MALAYSIA faces the danger of being stuck with the reputation of throwing away money by the bucket load and getting absolutely nothing in return.

Only yesterday (Monday); we were at it again; if the decision to retract stays. The Selangor State government firmly announced that the Kinrara–Damansara Expressway ( creatively anagramised as KIDEX) has been shelved.
In the original Bahasa Malaysia in which the emailed press notice was released by the Menteri Besar’s office to the media – dibatalkan which means stopped; shelved, retracted; abandoned; etc.

While there seems to be a determined air of finality in the pronouncement, we will do well to be holding our breaths and take a step back. Appeals and counter appeals are surely set to follow. Do I hear; `kaching?’
Why is there so much hair-pulling with KIDEX?

It is an eye-watering RM2 billion (+) civil engineering `highway-in-the-sky’ that cuts across s huge swathe of the city linking the `working-to-middle-class’ conurbations of Puchong/Kinrara to Bandar Utama. The highway was designed to take traffic up on an elevated track, bypassing all the super-sticky jam that is now the daily reality of life on the LDP (Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong).

As it is, the LDP has built the reputation of the most sticky highway in the land. So high is the traffic volume that it won’t be long before the daily grind of fender-to-bonnet crawl will simply become an immovable stationary queue.

A group of entrepreneurs got together; proposed to build KIDEX under a private-finance initiative (PFI) and got the go-ahead from the Federal government.

Of course, the homeowners and residents who discovered the route would give grandma in the living room an intimate view of exhaust pipes belching sulphurous gunk up her nostrils said no way!

It may to the rust of us the typical NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) syndrome kicking in. No doubt it is simple for the likes of you and me to dismiss their concerns as we are not affected by the noise and the fumes.

The job for politicians, administrators, private sector, the media and concerned parties is therefore to find a half-way meeting point as compromise. Easier said than done of course; but what choice do we have if we are to inhabit this earth with a manageable degree of harmonious if not peaceful co-existence?

The present Selangor government, mindful that their political vote bank at the next polls would not take too kindly to any attempt to ride roughshod over their environmental concerns; appears to have had cold feet. They have reached their decision to suspend (or is it shelve) KIDEX based on the `failure’ to respond to three specific conditions by deadline day of Feb 14.

Now, even this is in dispute as KIDEX has indicated that it had been given till November at least to respond.

Those conditions included KIDEX having to divulge terms of the concession agreement; which in previous highway concession contracts; have been tightly sealed under the Official Secrets Act.

We all know how many efforts in the past to get similar details on other similar public infrastructure projects were stymied by this Act. As they say; if there’s a will, there’s a way.

Ironically, this highway project was viewed rather differently by the previous administration; even if it was still Pakatan Rakyat-led then as it is now. Needless to say; the former Menteri Besar has voiced his concern and added his two-cents worth.

For now, it is the residents – just one of the many stakeholders whose lives and welfare would be affected by the fate of the KIDEX – who have won a bit of respite; temporarily?

Their victory might well be shortlived. The project backers no doubt are going back to the Federal government which gave initial backing.

We have been down this road before. Project mooted by Federal government; contract awarded and securely signed.

An undated photo of a demonstration protesting the construction of KIDEX. - File Photo

However, this imbroglio pans out; please; please; please you guys up there; can we put a stop to this nonsense of having to cough up billions of ringgit for fresh air; that costs nothing in the first place?

We saw that with the `crooked bridge’ in Johor and the AES (Automated Enforcement System) traffic monitoring scheme – all aborted; but with taxpayers saddled with compensation not at the cost of one billion but billions!

It need not have come to this. We must not tie ourselves in a knotty bind of contractual liability by misplaced generosity if not lenient largesse.  

So, as you cry into your bowl of breakfast cornflakes; this is my attempt at compensation.  Hit replay. I hope you get a double dose of musical satisfaction from Money for Nothing by Dire Straits!