Push for transparency in toll projects

fd_18Feb2015_theedgemarkets

-A +A

KUALA LUMPUR: The decision by the Selangor government to cancel the approval given to the Kinrara-Damansara Expressway (Kidex) may force the federal government to be more transparent in handling future toll highway projects, especially those that run through Selangor.

When contacted, Selangor executive councillor (exco member) Ean Yong Hian Wah said the state government’s decision on Monday would push the federal government to discuss with the state authorities at an earlier stage, before any new highway project is planned in the state.

“Previously, the state was not consulted before any highway project was put forward [until a later stage],” he said.

More importantly, Ean Yong, who is also in charge of local government matters, argued that the cancellation of the Kidex highway will push for all the privatised mega projects to be implemented in a more transparent manner.

“Everything has to be in the open and not in the dark. At the end of the day, the people will have to pay for it,” he added.

Senior exco member Datuk Teng Chang Kim also told The Edge Financial Daily that the federal government only consulted the state government on Kidex after the concession agreement was signed between the federal government and the concession holder, Kidex Sdn Bhd. He said it should be done before the agreement is signed.

However, Teng does not think the matter will drag the state government into another tussle with the federal government and believes the matter should not be perceived as a battle between the two governments.

He believed the issue is more on the state government having to deal with the grievances of the Selangor people and that Kidex Sdn Bhd has not been able to provide satisfactory information on the highway project.

Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali announced on Monday that the Kidex project was cancelled as its concession holder Kidex Sdn Bhd had failed to fulfil the conditions set by the government.

Nevertheless, an announcement with Bursa Malaysia by Premier Naflin Bhd had stated that Kidex Sdn Bhd has not received any communication from the state government on this matter. Premier Naflin was planned to be the listed vehicle for the highway project.

The state’s bold decision has caused uncertainties about the status of several upcoming highway projects that were approved by the federal government.

Speculation is rife that the next highway project that could risk facing a similar fate is the RM3.4 billion Damansara-Shah Alam Highway (Dash), which has seen protests by some residents in the affected areas.

The 20.1km-long Dash highway was designed to connect Puncak Perdana in Shah Alam to the Penchala interchange, through densely-populated areas such as Kota Damansara, Damansara Perdana and Mutiara Damansara.

It was reported that Mohamed Azmin had met with Dash’s developer, Projek Lintasan Kota Holdings Bhd (Prolintas), to discuss a realignment.

Apart from Dash, Prolintas will also undertake the RM4.18 billion Sungai Besi-Ulu Klang Expresssway.

Ean Yong said that the other upcoming highways in Selangor would have to be subjected to similar conditions set for the Kidex highway.

Meanwhile, a source in the state government said that any decision by the state government on the upcoming projects would be on a case-by-case basis.

“The approval will depend on whether the highway is needed by the local residents, and the environmental impact assessment among others,” he said.

Meanwhile, former Umno minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim stood by the Selangor state government’s decision and dismissed claims that it had no right to do so and could be sued.

The former de facto law minister, who at one time served the ruling Barisan Nasional administration, said land matters clearly fall under state jurisdiction as states have the power to determine the use of land.

“You cannot build houses without land, likewise for highways. The federal government can say what they want but it is states that decide on land issues.

“Selangor’s decision to cancel the [Kidex] project is legal. It is within their power,” he told The Malaysian Insider from Sydney, Australia, yesterday.

Zaid previously offered legal counsel to protest group Say No to Kidex.

Zaid was responding to the former menteri besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim’s aide Faekah Husin, who said the state government may be sued for cancelling the RM2.42 billion highway, adding that the agreement was inked between Putrajaya and the concessionaire.

She said the state government had no right to cancel the project as it was only tasked with providing land for the project.

 

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on February 18, 2015.