WORKS Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof dropped a bombshell in Kuching this week when he revealed that two toll concessionaires were facing bankruptcy.
He said both concessionaires had applied for the government to take over their respective companies.
Apparently, many toll concessionaires in the country are not making money, which may be baffling since motorists have been paying for numerous toll hikes.
“At the moment, only five highways are able to generate profit,” he was reported as saying at the press conference.
He added that another concessionaire was in the midst of restructuring to avoid facing the same problem.
Fadillah did not identify the toll concessionaires that were in the red, but said the government was studying all the highway toll systems in the country.
But what was disturbing is Fadillah‘s statement that the government had initially entered into an agreement with the concessionaires that “did not side” with it.
At the moment, there are four types of concession agreements, including the most current one, which is the fourth generation.
“The first-generation agreement did not side the with the government since we were new to the terms and methods when the document was formulated and signed,” said Fadillah.
“The (first generation) agreement was more in favour of concession companies,” he said.
The next three generations of agreement, said Fadillah, had been improved with the inclusion of a provision on the abolishment of an automatic increase in toll rates annually.
Could this revelation have anything to do with the recent government effort to encourage motorists to use government roads instead of tolled highways?
Earlier this week, Bernama reported that the government was encouraging motorists to utilise federal roads, and quoted Fadillah as saying that besides being cheaper to travel on compared with private highways, the routes also offered various attractions and facilities.
He added that federal roads were the right choice for road users who wanted “a more relaxed drive”.
“Today, the public has the perception that private highways are the main thoroughfares, when they are actually alternative routes. Private highways are actually the routes of choice for motorists who want to get to their destinations fast,” he said.
Whatever the shortcomings were in the concessions signed in the past, it seems the government is now going the extra mile to ensure that Malaysian motorists are not burdened with additional costs, especially considering inflation is on the rise, and everyone is complaining of feeling the “pinch.”
The recent decision for weekly petrol price revisions is another innovative example that has been introduced in these trying times.
However, petrol station operators are not having a good time, following he recent charges.
In fact, this week, it was reported that Petrol Dealers Association of Malaysia (PDAM) president Datuk Khairul Annuar said many operators are closing shop as they could no longer cope with the weekly swing in retail fuel prices.
He added that between 30 to 40 stations per brand had surrendered their operations since the monthly price announcements were introduced in 2014, and this figure was bound to increase with weekly announcements.
“We are concerned that more dealers will give up their dealerships if the trend continues,” he told an English daily this week.
However, the government has urged these operators to be “more creative” in generating profits.
Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said they could not just depend on the sale of fuel, but must seek out other methods to boost their income.
Hamzah gave an example of a petrol station in his village in Perak, which is thriving because it also had other businesses, such as a cafe, laundry, car wash and numerous other services.