Meet consumers halfway with toll rebates, Putrajaya told

PETALING JAYA: A consumers association has hit out at Putrajaya’s supposed U-turn on abolishing toll collection as promised in Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) election manifesto, saying the government can still “tinker” with the mathematics and data involved despite its precarious financial position.

The Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam, Selangor (Cassa) was responding to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s recent statement that it was not possible for PH to introduce freeways without raising petrol prices as well.

Cassa president Jacob George told FMT one way PH could deal with the matter was by issuing rebates at highways in the country.

“Mahathir can still discuss things with stakeholders and consumers now and think of the future,” he said.

“Asking for rebates to be made will show that the government recognises it has made a mistake and wants to make things better. It would go a long way, rather than shooting it down, saying we won’t talk about it now, or the manifesto promise was not done with winning in mind.”

On his recent trip to Indonesia, Mahathir told Bernama and RTM that he considers PH’s manifesto “a big burden”.

He also asked how roads would be built or maintained if the government did away with toll collection.

Jacob, however, proposed that the government compromise with consumers in approaching the issue.

“We can meet halfway. Surely we can knock down the overall toll costs from Kuala Lumpur to Penang by even RM15, for example. It’s doable. We just need to get everyone on board and see if we can repackage and re-look at the mathematical formulas.

“Although you can’t promise to get rid of concessions now, at least you can tell toll operators to take a haircut because you promised to get rid of tolls in your manifesto… there’s definitely a way.

“It’s just a matter of troubleshooting with us, the treasury, stakeholders, etc,” he said.

Jacob said even a 10% rebate would be doable.

He warned that otherwise the government risked angering voters who might then vote it out in the next general election.

He also criticised the apparent back-pedalling on the issue, saying it was misleading to voters.

“You’re going back on your promises,” he said. “It’s a dangerous question of trust. Once you lose our trust, it will be very difficult to rebuild it anymore. If you can’t deliver, voters will question you. Be ready for repercussions if you do.

“Mahathir may not be around at the helm forever, and whoever plans on succeeding him will have to pay the price of his actions.”

Mahathir’s remarks earned criticism from the likes of former prime minister Najib Razak and Umno Supreme Council member Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, both of whom said the PH coalition had duped the people by offering them the moon and stars.

“Spins every day, when it was him (Mahathir) who granted lopsided (toll) concessions (during his first tenure as prime minister).

“But it is the Barisan Nasional government and I, Najib Razak, who are blamed despite my announcement almost every year that tolls are abolished in several areas,” Najib said in a Facebook posting yesterday.