PETALING JAYA: Former premier Najib Razak has highlighted views by experts that the Finance Ministry’s decision to buy four toll highways for RM6.2 billion amounted to a RM2.82 billion windfall for infrastructure company Gamuda and shareholders.
In an online posting today, Najib summarised news reports about the views of unnamed experts, and said they believe that the takeover of the four highways would not benefit the people.
Instead, the government would suffer a loss, which would increase the national debt, and highway users would continue to pay for the use of the highways after the toll concession period ends.
However, the people seemed to like the idea of tolls being abolished, even though this expense was being “rebranded” as a congestion charge, Najib said.
Najib’s posting this evening came hours after the Finance Minister’s political secretary, Tony Pua, issued a statement accusing critics of using flawed logic and arguments. He reiterated that the proposed acquisition would save billions of ringgit for tax-payers and highway users and provide the toll concessionaires a limited but reasonable return on their investment.
Najib said the experts had pointed out that traffic on the four expressways had been declining since 2015 because of federal government projects undertaken by the former Barisan Nasional federal government such the LRT and MRT and the abolition of the Federal Highway toll.
The number of road users was expected to continue to fall after the MRT2 and LRT3 projects were ready soon, he said.
The highways he mentioned were: the LDP, Penchala Link, Kerinchi Link and Kesas highways, and the SMART tunnel, and he said that although the LDP generated profits, Kesas, Sprint and SMART had recorded losses.
He said the Special Purpose Company being set up to borrow RM6.2 billion and take over the four highways was expected to record a loss of RM70 million a year after paying 4% interest on the loan.
Najib said the company would be unable to repay the RM6.2 billion, and which would increase the national debt.
He said experts believe that the government is overpaying RM2.82 billion, an amount regarded as a windfall for Gamuda and shareholders of the highways.
The experts, according to the New Straits Times, also believe that the revenue from this windfall would be channeled by Gamuda to the RM46 billion Penang Transport Master Plan – which he described as Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng’s pet project – entailing the creation of three artificial islands and the construction of a Pan-Island highway and LRT line.