KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is seeking to renegotiate a longstanding water supply deal with Singapore, criticising a 1962 agreement with the Republic as “too costly”.
[Right. Mahathir is a medical doctor. Finance and accounting are not his forte. Certainly not at age 92. Or even 30 years ago. Here's the math from this news two years ago:
"... it cost Singapore RM2.40  to treat 1000 gallons of water, and we sell it to Johor for 50 sen. That's a RM1.90 subsidy per 1000 gallons. Johor buys currently 16 mgd - million gallons PER DAY. That's about RM30,000 subsidy per day.
That's money Johor doesn't have to spend to treat water for its residents. That's not the best part (for Johor).
Johor then sells the water to their residents for about RM3.95 per 1000 gallons. They make RM3.45 per 1000 gallons from the water they buy from Singapore. "So, "too costly"? Yeah. For SG.]
It costs SG about RM11m a year (in 2003 prices) to supply Johor with 16 mgd of treated water, and Johor earns about RM20m a year selling our subsidised treated water TO THEIR OWN PEOPLE.
His remarks on the water issue, made during an interview with Bloomberg Television last Friday (June 22), came weeks after after he announced plans to cancel a multibillion-dollar high-speed rail project that would have connected Kuala Lumpur to Singapore.
Water is among issues with Singapore “that we need to settle”, Dr Mahathir said at his office in Kuala Lumpur. “We will sit down and talk with them, like civilised people.”
[I like this comment/question from FB: "So last time we talk like gangsters?"]
Under the 1962 Water Agreement, Singapore’s national water agency PUB may draw 250 million gallons of raw water from the Johor River daily.
In return, Johor is entitled to receive a daily supply of treated water of up to 2 per cent — or about five million gallons a day — of the water supplied to Singapore.
[As mentioned above and in the link, we are contractually obligated to provide ONLY 5 MGD of treated water. Malaysia asked for 16 MGD on an ongoing basis (i.e. permanent). Then every now and then they will ask to increase the provision by up to 6 MGD per day. And we oblige. As pointed out above, the treated water they get at 50 sen per 1000 gallons is CHEAP. If they think the price is too high, why ask for more than what is contracted for? And why ask for more water every now and then. When Malaysia wanted to raise the price of raw water on us, we told them, forget it, we stick to the original agreement, and we'll make NEWater. ]
The agreement, which expires in 2061, has been a constant source of public political wrangling over the years.
In December 2016, however, former Malaysia prime minister Najib Razak said Malaysia will supply Singapore with the share of water due to it under the 1962 agreement despite challenges that affect the water supply from Malaysia, such as the receding water levels at Linggiu Reservoir.
[It is likely that in future we cannot draw 250 MGD from the Johor river due to climate change, Johor's own water needs, and pollution. Johor has not been managing their water resources very well. The deterioration of the Tebrau-Skudai water catchment area is testimony to that.
In 2008, 14 out of 21 rivers in the Iskandar Malaysia zone had moderate pollution levels while five rivers in the Tebrau catchment exhibited more serious pollution. One river in the Pasir Gudang catchment experienced severe pollution caused by industrial and development activities.What's so important about Tebrau-Skudai? We had a water treatment plant there (the water agreement that ended in 2011) with a capacity of up to 100 MGD of water in 2011. Then the agreement ended, and we handed over the water treatment plant to Johor. Which means that their water production capacity should have increased by 100 MGD, so they should not need to draw treated water from us anymore. Which means we would PAY them for the raw water we are drawing and if they are not drawing treated water from us, it would be a net sale of raw water.
Instead, after we had handed over a 100 MGD water treatment plant, they still drew 5 MGD under the 1962 agreement, AND asked, off-contract, for another 11 MGD, and periodically requested ADDITIONAL (up to) 6 MGD on a temporary basis. And in the meantime, the rivers supplying the Tebrau water plant became TOO POLLUTED to treat?
Brilliant. Blardy Brilliant.]
Dr Mahathir, 92, said he would be friendly with Singapore and other nations while focusing on striking fair deals and ensuring balance.
“I think we can benefit from each other,” he added. “We need the expertise of Singapore. Lots of Singapore people invest in Malaysia because it’s much cheaper here.”
[Confused in his old age? Confusing "expertise" with "money"?]
During the interview, he also took shots at both the United States and China.
Breaking from his predecessor Mr Najib’s more pragmatic diplomacy, Dr Mahathir also said he’s reviewing Chinese investments and called US President Donald Trump “mercurial”. Neither country should vie to become the region’s leading superpower, he said.
[Of course. He means for Malaysia to be the leading superpower.]
He called Mr Trump “mercurial”, noting how the US leader flip-flopped on his decision to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at a summit in Singapore earlier this month.
“He changes his mind within 24 hours,” added Dr Mahathir. “When you have a man like that, you need to be cautious.”
[The irony is thick with this one.]
The Malaysian premier's willingness to push back against the world’s biggest economic powers contrasts with Mr Najib, who golfed and dined with US presidents and dubbed himself a “true friend” of China.
His comments recall his run in power from 1981 to 2003, when he bickered with Singapore on water and land issues, tussled with the International Monetary Fund and dubbed billionaire US financier George Soros a “moron” for his role in the ringgit’s drop.
While Mr Najib’s administration rushed to complete legal changes needed to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Dr Mahathir called for a revision of the 11-nation trade pact to protect the interests of small and weak economies.
Some terms the US inserted before it withdrew placed countries like Malaysia at a disadvantage, he said without elaborating.
[Out of touch. Yes, the US inserted a lot of terms to benefit the US, and possibly put some others at a disadvantage. BUT, when the US pulled out of the TPP, the remaining countries removed all the terms that were now irrelevant (because no US), and signed THAT. So yes, please elaborate your ass.]
"I don’t believe in free trade, absolute free trade, because when the competition is between the weak and the strong, you need to have some protection for the weak," he said. Malaysia would also find ways to counter unfavorable policies if it’s targeted by Mr Trump, he added.
[Good luck, Dotard II. By the time you are done, US$1 = RM6, S$1 = RM4.]
During the campaign, Dr Mahathir pledged more scrutiny on Chinese investment, which has stoked political tensions from Australia to Sri Lanka and triggered fears over sovereignty and economic inequality in the trade-dependent nation.
Mr Najib had dismissed these concerns as "scare-mongering" and said the commercial ties were key to a healthy, diversified economy.
Malaysia is strategically placed on Strait of Malacca, through which about 40 per cent of global trade flows. That makes it a prime destination for China’s Belt and Road Initiative that aims to finance hundreds of billions of dollars worth of infrastructure in emerging markets.
[China would like to use Malaysia to balance SG's weight and influence. In this respect, I appreciate Mahathir sacrificing his country's economic growth to stymie China, and preserve SG's strategic economic advantage. Of course Mahathir is doing this for his own monomaniacal purposes, or for his personal vendetta against SG, but we won't look a gift horse in the dentures.]
Since taking power, Dr Mahathir has raised questions about the US$34 billion worth of government-backed projects, including a gas pipeline and the East Coast Rail Link that’s estimated to cost RM55 billion. "We will have to slow down, defer and things like that, simply because we do not have the money," Dr Mahathir said.
As before, Dr Mahathir wasn’t worried about his critics.
"I want to turnaround the economy to grow once again, to achieve developed country status within the shortest possible time," he said. "Whether people appreciate me or not, is not relevant. Once I’m dead, they will say nasty things anyway."
[I will do my best so you won't die without knowing how silly you are.
On 25 June 2018, it was reported Dr M: “Not urgent” to notify S’pore on HSR status.
Then on 26 June 2018, another report: “Not urgent” to review water deal with Singapore now: Mahathir
He's playing games.
Some Faithless Singaporeans were crowing about the fact that the wily old fox was back in the game and now our 4G leaders will have their mettle tested in a crucible of fire.
So when Mahathir said "the HSR was scrapped and the decision was final", what did we do? Khaw said, "let me see that in writing."
Then on 12 June, Mahathir told the Japanese media that the HSR was not scrapped, only postponed.
But Mahathir famously noted that there is more than one way to skin a cat.
Which he tried on 25 June when he said, "we need to review the water agreement because it is too costly", what did we do? Nothing.
Well, MFA just repeated our position, that the water agreements were sacrosanct and guaranteed at Separation. Then we said to Mahathir, "your move".
Then the Crown Prince of Johor thanked Singapore for being a good neighbour and friend. There was of course a not-so-subtle message for Mahathir (because he's old, may not be so sharp. Or maybe just Malaysian). And Mahathir suddenly had more important things to do elsewhere that had nothing to do with Water Agreements.
I do not know if Mahathir is still corrupt, but his old corrupt habits are still ingrained.
A corrupt person will make an announcement, and wait for reactions. So after making all those noises about scrapping the HSR, and that the decision is final, or reviewing the water agreement, he expected SG to panic and go begging him NOT to scrap the HSR or review the water agreement, and maybe make it worth his while.