Earlier this week, it was reported that the government had postponed plans to abolish toll collection because it does not have the means to absorb the financial impact of such a move, with works minister Baru Bian saying the government would have to pay concessionaires an estimated RM400 billion in compensation if tolls were abolished.

However, Damansara MP Tony Pua says that a toll buyout will cost less than RM400 billion, because that figure is an estimation by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government, which takes into account forecasted profits.

Pua, who is also the special officer to finance minister Lim Guan Eng, said that any compensation would be paid based on the rate included in the contract and exclude future profit, reports The Star.

“That is why it will not reach RM400 billion. The figure that we will use – and at the moment we have no intention to do so – should we decide to buy out toll concessionaires will only be based on the contract compensation rate, which is the value of the construction cost,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, when asked by reporters, Baru admitted that the RM400 billion figure was that based on BN’s findings, Berita Harian reports. “Yes, (RM400 billion) is from the PEMANDU report done by the previous government,” he said.

He acknowledged that the quoted sum includes future compensation and benefits as Pua indicated, but said that there was no need for the government to recalculate the cost of a buyout. “That (re-cost) is irrelevant as the government has decided to postpone (the toll abolishment) because of the country’s financial situation, so there should be no dispute about cost,” he said.

He declined to comment on Pua’s claims that the cost of the acquisition would cost less than RM400 billion. “If he said so, there must be a basis behind the figure, but I can’t deny it or say it is wrong,” he said.

In its GE14 election manifesto, Pakatan Harapan (PH) promised to abolish tolls in stages if it formed the federal government. Baru had said that the plan to abolish toll collection would be explored when the country’s economy stabilises.

“After taking into account this factor (of having to fork out RM400 billion), the government has agreed to postpone the proposal to abolish tolls until our economy really stabilises and allows for it. The government will, however, study other options that we may deem to be more practical in order to reduce the cost of living for the rakyat,” he said at the Dewan Rakyat earlier this week.