A ruling party parliamentarian has claimed that raw water from Malaysia costs $0.00 since it “falls from sky” in a recent Facebook post, as the debate over whether Singapore underpays Malaysia for water rages on.
The local politician’s comment comes after Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad indicated that his government will possibly look into the “manifestly ridiculous” price of the water Malaysia sells to Singapore.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Dr Mahathir singled out water as one of the issues Singapore and Malaysia need to iron out as he revealed, “they are still paying 3 sens for 1 thousand gallons. And once the 1000 gallons is returned we can buy back 12 per cent of that. At the same time they can sell 100 gallons for 17 Singapore Dollars. That is a lot of money.”
The Malaysian leader’s comments prompted Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assert that Malaysia must “comply fully” with the water agreements it has struck with Singapore.
Several prominent figures criticised Dr Mahathir after his comments made headlines. Former Singapore Ambassador Bilahari Kausikan said that Dr Mahathir is raising water issue as a diversionary tactic for cancelling the High Speed Rail project between Singapore and Malaysia while Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan responded indirectly by posting a video on Singapore’s quest for water security and adding: “Why water has always been sacrosanct in Singapore.”
In one such response, East Coast GRC MP Lee Yi Shyan shared a cost breakdown of what the price of water on his Facebook page on Monday. Asking netizens whether the numbers clarify, Lee posted a screenshot of what appears to be a WhatsApp message with a photo of Dr Mahathir smiling in the background.
The message claims that it is trying to “make things clear when Mahatir (sic) accuses Singapore of paying too little for water”. Besides claiming that the cost of raw water to Malaysia is zero dollars since it “falls from sky”, the message claims that Malaysia does nothing (no treating of water etc) and makes a profit of RM3.10 per 1000 gallons:
Lee, a former Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Trade and Industry, told reporters that the message was indeed forwarded to him via WhatsApp. He added that he decided to share the message on Facebook to raise awareness.
When asked about how the message claims that Malaysia sells treated water to citizens at RM3.60 per 1,000 gallons even as Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed in 2003 that Johor sold treated water to its residents at RM3.95 per 1,000 gallons, Lee simply said: “The numbers don’t change the substance of the issue I think if you look at the numbers, it is clear that they (Malaysia) are making a profit.”
Several netizens pointed out that Lee and the ones circulating the message do not take into account the costs associated with collecting raw water, such as costs related to the building and maintenance of reservoirs, pipes, excavations for water as well as manpower costs to compensate those maintaining such infrastructure:
Still others outright mocked Lee for sharing such a message and asked why Singapore cannot collect raw water since it supposedly costs $0.00:
Lee’s Facebook post, that appears to defend Singapore against the “accusatory” Dr Mahathir, comes on the heels of his PAP colleague Tan Chuan Jin’s comments on the water issue between Malaysia and Singapore. Writing on Facebook, the Speaker of Parliament asserted: “being friendly and supportive doesn’t mean that (Singapore) should accede to whims and fancies to show sincerity”.
He added: “When one wants his way and doesn’t get it, it isn’t because we aren’t friendly. It’s because it needs to be fair, equitable and consistent for our people…That’s the basis on which equals conduct business. That’s why legally binding positions are important to keep things professional and impartial. But of course, that’s assuming we view each other as equals!”
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir has said that it is “not urgent” to review the water agreements between Malaysia and Singapore now. In his latest comments on the matter, Dr Mahathir revealed that the Pakatan Harapan government has not discussed about the issue yet, indicating that Malaysia does not have an official position on the matter as yet.