PETALING JAYA: A proposed Trans-Borneo Railway linking Sabah and Sarawak with Indonesia might look good on paper but the focus should be on roads and schools for East Malaysia, according to an economist.
Firdausi Suffian of Sabah UiTM said the proposed railway would improve the productivity of both states. As it would require a lot of people, employment opportunities would be created. “But who is going to finance this?”
“We have to focus first on roads, such as the Pan Borneo Highway. Also, addressing dilapidated schools is a priority,” he told FMT. In January, the education ministry said there were more than 300 dilapidated schools across the country, including Sabah and Sarawak.
The idea of a Trans-Borneo Railway was first suggested by former prime minister Najib Razak to Indonesian president Joko Widodo in 2015. Earlier this month, the federal government said it had agreed to consider the proposal, with transport minister Loke Siew Fook announcing that a feasibility study would be conducted.
Transport expert Wan Agyl Wan Hassan said that the project would improve the mobility of resources and people and would have a significant economic impact.
“This railway not only will solve the problem (of connectivity), but the Borneo economy will flourish. With Nusantara in Kalimantan to be built as the next capital city of Indonesia, this will definitely have an impact,” he told FMT.
He said that although public transport might not always be profitable, this project should be seen as a good investment to improve the region’s wider economy. “Do we want to build infrastructure for profit, or do we want to build it to enable the economic growth of that region?” he said.
Sarawak tourism, arts, culture, youth and sports minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the railway project would be beneficial for the two East Malaysian states. “If it has anything to do with the development of Sarawak, Brunei, Sabah, and Kalimantan I am all for it,” he said.
“There are a lot of resources, such as minerals and oil palm, that need to be transported. We need to consider if this project is feasible as a new mode of transport for these resources,” he said.