No issue of MRT Corp being unsustainable, construction cost guaranteed by govt - Anthony Loke

KUALA LUMPUR: There is no issue that Mass Rapid Transit Corporation Sdn Bhd (MRT Corp) is not sustainable following the increase in infrastructure costs reported in the Auditor General’s Report (AG’s Report), said Transport Minister Anthony Locke.

He explained that there was no issue that MRT Corp could not repay the debt because the company is a government-linked company (GLC).

“The debt liability in terms of construction costs is guaranteed by the government, paid by the ministry and ensured by the Finance Ministry so that there is continuous repayment. So, there’s no issue that ‘it is not sustainable’.

“I don’t foresee what does it mean by mismanagement because what is accumulated is the construction cost and if we look at it in terms of operational sustainability, it cannot be recovered but what we have to remember is that MRT is a government project,“ he said during a press conference in parliament today.

He also said the AG’s Report needs to be looked at from various angles and not simply to say that MRT Corp is not sustainable because it is indeed the government’s development capital fund expenditure that will take a long time to register earnings.

“From a financial point of view, it is quite difficult for the government to get back what has already been spent because the collection from our fares is quite low due to the relatively low fare rate,“ he said.

Loke said infrastructure construction is to generate economic growth, urban area growth as well as ensure good connectivity between one place and another, and also to facilitate the people’s movement.

He added that the government still intends to implement the MRT3 project because it is needed to complete the metro rail network in the Klang Valley and more users are expected with the MRT3 route.

“The government will also focus funds to improve first and last class connectivity within these two years,“ he said.

Asked if there was a proposal to raise public transport fares, Loke said that for now the government has no intention of re-examining fares even though they had not been raised in the past 10 years.

While winding up the AG’s Report proposal in the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday, Deputy Finance Minister Lim Hui Ying said that as a company established specifically to build urban rail infrastructure and own assets, MRT Corp receives financial contributions from the government to fulfill this purpose.

“The ‘loss’ mentioned in the AG’s Report is the cost that had been spent on the construction of the MRT1 and MRT2 infrastructure.

“The cost had been audited by the company’s external auditor every year and it was found that this was not due to mismanagement by the company’s management,“ he said.

He added that the number of daily passengers on the MRT1 route has reached 250,000 to 270,000 passengers a day, which is a 20 per cent increase from the passenger rate before the COVID-19 pandemic.