% increase,” he said, adding that only then could SPAN refer the matter to the federal cabinet for a final decision.