Toll Contracts 

Tony Pua 
It is an open secret that the 13th general election has been postponed multiple times because the Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak fears losing power to Pakatan Rakyat. However it is now clear that the other reason for continuously postponing the election is to ensure that he is able to dish out all the lucrative privatisation and procurement deals to favoured parties to commit any new incoming government to these contracts.

Hence it came with little surprise that the Prime Minister’s Department awarded a new RM1.55 billion East Klang Valley Expressway (EKVE) concession via direct negotiation to Ahmad Zaki Resources Bhd (AZRB) on Wednesday this week.  We would of course question the “privatisation” contract which involves the Government forking out RM635 million in soft loan to AZRB, despite the 50-year concession being the second longest awarded in Malaysia’s history. 
The obvious question is, if the Government is already able to fork out nearly half of the required investment to build the highway, why is there a need to privatise it in the first place?  Is it so that certain companies can bleed the rakyat for multi-billion ringgit profits in the future?
However, of even greater concern is the urgency at which these contracts are being dished out by the Prime Minister’s Department itself.  Just 4 weeks ago, another record RM5.2 billion West Coast Expressway was finalised, giving the concessionaire Kumpulan Europlus up to 60 years to reap its profits, despite a RM2.24 billion soft loan as well as the land acquisition cost of RM980 million borne by the Government.
Earlier last year, the Government also awarded a RM2.2 billion Kinrara Damansara Expressway (KIDEX) project to companies linked to UMNO lawyer Datuk Hafarizam Harun and recently retired Chief Justice Tun Zaki Azmi, who was also formerly UMNO’s Discliplinary Committee Chairman.
MRT Corp which oversees Malaysia’s largest infrastructure project in history, announced in November last year that RM19.8 billion of contract works have been awarded, with 45% or RM8.82 billion going to “bumiputera” companies.  Last week just before the festive break, another RM322 million worth of contracts were awarded.
In August last year, Najib also awarded the controversial RM1.2 billion Ampang LRT Extension contract to water meter manufacturer George Kent Bhd.  Despite having no experience in the rail industry, the local company with known links to the Prime Minister beat other experienced global players, including Balfour Beatty which submitted its tender at a significantly lower price. 
A month later, another RM1.33 billion contract was awarded to MRCB for other works on the same LRT line.
The above are just a shortlist of the billions of ringgit of contracts and privatisation agreements which have been signed by the Government in the last 12 months alone.  The rate at which these contracts are being dished out points to 2 things.  Firstly, there is a never seen before urgency to award large contracts before the general elections, clearly out of fear that there is a real likelihood that Barisan Nasional will lose power, hence the “Sapu Malaysia” mentality. 
Secondly, in dishing out these lucrative contracts, it is certain that BN is also desperately raising funds from their cronies in return, to fight their “life and death” mother-of-all-elections to ensure its survival.
There is hence no question that the possibility of a new Pakatan Rakyat federal government is very real. However, we will have to first overcome the dirtiest of all elections as BN will spare no expenses to “buy” victory in the polls with the massive war chest it would have raised.