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“We want zero dependency for Johor and we don’t want them to get water from Singapore anymore”—M’sian minister Xavier Jayakumar




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Petaling Jaya—According to Malaysia’s Water, Land, and Natural Resources Minister, efforts are being made to ensure that Malaysia will eventually cease to depend on Singapore for treated water for Johor.

A study is currently being conducted by the Ministry with the government of Johor and the National Water Services Commission (SPAN) in order to ensure this.

Xavier Jayakumar, the country’s Water, Land, and Natural Resources Minister said, “We want zero dependency for Johor and we don’t want them to get (treated) water from Singapore anymore. At the same time, the study will ensure sufficient water supply for Johor in the future.”

Mr. Xavier said this at the Petaling Jaya Boulevard on the occasion of the launch of a SPAN water conservation campaign on World Water Day on April 3, Wednesday, according to a report from Free Malaysia Today (FMT).

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He also said that they will be submitting the results of the aforementioned study to Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Dr Tun Mahathir Mohamad, after one month.

In March, the Chief Minister of Johor, Osman Sapian, already announced that the Malaysian Government is planning to stop depending on Singapore for treated water.

Singapore currently purchases raw water from Johor for 3 sen per 1,000 gallons. It sells treated water back to Johor for 50 sen per 1,000 gallons.

Mr. Xavier also answered a question concerning the levels of water in dams all over Malaysia, especially considering that summer has begun.

He gave an assurance that the situation is under control. “Although the water levels at several dams are low, they are not critical. Anyway, it has started to rain and we expect certain areas hard hit by the hot weather to experience rain this month.”

The Minister had also earlier announced that seven new SPAN commissioners have been appointed. “They will determine the direction to be taken by SPAN and ensure the commission functions smoothly,” Mr Xavier added.

The “water issue” between Malaysia and Singapore has been contentious of late, especially with Dr Mahathir’s pronouncement of water prices as “ridiculous.”

This price has been unchanged for nearly six decades, something that Malaysia has had problems with, claiming that Singapore is buying water for far too cheap a price—one that is no longer in keeping with inflation and today’s cost of living.

Shortly after returning to power in Malaysia when he won the General Election in May 2018, Mahathir began to call the 1962 Water Agreement “unfair” and even “unreasonable.” It has become an oft-repeated refrain with him.

In November he asked Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for discussions on the water issue to be again opened, to which PM Lee agreed.

In Feb 2019, Mahathir reiterated his stance that new prices should reflect the current costs of living from the time the agreement was drawn up to almost six decades ago.

The Malaysian Prime Minister insists that as a developed country, Singapore has a per capita income of S$77,000 (about RM232,300), and therefore, should not be even buying water from Malaysia, where the per capita income is not even S$13,500 (about RM40,700) at 1962’s rate of three sen per 1,000 gallons.

Singapore justifies the price gap between the water it buys and sells since it pays for water treatment infrastructural costs. A 2003 booklet Water Talks explains how construction, operation, and maintenance costs for dams, treatment plants, pumps and pipelines have all been, and are all paid for by Singapore. An example the booklet used was a project for which Singapore had paid S$1 billion but for which Malaysia shouldered none of the costs.

According to the government, the real cost of treating the water is RM 2.40 (S$0.80) per thousand gallons, which means that Singapore pays for RM 1.90 (S$0.63) per thousand gallons.-TISG

Read related: Economy vs Sovereignty: the Singapore-Malaysia water issue



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