By RAHIMI YUNUS / Pic By BERNAMA
The contentious East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) issue will be resolved by Kuala Lumpur and Beijing at the government level, including the final decision on whether the RM81 billion project will proceed.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the government has decided that the status of the project will be resolved at the government-to-government (G2G) level in a private and confidential manner.
“In view of the sensitivity of the contract’s discussion, we are now in a G2G talk, away from the public spotlight. No ministers will make any announcement except for the PM (prime minister),” he said during a press conference at the “Buy Malaysian Products” programme in Putrajaya yesterday.
Lim also declined to divulge any information relating to the negotiation, including the timeline or whether Putrajaya is seeking to trim the project cost.
Meanwhile, prominent economist Professor Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram urged the government to scrap the ECRL project.
“The project will not develop the East Coast, so (aborting the ECRL) will not mean neglecting the East Coast, in actual fact it’s a trick used by certain parties to save a fake project.
“From the time the project was drawn up, it was meant to rake in profits and wealth for certain quarters, perhaps with the aim of covering up 1Malaysia Development Bhd’s (1MDB) fraud and losses,” according to a Bernama report.
The RM81 billion project across Peninsular Malaysia had been a hot- button issue after reports emerged that Malaysia had decided to cancel the rail link signed with China by the previous Barisan Nasional government.
China Communications Construction Co Ltd was awarded the multibillion contract, but the project had been halted since July last year after the new government deemed the spending as excessive.
The 688km rain link will be financed by the Export-Import Bank of China.
Recently, Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said the government had to shoulder RM500 million interest payment if the project continues.
“Therefore, the agreement needs to be terminated without affecting relations with China.”
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir on Tuesday said negotiations are ongoing to decide the fate of the project.
Meanwhile, Lim said Malaysia is expecting to receive the first-ever payment linked to the recovery of 1MDB money soon.
He did not disclose the source and quantum of the payment linked to the financial larceny.
“An initial payment of 1MDB money will be received soon. It is a small amount, but we hope this effort will be the beginning of return of more money in the future,” he said.