Thursday, 9 December 2010

Water rates hike, Pulau Pinang and Kedah raised tariff without fanfare but Selangor making a meal out of the issue

This is intresting news about the double standards being practised in the Pakatan states. In Pulau Pinang and Kedah the DAP and PAS State Government have raised theirs without fanfare but in Selangor the PKR Government is just dragging its feet and making a meal out of the water issue. As it turned out in truth the PKR Government has been offered by the Federal Government to buy out not just SYABAS but also Puncak Niaga, Syarikat Pengeluaran Air Selangor and Konsortium ABASS.

W(h)at-er politics in Selangor!
THU, 09 DEC 2010 16:47

KUALA LUMPUR: W(h)at-er politics in Selangor! It appears that it all boils down to politics when it comes to Selangor's water restructuring exercise which has been dragging on for the past few months.

In Selangor, the PKR-led state government is dragging its feet over the approval of water tariff increase as sought by Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas).

Last Sunday, the state government even took its supporters to the streets to hand over a memorandum to Istana Negara, seeking intervention by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin on the issue of restructuring the Selangor water supply industry.

But up north, two states controlled by PKR's allies – DAP in Penang and PAS in Kedah – have increased the water rates this year, despite their pledge not to burden the rakyat.

A research house, AmResearch, in a note on Monday said the latest development where Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim handed over the memorandum to Istana Negara on Sunday, indicated that political factors were the main cause for the deadlock.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise when the research house noted that the deadlock surrounding negotiations on Selangor's water industry was due to the evolving federal-state relationship as the state was pushing for the rights of its water resources – now under Syabas – be returned to the state government.

This, despite the federal government, through the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry, issuing a statement, three days ago, that they had never stopped the Selangor government from taking over, not only Syabas, but all water concession companies in the state.

The four concessionaires are Syabas, Puncak Niaga Sdn Bhd (PNSB), Syarikat Pengeluaran Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (SPLASH) and Konsortium ABASS.

Across-the-board increase

One of the main arguments used by the Selangor government is that they want the water resources back in their turf as they do not want an increase in tariff that could burden the people.

However, some Barisan Nasional (BN) supporters are arguing that states controlled by Pakatan Rakyat, such as Penang and Kedah, also increased their water tariff, even higher than in Selangor.

But there were no protests from supporters of the parties concerned.

"When Penang and Kedah announced in late September that there would be higher water tariffs for the two states, party members did not protest, although some associations and individuals objected," said Kedah Gerakan Youth chief Tan Keng Liang.

He said that while Penang had claimed that its action would only affect trade consumers, Kedah was increasing the rates across the board.

Trade consumers in Penang are paying 27% more for water while Kedah was imposing an increase of between 10 sen and RM1.20 per 1,000 litres – or an average increase of 27 per cent – for domestic, commercial and industrial usages.

The new rates in Kedah were effective Oct 1, while in Penang, the new tariff began on Nov 1.

On top of that, Tan said Penang had imposed a conservation surcharge of 24 sen per 1,000 litres for domestic users consuming more than 35,000 litres of water, also effective Nov 1.

"When these two states increased their tariffs, they did not organise street protests, and their leaders said it (increase) was long overdue. However, when it involves Selangor, they disagreed, saying the increase was too high. Why the double standards?" he asked.

Unreasonable surchage

In fact, he said, the Penang government's move to impose a surcharge on water tariff would burden the lower income group, especially those with large households and this was also against Pakatan's common policy framework (CPF) unveiled last December.

"Under paragraph H of the CPF, the Pakatan pledge stated that providing and maintaining good public infrastructure was the government’s responsibility. The coalition pledged to Malaysians that the implementation should not burden the people and it would guarantee clean water at reasonable rates to every family in Malaysia," he said.

Therefore, Tan said, the Pakatan government imposed a surcharge of 24 sen per 1,000 liters on domestic consumers using more than 35,000 litres of water per month.

"This clearly fails to take into account that the number of persons in each household varies as the average 35,000-litre consumption was an estimation based on five persons per household.

"What about large families with 10 members and more? The surcharge would be unreasonable on them, especially on those living in the lower income bracket,” he said.

Tan reasoned it should not be a hasty move that unfairly burdened the people.

"Otherwise, it can be assumed it is a mere attempt to increase water tariff under the guise of curbing water wastage,” he said.

- Bernama

One thing consistent with the Pakatan State Government are their inconsistencies and double standards not just on water matters.

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