KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 – Tolls will remain because the government of the day must honour all contracts that are in place with the concessionaires concerned, says Tony Pua.
Pua, who is special officer to Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, said this during an event in Petaling Jaya, Selangor yesterday, Malay Mail reported.
Additionally, he said that the government will also continue the practice of paying compensation to the tune of hundreds of millions of ringgit, in order to maintain a freeze on the toll rates for road users, as “abolishing tolls was not a priority”.
The new Pakatan Harapan government had previously declared it could not fulfil its general election manifesto pledge to abolish all tolls because of the “high costs” involved.
PH had made the commitment to abolish tolls as part of its First 100 Days manifesto promises.
Concessionaire compensation over toll rates freeze
Pua had for many years been talking about how the tolls should be abolished, criticising the previous Barisan Nasional administration over lop-sided deals in favour of toll concessionaires since the 1990s and the extension of toll collection contracts and cash compensations in exchange for toll rates staying the same.
The tune has drastically changed post-GE14, as Pua was quoted by the news portal as saying that the compensation plan will continue until the government works out a way to make good on its promise.
The Damansara MP had spoken greatly prior to GE14 how it would cost as little as RM25 billion to abolish all tolls in the country.
PH contradicts itself over full compensation amount
However, Works Minister Baru Bian had commented last month that the figure was closer to RM400 billion. Interestingly, this was the same number given by BN in the past when countering the arguments from the then opposition MPs over the compensation amount.
Pua has since been quoted as saying the amount was not RM400 billion, but did not commit to stating the actual amount nor repeating his previous RM25 billion claim.
Abolishing tolls not a priority
He also said that while Putrajaya remained committed to the pledge to abolish tolls, it was not currently a priority due to the state of the country’s finances.
“It is something we want to do, nonetheless. But for the time being the government’s finances are worse than anticipated,” Pua said, according to Malay Mail.