DAP calls on Abdullah to issue a directive for the Seremban-Port Dickson Highway privatization contract, as well as all highway concessions and privatization agreements, to be made public to assure Malaysians that “privatize profits but nationalize losses” is not one of the hidden principles of the privatization programme
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Friday): The announcement by the Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu that the government will be taking over the Seremban-Port Dickson Highway because the concessionaire, SPDH Sdn. Bhd. is losing money due to poor collection has come as a shock to Malaysians reminding them that all the bad practices of the past are still being repeated although there is a new Prime Minister.
DAP calls on the new Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to issue a directive for the Seremban-Port Dickson Highway privatization contract, as well as all highway concessions and privatization agreements, to be made public to assure Malaysians that “privatize profits but nationalize losses” is not one of the hidden principles of the privatization programme.
Samy Vellu said the government will assume full responsibility for the highway from March next year and the toll collection will be managed by the Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA).
The government is now negotiating the quantum to be given to the current concessionaire before taking over the RM250 million 30 km highway, which started operations in 1997.
This is not the first time that the government has bailed out failed privatization programmes at great cost to the innocent and suffering taxpayers – the worst examples being the billion-ringgit losses incurred by the failed Indah Water Konsortium (IWK) sewerage privatization and Tajuddin Ramli MAS buy-out projects.
The start of the Abdullah new premiership has been clouded by the controversial award of the country’s biggest privatization contract, the RM14.5 billion electrified double-tracking rail project, in repudiation of a long-standing government-to-government negotiations between Malaysia and India and China through a barter deal involving palm oil, and which has become the first major test of Abdullah’s pledge for fair play and transparency and a government which is “clean, incorruptible, modest and beyond suspicion”.
It is most unfortunate that even before this major controversy with far-reaching economic, diplomatic and international implications for the country had been resolved, another controversy has erupted – the proposed government takeover of the Seremban-Port Dickson Highway, which is the latest example of the dark and most objectionable dimension of the Malaysian privatization programme, to privatize profits and nationalize losses when such privatization programmes fail.
It would appear that under Malaysia’s distinctive brand of privatization, companies which make money under privatization programmes are doing a “national service”; but when they fail, it is the turn of the Malaysian public to do them a “national service” by taking over their losses!
As a new Prime Minister who has promised a clean, trustworthy, efficient, transparent and accountable administration, Abdullah should not only direct that all privatization contracts should be made public to subject them to public scrutiny and monitoring both with regard to their content and performance, but to commission a full audit of all failed privatization programmes which had resulted in the operation of the obnoxious principle “privatize profits but nationalize losses” with even multi-million ringgit “golden handshakes” to selected individuals and companies for the privilege of bailing them out at the public taxpayers’ expense.
Such an audit of all failed privatization projects governed by the principle of “privatize profits but nationalize losses” should be made public before the next general election.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman