Former Johor MB rejects Pakatan govt’s second water operator plan

Ben Tan
Former Johor mentri besar Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin criticised the PH state’s arguments for a new water company as “shallow”, and challenged Osman to disclose if he had initiated discussions with the current water company to buy its shares. — Picture by Hari Anggara

JOHOR BARU, Aug 17 — The Johor Pakatan Harapan (PH) government is being impractical in opting to set up a second company to manage the state’s water services, former mentri besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said today.

The Umno vice-president echoed his party lawmakers who earlier urged the PH state government to reconsider the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration’s proposal to buy out the existing water utility operator SAJ Ranhill Sdn Bhd as the best way to regulate tariffs, one of the highest in the country.

“I will not let Johor’s water issue be taken lightly by the state government as this is a serious matter involving the interests of the people of Johor as a whole,” Mohamed Khaled said in a 19-point statement.

He acknowledged that SAJ Ranhilll has been performing subpar as the state water company, but asserted that establishing a new water services operator means the state would have to start from scratch, including finding investors.

“Firstly, when setting up a new water utility company, this means we have to start from nothing. No assets, no equipment, no infrastructure, no workers, no sufficient resources.

“Won’t all of this will be difficult? In fact, it will take a very long time to succeed in addition to ensuring that this process is carried out smoothly without disrupting the water services in Johor,” the 59-year-old said.

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian told the state legislative assembly last Monday that a new water services operator was needed it was easier to start a new company than take over from an unprofitable one, indicating that the state was not in a position to negotiate favourable buyout terms as the decision to sell a controlling stake was in the hands of SAJ Ranhill’s parent company.

Khaled criticised the PH state’s arguments for a new water company as “shallow”, and challenged Osman to disclose if he had initiated discussions with the current water company to buy its shares.

The Umno man said that it makes more sense to buy SAJ Ranhill’s shares now when they were low.

Khaled further challenged the MB to publicly explain his plan, saying it was unclear what would happen if two companies were in charge of water services in Johor.

At present, the state government has a 20 per cent stake in SAJ Ranhill, but it is not a controlling stake with decision making powers.

The previous BN state administration did not get any returns or profit from the investment.

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