WATER BRINKMANSHIP: This issue will define Khalid’s administration, going into the elections
I AM not sure about the rest of the people in the Kuala Lumpur-Selangor area, but this brinkmanship over the water issue is making me nervous. Are we in crisis, or close to one, or not?The crux of the matter is that the Selangor state government led by Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim does not believe that we are in any crisis, or will face a water crisis in the near future, and hence there is no need to hurry and approve water projects in the state.
The refusal to do so has something to do with him not being happy with water companies in the state and the deals they have. He wants new deals, or else no talk. It is a standoff that began in 2008 when he became chief minister, which is probably aimed at bolstering the state government's populist image, especially its stance against big corporations.
But four years on, the population in the area has grown substantially, new housing areas have mushroomed and new businesses and industries are emerging significantly.
Significantly, too, the simple logic of supply and demand would suggest that if all things relating to supply were to remain the same, we could be heading for a situation where demand would put pressure on supply.
The only constant over the period has been the state government's refusal to come down from its position -- no new deals, no talk.
I believe it is now finding itself in a rather uncomfortable situation where its bluster of conspiracy theory that a crisis is being "manufactured" could soon be put to a very public trial. Are we in a water crisis?
It obviously smells of politics to suggest that people are conspiring against his administration by ruthlessly manipulating the well-being of the people.
Firstly, I believe the Selangor government must get rid of the persecution mentality. It is the government with all the attendant powers, and one might add, responsibilities.
Granted, its opponents would like nothing more than to see it defeated, and it must expect efforts to undermine it. But surely as a responsible government, it should be able to sometimes put politics on the back burner for the good of the people.
I am not certain how in touch Khalid is with the water situation, but I am likely to believe those in the water business, and the images of people with colourful pails waiting for the water lorries. I suppose if we were to literally interpret Khalid's assertion, these are all manufactured, too.
These past few days, the Selangor government has been coming out with several statements that suggest the talks of crisis are getting to it. For the moment, it is still holding on to its default setting -- blaming others.
I think it has been employing too much political posturing over the water issue, with no clear solutions offered. Some of its supporters, silently, must be asking the same, too, perhaps, about the grandstanding.
It wanted a written guarantee that water tariff would not be increased before it sits down to talk. And on Monday, it announced that it would take over the operations of a water company because the latter was inefficient.
I believe, even if the Selangor government were to have some issues with the water companies, it should not close its doors to them at the risk of troubling its citizens. As a government, it must be able to run several tracks of negotiations at the same time, to demand what's best for the state and its residents and, at the same time, ensure that supplies are not jeopardised in any way.
The water issue, specifically how Khalid handles it, will likely define his administration going into the elections. Whatever he has done the past four years will pale in comparison with the water issue. If indeed a crisis occurred, voters may be voting on who caused the problem, the state or the water companies. However, the water companies are not standing for elections.
Khalid better hope that the taps do not run dry. For whatever misdeeds he alleged the water concessionaires or the previous government have done, none of them ever shelved key state water projects.