How should we judge a government?

In Malaysia, if you don't watch television or read newspapers, you are uninformed; but if you do, you are misinformed!

"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." - Malcolm X

Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience - Mark Twain

Why we should be against censorship in a court of law: Publicity is the very soul of justice … it keeps the judge himself, while trying, under trial. - Jeremy Bentham

"Our government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no
responsibility at the other. " - Ronald Reagan

Government fed by the people

Government fed by the people

Career options

Career options
I suggest government... because nobody has ever been caught.

Corruption so prevalent it affects English language?

Corruption so prevalent it affects English language?
Corruption is so prevalent it affects English language?

When there's too much dirt...

When there's too much dirt...
We need better tools... to cover up mega corruptions.

Prevent bullying now!

Prevent bullying now!
If you're not going to speak up, how is the world supposed to know you exist? “Orang boleh pandai setinggi langit, tapi selama ia tidak menulis, ia akan hilang di dalam masyarakat dan dari sejarah.” - Ananta Prameodya Toer (Your intellect may soar to the sky but if you do not write, you will be lost from society and to history.)

Monday, October 19, 2015

A bit on our toll concessionaires and expressways

If I were to be asked what was the most significant legacy left by Dr Mahathir, I would say the North-South Expressway. This expressway opened up and helped develop most parts of the west coast of West Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir became PM in 1981 and he was well known for introducing the clocking-in system to government departments, but it was easily abused by having someone to do so in your absence. His famous slogan was 'Besih, Cekap dan Amanah' which was supposed to bring clean, efficient and trustworthy administration, but again, the reality was far from the rhetoric.

The current problems relating to PM Najib have often been attributed to Dr Mahatir's earlier doing. In his eagerness to fast-track development, Dr M chose to introduce privatisation of mega projects (to benefit a select few cronies), but instead turned them more like piratisation. Agreements were generally in favour of concessionaires, like generous terms and even necessary loans guaranteed by government. It was a classic 'Win-Win' formula, but at the expense of the public.

Instead of meritocracy, he pandered to the demands of the majority race and it took its toll on development. Despite all the advantages of natural resources, Malaysia slacked behind Singapore, which has nothing but human resources. Many former Malaysians who are now Singaporeans were involved in its fast development. Bright Malaysian students who were unappreciated at home were enticed with scholarships which led to employment and citizenship.

As to tolled roads, NSE is not the earliest, but is still the mother of all tolled expressway concessions. I can still remember the Rm1 collected in Slim River for umpteen years along the old federal highway. Then there was the 50 sen toll along Jalan Kuching. Both were discontinued because it went past its promised period for collection. Recently, a founder of IJM and Gamuda, lamented that IJM could win road construction contracts on merit in India, but never had a chance to take part in Malaysia. Reason was simple: the main contractor has to be politically connected and chosen without open tender. Companies actually building the roads, like IJM, are only sub-contractors. So we can see why our contracts are always overpriced and we have to pay dearly because of the huge profits added on by rent-seekers.

Though NSE has been very useful to road users travelling to north and south of the peninsula, it came at very high costs and has been a burden to users, and will still be until 2038! Its original toll period was from 1988 to 2018, but had been extended a number of times because PM of the day avoided offending the motorists and chose this option to soften the effect.

Basically, there are 3 options open to the government: increase rate; pay compensation; or extend period. The obviously lop-sided contracts have been described lately by MP for PJ Utara, Tony Pua as 'stupid' because of the inescapable burden on the public. But as we all know, thus far, being stupid is not a crime, which was the main cause of the misuses of public funds highlighted annually by our Auditor-General.

Increase in rate affects the road users directly, which seems most equitable. But the question arises as to why the agreement which provided for this did not take into account the ever increasing number of vehicles which are over and above the estimates used in their calculations.

Payment of compensation in lieu of increase in rate seems more acceptable to the users. But it is unfair to other taxpayers who might not be users of the expressway. I am sure the concessionaire would welcome this as it comes in a lump sum.

The extension of period is the easiest to the decision-maker because in the short run, it is popular in that there is no increase as well as no compensation needs to be paid. But this is very unfair to future generation who will be burden because of our inefficiency.

Often, it was based on a combination of 2 out of the 3 options available.

It is interesting to know and be reminded of the history of the infamous NSE. Then opposition leader, Lim Kit Siang, was most vocal against it, mainly because it was awarded without open tender and because of its secrecy (still under OSA). He even challenged it in court but the final verdict was against him, based on his lack of locus standi.

Dr Mahathir had admitted that he had to use the construction of NSE to help pay for Umno's headquarters known as PWTC. Umno borrowed in Yen and the currency went up some 50% within a short period. Though it is an open secret that UEM's subsidiary PLUS is substantially owned by Umno, it was revealed by Halim Saad in his case against Umno:

In an affidavit submitted in a subsequent court case Halim said he held his Hatibudi shares 'in trust for the ultimate beneficial owner, Umno'

(Page 126 of the book by Barry Wain, Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times)

A recent case which touched and revised on locus standi seems of no practical use:

'Although the Federal Court’s recent decision on the test for locus standi (legal standing) is a welcome one, what use is it if parties are able to bring an action but in no way see any result?'

More on the case in the Ant Daily:

Thumbs up for locus standi decision but documents must be viewed


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