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Malaysia’s foreign minister says water price dispute with Singapore not about profit but fairness

PUTRAJAYA — Negotiations on the price of raw water sold to Singapore must pursue an equitable outcome that does not favour any one side, said Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.

Malaysia's Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah speaks during an interview in Putrajaya, April 22, 2019.

Malaysia's Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah speaks during an interview in Putrajaya, April 22, 2019.

PUTRAJAYA — Negotiations on the price of raw water sold to Singapore must pursue an equitable outcome that does not favour any one side, said Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.

According to the Malay Mail, he also said international arbitration would be a last resort if the two countries cannot achieve this on their own.

“It’s not a question of who wins and who profits more, but let this be fair. Meaning, the price must match the market rate.

“In the event we make no progress, then the possibility of arbitration arises. But we are not there yet,” he said during a joint interview yesterday ahead of Pakatan Harapan’s first anniversary in power.

Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had earlier said that the Republic has always been prepared to resolve disputes through appropriate international third-party dispute-settlement procedures.

Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said this month that both countries have agreed to seek an amicable resolution to the dispute, including bringing the matter to the global community.

Dr Mahathir said he broached the topic during the 9th bilateral Leaders’ Retreat with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Putrajaya earlier this month.

While Dr Mahathir has criticized the price of raw water sold to Singapore as “manifestly ridiculous,” Mr Lee called the 1962 water agreement between Malaysia and Singapore “a sacrosanct item”.

Under the 1962 water agreement, Singapore can buy 250 million gallons of water a day from the Johor River, at 3 sen for every 1,000 gallons.

In return, Johor is entitled to buy back a daily supply of treated water from Singapore, of up to 2 per cent of the raw water it supplied, at 50 sen for every 1,000 gallons.

Singapore has said that the cost of treatment is really RM2.40 for every 1,000 gallons, while Malaysia sells the treated water to Johor citizens at RM3.95 per 1,000 gallons.

Johor also sells raw water to Malacca at 50 sen for every 1,000 gallons. AGENCIES

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