Cancelling HSR a mistake? Show us proof, says Dr M

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad asked former minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan to back up his claims.

KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Mahathir Mohamad has brushed off criticism that cancelling the Kuala Lumpur–Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project will come at a great cost to Malaysia.

The prime minister also demanded former minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan  back up his claim that scrapping the project would be a big mistake.

“If you have proof, show us.

“We showed you the country was RM1 trillion in debt,” the prime minister said after breaking fast with police personnel at Bukit Aman here.

Earlier today, Rahman, who was in charge of the Economic Planning Unit in the previous administration, criticised the government’s decision to scrap the project.

The Umno Supreme Council member said Malaysia would lose an estimated RM209 billion in gross national income (GNI) contribution and lose the potential to create 70,000 jobs if the HSR was called off.

Rahman, who is also Barisan Nasional strategic communications director, also cited a study by the research body, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organisation (IDE-Jetro), which found that the HSR would have delivered a US$1 billion (RM4 billion) economic gain to Malaysia every year.

The cancellation of the HSR, he said, would also mean that the value of 1MDB’s Bandar Malaysia project, which was to be the terminus station of the HSR, would be substantially decreased — diminishing the ability of 1MDB to repay its debt.

Cabinet to discuss HSR project

Meanwhile, Transport Minister Anthony Loke said the Cabinet would discuss the impending cancellation of the HSR tomorrow.

“As far as I know, we have not discussed it yet. I am sure it will be brought up at the Cabinet meeting tomorrow,” he said after attending a procession held in Brickfields to celebrate Wesak Day today.

Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has also assured the public that there would be discussions on how Malaysia could cut the cost of exiting from the deal with Singapore.

She said that talks with the Singapore prime minister on the matter were heading in a positive direction.

“In our meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, he did mention that Singapore was committed and that we were still able to discuss the terms and how it is going to be resolved amicably as neighbours,” she said after a buka puasa event at the Pantai Eco Park community centre here today.

Wan Azizah said the government was also currently looking at the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project with China and found that the deal struck between the former government and China was “very strange”.

“The terms, we were told, are very strange. It doesn’t go by the normal work progress and rather there is an agreement between the Chinese bank and Chinese contractors,” she said.

The project is being built by China Communications Construction Co Ltd and is being mainly financed by a loan from China Exim Bank.

“The prime minister will have to look at it. We don’t want to have to pay compensation. That will be a loss for our nation.”