In the recent Parliamentary meeting, the government asked for a second set of 1999 supplementary estimates amounting to RM2.5 billion - but one fifth of this sum was to bail out or compensate failing or troubled privatisation projects, comprising RM250 million soft loan for the Kuala Lumpur Peoples’ Rapid Transit (PRT) monorail project, RM150 million to aid Indah Water Konsortium in its operational costs after being awarded the largest single privatisation project in Malaysian history with regard to the nation’s sewerage services and RM60 million as another tranche of compensation totalling RM137.4 million this year to highway concessionaires, including Plus Bhd., Elite Bhd., MTD Prime Sdn. Bhd and Link Dua (M) Bhd., for not increasing highway toll rates as provided in the original concession agreements.
The Barisan Nasional government has no qualms in misallocation of public resources running into hundreds of millions and even billions of ringgit to bail out a few cronies but is completely unsympathetic as far as the use of public funds to help the deserving many.
For instance, the Barisan Nasional government has completely disregarded the DAP’s call for a RM700 million compensation scheme to deal with the catastrophe faced by the pig rearing industry as a result of the government’s misdiagnosis and mishandling of the worst viral outbreak in the nation’s history, causing the loss of 105 completely unnecessary and avoidable lives as well as the virtual collapse of the flourishing pig-rearing industry. The RM50 compensation for a pig destroyed is a most ridiculous sum when the fair compensation should be between RM200 to RM250 per pig destroyed.
No thought had also been given by the Barisan Nasional government to compensate the tenants of pre-war premises whose livelihood would be affected as a result of the abolition of the Rent Control Act at the end of this year. In fact, when I raised the question in the recent Parliament, the Housing Minister, Datuk Dr. Ting Chew Peh said the government had no intention to extend the period of the transition period for the repeal of the rent-control legislation - whether for three years or five years.
The Barisan Nasional government had justified privatisation on the grounds of reduced government costs and greater efficiency and productivity, but these have proved to be empty words.
On the one hand, Parliament is repeatedly asked to approve hundreds of millions of ringgit of soft loans or even compensations for failed or troubled privatisation projects, but on the other hand, the public are burdened with increasingly high tariffs or fees, whether it be highway tolls, basic infrastructure services like power and sewerage.
Many of the privatisation projects were made in circumstances shrouded in secrecy totally without accountability and transparency - making them fertile beds for cronyism and even corruption.
Even up to now, for instance, the government has refused to make public the North-South Expressway Privatisation Concessionaire - as if making public the details of the highway concessions would pose a grave security threat to the nation!
This is why the Opposition’s Alternative Manifesto is proposing major
overhaul of the privatisation programme to end ‘piratisation’,
private monopolies in essential services as well as cronyism and nepotism,
benefitting a handful of people at the expense of the Malaysian public,