On Monday, 12 October, the government announced that there will be an increase in toll prices that will be implemented starting today, 15 October
Twelve major highway concessionaires in the Klang Valley today announced an increase in toll rates, ranging from between 10 sen and RM6 beginning Thursday.
The new rates affect the Kuala Lumpur-Karak (KLK) Expressway, Maju Expressway (MEX), Kajang Highway-SILK, Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway (DUKE), Stormwater Management and Road Tunnel (SMART), KL-Kuala Selangor Expressway (LATAR), Sungai Besi Highway (BESRAYA), New Pantai Expressway (NPE), Kajang Seremban Highway (LEKAS), Damansara Puchong Highway (LDP), Western Kuala Lumpur Traffic Dispersal Scheme (SPRINT) and Cheras-Kajang Highway (GRAND SAGA).
Up to 140% increase in toll rates have caused the rakyat to express their opinions creatively. Think humour, protests and vocal rejections.
Every time an "unfortunate" event befalls Malaysians, we have a tendency to resort to our Photoshop skills and creativity with tongue-in-cheek statements and images
Politician with a sense of humour:
"Toll rates increased, everything will continue to increase if PM Najib Razak doesn't come down(resign). Retweet if you agree"
While most resorted to humour, some decided to "remind" BN of their 13th General Election promise:
During one of the BN's campaign events, Majlis Pelancaran Aku Janji BN PRU13, PM Najib was quotes as saying, "Kami akan kurangkan kadar tol antara bandar secare berperingkat demi kesenangan rakyat Malaysia" (We will gradually reduce the toll rates for the people's convenience).
During the 13th general election, as part of Barisan Nasional coalition's campaign, KTM trains were plastered with PM Najib's message that read, "Kami Mendengar, Masalah Anda, Tentang Kos Sara Hidup" (We are listening, about your problems, your cost of living)
Rallies and protests are becoming quite common in Malaysia, as opposed to how things were just a decade ago.
Determined to project dissatisfaction with demonstrations, a group of Malaysians, including Puchong MP Gobind Deo, gathered at various toll plazas, yesterday, 14 October, holding placards and banners protesting against the toll hike.
Selangor PAS Youth held their demonstrations mainly at toll booths along the Guthrie Expressway, the Duta-Ulu Klang Expressway (Duke), the Kemuning Shah Alam-Highway (LKSA) and the Kajang Dispersal Link Expressway (Silk).
They held up banners such as "Thank you BN!", "Toll going up again" and "Reduce cost of living, reject toll".
Meanwhile, at the Petaling Jaya Selatan toll plaza along LDP, Selangor DAP Youth led some 100 protesters, mostly clad in black, against the impending toll hike.
They were armed with multi-lingual placards which read: "Tol making the rakyat suffer", "Stop highway robbery" and "Toll goes up, youths suffer".
One protester even dressed up as Count Dracula and held up a placard which read "BN is the blood-sucking vampire".
"No brain" says UMNO's biggest critic Anina Saadudin, who was sacked from UMNO for filing a USD650 million lawsuit against PM Najib
Umno dissenter Anina Saadudin today attributed the imminent increase in toll rates to the government’s failure to consider the public’s welfare.
She said the cabinet ministers, if they were not too “busy defending Prime Minister Najib Razak,” could have decided to use revenues from the Goods and Services (Tax) to continue paying compensation to the highway concessionaires.
“They were too busy defending Prime Minister Najib Razak,” she said. “Perhaps, they actually have no brains.”
She said the hike in toll rates would add to the public’s burden of dealing with price increases for everyday items after the GST’s introduction.
However, economists stood up for the Malaysian government's move of increasing the toll rates, defending the implementation as one that would not affect the consumer price index greatly
In a report by The Business Times, economists defended the move, saying it would reinforce the government's commitment to subsidy rationalisation and allow better focus when next year's budget is tabled on October 23.
"If you want to make the budget as people-friendly as possible, you would do this outside the budget," Hong Leong Investment Bank economist Sia Ket Ee was quoted as saying.
Sia added that the toll hikes were in fact long overdue, and that according to his calculations, the impact of the new rates could add less than 0.1% to the consumer price index.
The report also cited political analysts who said it was better that Putrajaya enforce the new rates before the next general election.
"Suicidal" is what Pakatan Harapan thinks of Putrajaya's sudden move to hike the toll rates
The opposition coalition was referring to the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) in April, rising petrol prices, LRT fare increment and the announcement of the highway toll rates hike yesterday.
"At this juncture, Malaysia has to rely increasingly, more and more, on domestic consumption, which depends on the disposable income of every household," said PKR vice president Rafizi Ramli.
However, the series of events that have taken place this year have reduced the rakyat's buying power, he said at a joint press conference with DAP and Amanah.
"It is madness for a government facing investors' confidence crisis to do anything to hurt or weaken the buying power of the consumer, because that will weaken domestic consumption," Rafizi (photo) said.
Najib has "robbed" Malaysians of their disposable income, says Parti Amanah Negara's strategy director Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad
Dzulkefly said Najib was unsure where his 'Najib-nomics' would lead the country to and he has, by his actions, robbed away the disposable income of the rakyat.
"He has robbed away the disposable consumption of the people. This has showed Najib isn't sure which way he is going. He is not only confused, he is lost," Dzulkefly said.
The newly-formed opposition pact will reveal its alternative budget on 21 October, which is ahead the 2016 Bugdet due to be tabled in Parliament at the end of this month.
According to Dzulkefly, the alternative budget prepared by the economic committee of the newly-formed Pakatan Harapan would be able to resolve the recession that is expect to hit the country, at the latest by the end of 2016.
Meanwhile, DAP's Tony Pua blames the toll hike on the government's move to award highway concessions to crony companies
The toll hikes to be implemented on Thursday is the result of the BN government's "failed privatisation policies", said DAP lawmaker Tony Pua.
He added that BN's privatisation policies and the awarding of highway concessions to crony companies without open tenders being called have also failed.
"The Works Ministry can't even be bothered to provide a more convincing excuse, other than to say that ‘the amount saved from the increase can be utilised to implement development projects that will have a multiplier effect on the economy’," he added.
"The corruption, wastages, inefficiency and misappropriation of government funds have taken a toll on government expenditures.
However, UMNO's blog MyKMU.net, thinks the people are suffering due to former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's development policies
MyKMU.net said the people were suffering the consequences of Mahathir’s development concept, under which “the private sector builds, the government awards concessions, and the people pay.”
“The concession agreements that Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration has inherited do not give much space for anyone to do anything,” it said.
“No wonder Mahathir has not opened his mouth on this matter. Maybe he is afraid that the saliva he spits out will fall on his face.”
MyKMU claimed that the government was powerless to prevent the hike because it had been postponed for seven years.
How will the toll hike eat into our monthly expenditure?
A local financial comparison site, iMoney did the math for Malaysians by calculating the extra amount of money that needs to be forked out with the recent toll hikes.
To make things clearer, they included examples of items (food, household products) that can be purchased with the same amount of money spent on the toll hikes in these infographics:
Toll rates weren't the only thing that increased this year. Malaysians were introduced to the Goods and Service tax (GST) when the government decided to implement it at 6% starting in April: