This is the big one, folks. Tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary is reportedly proposing a merger of the national sewerage and water businesses in a joint venture with the national water assets management corporation.
The joint venture known as the National Water and Sewerage Operating Company proposes to take over ailing Indah Water Konsortium (once privatised to another crony) from the Finance Ministry. Syed Mokthar’s MMC also proposes that the joint venture vehicle should hold strategic stakes (about 40 per cent) in the water assets of the the various status in the peninsula. The plan was presented to the government three weeks ago, reports The Edge (30 July), which broke the story.
The government had earlier set up the water asset management corporation, Pengurusan Aset Air Bhd, to acquire water assets from the states and handle future procurement using cheap funds based on the government’s credit rating. The assets would then be leased to water operators in the various states.
Back then, I had suspected that this water ‘restructuring’ was just a stepping stone to full-blown privatisation, if past ‘restructuring’ or ‘corporatisation’ exercises were any indication. Remember the ‘restructuring/corporatisation’ of Penang Port a few years ago? Look at how they now want to privatise it to Syed Mokthar’s Sea Terminal. And recall what happened with the ‘corporatisation’ of general hospitals. That led to the lucrative privatisation of hospital support services and the centralisation of drug procurement in the hands of well connected firms.
In this case, the procurement of water assets has been centralised in PAAB – we are talking BIG MONEY here.