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March 1, 2009

Malaysia freezes expressway toll fee
Malaysia's government reversed a decision on a price hike for five toll expressways a day after announcing the increases amid concerns about a public backlash, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the price increases announced on Thursday had been deferred indefinitely to help ease the financial burden on citizens amid the global economic slowdown.

The price increases would have affected highways including the North-South Expressway, the country's longest highway, that runs through the entire length of the Malaysian peninsula and is operated by state-controlled toll road operator PLUS Expressway.

"At a time when we are planning a stimulus package in the form of a mini-budget to help the people, toll hikes are impractical," Abdullah was reported as saying by the New Straits Times newspaper.

"There was also a lot of resistance," he added.

Malaysia will announce an upcoming spending package on March 10 that could be worth 10-15 billion ringgit ($2.7-4 billion) following a 7 billion ringgit package announced last year.

Malaysia has been hit by the fallout from the financial crisis as demand for its exports have been sharply reduced.

Gross domestic product rose just 0.1 percent in the final quarter of 2008 from a year earlier, data showed on Friday.
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