KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — The federal government is not accepting private offers to take over PLUS Malaysia Bhd’s highway concessions, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad confirmed today.
He said the Cabinet has decided that the country’s biggest highway concessionaire will remain with its current owners, Khazanah Nasional Bhd and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), also known by its Malay initials as KWSP.
“We have studied all the bids made by the private sectors and also by Khazanah and in the end we decided that the best way is not to sell PLUS to anybody but retain it with Khazanah and KWSP,” Dr Mahathir told reporters after officiating Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s Balai Islam Complex here.
“They will have to reduce the toll by 18 per cent,” he added, referring to Khazanah and EPF.
“But please remember that this 18 per cent is fixed at today’s rate, that in 20 years’ time, it will be very, very low.”
He said that while traffic may increase, the ringgit’s purchasing power is not very strong, therefore toll earnings are not as much as publicly perceived.
“We are fixing it based on the present rate and it will be flat minus 18 per cent.
“Although the traffic may grow, the earnings may not be as great as the original concession,” Dr Mahathir said.
Speculation about the potential sale and/or takeover of 15 highways nationwide, including the North-South Expressway managed by PLUS, has been ongoing for months now as toll reduction was among the Pakatan Harapan coalition’s electoral promises.
The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research said last November that in order to cut toll fares, the government would have to either nationalise or privatise the highways.
Today, Dr Mahathir acknowledged that his government had taken a long time to reach its decision.
“We have taken a long time, had many briefings, private sectors offers, but in the end, we decided the best way is for Khazanah and KWSP to retain their ownership; then they don’t have to buy anything.
“And then, they can reduce the rate without affecting the income,” he said.
He added that highway users will be able to see a reduction in toll fares this year.