Pejuang questions RM15b 5G plan

By AZALEA AZUAR / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

PARTI Pejuang Tanah Air is concerned about the government’s RM15 billion plan to build 5G infrastructure via a state-owned special purpose vehicle (SPV).

The party’s Economic Bureau head Armin Baniaz Pahamin, in a statement yesterday, said the deployment of the 10-year plan without opening the tender process raises many concerns as the SPV would be given the responsibility not only to own but deploy and manage the 5G infrastructure.

He said the 5G plan would be similar to the incomplete BestariNet project initiated by then Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, which was also carried out without an open tender process.

“Further clarity is needed on the SPV, such as how the RM15 billion will be raised, governance structure, oversight committees, the scope of SPV assets, ie telecommunication towers, and fibre and wholesale pricing regime,” Armin said.

“Unless further details are outlined to comfortably guarantee that this SPV will not be misused and become a conduit for personal gain, as well as a public inquiry is conducted, Pejuang urges the government to retract the intention to form an SPV and immediately call for an open tender to ensure our resources are managed efficiently for the wellbeing of rakyat and country, as well as to secure a better future,” Armin added.

The party further questioned if the SPV has the expertise to manage the 5G infrastructure and the safeguards, to ensure the management will be free from political pressures even as professionals are appointed to run the SPV.

“As far as current trend dictates key positions of government-linked companies, politicians will invariably occupy board seats of this SPV as a way to curry favour among MPs,” Armin said.

Armin also queried if proper regulatory oversight can be properly implemented by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) in view that the SPV’s shareholder may be a sitting member of the Cabinet.

“Over the years, we have seen the government spending billions of taxpayers’ money to cover the bailouts of many GLCs owing to gross inefficiencies and failed leadership.

“Recent history has shown how a government-owned entity, like 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), was seriously misused to fulfil personal and political gain. How can this current government guarantee that this SPV will not become 1MDB 2.0 and become a vehicle to further the interest of the few?” Armin said.

On Feb 22, Putrajaya announced that the distribution of the 5G spectrum would not be done through auction, but bought via an SPV wholly owned by the Ministry of Finance.

MCMC chairman Dr Fadhlullah Suhaimi Abdul Malek said the SPV will be the sole proprietor of the next-generation technology licensed to provide the spectrum bands wholesale.

The move has since been criticised by Fitch Solutions Ltd, the research arm of Fitch Group, which said the government’s decision could drive the wholesale cost higher, hurt operator margins and hurt the development of 5G services locally.

5G is a fifth-generation mobile network that provides super-fast connectivity needed to enable technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things by allowing connection with machi