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Malaysia-Singapore Water Agreements Under Review

Due to its size and location, Singapore sources about half of its water supply from its neighbor, Malaysia. It has two major water agreements with Malaysia.

The 1961 agreement provides for the selling of 350 million gallons of raw water daily at 3 Malaysian cents per thousand gallons. Singapore also agreed to provide Johor (a Malaysian state near Singapore) with a daily supply of treated water at a price of 50 cents per 1,000 gallons. This agreement will end on 2011.

The 1962 agreement gave Singapore the right to draw water from Johor River. In return, Johor was entitled to a daily supply of treated water from Singapore. The agreement is valid for 99 years.

Since the first water agreement will end on 2011, former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad asks through his popular blog if the current government is thinking of renegotiating the agreement in order to come up with a better deal:

2011 is not too far away. Have we thought about extending the 2011 treaty or not extending it or negotiating a new water supply agreement? Are we going to be charitable again and sell raw water at 3 sen per thousand gallons to our rich neighbour?

Being charitable and not raising prickly issues is a good way to make friends. But what is the cost to the people of Malaysia.

Blogger Kent Moo notes that the former leader “unleashes a tidal wave of sarcasm over the issue of selling water to Singapore, and in the process drowns his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.”

Mahathir’s blog entry, as always, elicited many comments. Abang Din supports a renegotiated water deal:

It is really unreasonable to continue supplying raw water to Singapore if the return profit is totally unacceptable. We are doing business here, let it be a real business. Of course we must consider our friendship with Singapore, but to continue with the ridiculous deal is not an option.

I hope the Malaysia government will see this problem very seriously so as not to give bad reputations to the peoples of Malaysia. Raw water is owned by all Malaysian, so make sure that the decisions are fair and reasonable.

Ifanonline also thinks that water prices to be discussed in the deal should reflect the current market prices

It is a simple common sense. Any layman would know that if there is any new agreement to sell water to Singapore, there should be new prices according to the current market. Malaysia and Singapore can discuss diplomatically on the water issue and come to an agreement about the new water prices. It's easy actually, if Singapore don't like the price, then Malaysia should not be a goody-goody and sell the water at such a horrible low price.

Weesg believes it is still a win-win solution if the first water agreement is not renewed since Singapore can learn to be more self-sufficient

I question why this is being brought up now. Singapore has said that they would let the 1st water agreement lapse in 2011. Since Malaysia feel that the water price is unfair, and Singapore is happy to let the agreement lapse, isn't this win-win? If Singapore does not have enough NEWater after 2011, that is Singapore's own doing, right? Seems like someone is trying to flog a dead horse, yet again.
Anyway, I am glad that Malaysia has refused to extend the 2011 agreement. It is good for both countries. Singapore can also learn to be self-sufficient.

It is important to remind people that an agreement is an agreement (is an agreement). Learn to accept it. Chose your leaders wisely.

Singapore’s Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts published a primer in 2003 to clarify the issues surrounding the Malaysia-Singapore water agreements. In this primer, Singapore insists that it has been fair in dealing with Malaysia regarding the water deals

The water dispute is not about money but Singapore's existence as a sovereign nation. The Water Agreements are part of the Separation Agreement which guarantees Singapore's existence as an independent nation. If the terms of the Water Agreements can be changed by Malaysia at will, then Singapore's independence too could be called into question. This is the root dispute.

The issue is not how much we pay, but how any price revision is decided upon. The Water Agreements contain specific provisions on when the price can be revised and how the revisions should be computed. Price revision cannot be at the whim and fancy of a particular party. If Malaysia can change the terms of agreements solemnly entered into at will, where is the sanctity of agreements? Any future agreement we enter into with Malaysia will have no value.

Rajan Rishyakaran blames Malaysia’s Mahathir for the stalled negotiations between Singapore and Malaysia

Why should Singapore agree to pay significantly more on water when they get absolutely nothing in return?

Certainly, even under Mahathir’s price of raw water, Malaysian raw water will still be cheaper than self-sufficiency: but capitulating to Mahathir’s demand sets a negative precedent on Singapore. Because of Mahathir’s inability to compromise, unreasonableness and impatience with Singapore, Singapore and Malaysia is stuck in a lose-lose situation.

Singapore’s dependence on imported water has forced it to maximize new technologies in order to produce its own water supply. It has developed NEWater (reclaimed water) and it recently constructed the biggest desalination plant in Asia.

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