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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Malaysian Highway Robbery

Someone should do a study on the toll system in the Klang Valley for I suspect that the residents here must be undergoing great stress with the recent hike in tolls.

I am guessing that people here must be the most tolled residents in the world and this is the direct result of Machiavellian planning.

It all began with the quest to produce the made-in Malaysia car, the project that is now the subject of bail-out and foreign takeover. Never mind that the window motors barely last a few months or that this “baby” needs protection after more than 25 years of “weaning” via import duties on foreign cars.

Since we have the national car, we need to produce steel and that gave birth to Perwaja another project that sucked up billions of reserves and produced unsatisfactory results.

After Perwaja was approved we needed more electricity and that required loads of electricity generation. So Bakun was created even though the cost of transporting the energy would be prohibitive. Never mind that as some people got to clear thousands of hectares of virgin forest. What’s the big deal about a few animal and plant life becoming extinct? And we get to force the Orang Asli to embrace civilisation or they will forever thwart our efforts to attain developed nation status.

So far so good. Everyone starts to believe that the car is a basic necessity to enjoy the good life. Never mind if people start cramming six or eight persons into a Kancil and decide to buy a home away from the city. So travelling 10 or 20 km to one’s workplace became common practice.

With more cars on the roads it only becomes a matter of time before city roads are congested as no steps were taken to improve public transport until the late 90 with the KL mass transit systems.

Now if we look at the way the 3 operators were selected and the manner the 3 systems were implemented it would provide a good idea of how the EPU operates. First of all it is not a seamless system as you needed to buy separate tickets and proper interchanges were few and far between. You normally need to exit a station, walk perhaps 600m and then enter the station of the next system.

The stage is now set for the tolls all over for the Klang residents as they are a captive population.

I guess the usual toll operator promotes his deal to the authorities with the following modus operandi:

• There is no open tender for any project.

• Traffic studies are supplied by the government with guaranteed minimum figures or compensation.

• The contract to build operate and transfer is awarded.

This is the reason why Klang motorists now have to bear so much with so many tolls.

The first stage of “no open tender” creates the high cost upfront as some promoters are in it for quick money with little effort.

The second stage of government traffic projections can be abused via dubious means. The traffic can be uplifted so that future earnings are pegged at a higher level and the project costs can be elevated to get more loans. You figure out who are the likely beneficiaries.

Once the project is completed it is only a question of time before the project proves unviable but no sweat as the government is always ready to bail you out.

Time for another round to discuss your next project?

Graphics: thanks to http://www.melanierawn.com/books/images/Highwaymen.jpg

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