Dr M: Malaysia to resume ECRL project if ‘price is right’

The govt is trying to reduce the cost or possibly, postpone the implementation of the project


THE government will proceed with the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) if the overall cost of the project can be substantially reduced, said Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“If the price is right, (then) we will continue. At the moment, we have not agreed on the price (for the project),” Dr Mahathir told reporters after officiating Metrod Holdings Bhd’s new plant in Selangor yesterday, ahead of China’s ECRL negotiation team visit to Malaysia this week.

The delegation from Beijing is expected to further discuss on the ECRL with the PM’s long-time advisor, Tun Daim Zainuddin, as well as other government officials, with the aim of reducing the cost and size of the project.

The ECRL is one of several China-backed mega projects under review following Pakatan Harapan’s momentous victory in the 14th General Election last year.

The new administration has suspended US$22 billion (RM89.32 billion) worth of projects under the premise that its finances are in no shape to support the endeavours.

Dr Mahathir hopes these continued negotiations between the two countries would lead to a favourable conclusion.

“Our hope is to spend less money. This railway project is very costly, more than RM55 billion.

“It will take us 30 years to repay the loan and we will be saddled with a lot of interest, which in the end will amount to RM140 billion. We cannot afford that,” he said.

Dr Mahathir added that the government is trying to reduce the cost or possibly, postpone the implementation of the project.

“Not because we don’t want to build it, but it is a bit early for us. We don’t have the money. Now is the time for us to ensure that money is well spent because we have a lot of debt,” he said.

The construction works at the 690km line, which stretches from Port Klang in Selangor to the border town of Pengkalan Kubor in Kelantan, were put on hold in July last year when it was 14% completed. Nearly RM20 billion has already been spent to build the railway.

It was reported that the contractor of the ECRL, China Communications Construction Co Ltd, had offered to cut construction cost by half in order to save what would have been China’s principal Belt and Road venture in South-East Asia.

Earlier, Metrod unveiled its new facility at the Bukit Raja Industrial Park, making it the single-largest producer of copper rods in the region with a capacity exceeding 300,000 metric tonnes.

The Bursa Malaysia-listed company had invested more than RM1.1 billion for the set up and day-to-day run of the new plant.

Its president and CEO Rajan Mittal said the increased manufacturing capacity would allow the company to grow exponentially over the next few years, with sales expected to double within three years.

He added that the project would contribute to a substantial foreign-exchange (forex) earnings from exports of over RM25 billion over 10 years, and is expected to conserve forex of over RM5 billion through import substitution.