Daunting Prospect Of A Heavily Debt-Ridden Prasana Handling City’s BRT

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Phoong Jin Zhe
Phoong Jin Zhe

By PHOONG JIN ZHE
LETTER: DAP Sabah has been made aware of the one-billion ringgit Kota Kinabalu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project would be handled and implemented by Prasarana Malaysia Berhad, which had raised concerns among the public.

In a recent interview with Bernama (the national news agency), KK City Hall’s Traffic and Public Transport Department Director, Mr Kalvin Liaw stated that Prasarana Malaysia Berhad, the company which will be handling the said project, is a 100 per cent (federal) Finance Ministry-owned company.

This project was initially announced by the Prime Minister-cum-Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak during the 2016 budget announcement. Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Aman then said that the project will commence this year.

prasana

Prasarana which is well known for operating the LRT and bus assets in Klang Valley, has been reported as making ‘15 years of losses’ out of their 17 years of operation. It was also reported that the annual loss of the company reached a record high of RM885.6 million in their 2014 Financial Year. Apart from that, Prasarana had been carrying a total recorded debt of over RM20 billion in 2016. It was rated to be “very weak” by the RAM Ratings back in April 2016 due to heavy debts (later withdrawn in November 2016).

Due to poor financial capabilities, Prasarana’s years of demand in price hike on ticket fares was eventually approved by SPAD in December 2015.

These raises concerns on whether such a debt-ridden company will be able to carry out public transports project effectively in Kota Kinabalu for the benefit of the citizens.

the KK BRT project will be another overpriced project which could eventually lead to exorbitant and unaffordable ticket fares for the people in the city.
File photo of a Bus Rapid Transport system which runs on a dedicated bus lane. The concern is that the proposed KK BRT project will be an overpriced project which could eventually lead to exorbitant and unaffordable ticket fares for the people in the city.

Sunway BRT, which was deemed to be one of Prasarana’s failed projects, was reported to have 70 per cent of the RM634 million total construction cost to be borne by Prasarana itself. At RM117 million per km, it has no other options but to set the fare at an exorbitant price of RM5.40 for merely 5.4 km. At almost RM1 per km, Sunway BRT perhaps had been made to be one of the most expensive BRT projects in the world. As a result, the ridership of Sunway BRT has dropped significantly since its launch.

I am deeply worried that the KK BRT project will be another overpriced project which could eventually lead to exorbitant and unaffordable ticket fares for the people in the city. This will eventually be made into a white elephant project as the high ticket costs could deter people from riding it.

The question now is whether the Sabah state government or City Hall will be able to deliver this project without the interference from Prasarana and/or the Federal Finance Ministry. This also raises the issue of autonomy and decentralization particularly for Sabah as equal partners in the federation, in which DAP feels that the public transport services should be directly handled and operated by the state government or at municipal level.

The government should come clean on all these concerns and appear transparent to the people regarding this billion ringgit project.

Lastly, in line with the vision of equality taken on by DAP all these years, I hold on to the view that the KK BRT project should be open tendered, and at the same time be prioritized on increasing job opportunities for local people.

  • Phoong Jin Zhe is DAP Sabah Publicity Secretary-cum-DAPSY National Public Policy Director