Guan Eng: Priority now is country’s financial health, abolition of tolls can wait

Motorcyclists using the Penang Bridge, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge and the Second Link in Johor do not have to pay toll. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Motorcyclists using the Penang Bridge, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge and the Second Link in Johor do not have to pay toll. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Jan 1 ― The Pakatan Harapan government will fulfill its election promise to abolish tolls in the country but focus now has to be on improving the country’s financial situation, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said.

He said today that the abolition of motorcycle tolls on bridges in Penang and Johor as well as the freeze on toll hikes were only the first steps towards realising its promise in its May 9 general election manifesto.

“We will not stop there, we will work towards fulfilling our election manifesto but for now, we need to concentrate on improving the country's financial situation,” he said in a press conference here after officiating a new lift at the Customs Department quarters here.

Today is the first day that motorcyclists using the Penang Bridge, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge and the Second Link in Johor do not have to pay toll.

“We must remember that due to the 1MDB scandal, we are left with financial challenges to overcome so we can't immediately abolish all tolls,” Lim said.

He appealed to the people to give PH a chance to improve the country's economy and fiscal health first.

He brushed aside allegations that PH had failed to fulfil its promises of abolishing all tolls but had instead abolished motorcycle tolls which was an election promise by Barisan Nasional.

“We are still trying to fulfil all our promises in our manifesto, we need more time, we must first improve our financial situation,” he said.

Last week, Lim announced that the Cabinet has decided to freeze toll hikes for all vehicles on 21 highways across the country that are eligible for an increase this year.

He reportedly said this would cost the government RM994.43 million.

For the first time since the completion of the Penang Bridge about 30 years ago and the island’s second bridge four years ago, motorcyclists are able to and from the island without having to pay toll.

The abolition of motorcycle toll here will benefit about 20,000 motorcyclists who use the first bridge daily, 2,000 motorcyclists who use the second bridge daily and 50,000 motorcyclists who use the Second Link in Johor each day.

The concession agreement for both Penang Bridge and the Second Link in Johor are under Plus Malaysia Berhad.

Under the concession agreement, there are still 19 years remaining for the concessionaire to continue to collect tolls for motorcyclists.

As for the concession agreement for the Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah Bridge, under Jambatan Kedua Sdn Bhd, there are still 34 years remaining for the concessionaire to continue collecting tolls.