Open letter to Selangor Pakatan leaders

AS a taxpayer and long-time resident of Petaling Jaya, I write this open letter to address concerns about the value of investment of the Petaling Jaya Dispersal Link (PJD Link).

I have gathered information on “Key features of private finance initiative (PFI) for PJD Link”.

Also, the highlight where the PJD Link will be “fully funded” by the private sector without government subsidies using this PFI.

For about 10 years, the risk of the former highway project that was known as Kidex, now renamed PJD Link, is similar with the large-scale construction project management that was going to cut through Petaling Jaya.

We the rakyat have time and again informed that the better selection of transport mode is public transport, not highways. The costs are cheaper, more number of passengers can be transported, costs will not be transferred to the public and there will be no permanent infrastructure and environmental damage.

The public transport route runs along the same alignment, of which the PJD Link is suggesting. This is the “shortest path and passes through various dense communities”.

Nothing that a good bus system running along the inner lanes of the three-lane highway cannot do. It should reduce the number of cars dramatically during peak hours.

As for the PJD Link, it was marketed extensively to help build the stagnant economy, provide jobs and improve the transport functionalities of the state, which the public sector cannot deliver. Or does it really do as it claims?

As a project manager in my 23 years of working experience, I have encountered many obstacles in relation to delivery, specific to budget, scope and schedule. In particular, contracts that are privately funded, but parked under PFI. PFIs have extremely high risks.

PFI is, generally, a private company handling the upfront costs instead of the government.

The PJD Link’s costs will then be leased to the public and the government authority makes annual payments to the company. Often, it is synonymous with public-private partnership.

However, the people have often noticed that such initiatives have dire consequences.

Who is to say that should the project fail (to recoup costs, didn’t provide necessary value to state or fail to be built in time) that the exorbitant cost will be paid up by the said private equities? Wouldn’t it not be transferred to the public?

Case in point: in corporate Malaysia, there have been too many “hidden hand deals” that have occurred, where bailouts after bailouts involving substantial amounts, all borne by the people. A recent one being Sapura Energy Berhad.

For the PJD Link project, it follows a similar trajectory of highway projects.

The PJD Link is said to cost RM8-9 billion (year 2020 pricing), up from RM2.6 billion in 2012.

Furthermore, this costing model was never made public.

For far too long, there have been many projects that have been bailed out by the government due to extreme cost overruns, not to mention failed planning and rework.

In conclusion, we the rakyat ask for the follows:

1. The state assemblymen demand for transparency of the PJD Link cost structure;

2. PJD Link Sdn Bhd to provide entire studies, related to PFI, risks, outcomes and benefits;

3. PJDLink Sdn Bhd to provide outcome of pending Environmental Impact Assessment, Social Impact Assessment and Traffic Impact Assessment, if they are ready;

4. Selangor executive councillor in charge of infrastructure Izham Hashim to provide the road map ahead without the PJD Link; and

5. Selangor executive councillor in charge of public transport Ng Sze Han to showcase a proper “transport blueprint” for Petaling Jaya.

The elections are around the corner. We the rakyat will not be able to fund exorbitant projects that last three generations. – May 22, 2022.

* Michael Kum reads The Malaysian Insight.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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