PETALING JAYA, 14 April 2009: The Selangor government wants veteran politician Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik to negotiate on behalf of the federal government in the restructuring of the state’s water industry.
The state sees the former energy, water and communications minister as someone who would be able to conduct negotiations fairly, besides being very familiar with water industry restructuring issues, a press statement from the Selangor menteri besar’s office said today.
Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said Lim, who stepped down as minister in 2008, was familiar with the Water Industry Services Act (Wisa) 2006, which governs the restructuring of the water industry and which was enacted under the minister’s tenure.
“Selangor is confident that Lim will be able to conduct a fair negotiation. We want the negotiation to be in the public interest,” Khalid said.
The Selangor government had been in talks with the state’s four water companies to buy over their assets and concession agreements up until late February.
As the companies were deep in debt, the idea behind the restructuring was for the state to take over the entire water industry to increase efficiency, reduce tariffs and maintain free water for the first 20 cubic metres for all households in Selangor.
However, the federal government stepped in on 18 Feb to say that it would hold direct negotiations with the four companies, as the state’s offer of RM5.71 billion for the takeover was considered too low and did not take into account the concessionaires’ debts.
Khalid welcomed the indication following the announcement of the new cabinet last week that the federal government might allow Selangor to conduct negotiations with the water companies.
He said this was more in line with the Wisa, and that the state government was ready to resume discussions.
The federal government, through the Water Services Commission (SPAN), would still be involved in overseeing the negotiations even if Selangor held talks directly with the concessionaires.