Friday, 4 April 2014
Penangites Pay the Price @LimGuanEng
Not too long ago, Penangites fell for the Ubah fairy tale and thought they would live happily ever after under the thumb of Lim Guan Eng. It was smooth-sailing at first with Lim Guan Eng claiming credit for slicing RM600 million or 95 per cent of the state’s debt since the Pakatan Rakyat took over the state in March 2008. Many fell for this fairy tale within a fairy tale oblivious that the recovery was due Federal assistance to re-categorise most of the state’s debt into Federal grant. Today, the bubble burst for Penangites when LGE announced a hike in water rates for Penangites with three absurd justifications.
Firstly, it is totally narrow-minded and unfair of him to make an overgeneralised statement that Penangites are wasting water. How many Penangites has he seen to make such a baseless unsupported assertion? I am very surprised that LGE is unaware that water shortages occur because of a myriad of reasons such as rivers running dry, overuse of water by industries, pollution, global warming, extreme weather among others and poor planning by authorities. Wastage is hardly even mentioned in the numerous websites on water shortages.
Secondly, he claims that the authorities have tried many ways to check the wastage but failed. Please Mr. Chief Minister – tell us:
1. What were those MANY ways implemented to check the wastage?
When, how and where were they implemented?
2. How and why did those ways fail?
He cannot give such ridiculous justifications and expect us to comply without raising a clamor to voice our objections at the speed and condescending manner he is bulldozing this price hike down our throats.
Thirdly, he claims that the state government was left with little choice but to raise the water tariff because water usage by Penangites is the highest in the country even though our rates are the cheapest, at 31 sen per 35,000 litres. He compared the average usage of Penangites (311 cubic litres of water) with that of the people in Sabah (115 litres) and Perlis (214 litres) and that Penang's water consumption was 50 per cent higher than the national average rate of 212 cubic litres per person daily. Thank you for the statistics but as a trained accountant, it is surprising that he has ignored intricacies of making comparisons between absolute and relative figures. Each state has different population, different commercial/industrial/personal needs, and different levels of water resources. Hence, such comparisons are not only unfair but also meaningless.
LGE has taken upon himself to be the’ Father of all Penangites’ flexing his muscles while swishing his cane to punish Penangites who have ‘disobeyed’ his call to conserve water given in February ( http://tinyurl.com/huan242 ) . He seems to have forgotten that Penangites voted him to govern; to UBAH without realization that he will ‘ubah’ the water rates at such short notice!
In June 2011, LGE sought help from Federal Government to re-categorise most of the state’s debt into Federal grant. The Penang government agreed to the water restructuring agreement with the federal government in exchange for a complete restructuring of outstanding federal loans of RM655.24 million owed by Penang. This enabled LGE to re-define his huge state debt into an interest-free arrangement involving the migration of the core assets of the state-owned Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang (PBAPP) to Pengurusan Aset Air Bhd (PAAB), a company under the Ministry of Finance Inc. which has assumed responsibility for water supply projects through the National Water Services Industry Restructuring Initiative. If you check the official website of PAAB (http://tinyurl.com/huan243 ), the financial benefits arising from this structure will be shared with the consumers through lower tariff rates.
Unbeknownst to many, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir struck a deal with Pengurusan Aset Air Bhd (PAAB) in December 2011. Unlike other states, which had agreed to allow the migration of their water assets to PAAB, Perak requested for its assets of over RM200mil to remain with the state. PAAB agreed to this request. Lim Guan Eng did NOT make such a request to protect Penang’s water assets which were transferred to PAAB!
After striking the deal, Zambry assured the public that water tariffs in Perak would not be increased following the conclusion of the migration exercise. However, LGE has jumped at the opportunity to increase tariffs.
In other words, Penangites have to pay the price for voting in a CM who has reneged on his election promise and his 2014 new year message not to increase water tariff for two years and who has not worked to protect the water assets of the state.
LGE said the proposed water rate hike, which is still being worked out, would not be a burden. Well, that being the case, how can he be so sure it will not be a burden? Such empty assurances or statements do little for his credibility. Has he thought of the impact of the hike and how unscrupulous ones may jump on the bandwagon to raise prices and how all this may snowball into higher inflation rates?
According to their official website ( http://tinyurl.com/huan244), “Perbadanan Bekalan Air Pulau Pinang (PBAPP) is one of three 100% owned subsidiaries of PBA Holdings Bhd (PBAHB), a company that is listed in the Main Board of the Malaysian Bourse (Bursa Malaysia). PBA Resources Sdn Bhd (PBAR), the second subsidiary is a management company that manages the Penang Water Services Academy (PWSA) and the Air Itam Teambuilding Centre (AITC). Island Springwater Sdn Bhd (ISSB), a drinking water bottling and marketing company, is a subsidiary of PBAHB. Meanwhile, Pinang Water Limited (PWL) is an associate company of the PBAHB Group. It is a joint venture with Ranhill Water (Hong Kong) and YLI Holding Bhd. PWL has built the Yuan He (Yuan River) Water Treatment Plant in Yichun City, China. This plant is now being managed by PWL's China subsidiary – Yichun Pinang Water Co. Ltd. In 2010, the company supplied 10 million litres of water per day (MLD) to Yichun City.”
Do you now view the price hike differently?
Datuk Huan Cheng Guan
Centre For Politcal Awareness Malaysia