Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Najib Defends Syabas Despite Incompetence

Even in the light of sheer incompetence, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Dato’ Sri Peter Chin continues to defend Syabas and blame the Selangor state government, placing the interest of cronies ahead that of the rakyat

It was the Barisan Nasional (BN) Government which started the privatisation of the water industry in Selangor in 1996.  It was the BN Government which signed the concession agreement to allow Syabas to increase tariffs by 37% in 2009, a further 25% in 2012, 15% in 2015 and further increases every 3 years subsequently.

However, when Syabas failed to deliver its services to the residents of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor over the past month, the BN government has chosen to lay blame on the Pakatan Rakyat Selangor state government for failing to “approve” the construction of the Langat 2 Multi-billion ringgit water treatment plant. How is it Langat 2 which is only scheduled to be completed in 2014 at the very earliest, could have prevent the current water crisis in KL and Selangor is beyond our comprehension.

Despite the above, both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water have chosen to defend and deflect criticisms laid on Syabas, clearly indicating that profit for BN cronies is more important than the sufferings of the man-on-the-street.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak has the cheek to say that he is “saddened to see people living in flats having to lift buckets of water to the upper floors.”  However in the same breath, Najib claims BN is unable to resolve the crisis because the Selangor government “won’t give the development order” for Langat 2.  As highlighted above, the current water crisis in Gombak, Ampang and Kuala Lumpur has nothing to do with Langat 2 and everything to do with Syabas’ inability to maintain its existing water supply services.

Similarly when Selangor Menteri Besar, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim once again suggested to the Federal Government that the Syabas concession be terminated for poor performance so that the state government can step into the management to rectify the shortcomings, the proposal was rejected outright by Peter Chin.

Peter Chin gave the ridiculous excuse that “the Selangor government cannot take over Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) for it violates the conditions stipulated in the water concession agreement.  He said the water concession company was appointed to manage and administer water supply in Selangor in 2004 and the state government would liable if it were to terminate the contract.

The excuse by the Minister demonstrates the extent to which the BN Government is willing to tolerate transgressions by its cronies, even if the rakyat is suffering from extended water services disruption.  It appears that even if Syabas was to default on all the terms of its concession agreement, the concession agreement cannot be terminated.

The Selangor state government wants to terminate the Syabas concession agreement to ensure that the quality of water services can be improved and the state will not suffer from such disruptions as a result of poor maintenance of its water treatment facilities.  However, based on the concession agreement, the termination can only be carried out with the consent of the Federal Government.

Hence, the Syabas concession agreement can be terminated if Syabas failed to fulfil it’s part of the bargain.  The only reason why the termination cannot proceed is because the BN government is dead against it and will protect Syabas at all cost.

It is clear that the BN Government is beyond redemption and is unable to change itself to prioritise the interest of the rakyat.  While Najib espoused “transformation” in his speeches over the past 4 years, no “transformation” could be seen as BN’s privatisation cronies are not only fully protected by his administration, they have continued to prosper at the expense of the people.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

UBAH Rocket Style - The Official Music Video

For those who haven't yet seen it, here's the full-HD version of the UBAH Rocket Style videos in four languages. Watch them here! ;-) Enjoy!

English Version:

The English version had the original lyrics, which was subsequently
translated and adapted to the other languages.

Malay Version:

Tamil Version (my personal favourite as we spent hours adapting the music!):

Chinese Version:

We had "fun" shooting the video, but more importantly we hope you guys enjoyed it! ;-)

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

WCE Concession Revision: Not Good Enough!

The revision of the West Coast Expressway agreement proves the power of Pakatan Rakyat checks and balances but still falls short of ensuring that the interest of the man-on-the-street are fully protected

Exactly a year ago in January 2012, I had called upon Datuk Seri Najib Razak to justify how the cost of the West Coast Expressway (WCE) increased by 134% from RM3.015 billion to RM7.07 billion while its concession period also nearly doubled extended from 33 to 60 years between 2007 and 2012.

The concessionaire, Kumpulan Europlus (KEURO) Bhd who failed to carry out the project in 2007 was further given new additional benefits where the Government will grant WCE a RM2.24 billion soft loan at 4% interest and an interest subsidy, of up to 3% from commercial loans for a period of 22 years.  The land acquisition cost amounting to RM980 million will also be borne by the Government.

However, despite the barrage of criticisms from myself and other Pakatan Rakyat leaders, Datuk Seri Najib Razak who oversees the privatisation department remained completely silent.  He failed to explain the increase in the burden to the government to support the private concessionaire, and more importantly, he failed to carry out his transformation promise of “transparency, open-tenders and accountability”.

The “good” news however, was that further negotiations was carried out between the concessionaire and the Government.  The outcome was that the cost of the highway was “shrunk”  by 26.4% to RM5.2 billion, even though this is still 72.5% higher than the original RM3.015 billion.  In addition, the Government also scrapped the 3% interest subsidy for commercial loans taken by the concessionaire.  The Edge Financial Daily also reported that there will be an early termination clause if the concessionaire generates higher than expected returns and was about to recoup its cost earlier.

The above “improvements” to the contract was only possible because of the scrutiny by Pakatan Rakyat, “saving” the people of billions of ringgit in tax-payers funds.

However, despite the improvement, the new deal still falls far short of what would be in line with the promises made by the Prime Minister under the Government Transformation Programme (GTP).

First of all, the RM5 billion ringgit contract is still directly negotiated with a company which generated only RM19.8 million and RM27.7 million in revenues in its financial year 2012 and 2011 respectively.  The company’s cash pile stood at a miserable RM1.03 million, bare 0.2% of the required capital to carry out the project.  Without a competitive tender, there is absolutely no way of telling if the Rakyat are still substantially over-paying for the highway, especially when it’s awarded to KEuro, a company without the necessary track record.

Why did Najib not take the past 12 months to carry out an open and competitive tender to obtain the best value for tax-payers’ monies?  What is so specialy about this RM19.8 million company that the Government must die-die give them the contract?

Secondly, the Government has failed to be transparent in the award because it has steadfastly refused to disclose the terms of the agreement.  The terms of the agreement are crucial as it will determine the benchmarks set for the cost of the highway, the toll rates to be charged, the details of the proposed profit-sharing formula as well as the rate of return defined for the early termination clause.  As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Without the above details, there is no way of telling if the Government is signing another agreement loaded in the favour of the concessionaire as it has done in the past or if the rakyat are substantially protected.

A Pakatan Rakyat government will promise to not only carry out open, competitive and transparent tenders for all procurement and privatisation projects, we will ensure that all contracts with concessionaires are made publicly accessible for thorough scrutiny.

When the Penang state government awarded the Penang People’s Park and Subterranean Penang International Convention Exhibition (sPICE) public-private partnership project 15 months ago, it was awarded via open and competitive tenders.  However, what made the Pakatan Rakyat government shine was the fact that the concession agreement was public.

Hence we call upon the Najib’s so-called “transformation government” to learn from the Pakatan Rakyat state governments as well as our manifesto to ensure open and competitive tenders for all projects as well as declassifying all government concession and procurement contracts to ensure transparency and eliminate corruption and abuse of power.