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Parliamentary Roundtable On The Water Services Industry Bill(WSI)
Parliament, Wednesday): DAP opposes the WSI 2006 and SPAN 2006 Bills that would be tabled by Minister for Energy, Water and Communications, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik in Parliament next month. There are 8 reasons why DAP opposes these two bills as not in the national interests of Malaysia, economic interests of consumers and contray to our fundamental human right to affordable and available access to water.
1. Threaten national sovereignty and security by putting to risk the control and ownership of water supply in the hands of foreigners whose profit motive is unlikely to have our national interests at heart.
2. Infringes on our fundamental human right to affordable and available access to water is a legally binding responsibility of any good and trustworthy government;
3. Allowing market forces to decide on water supply and denying those who can not pay water is not only unethical but immoral under all religious norms;
4. Failure to address environmental concerns by protecting water sources as witnessed by privatized companies allowing smelly and contaminated water to reach consumers in the Klang valley.
5. Lack of democratic consultations with the rakyat on the impact of these two bills;
6. Parasitic linkage of sewerage to connection of water supply is unfair, irresponsible and an abuse of power as water and sewerage should be delinked as two separate and unconnected services;
7. Failure to promote competitiveness and competence by linking performance with compensation as state water corporations that are profitable are not rewarded and instead lumped as equally non-performing with corporations that are loss-making and performing poorly.
8. No guarantees that there will be increased efficiency, costs and quality of water supplied as the record of privatized companies in the water industry has not been encouraging.
The proposed Water Services Industry Bill is against consumer interest if the parasitic arrangement tying sewerage fees to water fees is allowed to disconnect water supply for non-payment of sewerage fees. Clause 89(2) of the new law provides for one bill for water and sewerage and the disconnection of water supply for non-payment of sewerage services.
Minister for Energy, Water and Communications, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik’s assurances that the new Water Services Industry Bill will not be used to force collection of the over RM500 million outstanding Indah Water Konsortium (IWK) sewerage debts since 1997 will be meaningless as long as this is not clearly spelt out.
Nothing is mentioned about not being able to collect past outstanding debts of RM 500 million. Clearly IWK can force the collection of past and present sewage charges even without providing proper service as it can rely on the relevant water authority to compel payment or have water supply disconnected. This is against the interest of consumers as it is unfair to cut off water supply when he owes sewerage fees but not water fees.
More importantly it is wrong in principle and oppressive in practice to cut off water supply when the consumer does not owe water charges. Justice requires that the water and sewerage services and fees be separated to uphold the principle of accountability so that problems arising can be addressed individually.
Punishing Performing State Water Corporations Instead Of Loss-making Ones.
Terengganu Water Authority earned RM 70 million last year whilst Perak and Penang earned RM 50 million. Why should these water authorities of states that are profitable, productive and competent be penalized by being taken over. Instead they should be encouraged to continue to do what they have been doing well. And those state water authorities that have not performed well should be punished.
The national water reserve margin will drop from 17% in 2005 to 12% in 2010 whilst the reserve margin for the Klang Valley will drop even more from 15% in 2005 to only 3% in 2010. This was stated in the Ninth Malaysian Plan(9MP) where in 2005, the production capacity for the whole country was 14,226 million litres per day(mld) as compared to the national demand of 11,806 mld. In other words there was a reserve margin of 17% of the total production capacity.
For 2010, the 9MP forecasts that the production capacity would be 18,842 mld as compared to the demand of 16,271 mld or a reserve margin of 12%. The drop in reserve margin nationally gives rise to questions whether the passage of these two bills would make any difference to the quality, quantity and availability of water to consumers.
The situation is even more serious for Selangor. In 2005 the production capacity was 4,390 mld as compared to the demand for 3,740 mld or a reserve margin of 15%. For 2010 the production capacity was 5,150 mld as compared to the demand of 5,000 mld or a reserve margin of only 3%. For the water reserve margin for Selangor to drop by 80% in five years is a serious matter that can have security concerns for the country as the nation’s capital is in this region.
How can we attract investor’s confidence in our economic development if we can not even guarantee regular supply of clean water? DAP calls for a full review of these two bills to ensure that the national interest of the country, the consumer interest of Malaysians and their fundamental human rights, especially those living the Klang Valley, are fully considered.