Selling off PLUS raises questions

It comes as quite a surprise that the government is considering selling off its stake in North-South Expressway toll concessionaire PLUS to Maju Holdings.

It is even more surprising that Utusan Malaysia is in support of the deal.

That is fishier than the pekasam sold in wet markets nationwide.

The fishiest of all is that the government is actually considering the offer of selling off this stake to a company which will extend tolls for an additional 10 to 30 years for a cheaper toll rate.

If the government is looking for a good deal to manage the highways, perhaps it should call in Halim Saad, who made a better offer in 2014 to buy PLUS and others for RM50 billion, forego government assistance, and offer discounted rates for everyone.

Is that not a better deal than the one offered by Maju Holdings, even if it will extend the concession period to 2038 as well? Has anyone done a comparison?

But at the same time, you have to wonder – after promising to abolish tolls altogether in its manifesto, why make a move to further extend them?

We can’t be that bankrupt, considering that we finally and truthfully increased our national debt to RM1.1 trillion without any exaggeration from certain parties.

Furthermore, how will this help the government’s move to federalise the toll concessions to convert these into congestion charges, which is already being conceptualised and implemented in the Greater Klang Valley?

If it is about wanting to sell off the company to pare down government-backed loans, why sell the company which contributes to all our retirements through the Employees Provident Fund (EPF)?

Also, isn’t UEM part of our national investment fund, Khazanah Nasional?

According to the finance ministry, the government stakeholders in the company, UEM and EPF, have rejected this deal. So why is it even making its way up to Cabinet?

The government needs to tell people why it wants to sell off PLUS to Maju Holdings.

Perhaps the government can also tell us why, of all toll concessions it purchased to put in place the Greater Klang Valley congestion charge, Maju Expressway was not part of the purchase.

That is a glaring question but one that nobody seems to have asked thus far.

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government should act to fulfil its pledges, not move further away from them with this move to sell off PLUS.

And if it turns out that this sell-off is some sort of political contra deal that happened before the last general election, then it goes to show that perhaps PH has lost its credibility to represent the people at large.

Hafidz Baharom is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.