Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Solid waste management strategy is just rubbish

Am I too pessimistic if I think that no good can possibly come from the new Solid Waste Management privatisation initiative?

A few reasons...

Additional fees. We all know that the concessionaires will charge new fees. The thing is that we already pay for solid waste management as part of the housing assessment and quit rent paid to the local councils. From past experience where local council services have been privatised, we find that the public has to pay new fees to the concessionaires - but their local council fees are not reduced to reflect the reduction of local council services. For instance, Indah Water charges RM2 to RM8 per month for sewerage services, but the assessment and quit rent rates have not been reduced by the corresponding quantum. In fact, the local council rates have increased! for many urban municipalities.

Why is this? How do local councils justify higher rates after privatisation when privatisation means that they just cut their services to the public? Maybe they use the excess revenue to pay for more fashionable lounge suits, longer 'lawatan-sambil-belajar' to resort cities and those nifty thousand ringgit 'bunga mangga' lights that sit atop most of our street lamps.

As if additional fees imposed on the public isn't bad enough, there are also the matter of profit guarantees given to the concessionaires by the taxpayers. You gotta love this one. The concession agreements to date are so grotesquely one-sided in favour of the concessionaires, that Samy Vellu is still struggling to explain why expressway concessionaires enjoy virtual profit guarantees (as well as the right to escalate profit periodically without providing any additional services). On top of that they also get favourable financing from taxpayers money.

There is also a lack of transparency and consultation in the promulgation of the laws and in the selection of the concessionaires. I don't recall any public forums, nor solicitation of public opinion. Read this letter to Malaysiakini from FOMCA's president and this editorial from Sun2Surf. They list out the transparency issues much more comprehensively than I can. In addition, will the concessionaire agreements be made 'official secrets', so that the corruption and incompetence can be hidden from the public?

Lastly and quite disturbingly, it seems to me that the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Bill (SWPCM) 2007 is overly preoccupied with making sure the public pays whatever fees that will be demanded by the concessionaires... but it is much less concerned with the enforcement of performance standards on the part of the concessionaires. Read Sun2Surf's preview of the bill here.

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