Aliran Media Statement
        Privatisation of the Penang Water Authority: What is the truth?

Aliran is concerned about recent talk that the Penang Water Authority (PBA) may be privatised to the company that operates the Penang Bridge. Is this going to be another case of cronyism?

The PBA is probably the best managed water authority in the country providing water at cheap rates and so, it is disturbing to hear that it could be privatised. There is no reason for it to be privatised. If such a privatisation plan is in place, then it puts into new light the recent corporatisation of the PBA and the internal revamp affecting certain senior staff of proven integrity to the detriment of the PBA.

Penangites will not take too kindly if an essential public service like water supply is handed over to a private firm, which will only be interested in maximising profits rather than providing public service. The PBA has by and large done a fine job in serving the needs of Penangites and it is said to make about RM40 million in profits annually - profits that should be channelled back for the benefit of the people in the form of improved services rather than going into the pockets of private interests.

The Penang state government should confirm if it is true that the PBA is going to be privatised instead of fuelling rumours by its silence. If there is any truth in the speculation, it owes an explanation to the Penang public as to why it is necessary to hand over a profit-making essential public service to private interests. Or is it keeping the truth under wraps for fear that it could turn into an explosive election issue with dire consequences for the Barisan in Penang?

Anil Netto
Exco member
1 September 1999

Aliran Kesedaran Negara (ALIRAN) (National Consciousness Movement)
103 Medan Penaga
11600 Penang
Tel:     +60-4-658 5251
Fax:     +60-4-658 5197