Putrajaya—Talks concerning the water issue between Singapore and Malaysia are expected to arise again shortly as Malaysia has said it will be proposing an amended price for the sale of raw water to Singapore.
Saifuddin Abdullah, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister, told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview published on September 20, Friday, that the new price for raw water is in its final steps with concerned authorities and a proposal is expected to be submitted to Singapore “soon.”
Mr Saifuddin said “We know it is going to be tough,” as talks between the two nations concerning the options to changing the 1962 Johore River Water Agreement have so far not made any headway.
The issue of the price of water heated up last year, within the first few months after Dr Tun Mahathir Mohamad was elected Prime Minister of Malaysia in a stunning upset in the elections in May 2018.
Singapore and Malaysia are bound by the 1962 Johor River Water Agreement, which is valid until 2061. This agreement allows Singapore to obtain 250 million gallons of water every day from the Johor River at 3 sen per 1,000 gallons. Singapore sells treated water back to Johor at 50 sen per thousand gallons.
Malaysia had an opportunity to review the price of raw and treated water when the pact reached its 25-year mark in 1986 and 1987, but the country’s leaders declined to do so.
Singapore claims that since Malaysia had chosen not to review the water price at the 25-year mark, it had lost its chance to do so. Conversely, Malaysia feels that it still has the legal right to review the price of water at any time after the 25th year.
However, Dr Mahathir and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have agreed that should the discussions between the two nations on the water issue reach a stand-off, the issue would be submitted to arbitration.
After he had been elected, Dr Mahathir said that the price of raw water Malaysia sells to Singapore is “ridiculous,” taking into consideration the leaps and bounds the latter country has taken in terms of economic development and commented several times that the low price of the water was unfair to Malaysia.
However, after the 9th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat held last April, Dr Mahathir announced that the two nations are now actively looking for an amicable resolution for the contentious issue, which could include arbitration from the global community. After the summit between PM Lee and Dr Mahathir, the leaders announced in a statement that the Attorneys-General of both countries would be meeting to discuss the water issue.
Mr Saifuddin also told the Nikkei Asian Review that Malaysia intends to eventually make Johor self-reliant when it comes to treated water, as there are projects in the offing designed for this purpose.
He added, ”We are also developing some projects to ensure Johor will not be dependent on supply from Singapore, when it comes to treated water, in the next few years.”
Earlier this year, the Malaysian Foreign Minister said that the price of water Malaysia sells to Singapore needs to match the market rate. -/TISG
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