Report: Proposed highway buyouts on hold for review

KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 — The Finance Ministry’s proposal to acquire highway toll concessions for RM6.2 billion has been paused for a re-examination of the offered price, according to government sources.

The Straits Times (ST) reported them as saying that some in the federal government including Cabinet members believed the offer was excessive.

Others argued that the ministry’s projected revenue, with the move towards a congestion charge, may not allow for the acquisition to be self-funded as currently presented.

“The whole matter (Gamuda proposal) is on hold pending a full review,” the ST quoted an unnamed minister as saying.

The Singaporean newspaper further reported that the matter was causing friction within the coalition government.

Among others, the same minister said Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had presented the plan to the public and made offers for the concessionaires linked to Gamuda Bhd without the agreement of the Cabinet.

Gamuda — which has indicated its acceptance of the buyout offers — is leading the ambitious RM46 billion Penang Transport Masterplan, which the ST report said was fuelling detractors’ suspicions that the two issues were linked.

Lim had been the chief minister of the state until he was elevated to the Cabinet position after last year’s general election.

An unnamed DAP leader confirmed the internal resistance to the proposal from Lim’s ministry.

“The Finance Ministry is of the view that the proposal is good, but it has taken on an unfortunate political twist,” the person said.

Lim’s ministry announced in June that a designated special purpose vehicle would raise the RM6.2 billion to finance the acquisition of the four concessionaires that would ostensibly cost taxpayers nothing.

The concessionaires involved are Kesas Sdn Bhd (Kesas), Sistem Penyuraian Trafik KL Barat Sdn Bhd (Sprint), Lingkaran Trans Kota Sdn Bhd (Litrak) and Syarikat Mengurus Air Banjir dan Terowong Sdn Bhd (Smart).

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said no decision on the proposal had been reached yet.

Source: MalayMail