Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Asas Serba's RM50 Billion Dream

It is outrageous that the RM50 billion offer to acquire all tolled highways in Malaysia by a company with absolutely zero track record in managing or operating highways has been able to maintain a perception that their proposal is being considered by the government to the extent that it seems able to present their proposal directly to the cabinet as reported by The Malaysian Insider.

If true, then it clearly shows that “patronage” is alive and kicking for vested interest parties continues to have improper access to the Cabinet or key decision makers of the government.

The Cabinet must on Wednesday reject outright the proposal by Asas Serba as there is no basis for it to be even considered or entertained in the first place.

Should the Cabinet decide that they intend to consider any offer to restructure all tolled highways in Malaysia, then a policy decision must be made to explore the possibility as the way forward and the opportunity to bid for all the tolled highways must be opened to all competent parties. It is only through such an open, transparent and competitive system can the Government obtain the best offer for both the Government and the rakyat.

The entire premise of economic policy reform as highlighted in the Prime Minister's New Economic Model is the fact that the Government does not know best, as well as the critical need to promote competition and transparency. For the Cabinet to specifically consdier the unsolicited proposal by Asas Serba will fly in the face of the “New Economic Model”.

As it stands the New Economic Model is already failing its credibility test with the Barisan Nasional government continuing to award projects, contracts and concession without any form tender or competition. Government land such as the Sungai Besi Air Base, the Rubber Research Institute land in Sungai Buloh and a 62.5 acres piece of prime land off Jalan Duta has been awarded directly without any form of tender. Projects such as the RM682 million Matrade Exhibition and Convention Centre and the RM8 billion purchase of armoured-wheeled vehicles continue to be awarded directly without competition. And most recently, Tan Sri Vincent Tan's personal vehicle, Ascot Sports was given the sports betting license in a most opaque fashion allowing Tan Sri Vincent Tan to immediately benefit RM525 million upon the sale of his shares to Berjaya Group.

Should the Asas Serba proposal receive any form of backing from the Cabinet, whether tacit or otherwise, the it'll only serve to prove beyond doubt that the New Economic Model which Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak is promoting is nothing but a sham.

We continue to call upon the Government to study DAP's proposal to buy-back the key tolled highways such as PLUS Expressways and Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP) which are making astronomical profits should these concessions be unwilling to substantially reduce their toll rates. We have made the necessary calculations that even at current toll rates, if maintained for a period of 5 to 8 years after the buy-back will pay off the purchase cost. Hence the Government must seriously consider this option as it will not cost the Government a single cent while there will be tremendous benefits to the rakyat who are suffering from paying the high cost of toll over an extended period of time.
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