WHAT‘S HAP­PEN­ING WITH OUR HIGH­WAY CON­CES­SION­AIRES?

New Straits Times - - Cars Bikes & Trucks -

AR­MAN AH­MAD cbt@nst. com. my

WORKS Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Fadil­lah Yu­sof dropped a bomb­shell in Kuching this week when he re­vealed that two toll con­ces­sion­aires were fac­ing bank­ruptcy.

He said both con­ces­sion­aires had ap­plied for the gov­ern­ment to take over their re­spec­tive com­pa­nies.

Ap­par­ently, many toll con­ces­sion­aires in the coun­try are not mak­ing money, which may be baf­fling since mo­torists have been pay­ing for nu­mer­ous toll hikes.

“At the mo­ment, only five high­ways are able to gen­er­ate profit,” he was re­ported as say­ing at the press con­fer­ence.

He added that another con­ces­sion­aire was in the midst of re­struc­tur­ing to avoid fac­ing the same prob­lem.

Fadil­lah did not iden­tify the toll con­ces­sion­aires that were in the red, but said the gov­ern­ment was study­ing all the high­way toll sys­tems in the coun­try.

But what was dis­turb­ing is Fadil­lah‘s state­ment that the gov­ern­ment had ini­tially en­tered into an agree­ment with the con­ces­sion­aires that “did not side” with it.

At the mo­ment, there are four types of con­ces­sion agree­ments, in­clud­ing the most cur­rent one, which is the fourth gen­er­a­tion.

“The first-gen­er­a­tion agree­ment did not side the with the gov­ern­ment since we were new to the terms and meth­ods when the doc­u­ment was for­mu­lated and signed,” said Fadil­lah.

“The (first gen­er­a­tion) agree­ment was more in favour of con­ces­sion com­pa­nies,” he said.

The next three gen­er­a­tions of agree­ment, said Fadil­lah, had been im­proved with the in­clu­sion of a pro­vi­sion on the abol­ish­ment of an au­to­matic in­crease in toll rates an­nu­ally.

Could this rev­e­la­tion have any­thing to do with the re­cent gov­ern­ment ef­fort to en­cour­age mo­torists to use gov­ern­ment roads in­stead of tolled high­ways?

Ear­lier this week, Ber­nama re­ported that the gov­ern­ment was en­cour­ag­ing mo­torists to utilise fed­eral roads, and quoted Fadil­lah as say­ing that be­sides be­ing cheaper to travel on com­pared with pri­vate high­ways, the routes also of­fered var­i­ous attractions and fa­cil­i­ties.

He added that fed­eral roads were the right choice for road users who wanted “a more re­laxed drive”.

“To­day, the pub­lic has the per­cep­tion that pri­vate high­ways are the main thor­ough­fares, when they are ac­tu­ally al­ter­na­tive routes. Pri­vate high­ways are ac­tu­ally the routes of choice for mo­torists who want to get to their des­ti­na­tions fast,” he said.

What­ever the short­com­ings were in the con­ces­sions signed in the past, it seems the gov­ern­ment is now go­ing ex­tra mile to en­sure that Malaysian mo­torists are not bur­dened with ad­di­tional costs, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing in­fla­tion is on the rise, and ev­ery­one is com­plain­ing of feel­ing the “pinch.”

The re­cent de­ci­sion for weekly petrol price re­vi­sions is another in­no­va­tive ex­am­ple that has been in­tro­duced in these try­ing times.

How­ever, petrol sta­tion op­er­a­tors are not hav­ing a good time, fol­low­ing he re­cent charges.

In fact, this week, it was re­ported that Petrol Deal­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Malaysia (PDAM) pres­i­dent Datuk Khairul An­nuar said many op­er­a­tors are clos­ing shop as they could no longer cope with the weekly swing in re­tail fuel prices.

He added that be­tween 30 to 40 sta­tions per brand had sur­ren­dered their op­er­a­tions since the monthly prion, an­nounce­ments were in­tro­duced in 2014, and this fig­ure was bound to in­crease with weekly an­nounce­ments.

“We are con­cerned that more deal­ers will give up their deal­er­ships if the trend con­tin­ues,” he told an English daily this week.

How­ever, the gov­ern­ment has urged these op­er­a­tors to be “more cre­ative” in gen­er­at­ing prof­its.

Do­mes­tic Trade, Co­op­er­a­tives and Con­sumerism Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Hamzah Zain­udin said they could not just de­pend on the sale of fuel, but must seek out other meth­ods to boost their in­come.

Hamzah gave an ex­am­ple of a petrol sta­tion in his vil­lage in Perak, which is thriv­ing be­cause it also had other busi­nesses, such as a cafe, laun­dry, car wash and nu­mer­ous other ser­vices.

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