KUALA LUMPUR: The controversial East Coast Rail Link project may cost an extra RM11 billion over the previously announced figure of RM55 billion, the senior advisor to the prime minister said today.
Daim Zainuddin, who heads the advisory Council of Elders, said the RM55 billion figure announced by the previous government covered only the first phase of the 20-year-long project.
“The second phase will cost RM11 billion more”.
Taking interest payments on a soft loan from China into account, the project “will probably cost much more”, he said.
Previous estimates of the project cost had put it at between RM55 billion and RM70 billion.
“Let the goverment announce the figures,” said Daim, a former finance minister, to reporters at Menara Ilham here, where the advisory Council of Elders holds its meetings.
The controversial ECRL project entails building a 688km-long railway from Port Klang, Selangor, to Tumpat, Kelantan, with spur lines connecting the ports of Kemaman and Kuantan.
The project came under heavy criticism from Pakatan Harapan politicians, then in opposition, who questioned the need for the project, the need for a loan from China and the award of contracts to the state-owned China Communications Construction Company.
Pakatan Harapan chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad had also said during the recent general election campaign that the project would be scrapped.
Daim himself had also previously questioned the need for the project and the Chinese loan.
He was asked today if it was feasible for the ECRL to still continue. He returned the question, saying: “As a citizen of this country, do you want it to go on?”
Dr Mahathir had also called into question the heavy amount of Chinese investment in Malaysian infrastructure and property projects, raising fears about damaging Malaysia’s relationship with China, its largest trading partner.
However, he said today that the relationship remained healthy. “We have a long relationship with China and for 22 years it was under Tun Mahathir. We never had a problem and we worked closely together and will continue to work closely together,” he said.