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Toll-free highways as ultimate goal

  • Whichever solution eventually adopted by the government, it should mark the first step towards zero toll collection.

Sin Chew Daily

The finance ministry plans to take over four Klang Valley highways from Gamuda through RM6.2 billion bond issuance, and to replace the existing tolls with congestion charges.

The move has triggered heated discussions among the public.

Meanwhile, the works ministry was said to have come up with a different version of highway restructuring solution, further exacerbating controversies over the matter.

It was said that the works ministry had submitted the highway restructuring report to the cabinet. However, the proposal did not include the acquisition of highway concessions.

The works ministry has hoped to restructure all the highways in the country in a bid to reduce toll charges without the need of utilizing public funds.

The cabinet has so far not come up with any decision yet, as it needs to discuss this matter further.

Members of the public, in particular road users, are very much concerned about this, as toll charges and the resultant living costs will leave a strong impact on the public, be it highway acquisition or restructuring or other alternative solutions.

As such, it is imperative that the government look into this issue seriously and in depth before making any decision.

The finance and works ministries must also clearly present and explain their respective solutions to the public in order to remove their doubts, as the public are still very much confused about the solutions offered by the government at this moment.

For example, the prime minister's communications and media adviser Kadir Jasin said the PH administration should thoroughly review the acquisition of highway assets from Gamuda.

He said it would be cheaper to make direct compensation to the highway concessionaire instead of acquiring the four highways.

Moreover, it remains doubtful whether the government can professionally manage the highways after taking over them. Improper maintenance could pose a severe threat to road users' safety.

Despite the government's effort to clear the public's doubts, they remain skeptical, and more detailed and explicit explanation is necessary.

Motorists are bound to have plenty of questions about the works ministry's restructuring solution, as no details have yet to be disclosed at this moment. Malaysians need to know how the government manages to reduce toll charges without eating into public resources.

The cabinet must assess the pros and cons of different solutions with the country's and public's interests as utmost priority, and make a truly wise decision.

In the meantime, the cabinet must not forget the government's promise of eliminating highway tolls. Any decision it adopts must make the eventual abolition of highway tolls as its ultimate objective.

PH promised in its election manifesto to progressively abolish highway tolls, and indeed the voters are looking towards the government to fulfill this promise as soon as possible in order to lessen their financial burden.

We cannot deny that the PH government has been plagued by hefty public debts since day one, and therefore has very limited financial capability to instantly remove highway tolls.

That said, election manifesto is tied to the government's credibility, and all promises made must be honored sooner or later.

Whichever solution eventually adopted by the government, it should mark the first step towards zero toll collection.

 

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