Water Dispute - The pot is now calling the kettle black
The current publicity campaign launched in local newspapers by Malaysia has made the water dispute between Malaysia and Singapore sink further into a political quagmire. Though the intention of the campaign by Malaysia is to tell the public the actual facts of the dispute, the advertisement, which appeared in all local newspapers on Sunday, July 13 2003, has left a lot to be desired.

Though I bemoan the actions taken by Singapore in making public some top-level correspondence between leaders of both counties, and the latest publication of the booklet "Water Talks. If only it could", I consciously believe that the advertisement by Malaysia stating "Malaysia Gets Nothing. Singapore Gets Rich" has indeed gone overboard in trying to refute Singapore's claims.

I believe the truth must finally prevail.

Amongst others, "The Facts" in the advertisement reveals that the total Singapore paid for the raw water in 2001 is RM2.39 million while the total profit Singapore generated from it in the same year is RM662.5 million. Deduced from these figures, Singapore had drawn 218 millions gallons per day (mgd) of raw water from Johor in 2001 paying three sen per 1,000 gallons and sold the same amount of treated water to its consumers at RM8.33 per 1,000 gallons, the weighted average of domestic and non-domestic water rate, inclusive of water conservation tax.

However, to be more credible, some explanations are necessary to throw some light on how the total profit is derived. Is it the total revenue from sale of 218 mgd of treated water less the amount of RM2.39 paid to Johor for the raw water?

It must be remembered that to obtain raw water from Johor, Singapore has to pay for the leasing of land including water catchment and waterworks areas, the development of raw and treated water facilities including dams, treatment plants, pipelines, reservoirs etc and their operation and maintenance. Does the Total Profit take all these expenditures into account?

The statement in the advertisement stating " Malaysia gets nothing. Singapore gets rich" is most misleading, to say the least.

For those who have read the Water Agreements, they will surely know that selling raw water to Singapore is only one part of the transaction. On the other part, Johor is buying back treated water from Singapore. Since 1961, the price of treated water supplied to Johor has been fixed at 50 sen per 1,000 gallons. And Johor is charging its consumers at RM5.50 per 1,000 gallons, the 2001 weighted average of domestic and non-domestic water rate in Johor. Therefore, both the rates -- 3 sen per 1,000 gallons for raw water and 50 sen per 1,000 gallons for treated water - are dirt-cheap by any standard.

Furthermore, it is estimated that Johor is currently receiving 35 million gallons per day of treated water from Singapore. This quantity is approximately double the stipulated quantity, which Singapore is obliged to sell to Johor under the Water Agreements.

From the above, it can be deduced that the additional revenue Johor obtained by selling raw water to and buying treated water from Singapore was a cool RM65 million in 2001!

So, the statement that "Malaysia gets nothing" cannot hold any water. It is only true if Johor does not sell a drop to Singapore but let the water flow into the sea.

14th July 2003

P/s: This article has been sent to Malaysiakini for publication.

nakedeyeview.com.my 2007