Eighteen highways raised toll rates by a significant amount last week, and you can imagine how Malaysians felt when it was announced that it was to happen almost immediately.
By significant, I mean some of the hikes saw toll rates more than double!The news wasn’t received well by the people, especially those living in the Klang Valley, where most of the toll hikes went into effect.
Now, almost everybody here has been complaining that Malaysia’s economy is in a dire situation and something has to be done so that it doesn’t get worse.
Of course, the Government says otherwise and is trying hard to convince you that everything isn’t as bad as you think it is.
A popular argument used is that many other countries are also facing the same situation, or even worse.
So, we Malaysian must cope with it, and find solace in knowing that we are not alone.
Costs are slowly rising and instead of taking preventive, or remedial, steps, the Government is asking Malaysians to tighten their belts.
Sure. When the going gets tough financially, I can tighten my belt and try to cut costs. Cut back on holidays, have meals at home rather than splurge at restaurants, shop only during sales season, etc.
But once the cost of the most basic essentials start increasing, what can you tell Malaysians to do?
These are costs that you will have to incur whether you like it or not. Isn’t it just a bitch that the toll hike coincidentally occurs at what seems to be the worst possible time?
Now let me ask you a question – can you work and live in Klang Valley and totally avoid driving on a tolled highway?
I know I can’t get around the city without the use of a highway.
So, the only way anybody can save on toll cost is to not use tolled highways. Is there a free alternative? Of course there is. But the time spent on the road will increase many folds.
If you decide to take public transport, you’ll have to contend with walking to most places since we still haven’t settled the last mile issue (aren’t public transport rates also going to be reviewed as well?).
Sure, the toll hike is based on concessions signed many years ago and nothing can really be done about it now.
I would assume that those we entrust to negotiate these important concession agreements, would be rational enough to set provisions for the terms to be reviewed to fit with the times, right?
But then again, when was the last time these people did anything rational?
[This article originally appeared at English.AstroAwani.Com]