Pakatan: MRT rail, property model is land grab


By Yow Hong Chieh, The Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has accused Putrajaya of using the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) as an excuse to acquire prime land after it was revealed that the government will rely on property development to foot project costs.

DAP international secretary Liew Chin Tong said the modified rail-and-property model was just “land grab by another name” and accused the Land Public Transport Authority (SPAD) of putting revenue considerations before the needs of the public.

He told The Malaysian Insider that the regulator’s focus on how to maximise returns through property redevelopment rather than public transport requirements was akin to putting the cart before the horse, and called an example of “worst planning practices”.

“You should look at transport needs and how to cater for that before anything else,” Liew said, adding that this called into question whether the alignment of the Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) line had been determined by property development propositions rather than demand.

“The most important thing is to think how to get people to work (riding the MRT)… The number one priority is to ensure this is the easiest way to work so you don’t have a peak hour (congestion) problem.”

PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli said the viability of the entire MRT project was now suspect given the risky nature of property developments, especially since the government will incur “huge public debt” financing them.

He pointed out that returns from such developments were not guaranteed as the outlook for the high-end property market was “quite gloomy” and there was already a property glut in the Klang Valley.

“This is the danger of the MRT project if it’s not managed properly,” he said.

Rafizi also questioned the timeline for property development on the acquired land and whether it would take place before or after the MRT is scheduled to begin service in 2016.

“When is this so-called redevelopment for [capital expenditure] and [operating expenditure] going to take place? 2017? 2018? In the meantime, the public has to fork out more money while waiting for the returns,” he added.

PAS central committee member Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said there was a need for the Najib administration to open up the project to parliamentary scrutiny as the reliance on property development showed that not enough thought had gone into how to finance the MRT.

“If this an afterthought? Have they not said it was a PFI (privately financed initiative) in the first place?” he said.

The Kuala Selangor MP said that the RM50 billion bill for the project would “go through the roof” now as the original estimate had not taken into consideration the massive cost of redeveloping properties the government plans to acquire.

Dzulkefly added that if land acquisition was the single most dominant factor that determines the success of the MRT, Putrajaya should be “humble” enough to engage the Selangor state government on land acquisition matters cordially.