Malaysia is seeking to renegotiate the price of water sold to Singapore in line with current economic conditions, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
New Straits Times reported Dr Mahathir as saying at the launch of the National Community Policy in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday (17 Feb) that it is “unreasonable” to maintain the current price of 3 sen per 1,000 gallons today, which was determined in 1962.
“Previously, even one sen we can buy many things. But not now, let alone three sen.
“Today, we no longer talk about millionaires, but billionaires as the income level is getting higher,” he observed.
Dr Mahathir predicted in a speech he had delivered in the same event that the prices of goods, including houses, will continue to rise in the years to come.
Yet, he said, “the only thing that will not increase is the price of water sold to Singapore, at 3 sen per 1,000 gallons”.
“At that rate, we cannot even get a (packet of) nasi lemak,” he quipped, inviting laughter from the audience, NST reported.
TODAY Online reported Dr Mahathir as saying: “So, if you think that the price set in 1926 still remains until the year 3000 — another millennium — is it reasonable? I feel it is unreasonable. Until when?”
Consequently, the Malaysian PM is seeking to hold negotiations with the Republic on the issue of the water pricing.
“We will try to include people from the Johor government, but Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah will lead the group,” he said.
The water agreement between the two nations, which will expire in 2061, stipulates that Malaysia is bound to supply Singapore with “250 million gallons of raw water daily at 3 sen per 1,000 gallons”, before buying back part of the treated water from Singapore “at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons”.
Seven years ago, Singapore’s Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts published a booklet called Water Talks as a rebuttal to Malaysia’s claims against Singapore regarding the ongoing water dispute issue.
Among the issues highlighted in the booklet were that the Singapore government had, by then, spent S$1bil on the construction of dams and treatment plants, in addition to footing the full cost of water treatment and pipeline maintenance.
The government, through the booklet, claimed that the Republic, is in fact, absorbing RM1.90 per 1,000 gallons of water in terms of cost, as water is treated at RM2.40 per thousand gallons.
TODAY Online reported that Dr Mahathir had previously raised the issue of water pricing with PM Lee Hsien Loong in a meeting in Singapore last Nov, during which both leaders “expressed their differing views on the right to review the price of water under the 1962 Water Agreement” and “their willingness for officials to have further discussions to “better understand each other’s positions”.