Thursday, July 15, 2010

Muhyiddin: People Will Accept Tariff Hikes

DPM Tan Sri Muhyiddin's Yassin is so completely out of touch with the Rakyat, making a complete mockery of the Prime Minister's call for a “people first, peformance now” government.

In responding to the various criticisms levelled at the Deputy Prime Minister on Monday by Pakatan Rakyat leaders with regards to his warning that “a water crisis is on the way” and the Selangor Government “will become bankrupt”, Tan Sri Muhyiddin has shown a complete lack of empathy for the man on the street, and instead cares only for the survival and profits of BN crony companies.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin claimed that "It is not an issue of cronyism ... If the (concessionaire) faces losses and closes down, you and I will not get water supply," resulting in Selangor, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur having to face “a severe water crisis”.

The Deputy Prime Minister has got his priority mixed up. If a private company like Syabas who is given and accepted a lucrative concession is unable to manage its finances and fails to deliver the services required under the concession agreement, then all the government will have to do is to find another party who can fulfil these services without burdening the rakyat with steep tariff increases. Both Gamuda as well as the Selangor state government have offered the better alternatives, but are completely shunned by the Federal Government. Tan Sri Muhyiddin is instead trying to protect the interest of Syabas.

What was most shocking was the Deputy Prime Minister's dismissive attitude towards the plight of the ordinary rakyat when he said he does not think that “consumers will protest if there is a substantial increase in water tariff, if this comes with clean water supply.” It is the Federal Government who has signed the concession contract with Syabas which allowed the company to raise tariffs by 37% in 2008, 25% in 2011, 15% in 2014 and 10% every subsequent 3 years.

The population in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur is already burdened with high and increasing cost of living coupled with stagnating income and yet, the DPM has the cheek to say that he does not think the consumers will protest substantial increases in water tariffs!

Tan Sri Muhyiddin instead continued to insist that Selangor's policy of giving 20m3 of free water per month to each household is the main cause of the state's water problems. He has obviously been ill-advised for the state is paying for the free water is financed by the profits derived from the state investment agency Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Bhd (KDEB)'s minority stakes in some of the state's water companies.

What was most telling was the Deputy Prime Minister's nonchalance over the fact that in his home state of Johor, where he was the Menteri Besar til 1995, has the highest water rates in the whole country post-privatisation.

The average water rates in water-rich Johor is 90sen and RM2.93sen per cubic metre for domestic and industrial consumption respectively, as opposed to 31sen and 94sen in water-scarce Penang. Despite that, major townships such as Kluang and Batu Pahat faced severe water shortage issues earlier this year.

His response was a most arrogant dismissive “the people of Johor did not complain”. Instead he continued to harp on the fact that the cost of water production in Selangor is rising and it is unfair to penalise the companies by not allowing the increase in water tariffs.

The rakyat of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur has suffered enough, a “people first, performance now” government would look for a solution which will reduce the burden to the rakyat, and appoint a company which is able to meet the quality targets. The Selangor government's water industry consolidation proposal does that, but the Federal government has instead chosen to ignore it to protect the interest of Umno cronies.
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