And so here we are, back to the same topic we have discussed two years ago because someone has brought it up again. Should the federal government buy out the North South Expressway (NSE) tolls and make it free?
The whole concept requires us to think on a few levels because it involves a lot of things – upkeep and maintenance, who will be using it free of charge for the most part, and even whether the federal taxpayers from Perlis and all the way to Sabah and Sarawak would want it.
Let us start with the most obvious – who uses the NSE on a daily basis, raise your hands. If you are a truck driver hauling concrete and cement, a container, a refrigerated transport company – whichever logistics driven first would be the majority.
The rest of Malaysians in the majority would not, and would probably say perhaps one or twice every three months. Thus, are we suggesting removing tolls for the benefit of – how many people, exactly?
Secondly, no, EPF account holders would not agree in the majority to make the NSE free. You can ask them, which tolled highway they would want to abolish and I will tell you it will mostly be a highway in Kuala Lumpur or the Penang Bridge.
Because this is where most of the EPF account holders work in the majority, and these are the tolled roads which they use, and many of those employees out of state do not contribute to the EPF in a majority.
Thirdly, removing the NSE will mean forgoing a toll collection from everyone, including the Thais, the Singaporeans, the Ferrari, Audi, even Hummer drivers – from actually paying more for upkeep when they can afford it. So, why would we want to subsidise the rich yet again?
In fact, we will also be subsidising companies by making logistics cheaper for them, without even the ability to collect back maintenance fees for the roads through increased taxes. Even then, we would be charging more taxes on companies which don’t even use the NSE to fund its upkeep.
So, how now, brown cow?
Tolls are not a straightforward thing, in fact I hate them with a passion since we still have that one Batu Tiga till from Shah Alam to use the Federal Highway which was supposed to be abolished last year. We in Shah Alam now have to wait another 15 years before the contract is up once again.
But as angry as we are, those living in Klang have it off even worse for having to go through two toll gates just to reach the Federal Highway.
We need to consider the following – can the government federalise the NSE and still toll the roads to gain enough for the maintenance of the highways and as an income stream?
It could, but it should consider just how much it will charge. While more cars use the highways, it is the heavy trucks and vehicles which should be paying more for the upkeep. This is what I have been told.
Instead, what has happened thus far is that the amount of tolls collected from cars are in fact paying off the maintenance caused by heavy vehicles. In short, our toll ringgits are already being used to subsidise logistics for companies.
Can toll rates for cars and public transport be lowered and the charges pushed to heavy transport instead, since they are the main reason for the horrible road conditions?
Also, why are those with luxury cars getting the same rates as the fellow driving a Myvi or a Saga, or even the Exoras and all?
Vehicles in Korea come with an RFID chip planted in license plates as part of the smart town system to control street lighting and traffic monitoring. Perhaps we should do this to specify two separate rates for the tolls between the rich and the less prosperous.
The tolls should stay until we very well consider just what we are doing with it, instead of just following some blowhard with a so-called populist agenda who turns out to just want to help million ringgit businesses cut costs.
Source : Hafidz Baharom@The Heat Malaysia Online