Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Singapore will match Malaysia's new Causeway tolls, says LTA

Need for revenue key reason for tolls
By Christopher Tan, The Straits Times, 2 Aug 2014

IT WOULD be easy to assume that Malaysia's decision to raise tolls for vehicles using the Causeway was a tit-for-tat reaction to Singapore's raising of its entry permit fee for foreign vehicles, which was announced early last month.

But that would be too simplistic a conclusion. In this instance, Malaysia's decision looks to be purely revenue-driven.

Singapore's raised vehicle entry permit provided a perfect opportunity for Malaysia to shore up its coffers to pay for various public projects, including the new RM1.27 billion (S$495 million) Eastern Dispersal Link - an expressway that connects the Johor Baru immigration complex to the North-South Highway.

If this were indeed a political spat, there would be other signs: a suspension or slowdown of joint projects such as the MRT extension to Johor Baru and cross-border high-speed rail link. So far, there has been no hint of this.

Also, if it were a tit-for-tat response, the toll rise would apply solely to Singapore cars. But the revision affects Malaysian vehicles, too.

This toll increase is separate from a proposed entry permit fee that Johor said it would apply by the end of this year.

Whatever the motivation, one thing is clear: the higher tolls - more than five times the previous rates for cars, lorries, taxis and buses - will be a royal pain to road users.

More so when Singapore eventually matches the increases.

Singapore's principle of matching toll rates goes back to when the Second Link opened in 1998. The Government said then that it was entitled to a share of the toll revenue, having spent $600 million on the project compared with the $200 million Malaysia spent.

To prevent diversion of traffic to the Causeway, tolls were introduced there as well.

While the rates and increases over the years have been fairly gradual, this is not so in the latest round.

Traffic is likely to shrink both ways. At present, 13,000 Malaysian cars and 19,000 buses cross over to Singapore daily while 45,000 Singapore vehicles enter Malaysia. (Motorcycles are exempted from the latest toll rise.)

Malaysia must have done its sums to conclude that the drop in traffic - and consequently, tourism spending and possibly future investments - will be marginal or temporary.

Chances are, Malaysians will feel the pinch more, simply because of the stronger Singapore currency.

Decision not to raise Causeway toll 'cost KL $4.3m monthly'
By Shannon Teoh Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 7 Aug 2014

A CABINET minister said the decision not to raise toll charges at the Causeway had cost the Malaysian government RM11 million (S$4.3 million) a month since 2012.

The steep toll increase that took effect on Aug 1 sparked an uproar and drew criticism even from members of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

Sources told The Straits Times that the Cabinet met yesterday to mull over measures to mitigate unhappiness over the nearly five-fold fare increase, but that a change in pricing was unlikely at this stage. "This is a revenue collection exercise. The government doesn't want to keep paying for it," one of the sources said.

The New Straits Times quoted Economic Planning Minister Abdul Wahid Omar as saying that the decision in 2012 not to impose a toll for the Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) had cost the government RM11 million each month to the concessionaire Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB).

He said options such as taking over the EDL - an elevated highway built to disperse traffic around Johor Baru that terminates at Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex - were mooted but deemed unnecessary. Money from the toll hike would cover MRCB's cost, he added in comments made prior to the Cabinet meeting.

Cars now pay RM16.50 for a round trip, up from only RM2.90 for entering Johor. Other vehicle types have been hit with similar increases.

The move has angered many in Johor, with the state's public works executive committee chairman Hasni Mohammad demanding that Putrajaya justify the sudden increase, the New Straits Times said.

Small-Medium Enterprises Association of Malaysia president Teh Kee Sin told The Straits Times that sudden changes like the toll increase made business planning difficult. "We may see a 10 to 20 per cent increase in prices of goods," he said.

Mr Lim Kit Siang, opposition MP for Gelang Patah in Johor, yesterday accused Prime Minister Najib Razak of breaking his 2012 promises not to apply toll charges on the EDL.

'Drastic Causeway toll hike will hurt businesses'
By Chia Yan Min, The Straits Times, 15 Aug 2014

TWO business chambers representing companies in Malaysia and Singapore have issued a joint statement warning that "drastic increases" in Causeway charges will have a detrimental economic impact.

The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) and the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) also called for an "extensive study... to alleviate the burden on various parties".

The statement was issued after a meeting yesterday in Batu Pahat, Johor, where both chambers solicited feedback from members on the issue.

The ACCCIM is the SCCCI's counterpart in Malaysia.

In a move that has sparked widespread public criticism, the Malaysian authorities raised toll rates on Aug 1. Private cars entering Johor from Singapore now pay a toll of RM9.70 (S$3.80), up from RM2.90. Drivers going from Johor to Singapore previously paid no toll but now must pay RM6.80 when leaving Malaysia.

The Land Transport Authority said Singapore will increase charges to match Johor's.

Once this occurs, drivers making a round trip can expect to pay about $12.80 in tolls compared with $2.30 before the changes at the Malaysia checkpoint.

The Singapore authorities also raised the Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) fee from $20 to $35 per day, from Aug 1. The Goods Vehicle Permit fee for foreign-registered vehicles also went up from $10 to $40 per calendar month.

While the increases in the VEP fee and toll charges will raise government revenue and reduce traffic congestion, "these drastic increases could deal a big blow to businesses of both countries", the two business chambers said.

Sectors such as transport, tourism, food and beverage, hospitality, retail and manufacturing are likely to be hit the hardest.

"At the same time, these drastic increases will have a domino effect on the prices of consumer goods, add to the burden of people and have a definite impact on their consumption ability."

Adjustments are acceptable, but the hikes should not be made too drastically or hastily, the statement added. The chambers urged both governments to "solicit relevant views and feedback" from the business community and general public.

Mr James Ow, executive chairman and chief executive of engineering service provider AnnAik, who attended yesterday's meeting in Johor, has 10 Malaysian workers; four of them have to commute to Singapore daily.

"They usually carpool to work and the higher fees mean they have to pay extra... it's quite a huge increase for them. We have to find a solution for the long term," said Mr Ow.

Expect to pay total Causeway tolls of about $12.80
By Hoe Pei Shan And Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 2 Aug 2014

MOTORISTS will soon have to pay higher toll rates on the Singapore side of the Causeway, after the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday that it will match Malaysia's new levies in the next few weeks.

With the adjustment, drivers of private cars will likely have to pay about $12.80 for a round trip to Malaysia, compared to $2.30 before the changes at the Malaysia checkpoint set in yesterday.

The Malaysian authorities raised the toll rates yesterday for vehicles entering Johor from Singapore, and introduced a new toll for those driving in the other direction. Cars pay a toll of RM9.70 (S$3.80), up from the previous RM2.90. Those travelling from Johor to Singapore previously paid no toll, but are now subject to a new charge of RM6.80.

While motorcycles continue to be exempted, drivers of buses, goods vehicles and taxis now also have to pay more at the Malaysia checkpoint.

Singapore "has a longstanding policy of matching our toll charges at the Causeway and Second Link to those set by Malaysia", a policy the latter is aware of, said an LTA spokesman. "As details of Malaysia's toll revisions were not made known to Singapore earlier, LTA would need some time to operationalise the changes," he added. "Should Malaysia reduce or do away with the toll charges, Singapore will follow suit."

Malaysia's move prompted some bus drivers ferrying factory workers from Johor to Singapore to protest yesterday morning, stopping their vehicles before the Johor checkpoint and refusing to pay. They blocked the bus lane at 5am and caused a massive jam, forcing the temporary suspension of four public bus services till 10am, after the congestion had eased. Affected workers and students coming into Singapore had to cross the Causeway on foot.

Both the Malaysian authorities and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore (ICA) said they will be monitoring the situation. ICA has also deployed more officers to ensure travellers are cleared smoothly without compromising security.

Lorry Association in Johor will not stage protest
By Faris Mokhtar, Channel NewsAsia, 2 Aug 2014

The president of the Johor Lorry Operators Association, Mr Anthony Tan, has refuted comments that the group plans to stage a protest next week against the hike in toll fares.

He was responding to statements made by the association's vice-president Mr Andrew Chia. Mr Chia had earlier on Saturday (August 2) told Channel NewsAsia that if the government did not reduce the fares, they might stage a protest.

Mr Chia said: "Our members are around 200 people and then almost 80 per cent travel to Singapore. We will deliver things to Singapore. We are waiting for an answer from the government - if they still maintain the toll hike, if they don't want to reduce, maybe, maybe we'll do it."

But according to Mr Tan, his deputy did not have the authority to make such comments. He had tried to contact Mr Chia but could not reach him.

"We have agreed that any statements made on this issue should go through me first. The association has made a stand previously that should we have any dissatisfaction on the issue of toll fares, we will go through the proper channels to air it. We will not go on strike because number one, it is illegal. And number two, we do not want to create trouble or havoc for other people. That is not right," Mr Tan told Channel NewsAsia in a phone interview on Saturday.

He added that the association's executive committee will conduct an internal inquiry on Mr Chia's comments before deciding the next course of action.

JB shops feel pinch as tolls kick in
Business suffers in places frequented by Singaporeans; Causeway traffic unusually light
By Yeo Sam Jo In Johor Baru, The Sunday Times, 2 Aug 2014

Shops at a Johor mall popular with Singaporeans experienced a significant dip in business yesterday, a day after tolls went up on the Malaysian side of the Causeway.

Petrol stations also saw fewer Singapore-registered cars as the impact from the higher tolls began to kick in.

Traffic was unusually smooth on the Causeway for a Saturday morning and even more so yesterday, which was the first weekend after Hari Raya Puasa.

"It usually takes up to two hours just to enter but, today, it took us less than an hour," said learning centre owner Fran William, 35, a Singaporean who made the trip yesterday.

This was a far cry from the chaos last Friday morning, when bus drivers on the way to Singapore refused to pay the new tolls and parked their vehicles before the Johor Baru checkpoint, causing a massive jam. Hundreds of bus passengers were forced to continue their journey on foot.

At Friday midnight, the toll for cars entering Johor was raised from RM2.90 (S$1.10) to RM9.70, while a new charge of RM6.80 also kicked in for cars returning to Singapore. Tolls for buses, taxis and goods vehicles were also raised.

That prompted the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to announce that it will match the new tolls in the next few weeks.

This means that cars making the round-trip will have to pay about $12.80 in toll charges, compared with $2.30 before.

With Malaysia also planning to introduce a fee of RM50 on Singapore-registered vehicles by year's end, businesses there admitted they are worried that more Singaporeans could end up staying away.

For clothing boutique SUB at City Square mall, located just a couple of kilometres from the Johor checkpoint, Singaporeans make up 70 per cent of its customers.

Sales assistant Fariha Razak said the number of Singaporean shoppers dipped by about 40 per cent yesterday.

"We are usually very crowded on weekends, but today is like a weekday - there is hardly anyone," said the 19-year-old, gesturing to an almost empty store. "Maybe it's because of the toll."

At shoe store Summit in the same mall, sales representative Fadziatul Niza Ahmad Jamali, 32, said that there were "not so many" Singaporeans, who make up about 80 per cent of the shop's clientele, yesterday.

"We usually have sales of up to RM12,000 in one day but, on Friday, we hit only about RM5,000," she said. "We're quite worried."

The number of Singapore customers at a Shell petrol station close to the Johor Baru checkpoint has also gone down by about 20 per cent over the last two days, said its cashier Aisya Aishah, 28.

"About 90 per cent of our customers are from Singapore. A lot of them will come every week to pump petrol," she said, adding that she hopes they will return once they get used to the higher tolls.

Singaporeans who made the trip yesterday said it was still "worth it" for now, because of the savings from cheaper food, groceries and petrol.

"I come about once a week to fill my tank and do my marketing," said 49-year-old chauffeur Mohamad Ali Yusoff. "I can save about $30 to $40 on petrol alone."

Mr William also heads to Johor for his groceries once a fortnight.

"It's just a lot cheaper here. A tin of milk powder for my kids can be half the price of one back home," said the father of two. "Even with the toll increase, we still save."

But with charges set to increase once LTA completes its move, and again after Malaysia introduces the vehicle entry fee, Mr William said he may have to think twice then about making a trip across the Causeway.

"We might come less frequently or just stop coming completely if it gets too expensive."

For those who commute regularly, the financial pinch would be even more painful.

Said businessman Patrick Chan, who drives from Singapore to Johor up to four times a week for work: "I'm worried about the RM50 - that is significant, about $80 more for me to pay each week."

The 45-year-old added: "It will hurt those like me pretty badly."

Malaysia announced its proposal for a vehicle entry fee after Singapore decided to increase its permit fees for foreign-registered cars entering this country. Starting this month, Malaysia-registered cars have to pay $35 for a daily permit, up from $20. Drivers of goods vehicles, who used to pay $10 for a monthly permit, now have to fork out $40.

These fees are separate from the toll charges, which have caused plenty of unhappiness among Malaysian commercial drivers.

Said Mrs Maggie Hui, the 56-year-old owner of Malaysian school bus service JK Megamaju: "If we have to pay more, we have to pass costs to the parents."

The Johor Lorry Operators Association made a U-turn yesterday after its vice-president, Mr Andrew Chia, first told Channel NewsAsia that if the Malaysian government did not reduce the fares, lorry drivers might stage their own protest this week.

The association's president, Mr Anthony Tan, later told the same news outlet that Mr Chia had no authority to say this and that there will be no strike as "we do not want to create trouble or havoc for other people". Instead, the association will "go through the proper channels" to air any dissatisfaction.

A spokesman for the Johor-Singapore Community Care Association also told The Sunday Times that the new toll charges are "unreasonably high". The association was started by a group of Singaporeans living in Johor to assist those who live and work there.

He said: "(We) would like to see an amicable solution that would not be a financial burden for citizens of both states, as they commute daily, be it to make a living, to conduct business or for leisure."

Huge Causeway jam as bus drivers strike
Some 200 drivers, ferrying workers to S'pore, stop before JB checkpoint
By Hoe Pei Shan And Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 2 Aug 2014

JOSTLING with hundreds of other commuters, 12-year-old Ee Tung Shuen trekked across the Causeway on foot at the crack of dawn yesterday to get to school after a strike carried out in protest over new Johor tolls brought traffic along some lanes to a standstill.

Taking effect yesterday, the new tolls mean vehicles have to pay about five times as much as before to enter and exit the Johor checkpoint. Buses pay $5.20 for a round-trip at the Malaysian side, up from 90 cents previously.

Unhappiness with the spike in such travel costs led an estimated 200 bus drivers, mostly ferrying workers from Malaysia to Singapore, to carry out what they called a "strike" yesterday, a participant told The Straits Times.

The Malaysian, who wanted to be known only as Ravi, said plans for the strike were spread by word of mouth, with drivers stopping their vehicles in the lanes before the Johor checkpoint to "ask the authorities why they (are) doing this". "The toll is too heavy... we drive in and out three times a day, so the new tolls added together make a very big difference," said the 34-year-old.

The strike took place early yesterday morning and caused massive jams from about 5am to 9am.

Several bus passengers, including those from Ravi's vehicle and some school buses, opted to make the crossing of the 1km-long Causeway on foot.

The congestion eased at about 9am, after Malaysian police intervened, telling the bus drivers they would consider their concerns and giving out Touch 'n Go toll payment cards worth RM10 (S$3.90) each, said Ravi.

"The police questioned all of us, but there was no fighting or arrests," he said. "We ended the strike because the authorities told us that they will review the tolls over one week. We will give them one week and see how."

Malaysia's Public Works Department said the disruption was not a strike but a "small disturbance" which arose from two drivers refusing to pay.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA), meanwhile, stressed that Malaysia's new Causeway toll charges were different from Singapore's Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) and Goods Entry Permit.

As of yesterday, drivers of foreign-registered cars entering Singapore have to pay $35 for a daily permit, up from $20. Drivers of goods vehicles pay $40 for a monthly permit, up from $10.

Fees from those permits "are not intended as revenue generators or to charge vehicles for the usage of the Causeway, Second Link or other roads", said an LTA spokesman. "Instead, they seek to equalise the cost of owning and using a foreign-registered vehicle in Singapore, with that for a Singapore-registered vehicle."

Based on last year's data, the VEP fee increase will affect about one in 10 foreign-registered cars. Buses, taxis and motorcycles are not affected by the increase.

While Singaporeans who head to Malaysia for the occasional leisure trip mostly said they were undeterred, others who go there frequently were worried, especially with Singapore due to match Malaysia's new toll charges.

"There's usually already a long wait at Customs. And now we have to pay even more," said Mr Phil Chia, 44, who runs a signage business and travels to Johor Baru twice a week. He said he may make fewer trips.

Singapore will match Malaysia's new Causeway tolls, says LTA
It says it is govt practice to peg such fees to those set by Malaysia
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 29 Jul 2014

IF MALAYSIA increases or introduces new tolls at the Causeway, the Singapore Government will follow suit, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday, in response to reports that Malaysia is raising charges.

It has been reported that Malaysia's Works Ministry will increase toll charges for all vehicles except motorcycles entering Johor from Singapore via the Johor Baru Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) complex at the Causeway.

Reports also added that Malaysia will impose a new Causeway toll for all outbound vehicles entering Singapore from Johor.

The two changes will reportedly kick in on Friday.

The Singapore Government has not received "any communication" from the Malaysian authorities on the toll changes but has asked them for "official confirmation" of the media reports, said the LTA.

It has been the Singapore Government's practice to peg tolls at the Causeway and the Second Link to those set by Malaysia, according to the currency exchange rate, it added.

If the reports are true, drivers of private vehicles going from Singapore to Malaysia via the Causeway would soon have to pay a toll of RM9.70 (S$3.80), more than thrice the RM2.90 now.

Currently, drivers pay RM2.90 to the Malaysian authorities and $1.20 to those in Singapore when they enter Johor from Singapore via the Causeway in Woodlands. But drivers do not have to pay any toll when they go in the other direction and enter Singapore from Johor via the Causeway.

But starting on Friday, drivers will reportedly have to pay a new toll of RM6.80 to enter Singapore from Johor.

In addition, buses will have to pay RM13.30 per two-way trip while taxis will be charged RM8.20 per round trip.

Separately, Malaysia had announced earlier this month that all Singapore-registered vehicles entering Johor will have to pay a proposed entry fee of RM50.

The LTA said it has contacted the Malaysian government for details on this, and is waiting for its reply before responding.

Malaysia's proposed entry fee came after the LTA said it will raise the vehicle entry permit and goods vehicle permit fees for foreign-registered vehicles coming into Singapore.

From Friday, drivers of foreign-registered cars will have to pay $35 for a daily permit, up from $20. Drivers of goods vehicles will pay $40 for a monthly permit, four times the $10 now.

Singapore's Ministry of Transport said earlier that the increase in fees was to "equalise" the cost of owning and using foreign-registered vehicles on Singapore roads with that for Singapore-registered vehicles.

Johor raises vehicle toll charges
Motorists pay RM9.70 to get into Johor and RM6.80 when leaving
By Yeo Sam Jo and Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 1 Aug 2014

HIGHER toll charges on the Malaysian side of the Causeway kicked in at midnight as scheduled despite the Johor authorities promising a review to commuters upset over the increases.

When The Straits Times visited the Johor Baru Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) Complex at 12.35am, it cost RM9.70 (S$3.80) to get into Johor with a private car, up from the previous RM2.90.

There was also an extra RM6.80 charge when leaving Johor. Previously it was free.

The toll at the Singapore side of the Causeway remained unchanged at $1.20 for cars entering Johor.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) had said earlier this week that it will match any new toll charges due to Singapore's practice of pegging the rates at the Causeway, and that at the Second Link at Tuas, to those set by Malaysia.

Hours before Malaysia was scheduled to raise toll charges on its side of the Causeway, it was not entirely clear if all the planned increases would take place.

When The Straits Times visited the CIQ Complex yesterday afternoon, immigration booths carried signs indicating the new toll of RM6.80 from today for vehicles entering Singapore from Johor. Yet there were no signs publicising a higher toll of RM9.70, instead of the usual RM2.90, for cars travelling in the other direction.

But Malaysian toll booth employees told The Straits Times earlier yesterday that the new charges had been "confirmed" and were set to kick in at midnight.

"The system is supposed to change and charge more at midnight," said 23-year-old Mohd Fikhri Sukiman, who was manning one of the booths.

Earlier last month, Malaysian media reported that Malaysia's Works Ministry was set to raise toll charges for all vehicles, except motorcycles, entering and leaving Johor through the CIQ.

In the wake of the reports, the Singapore Government said it had not received "any communication" from the Malaysian authorities on the toll changes.

The LTA said it had requested "official confirmation" of the media reports. When asked yesterday, it said that it still had not received any such confirmation.

The plan to increase toll charges at Johor's main border checkpoint sparked an outcry among some Malaysians, who felt that the cost was too high for those who work in Singapore and have to cross the Causeway daily.

According to media reports, the Malaysian government said that it would review the move.

Malaysian newspaper The Star also reported yesterday that the Johor authorities were set to discuss with bus companies on the provision of express services for Malaysians working in Singapore.

The services would ferry those living in Johor Baru but working in Singapore to five designated areas such as Boon Lay and Jurong.

Separately, Malaysia also announced earlier this month that foreign-registered vehicles entering Johor will have to pay a proposed entry fee of RM50 by the end of the year.

This came after Singapore's decision to raise the vehicle entry permit fee on foreign-registered vehicles, except for motorcycles.

Starting today drivers of foreign-registered cars have to pay $35 for a daily permit, up from $20. Drivers of goods vehicles will have to pay $40 for a monthly permit, four times the current amount.

Malaysia to review plan for steep rise in JB tolls
KL government is studying other options, says DPM Muhyiddin
By Yong Yen Nie Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 31 Jul 2014

FOLLOWING an uproar over what commuters say is a steep toll hike at Johor's main border checkpoint, the Malaysian government said that it will review the move.

Last Friday, commuters who travel between Singapore and Johor Baru often were caught off guard by news that they would have to pay an increase of more than 500 per cent in toll charges at the Johor Baru Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex (CIQ) from tomorrow.

Passenger cars, whether Malaysia- or foreign-registered, will have to pay RM16.50 for a two-way trip - that is, RM9.70 when they enter and RM6.80 when they leave Johor Baru. At present, there is a one-way charge of RM2.90 for cars entering Johor Baru. Only motorcyclists are exempt from paying the new toll hike.

The hike was announced in a statement from the Works Ministry, which is under the federal government.

The sharp increase had Johoreans working in Singapore, who travel both ways every day, fuming.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the government is studying other possibilities for commuters who enter Johor Baru and Singapore daily, to avoid burdening local motorists.

He also assured motorists using the Eastern Dispersal Link (EDL) - an 8.1km expressway that connects the CIQ to the North-South Expressway heading to Malacca and Kuala Lumpur - that it will remain without a toll. The EDL offers quicker access to Johor Baru city centre from places in the state's outskirts, such as Kota Tinggi and Skudai.

"That's why we are thinking of different toll lanes and booths for users of EDL and those who use other routes," Tan Sri Muhyiddin was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times yesterday.

Analysts said the steep toll hike appears to be a response to Singapore's decision to raise the vehicle entry permit on foreign vehicles from $20 to $35, from tomorrow.

On top of the higher tolls, the Malaysian government will also impose a fee, reportedly RM50, on Singapore-registered vehicles entering Malaysia via Johor Baru by the year end, although the details of its implementation are still under discussion.

Dr Yeah Kim Leng, an economics lecturer at the Malaysia University of Science and Technology, said that any increase in the toll should be more gradual.

"The overly steep toll hike will create an immediate hardship to citizens and a jump in inflation," he said.

Mr Muhyiddin had justified the toll hike by saying it would be used to maintain the EDL and other JB CIQ-related facilities.

"For Singapore, they may increase their toll as they have the right to do so as well," he said.

Analysts like Mr Pong Teng Siew, research head of Jupiter Securities, said the government appears to be charging motorists at the CIQ in an effort to pay off the private toll operator that built the EDL.

Over the years, the government has awarded contracts to build expressways in the country. These projects come with concessions to enable the companies to collect tolls as revenue.

Early this year, the government made a U-turn on a decision to raise the tolls on several major expressways in the Klang Valley after a backlash.

For some, hikes may exact a significant toll
By Adrian Lim, My Paper, 30 Jul 2014

WHILE a hike in toll charges on both sides of the Causeway will undoubtedly make that shopping trip to Johor less appealing, the impact may be more widespread.

Singaporean firms which have set up shop across the border to take advantage of lower labour and operating costs may find themselves passing on the new charges to consumers, and property buyers may also take a step back from investing in Iskandar.

The hike will also affect a significant number of Singaporeans who reside in Johor Baru and make the daily cross-border commute for work and school.

Reports suggest that Malaysia's Works Ministry will increase toll charges for all vehicles, except motorcycles, travelling from Singapore to Johor through the Checkpoint at the Causeway.

A new Causeway toll for all vehicles travelling from Johor to Singapore will be implemented alongside the hike. Both will reportedly kick in on Friday.

SLP International research head Nicholas Mak said that while the toll increases in themselves will be a "minor irritation" to Singaporean home investors in Malaysia, the bigger question some may ask is whether there will be more of such policy shifts in the future.

Buying sentiments could be affected, as investors may see the toll hikes as just the "thin end of the wedge" for more policy risks facing foreign buyers of Malaysian properties, Mr Mak added.

Alluding to the 1998 Clob saga, during which Malaysian shares owned by Singaporeans became frozen and illiquid, Mr Mak said such sudden policy shifts can dent investor confidence.

Now the two countries wanted to work together. "And yet it's more expensive to travel between them," he said.

Based on reports, the increase could mean a tripling of the current RM2.90 (S$1.15) to RM9.70 (S$3.80) in toll paid by drivers of private vehicles going from Singapore to Malaysia via the Causeway.

A new toll of RM6.80 will also be levied when returning to Singapore from Johor.

The changes in toll charges are independent of a reported RM50 (S$19.60) Malaysia announced it would impose on all foreign-registered vehicles entering Johor.

Singapore has said that it will match any increase in toll charges or new tolls.

For businesses that depend on cross-border goods movements, the toll increases may mean higher logistics costs that will be passed on to consumers or business customers, said Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.

The Iskandar region, often cited as a relocation destination for Singapore firms looking for a cheaper cost environment, may become a "less attractive proposition" now, Mr Wee noted.

He said that there are also many Malaysian businessmen who live in Singapore and they, too, will be affected.

For Singaporean Fahmi Rais, 46, who lives in Johor and commutes across the border daily, the toll increases will dent his disposable income.

Mr Fahmi, who owns a cafe in Johor, said that as travelling between Singapore and Malaysia - whether for work or eduction - has become a "bread and butter" necessity, people will just have to swallow the increase.

The former vice-president of the Johor-Singapore Community Care Association said there may be over 5,000 Singaporean families residing in Johor. They like the lower cost of living. For many, this cost is poised to rise.

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