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By Boo Su-Lyn
The Malaysian Insider
KUALA LUMPUR | Feb 4, 2013

Putrajaya’s extra allocation of RM120 million to Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) proves that the Selangor water crisis is caused by Syabas’ failure to upgrade its infrastructure, the DAP’s Tony Pua said today.

Pua, who is the party’s publicity chief, said this showed that the state’s water woes had nothing to do with a raw water shortage, which the federal government has insisted can be best prevented through the multi-billion ringgit Langat 2 treatment plant in Selangor.

“Instead, it proved that the crisis was a result of a deliberate under-investment by Syabas to upgrade its treatment plants, build additional treated water capacity, as well as repair and replace old and broken pipes,” said Pua  in a statement.

“With the RM120 million meant for the above exercise, it showed that the current crisis could have been prevented had Syabas invested its own funds on the exercise earlier,” added the Petaling Jaya Utara MP.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced last Saturday a RM120 million allocation for Syabas, on top of a total of RM606 million previously allocated to the water utility.

Pua stressed today that neither the federal nor the state government are obligated to provide financial aid to Syabas to upgrade its infrastructure under the water concession agreement.

“Hence, the RM120 million handout to Syabas is not a grant by the federal government intended to assist the people of the state but is instead a well-disguised scheme to bail out Syabas,” he said.

The DAP MP pointed out that the federal government extended a 20-year RM320.8 million zero-interest soft loan to Syabas in 2009, another 20-year RM110 million loan in October 2011, and then later took over Syabas’ RM2.9 billion bond.

“To date, the minister of energy, green technology and water, Datuk Peter Chin, has not revealed if Syabas has even repaid a single sen of the RM2.9 billion bond bailout by the federal government. Over the above period, the BN (Barisan Nasional) government has already extended bailout funds of RM3.41 billion to Syabas in total,” said Pua.

“Despite the repeated offers by the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) Selangor state government to acquire Syabas or even to terminate the Syabas concession for the latter’s failure to fulfil its obligations, the federal government has refused to support Selangor’s offer or to agree to the termination of the concession,” he added.

Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said yesterday that Putrajaya’s RM120 million aid to Syabas will not solve the state’s water supply problems.

He also said that the need for additional aid was proof of Syabas’ alleged failure to manage the state’s water resources, insisting that a restructuring of the industry, which includes a takeover of Syabas by Selangor, would be the best approach.

Treated water supply in the country’s most developed state has become major campaign fodder in the run-up to Election 2013 after Syabas raised the alarm in 2011 of a possible crisis in the near future due to near-zero reserves at the state’s water treatment plants.

PR promised domestic consumers free water up to 20 cubic metres on a monthly basis after it took over the Selangor government from BN in Election 2008.

PR has recently locked horns with the BN federal government and Syabas, the sole supplier of treated water in the rich state as well as the two neighbouring federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, for the past four years over the Klang Valley’s water crisis.

The blame game between the private firm and the Selangor government has gone on for months and took a new turn earlier last month when the Khalid administration mooted a media drive, relating the state’s version of events plus a weekly update of the water problem, alleging that a recent disruption was due to Syabas’ poor upkeep leading to faulty pumps in urban Wangsa Maju and Pudu Hulu Baru.

Khalid then announced last Wednesday his administration’s plan to buy over Syabas and other water concessions in the state to sustain its cheap water policy.

He was reported last Saturday as saying that his administration had yet to receive a formal response from Putrajaya over Selangor’s plans to buy over Syabas.

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