Undertake MBO of toll concessionaires, make roads free -- Subang MP

By S. Joan Santani

KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 (Bernama) -- The Pakatan Harapan government should undertake the management buyouts (MBOs) of highway toll concessionaires so that roads and highways are made free to benefit the people and not be used as tools for profiteering.

In making the suggestion, Member of Parliament for Subang Wong Chen said this, combined with the revision of tolls to be announced early next week, would further lighten the financial burden of the people over the long run.

He said the MBOs could be undertaken in the next one or two years once the new government has consolidated its financial position.

He made these remarks in response to questions raised during Bernama News Channel (BNC)'s live Biz Talk programme hosted by Mikhail Raj Abdullah last Friday.

He also proposed that the government undertake the MBOs of government-linked companies (GLCs) which have been criticised for competing with private sector firms.

In doing so, Wong said managers in GLCs should ensure that the companies chalk up better profits, which could then be channelled back to the Federal government and be utilised to pare down national debt as well as help the people.

This is turn would create a big class of owner-managers and in the process, level the playing field for all the other private sector companies.

He also said it was best that politicians do not hold positions in GLCs.

The GLCs should be detached from the direct influence of the government, he added.

The Pakatan Harapan lawmaker said the government should study these options in efforts to accumulate more revenue for its coffers before embarking on MBOs of toll companies and GLCs.

"Whether we can afford to buy up all these tolls later and make them free is an issue of fiscal prudence and what the economic priority should be," he said.

Wong said with the revision on toll rates, consumers should be paying less and 'that's at least a start' in lessening the people's burden.

On whether there was a dire need to break up monopolies or cartels in certain sectors and allow for healthy competition, he said they could be de-regulated and ensure they were not making excessively obscene profits.

"I think the approach is whether they are making too much money at the expense of the consumers," he said.

Through deregulation, licensing could be eased to enable greater competition such as in the telecommunications sector.

A common feature of the Malaysian business landscape are monopolies where companies linked to political parties are actually cartels in areas such as concessionaires running tolled highways and telecommunications.