KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's relationship with Singapore is unlikely to be affected by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's recent suggestion that the price of water sold to the city state be raised by more than 10 times, his deputy said.
In an interview with the Malay Mail published yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail downplayed Tun Dr Mahathir's remarks, saying that the water issue is "nothing new" and has been ongoing for decades.
"His approach is his approach. Dr Mahathir has a different style in handling things, but at the same time Singapore is our neighbour - they understand us in a way. So as neighbours, we should be cordial. The issue of water has been long-standing," she said.
"It is nothing new. Singapore understands that and how to tackle (the matter)."
Under the 1962 Water Agreement between the two countries which expires in 2061, Singapore is entitled to draw up to 250 million gallons a day (mgd) of raw water from the Johor River at 3 sen (1 Singapore cent) per 1,000 gallons. Meanwhile, Johor is entitled to buy 5 mgd of treated water from Singapore at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons. Singapore has said this price is heavily subsidised and below the cost of treating the water.
Dr Mahathir said on Monday he wants to increase the price of raw water supply to Singapore by more than 10 times to reflect the higher cost of living. He made similar suggestions in 1987 and 1998 - during his first stint as premier - but Malaysia chose not to review prices.
The decades-old issue cropped up again in June, a month after Dr Mahathir became Prime Minister for the second time, when he described the price at which Malaysia sells raw water to the island Republic as "ridiculous".