Developmental State in Malaysia: Japanese Assistance to Water Safety in Malaysia

Malaysia is a tropical country, has an average annual rainfall of 2,400 mm, and is relatively rich in water resources. At the start of the independence decade, Malaysia experienced a serious water crisis. However, Malaysia is facing water shortages and is experiencing frequent water rationing at present, especially in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, and Putrajaya. This situation is exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon which is anticipated to exacerbate the water crisis in Malaysia. For example, this abundance paradox is due to the complexity of water safety issues and must be addressed sustainably. Over the past few decades, Malaysia has lacked a central agency entrusted with overall responsibility for planning and management from an overall water source perspective. There are too many institutions that have jurisdiction over various aspects of water resources management, either directly or indirectly.

Take the case study example in December 1998 for the first time Japan announced its decision to provide financial assistance to Malaysia through the Pahang-Selangor Water Transfer Project under the new Miyazawa Initiative. However, in March 2005 the project was only signed until an agreement was reached by the two countries. One of the highlights of Japanese assistance to Malaysia under the New Miyazawa Initiative is the Japanese government in addition to assisting with water transfer projects also provides funds for human development rather than physical capital. In other words, Japanese assistance under the Miyazawa New Initiative will be used to increase the stock of knowledge and skills through education. The reason Japan chose to support human resource development projects under the New Miyazawa Initiative can be explained by considering Japan’s interest in offering assistance. So, under the ‘Look East’ policy, scholarships have been awarded to Malaysian Students to continue their studies at Japanese universities. (Furuoka, 2011)

Apart from the Pahang-Selangor water transfer project, there is also the Kelau Dam Project sponsored by the Japanese government through the developmental state program and the Japanese development bank, the Japan International Cooperation Association (JICA) which started in 2010. Construction work in Pahang involves the Kelau Dam, a pumping station, water intakes, double pipes, and underground tunnels. Meanwhile, in Selangor, construction work will involve the remaining groundwater transfer of the tunnel starting in Pahang as well as a water treatment plant in Kuala Langat. A formal and structured bid to find a partner who proposes a price in the Kelau dam project was given to a joint venture company between Japan and a Malaysian contractor. JICA Japan also benefited from the tender because it was allowed to negotiate the selection of Japanese contractors such as Shimizu Corp and Nishimatsu Construction Co. Ltd. Recommended. (Nor-Hisham & Ho, 2016)

Due to the increasing problem of water shortages, water has become an economic good that has its economic value. In Malaysia, government subsidies are commonplace and tariffs are arguably very low because water is still considered a social good, and the concept of full cost recovery is not considered due to socio-political considerations. Moreover, the absence of well-established economic regulation complicates matters. The increase in tariffs to the rate of cost recovery often results in water constraints caused by utilities unable to fulfill their service obligations. Given the very capital-intensive nature of the water service industry, more private investment is needed to ease the government’s fiscal burden. There is also a need to revise tariffs that balance full cost returns and consumers’ ability to pay, and that can be achieved if the cost of capital investment is kept as low as possible and the tariff is set at an economic value. Tariffs for domestic and non-domestic water supplies are expected to move towards developed countries which require a gradual revision of tariffs to reflect closely the actual costs of developing water resource facilities. Also, to ensure the efficiency of water services, special measures need to be taken specifically to reduce water leakage and non-revenue. By addressing the non-income water problem effectively and increasing public awareness about water saving, water resources can be conserved. Taking other countries’ examples as a benchmark, Japan adopted the “Specific Multipurpose Dam Law” in 1957 to centralize dam construction and administration under the control of river administrators. (Lee, 2018)

Water security has become a serious problem due to rapid population growth, unsustainable use, water degradation, and climate change. Sustainable water resources management and development are needed to address water safety issues. Not only the construction of projects from Japanese foreign aid but also the economic development of Malaysia and Malaysia also took an example from Japan by forming this multipurpose dam. Therefore, multipurpose dams have been proposed to provide affordable water and energy to agriculture, industry, and the domestic sector and ensure irrigation of water supplies essential for food security. There is no doubt that water resources are essential for the sustainable economic development of a country. However, in the Malaysian context, as mentioned earlier, the government still practices traditional water resource management systems that employ and rely heavily on water supply management approaches — meeting demand. So, assistance from Japan to water security in Malaysia has an advantage in it, such as the transfer water project in Pahang-Selangor and Malaysia’s Kelau Dam. The assistance from Japan could bring improvement in the economy in Malaysia. Besides that Japan is also a benchmark for Malaysia to implement this multi-purpose dam, which aims as a solution to water safety in Malaysia.

References

Furuoka, F. (2011). Japanese aid to the Pahang-Selangor Water Transfer project in Malaysia: Aid guidelines and decision-making. New Zealand Journal of Asian Study, Vol. 13(1), 31–45. https://www.nzasia.org.nz/uploads/1/3/2/1/132180707/jas_june2011_furuoko.pdf

Nor-Hisham, B.M.S & Ho, P. (2016). A Conditional Trinity as ‘no-go’ Against Non-Credible Development? Resettlement, Customary Rights and Malaysia’s Kelau Dam. The Journal of Peasant Studies43(6), 1177-1205. http://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2016.1253559

Lee, K. E. (2018). Sustainable Water Resources Management and Potential Development of Multi-Purpose Dam : The Case of Malaysia. Ecology and Environmental Research, 16(3), 2323-2347. http://dx.doi.org/10.15666/aeer/1603_23232347

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