I spent the morning at the Port Klang Authority with the DAP team, scrutinising the appendices to the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) report that was made public yesterday. The experience was slightly better than when we checked out the toll concession agreements earlier this year. Nicely-printed main reports are available. The appendices though, are available for review for only 2 weeks, and restrictions apply – they cannot be photocopied or photographed. But we can take notes on our computers, which is a relief for people like me with scrawly hand-writing.
It is a mound of dirt, so I'm sure there'll be plenty of coverage by Kit Siang, Tony, et al. I'll just help with the background for starters:
The players are:
1) Port Klang Authority (PKA), a statutory body under the Ministry of Transport.
2) PKA decided to set up Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ), an integrated 1,000 acre zone offering facilities for international cargo distribution.
3) To design, construct and finance PKFZ, private company Kumpulan Dimensi Sdn Bhd (KDSB) was appointed as the turnkey developer.
There are all sorts of conflict of interest and performance issues surrounding KDSB and its appointment which I shall leave to others to highlight. Moving on the the billions of ringgit that were lost and stand to be lost:
1) The cost originally estimated in 2001 was RM1.957bn for land and development works.
2) This had escalated to RM4.947bn as at 31 Dec 2008. (The cost for land and development works alone had jumped to RM3.522bn. In addition, because PKFZ had to borrow to fund the development, there was RM1.425bn of interest costs).
3) The Ministry of Finance (MoF) extended a soft loan of RM4.632bn to PKA to help fund PKFZ.
4) Even though the MoF loan is soft (on friendly terms), some interest still has to be paid. This works out to RM2.506bn, taking the total project cost to RM7.453bn.
So, as of 31 Dec 2008, the tax-payer was already down by over RM7bn! It gets worse:
1) Based on its own assumptions, Port Klang Authority will be in cumulative cash flow deficit for the next 42 years, until 2041. Put another way, PKA starts making money only in 2042.
2) PKA's assumptions, needless to say, appear overly-optimistic (email me if you want details).
3) The Reporting Accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) say PKA will not be able to repay the Ministry of Finance the soft loans as scheduled, based on PKA's own (optimistic) assumptions. These loans will have to be restructured, leading to an additional RM5bn of interest costs.
4) So, ultimately, the total project will cost RM12.453bn. That’s RM500 for each and every one of us.
5) Bear in mind, the RM12.453bn estimate is based on PKA's optimistic assumptions.
6) If we make more realistic assumptions, the total cost will be much higher. I'm guess-timating RM20bn+!
So, where do we go from here? Speaking from a logical angle, the RM7.453bn total cost so far is gone and burnt. We must look forward. And looking forward, we're talking about a further loss of at least RM8.5bn, based on PKA's own optimistic assumptions. This is based on RM5bn just for project-financing (point 4 above) and, in addition, PKFZ is expected to burn another RM3.5bn of cash to finance its operating cash flow over 2008-2041.
Can the government walk away? Should the government walk away and save at least RM8.5bn? By the way, that RM8.5bn will go a long way to privatising PLUS!