Opposition Member of Parliament for Kuala Selangor Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad described as "almost criminal" the rail infrastructure mega projects, including the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore bullet train and the rapid transit rail system (RTS) being proposed against a backdrop of mounting public debt, in terms of the burden it puts on the nation’s fiscal resources.
While the double-tracking project, which runs into the billions of ringgit is not even completed, bids for the RTS are already being considered. Based on media reports, consultants are being engaged for the bullet train project, he said.
Citing the mass rapid transit (MRT) project as an example, he said privately financed initiatives (PFIs) in the country have a knack of becoming government bailouts in the end especially when there are delays or cost overruns.
The MRT project was first announced as a PFI but it is now owned and operated by Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd, he said.
“No private outfit could imagine themselves fully shouldering on their own such big infrastructure projects with long gestation periods,” he told The Malaysian Reserve at the Parliament yesterday.
This poses a problem for Malaysia because apart from a public debt of RM456 billion, the country’s contingent liability as at end-2011 was RM115 billion, he said.
“It is almost criminal to burden us with these kinds of projects when there exists development disparity in other parts of the country like Sabah, Sarawak, Kelantan and Terengganu,” he said, adding that the government has to prioritise its spending.
Additionally, he said there has to be long-term planning for such projects to ensure it really benefitted the people and are not knee-jerk reactions to private sector proposals.