Toll-free roads not possible, despite election pledge: Malaysian PM Mahathir

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said raising the price of petrol is the only way to have freeways and no toll.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said raising the price of petrol is the only way to have freeways and no toll.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BALI (BERNAMA) - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said it is not possible to have highways in the country without imposing toll collections.

He revealed that he was against the toll-free highways pledge in the election manifesto of Pakatan Harapan (PH), the coalition he chairs.

"We made the manifesto thinking we would not be the government. Now we are the government, and this manifesto is a big burden."

"But, at that time, I was against it... The only way to have freeways and no toll is to raise the price of petrol," he told national news agency Bernama and national broadcaster RTM at the conclusion of the inaugural Asean Leaders Gathering in Bali on Thursday (Oct 11).

The meeting, held on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, carried the theme Achieving Sustainable Development Goals and Overcoming Development Gap through Regional and Global Collaborative Actions.

This is Tun Dr Mahathir's second visit to Indonesia since becoming prime minister for the second time after Malaysia's historic general election in May, and his first engagement at the Asean level, ahead of the 10-member group's summit next month in Singapore.

Elaborating on the issue of highway tolls, he asked who would maintain the roads or build new roads if the government does away with toll collection.

"You tell the private sector to do the roads. They want to make money, but if you don't have toll, how can you make money?" Dr Mahathir said. He added that there are no toll roads in England but the country imposes a heavy tax on petrol, and when the petrol price goes up, the tax goes up even higher.

"So, they use that money. But if you get the money out of the sale of petroleum, people who do not use the highway also have to pay. But here (highway) users pay. This is our belief. The users pay; those people who are not using (the roads), why should they pay?" he said.

Dr Mahathir has said that the PH government will need to review its election pledges, as some of them would impose a financial burden if implemented.