Separation of politics and water

Selangor should not ‘repossess’ the water industry, as what I suspect is going to happen. Instead, the federal government should ‘repossess’ water from ALL the states in Malaysia. Then the water distribution system needs to be improved and the NRW must be reduced from more than 40% to less than 20%. Then, in the meantime, while this is being done, which may take 30 years or longer, the consumers should not be made to pay for the water loss. It is our money that is being lost into the ground.
NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Not only must politics and religion be separated, politics and water should also be separated. But if we leave it to the politicians from both sides of the political divide, they will politicise race, religion, water and the rights of the gay community to live a lifestyle of their choice.
In fact, even ‘First Lady’ Rosmah Mansor’s handbags is being politicised, which I must admit is quite a good political issue (which Malaysia Today is guilty of doing) when she has a collection of scores of handbags that run into millions of Ringgit. She really gives ‘First Lady’ Imelda Marcos a run for her money.
And that is why we can’t trust politicians to solve the water ‘problem’ in Selangor. That is because they do not understand what the problem is. What is the real problem? Who was the one who privatised the water concession? Was it Pakatan Rakyat? Or was it Barisan Nasional? Why is Pakatan Rakyat being blamed for something that Barisan Nasional did?
Hence we need the civil society movements or NGOs or ‘third force’ (whatever you want to call it) to take up this issue. Politicians can’t be trusted to manage this issue. Politicians only want to win the election. Politicians are only interested in power. And Malaysian politicians in particular only want to run down their opponents, both within the party as well on the other side.
While politicians on both sides of the political divide are playing the blame game (and the blame would be to Barisan Nasional who privatised the water concessions) no one is addressing the more important issue, and that is the non-revenue water or NRW.
The acceptable NRW, according to the United Nations, is 20%. That is the maximum tolerable NRW. In Malaysia, however, it is more than 40% -- more than double the allowable NRW.
What is the government doing about this? Nothing! They privatise the treatment of water. But the distribution of water is still the government’s problem. Hence the concessionaires do not need to address this problem. And since the government is not addressing this issue that means no one is doing anything about it.
In 2008 and 2009, RM1.6 billion a year was lost to NRW. In 2010 and 2011 the NRW increased to RM1.7 billion a year. This means, over the last four years alone since the 2008 General Election, an estimated total of RM6.6 billion was lost.
RM6.6 billion is just over the last four years since the 2008 GE. If the first half of this year (up to June 2012) were included, the figure would come to more than RM7.5 billion.
And this is only since the 2008 General Election, mind you. But the NRW problem has not been around only since the last four years. It has always been around since Merdeka. Hence, if we take the figures for the last 40 years instead of just over the last four years, your guess is as good as mine. And I would guess we would easily be looking at more than RM50 billion. Let the water engineers tell me if I am wrong about my ‘guesstimation’.
In short, since the 2008 General Election, almost RM18 billion worth of water was ‘manufactured’ and only RM10.5 billion was ‘sold’. RM7.5 billion was lost.
And who pays for this loss? Why, we, the consumers, of course. Someone has to pay and for sure the businessmen who are making money from the water privatisation are not going to pay for that loss. We are paying for that loss to help the businessmen make money.
Selangor faces the highest NRW followed by Johor (Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s home state) and Sabah. Selangor looses about RM600 million a year or an estimated RM2.7 billion since Pakatan Rakyat took over the state.
Is Anwar Ibrahim, the Economic Adviser of Selangor, or Khalid Ibrahim, its Menteri Besar, aware of this? Do Ronnie Liu or Rafizi Ramli know about this? And if they do why has this issue been swept under the carpet?
To be fair to Anwar, Khalid, Ronnie and Rafizi, though, it is not their fault. They did not privatise Selangor’s water. Barisan Nasional did. And this is not a four-year old problem. It is a 100 year-old problem, since before Merdeka.
Hence the government should not just privatise the treatment of water. In fact, the water treatment plants should not even be privatised in the first place. Water is a strategic industry so it should remain in the hands of the government.
Unfortunately, water is a state resource, as was oil and gas. Since they nationalised oil and gas in 1974 by Act of Parliament (Petroleum Development Act 1974) then they should also nationalise water (Water Development Act 2012, maybe?).
Then all the state water resources should come under Air Nasional Berhad (AINAS sounds as good as PETRONAS, no?). Oil and gas, electricity, security, defence, foreign policy, etc. are all ‘strategic industries’ and, hence, are all nationalised. Water is also a strategic industry. But why are the states still managing its water resources? Should not water also be under federal control?
Selangor should not ‘repossess’ the water industry, as what I suspect is going to happen. Instead, the federal government should ‘repossess’ water from ALL the states in Malaysia. Then the water distribution system needs to be improved and the NRW must be reduced from more than 40% to less than 20%. Then, in the meantime, while this is being done, which may take 30 years or longer, the consumers should not be made to pay for the water loss. It is our money that is being lost into the ground.
I know not only Selangor will disagree with this. All the states will disagree. But let’s face it: the states will not be able to reduce the NRW. To do so will take years and at great cost to the states (with money they do not have). Maybe more than RM100 billion or RM200 billion (I am just guessing) will be required to change all those AC pipes that were laid 50 or 100 years ago and which have since deteriorated. The government needs to replace the antique AC pipes with ductile iron pipes. And that is going to cost a bomb. The states, or the water concessionaires, will not have the money to do this.
That is my response to the tussle between Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat regarding the water problem in Selangor, which is actually a pan-Malaysian problem. And let the water engineers tell me if I am wrong. This is not about politics. This is about good governance.

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