In a previous post entitled “Malaysia, Singapore, Johor and the VEP” (http://wp.me/p29uog-8i), it was alluded that the impending introduction of Malaysia’s version of the VEP, as announced by Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib himself, is part of a package put forward in a resolution drafted with an eye to address several issues that needed serious attention.
Amongst the issues were that of national security, cross border criminal activities, petty smuggling including subsidised goods eg essential household items, diesel, and petrol etc, human trafficking, traffic and other legal violations, as well as for the maintenance and upgrade of infrastructure in the front-line states of Johor, Sabah, Sarawak, Perlis, Kedah and Kelantan.
As a start, it was proposed that ALL foreign registered vehicles passing through Malaysian borders were to be registered with the Malaysian authorities, whether the Malaysian authority entrusted with the task is the Road Transport Department (RTD or JPJ, to use it Bahasa Malaysia acronym) or SPAD (Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat or literally translated as Land Public Transport Commission) is an issue that needs to be sorted out by Putrajaya.
At this point of the proposal, the introduction of the VEP is not of prime importance, until and unless the structure for vehicular entry into Malaysia has already been finalised. This includes the number of days for free entry if any, free entry times if any, etc etc etc.
These are some of the fine details that need to be addressed to ensure the smooth introduction of the VEP. And as smooth as an introduction it must be, for all concerned.
With the register of ALL foreign registered vehicles entering Malaysia up and running, Malaysian authorities would not only avail of data for the upkeep and maintenance of the infrastructure currently available but also of data to assist in the planning of new infrastructure as well as traffic flow within a certain radius from the immigration entry points.
The newly set up register would also assist in the tracking of vehicles known either for its use in criminal activities either side of the Malaysian borders as well as for its use by known criminal elements or even for cases as petty as insurance scams or as serious as armed robberies or kidnappings or human trafficking.
However, what has happened since Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib announced that Malaysia will introduce the VEP is an example of mind-boggling proportions, of how to turn something that could have been accepted with a minimum of fuss AND with the approval of the population of the front line states especially in Johor Bahru, into something bordering on the farcical, IF it has not already crossed that line.
No less than an authority than the Malaysian Highway Authority’s (MHA or LLM, using its Bahasa Malaysia acronym) Director General (DG), on the 26th July 2014, announced that effective August 1st, 2014, which was barely five days away, the toll rates on the Causeway of Johor Bahru will be revised from RM2.90 to RM9.70 for a Class 1 vehicle, defined as vehicles with two axles and three or four wheels aka cars (excluding taxis).
Although the new toll rate is applicable upon ENTERING Malaysia via the Causeway, it is still a big jump. BUT what is even more surprising is the introduction of a charge for all Classes 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 vehicles EXITING the country, which means to say that it applies to all vehicles including Malaysian registered vehicles.
These charges range from RM3.40 for taxis to RM6.80 for cars to RM13.60 for Class 3 vehicles ie vehicles with three or more axles. And no matter how one explains it or try to explain it, the rationale seems centred around the EDL or Eastern Dispersal Link, the elevated highway built to disperse traffic heading into Johor Bahru city.
Although the new charges only applies for the Causeway, it is still a tactless and reckless statement to release. Why? Because in my view, it is the wrong statement at the wrong time.
It is as if the whole idea behind the introduction of the VEP is EDL-centric (whereas the proposal for the VEP was based at a country-wide level), and makes one wonder whether this statement had been vetted before it was released.
If so, who did the vetting? Did they study the implications for such a statement? Although toll is toll and VEP is VEP, did they not know the implications of releasing such a statement without adequate notice?
And why the introduction of an ‘EXIT LEVY’ for outbound Malaysian vehicles to Singapore? And do they know that not all who drives into Singapore uses the EDL?
As it is now, it would be safe to say that almost everybody, IF not everybody, is up in arms over the implications of the statement.
So up in arms are the people of Johor Bahru, that Singapore’s increase in their VEP, also effective on August 1, 2014 from S$20 to S$35 a day for foreign registered vehicles and from S$10 to S$40 a day for foreign registered goods vehicles, slipped quietly into the night without a whimper.
The announcement that the rates had been revised may have come a wee bit too late after protest after protest has been voiced out by dissatisfied parties, as the damage has already been done.
Because no matter how you re-package or re-brand or spin the announcement, the fact of the matter is that IT DID NOT GO DOWN WELL AT ALL WITH THE MALAYSIAN PUBLIC ESPECIALLY IN JOHOR BAHRU ESPECIALLY THE ‘EXIT LEVY’.
Whats worse, the damage will ultimately end up at the door of the Barisan government, at both the state level and the national level. So damaging it is that when PRU14 comes in 2018 (when its due), this will be an issue that the Opposition will raise to make issue with Barisan Nasional. In other words, this is golden political capital handed over to the Pakatan Rakyat on a silver platter. In football parlance, it’s an OWN GOAL.
Question is, can the Barisan Nasional afford this? Especially when one notes that Johor Bahru, not only being the birthplace of UMNO but also being the only major state capital still represented by UMNO and Barisan Nasional, with the other major state capitals already in the hands of Pakatan Rakyat.
Does UMNO and by extension, Barisan Nasional want to lose this seat as well?
Its better that, all things considered, the introduction of these new rates be suspended and a proper study be done PROPERLY before any further announcements be made on the subject of toll and VEP rates.
Following that, set a target date when the new toll rates and VEP charges would come into effect and made announcements to that effect well in advance, giving Causeway users ample time to understand and plan accordingly.
For after all, if ever there were to be a lesson learnt from this fiasco, it is that five days advance warning is not enough.
Is the whole thing impossible? With the professionals and experts that we have, it is not impossible. Afterall, we do have more than our fair share of competent people in our country and not just incompetent ones.
Just like any other country. None exempted.
And by the way, did the people in Putrajaya, whoever they may be, who allowed this statement to be released checked with the people in Nusajaya first? Or did they not bothered to do so?