Govt shows it has political will to implement economic reforms: Loke

KUALA LUMPUR: The current government is the only government with the political will to implement economic reforms, including ending blanket subsidies, said Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook.

Referring to the diesel subsidy reforms, which caused prices to rise by about 50% starting today, Loke said it is important that everyone understood why the government needs to implement the policy because it signals that the government has the political will to change the structure of the economy for the benefit of the country.

“This (ending blanket subsidies) has been discussed for years. But no government has had the political will to implement these measures. This government has the political will. So, that’s why this is very important, it is a signal and message that the government is serious about addressing our economic reform,” he said today at a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing ceremony involving Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL), Perusahaan Otomobil Kedua Sdn Bhd (Perodua) and Kuantan Port Consortium Sdn Bhd.

Loke said that when the government provides diesel subsidies in bulk, it means that the subsidy is available to everyone without any restrictions.

“While this (blanket subsidy) might seem beneficial, the real beneficiaries are the smugglers. These smugglers purchase the subsidised diesel at a lower price and then sell it at a higher price in neighbouring countries, making substantial profits. This illegal activity results in the country losing billions of ringgit,” he explained.

Therefore, Loke said, the country must implement the diesel subsidy reform to stop the practice.

“We hope everyone understands why the government is so determined to enforce this policy and that we have the political will to make this important change,” he said.

At the event, MRL signed an MoU each with Perodua and Kuantan Port for collaboration on the ECRL’s freight transport services which will come on stream by January 2027.

Loke said the formalisation of the MoU between MRL and Perodua as well as between MRL and Kuantan Port is poised to spur industry players to switch the movement of cargo from road to rail as the 665km ECRL network will facilitate transport between the east and west coasts of Peninsular Malaysia.

The MoU between MRL and Perodua will explore the possibility of transporting the compact-car maker’s products to the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia to supplement its growing need for logistical support.

“The inking of the MoU has significant meaning for MRL as we unlock the ECRL’s value, not just as transport for the public but also a logistic service for local and international businesses,” said MRL CEO Datuk Seri Darwis Abdul Razak.

He added, “The ECRL serves as an enabler in enhancing regional connectivity and economic development, underpinned by its ‘landbridge’ connecting Kuantan Port wharf to the wharves at Northport and Westports in Port Klang. This ‘last-mile’ connectivity between Kuantan Port and Port Klang will streamline the transfer of goods between ports and address the issue of double-handling of cargo”.

MRL is the project owner of the ECRL, which will traverse through the East Coast states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang before linking up with the Klang Valley on the West Coast. The ECRL’s alignment from Kota Bharu to Gombak Integrated Terminal is expected to be completed by December 2026 and operational by January 2027. Its alignment between Gombak and Port Klang is scheduled for completion in December 2027, with full operations to commence from January 2028.