Consider Sarawak’s Interest In Bakun, Says Awang Tengah

Posted on October 9, 2010. Filed under: Ecology, Forestry/Wetlands |

(Bernama) — Sarawak wants the federal government to consider the state’s interest in the sales of Bakun hydro electric dam to avoid the multi-million ringgit project being branded as a “white elephant”.

State Public Utilities Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan said the federal government should look into the state government’s purpose to purchase the dam which was to power the state’s heavy industries.

“The federal government should consider not only on making profit but also look at the overall factors,” he told reporters after attending the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, Sarawak, Hari Raya Aidilfitri gathering here last night.

“I’m sure they (federal government) will consider in a holistic manner,” he said, adding that Sarawak needed Bakun dam as it would speed up the process of industrialisation for the state and nation as a whole as was being discussed with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Asked whether the state government would buy power from the bidders if the state failed to secure the deal, Awang Tengah said: “That is one of the factors that we emphasise. However, if it is still within our control, it is better in terms of planning”.

The Bakun Dam, located on Balui River in the upper Rejang River basin, 37 kilometres upstream from Belaga, is expected to be completed by December this year.

Sarawak Hidro, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated, is the developer of the Bakun Dam, which will generate 2,400 megawatts of electricity when all the eight turbines are in place by 2012.

The overall cost of Bakun has been placed at RM7.3 billion but due to cost overruns, compensation for delays and interests, the final cost is said to have escalated.

Last month, Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said the state government offered RM6 billion to buy the Bakun dam from the federal government.

However, he said the state was willing to raise its bid to RM7 billion if the method of payment could be made lighter.

It was reported that there were two other bids for the dam with the highest coming from a partnership between the Qatar Investment Authority, Malton Bhd’s Datuk Desmond Lim and a China company, which offered RM8.8 billion.

The other bidder is the government strategic investment unit, 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which offered RM8 billion for the dam.

Negotiations on the sale of Bakun are still ongoing and a final decision has yet to be reached.

On Wednesday, Taib said he has a better case than the other bidders because Sarawak’s purpose for the dam is to power the heavy industries which were poise to further develop the state whereas the other bidders wanted the dam for commercial purposes.

He said it was not easy for a private company to buy a dam the size of Bakun for commercial purposes or purely as a business ventures since it would need to secure clients.

“The successful bidder must be able to decide to whom the power should be sold and secure these clients for a very long period to make profit,” he added.

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