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RM6.2b for tolled highways better spent elsewhere, says economist

KUALA LUMPUR: Economist Muhammed Abdul Khalid criticised the finance ministry’s decision to acquire four urban tolled highways for RM6.2 billion, according to a report today in Free Malaysia Today

He said the money would be better spent on education or public transport.

Speaking to reporters after a forum at Universiti Malaya here yesterday, Muhammed said the proposed acquisition would fail to reduce the cost of living by any significant degree without exposing the government to additional debt.

“The majority of people won’t see a single sen in benefits because the toll rates during peak hours will be the same,” said Muhammed, who is the economic adviser to the prime minister.

He also said very few people would benefit from the discount from traveling at night.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng announced that the government would acquire the Kesas, LDP, SPRINT and Smart Tunnel from Gamuda Bhd during the tabling of the 2020 Budget on Oct 11.

The move was also criticised by transport expert Rosli Azad Khan, who described the RM6.2 billion cost as exorbitant especially given that the Kesas concession would expire in 2028.

Muhammed also had an alternative suggestion on the RM450 million allocation to give RM30 to those aged 18 and above who earn less than RM100,000 a year.

“Perhaps we could take a portion of the money from the Cost of Living Aid and put it into the e-wallet,” he said. “Then you save half a billion ringgit that could be used for other purposes.”

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