MCA: The price for PLUS toll cuts is years of low EPF dividends

An aerial view of the traffic at the Gombak Toll Plaza February 2, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
An aerial view of the traffic at the Gombak Toll Plaza February 2, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 2 — MCA president Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong alleged today that Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributors will bear most of the cost of the cut in PLUS toll fares in the form of low dividends.

The former minister argued that Khazanah Nasional Berhad and EPF, the toll operators’ only shareholders, will post lower dividends because the 18 per cent reduction announced by the government would hit profits.

This meant contributors are technically subsidising much of the cutbacks, the MCA leader suggested.

“(Finance Minister) Lim Guan Eng has claimed that this is a gradual step towards the end goal and that was stated in the promises of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) manifesto,” Wee said in a statement.

“What Guan Eng failed to mention is the 18 per cent discount is funded in a large part by EPF contributors via lower yearly dividends as EPF will no longer benefit from the yearly compensation paid by the government to PLUS,” he added.

“With this new arrangement which started yesterday, EPF contributors are subsiding the 18 per cent discount for toll users and also subsidizing the government every year.”

After months of speculation about PLUS’ future, Putrajaya said in January it would extend the concession of the country’s biggest expressway toll firm until 2058 in a deal that would see fares reduced by nearly a fifth for the current and extended concession.

This meant PLUS would remain under the control of sovereign fund Khazanah and EPF instead of being sold to private hands. Tony Pua, Lim’s political secretary, said the new arrangement is a “triple win” for the government and would save taxpayers RM42 billion.

The PLUS toll cutback announced just before the Chinese Lunar Year celebration, was part of the PH administration’s pledge to bring down the living cost.

But Wee suggested this was a lie.

Just yesterday, 10 new toll plazas on the WCE highway officially started toll collections despite DAP issuing multiple statements previously stating that the highway would be toll-free should PH win, the MCA leader noted.

“There are enough press statements and videos made by DAP leaders such as Lim Guan Eng and his political secretary, Tony Pua, including in 2018, before the general election, in which they spoke of abolishing the tolls including a possible buy-out,” he said.

“Some of these similar statements were made in 2012, but of course, these DAP leaders now prefer that we forget those pledges and promises.”

The current PLUS concession would have ended in 2038.

Detractors have criticised the 30-year extension of the concession while Putrajaya argued that the deal was a “triple win” because Malaysians now enjoy cheaper toll rates, without needing to compensate the concessionaire or harm its value to shareholders.

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