Saturday, February 11, 2006

Another 'piratization' in process

It is simply outrageous!

It started with highways and extended to various aspects of the public services including power supply, water supply, sewerage management, garbage collection, public car parks, medical care, tertiary education and etc. The latest is the privatization of 3 main rivers in the Selangor state, namely Sungai Selangor, Sungai Kelang and Sungai Langat under the pretext of beautification of the rivers.

Announcing the proposed 30-year concession to be awarded to a state-owned company, the state government had resorted to the similar lame excuse of insufficiency of fund to maintain the river to justify the privatization. If even the government of the most advanced state in Malaysia had no sufficient fund to preserve and maintain its natural resources, it would be certainly ironic and beyond comprehension that a state-owned company was expected to have the resource to do the same job.

Under the 30-year concession, the company will be permitted to harvest sand and initiate commercial development along the rivers and in return it has to maintain and beautify the rivers. If the project were viable and profitable, why then should the state government privatize it to the company? The state government should do it itself to enrich the state coffers rather than privatize it to the state-owned company.

The most amusing statement was made by the DID director-general Datul Keizul Abdullah who said that the privatization will relieve the department the responsibility to carry out flood mitigating measures along rivers and that the department will be able to spend the funds saved on other needy areas.

Is it not one of the fundamental responsibilities of the DID to carry out flood mitigating measures? What could be ‘the other needy areas’ that need so much of fund that the fund used for flood mitigation could be considered as being spent at the expense of ‘the other needy areas’?

Keizul further said that the whole river basin must be covered by the privatization and not only the lucrative parts of the rivers. With all our bad experiences in all other privatization projects in Malaysia, it will be too good to believe that that will be the case. We will soon see the reverse.

With the natural resources being privatized, the only thing left behind will be the state government itself. Probably not too long from now, the state government will also be put up for privatization for the reason that it has insufficient fund to have it run.
And the concessionaire will again be another state-owned company!

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