As we’re heading towards a by-election that the ruling coalition “have to win”, expect to hear “good news” in the way of handouts and the fulfilment of election promises, whether partial or in full, as cost of living has been identified as one major point of dissatisfaction among the rakyat.

Expect to hear something regarding highway tolls. Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has hinted at an impending announcement by the government, saying that the cabinet has on many occasions discussed ways to address bread-and-butter issues faced by Malaysians, reported by The Star.

“It isn’t easy to solve certain problems, but we did not abandon our responsibilities. Many people criticise us for not fulfilling our manifesto pledges. Maybe there are one or two issues such as tolls. We just discussed this in the cabinet. Maybe in a day or two, Pakatan Harapan will have a statement regarding tolls,” the home minister said in a ceramah yesterday night.

He declined to elaborate. “I can’t give any statement because the minister involved will be making an announcement,” he added.

Looking back at the archives, in November last year, works minister Baru Bian said that his ministry has been given six months to hold discussions and settle the “toll issue”. This was followed by the works ministry saying that it will appoint an independent auditor in January 2019 to study the issue of toll collection. This move’s aim was to assist the government in obtaining data and recommendations, plus analysis on the reduction of toll rates in the short, medium and long term.

“The analysis results are expected to be submitted to the cabinet for consideration and consent in May next year,” he told parliament then, in reply to a question on when the government would be expected to stop toll collection at the Penang Bridge and North-South Expressway as promised in Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto.

With pressure being ramped up by opposition figures such as ex-PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak and the constant stream of by-elections it has to face, the PH government might not have the luxury to wait till May.

Fulfilling this particular election promise won’t come cheap though. In December, finance minister Lim Guan Eng revealed that the government will have to fork out RM972.75 million in compensation to 21 highway concessionaires for them to not raise toll rates in 2019.

Among the highways that are eligible for a toll fare hike this year (now frozen) are the Shah Alam Expressway (KESAS), Duta-Ulu Klang Expressway (DUKE) and the Damansara-Puchong Expressway (LDP).

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