Barisan Nasional Strategic Communications unit (BNSC) explained that the Penang government of making a “most lopsided” toll agreement by allowing the special purpose vehicle (SPV) for the state’s undersea penang tunnel project to collect toll there for 30 years.

Its deputy director Eric See-To said a normal toll concession agreement would see the concessionaire having to finance the infrastructure’s construction itself and then collect toll to recover its investment and make profit.

“However in the case of the Penang Tunnel agreement, the state government is fully paying the SPV for the construction cost of the tunnel but they still allow the company to collect toll for 30 years – which would make this the most lopsided toll agreement in the world,” he said.

“The SPV would be able to make money from the construction of the tunnel, make money by developing the prime seaside state land given as payment and make even more money collecting toll for 30 years.

“Essentially – make money, make more money and make even more money,” he said in a Facebook post today.

See-To added that Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s answer on why the SPV was being allowed to collect toll for 30 years, despite being fully paid to construct the tunnel, was even more baffling.

In an open letter to the Consumers Association of Penang in March 2013, Lim had said: “The state government agreed to a toll for only 30 years as we did not want to go into a state of war with the federal government by not charging toll, as then the federal government will have legal grounds to stop the tunnel project by claiming that we are deliberately sabotaging the toll collection for the second bridge.”

He added that it was the reason the state had fixed the toll rate for the tunnel at the same rate as the Second Penang Bridge.

See-To said Lim’s reasoning made no sense, claiming that there was nothing to stop a government from giving a cheaper or free alternative to existing toll roads.

The RM6.3 billion project, awarded to Consortium Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd, came under renewed scrutiny following a probe by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) this month,

The anti-graft agency had raided the offices of the Penang Public Works Department, Penang State Secretary, Penang Lands and Mines, and Penang Valuation and Property Services Department, as well as three property development and construction companies.

 

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