Details of highway takeover to be worked out later, says PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Details of the proposed highway takeover will be worked out later, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.

Speaking to reporters, the Prime Minister said the government had identified the urban and rural areas that it is going into.

“Details will be worked out later,” he said after the tabling of Budget 2020 by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng at the Dewan Rakyat today.

In the budget announcement, Lim said the cabinet will consider proposals including those from Khazanah Nasional Bhd to acquire or dispose of all shares of PLUS Malaysia Bhd.

Asked about the takeover of four highway concessions from Gamuda Bhd, Dr Mahathir said the four highways would be privatised.

He reiterated that the toll rates would be at least 18 per cent lower.

“That is not determined yet, but we have indicated the toll rates would be at least 18 per cent lower,” he said when asked whether the reduction would be after the takeover of PLUS Malaysia Bhd or immediately in 2020.

In his Budget 2020 speech today, Lim said the government has proposed a minimum reduction of average toll charges by 18 per cent across all PLUS highways.

The 18 per cent discount on toll charges for the North-South Expressway will save highway users up to RM1.13 billion in 2020 and RM43 billion over the entire concession period until 2038, Lim said, adding the government is going ahead with the plan to acquire four highways from Gamuda.

The takeover, first announced by the Finance Ministry in June, has been approved by the Cabinet, he said in the speech.

At the press conference later, Lim said the disposal of PLUS must not add to the country’s debt load or debt service charges.

“That means, the collection itself from the toll would be sufficient to pay off any debts incurred. That is the condition,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir said the government had not received “anything official” from India after a news report on India’s plan to restrict imports of Malaysian palm oil and other products.

“That is only reported, but we have not received anything official,” he said.

According to a news report, India is considering restricting imports of some products from Malaysia, including palm oil, in reaction to Dr Mahathir’s criticism of New Delhi for its actions in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, the prime minister said Malaysia’s credit rating is very good even though the government has decided to issue new Samurai bonds early next year.

Obviously our credit rating is very good because people are coming forward to offer funds for us to borrow. But of course we must take the best offer, he said.

Lim, when tabling the 2020 Budget, announced that the bond offer would be at a lower interest rate of less than 0.5 per cent compared to the previous rate of 0.63 per cent.

Source: BERNAMA (News Agency)