According to prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, abolishing tolls will be a burden to the government’s finances. The recent statement echoes what both the works and finance minister previously stated.

In a report by The Star, the premiere said removing tolls on the North-South Expressway, for instance, would cost the government RM30 billion. “This money can be better spent to pay debts and will ease the government’s financial burden,” he said.

For now, the government is obtaining feedback from the private sector on how toll rates can be reduced, but has not come to a decision on anything at the moment.

The issue of abolishing tolls, which was included in Pakatan Harapan’s GE14 manifesto, has been a convoluted one. In the beginning, the idea was to abolish tolls in stages within the first 100 days of governing, but this was later delayed to monetary priorities.

Later on, works minister Baru Bian stated that there will be no abolishment of tolled roads until the country’s finances have recovered, noting that it would cost about RM400 billion to abolish all tolls in one go. Instead, alternatives such as reducing toll rates, granting discounts during off peak hours and ensuring no increase in toll rates were suggested.

Near the end of 2018, finance minister Lim Guan Eng revealed the government needed to pay almost RM1 billion in compensation to highway toll concessionaires for 2019. This is due to the government’s decision to freeze toll hikes and abolish motorcycle tolls on certain highways.

More recently, in February, the government said it was in talks to negotiate the acquisition of highway concessions, although a congestion charge system was also mooted.