Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says the Pakatan Harapan manifesto did not specifically mention the ‘immediate’ scrapping of tolls, after saying on Sunday the coalition never promised the scrapping of tolls.
He resorted to quoting the manifesto, saying it did not mention the immediate scrapping of tolls should the coalition come to power, but rather cited this as the ultimate objective.
In the Pakatan Harapan manifesto, there is a clear promise to ‘Hapuskan Toll’ which in English is translated to ‘Eliminate Toll’.
It was one of the key promises made by the Pakatan in the run-up to the elections in May last year. The other marked promises were the reduction of fuel prices to a level acceptable to the public, and the removal of the goods and services tax.
The government reduced the fuel prices —and has announced a subsidy programme for cars and motorcycle users yesterday— and removed the GST only to replace it with the Sales and Services Tax, raising the ire of the general public.
“When I said we did not promise to abolish tolls, I was referring to the manifesto which mentioned ‘the government will review toll concession agreements and discussions would be held to secure the best price to take over each concession with the ultimate aim of abolishing toll collection in stages’,” Mahathir said.
He was hard-pressed to explain his remarks over the weekend when he attributed ‘confusion’ over the ‘Hapuskan Toll’ to a misread and misunderstanding of the manifesto by Pakatan’s MPs.
At the Parliament on Monday, Dr Mahathir reiterated his statement that it is impossible to abolish tolls.
He said the government will be forced to spend tens of billions of ringgit to take over toll highways immediately and additional costs for maintenance will require a few more billion.
Nevertheless, Dr Mahathir said the government is capable of shouldering the burden of a reduction in toll rates.
“If the private sector is willing to reduce toll rates, their suggestion can be considered,” he added. /TISG