Major infrastructure projects awaiting direction

KL-Singapore HSR, Bandar Malaysia and Kg Baru redevelopment among projects indefinitely on hold as govt focuses on kick-starting domestic economy


SEVERAL major infrastructure projects are seen to be on indefinite hold as the government focuses on tackling the coronavirus crisis and reviving the domestic economy.

The government announced a RM35 billion plan last week to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 restrictions, but for some projects, there is still no clear indication of their progress.

One of them — the Kuala Lumpur (KL)-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR). The project was estimated to cost RM43 billion when it was first announced, but is now projected to cost RM110 billion.

Launched in 2016, it was scrapped due to high costs following the change of government in 2018. However, the project was later revived in the same year.

Most recently, Malaysia and Singapore agreed on May 31 to defer the project further to December 2020, delaying its operational date to 2031.

Both governments will resume discussions on the project with proposed changes in the commercial and technical aspects.

Another mega project, the Bandar Malaysia development in KL, was revived in December 2019 after two years without progress, but not much has been done since.

The Pakatan Harapan government began to make headway in the stalled RM140 billion project, but issues over financing and getting the correct developer has hindered its progress.

Since December 2019, no development has been reported on the single-largest project within the capital with about 1.8 million population.

“The grinding halt of these projects leaves economic repercussions on the domestic economy, as these projects are engaged or were going to engage thousands of local support businesses,” said Putra Business School Assoc Prof Dr Ahmed Razman Abdul Latif.

“The responsible ministers should start to sit down with the respective government and private agencies to follow through on these projects as it will also help the country to kick-start the growth of the domestic economy.

“The government should continue with its development expenditure, especially focusing on infrastructure projects as what had been announced in the earlier fiscal stimulus package,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

UniKL Business School Assoc Prof Dr Aimi Zulhazmi Abdul Rashid said Bandar Malaysia may face challenges on lower demand for office space in the post-Covid-19 environment.

“It’s mainly because employers and employees are getting used to working from home norms. Retail spaces for shopping malls may also decline as online e-commerce platforms become a more dominant force post-Covid-19. The mega projects would be good when we reach the edge of recovery.”

Another project that is unlikely to proceed soon is the redevelopment of Kampung Baru in KL with a gross development value of RM40 billion.

The Kampung Baru Development Corp (KBDC), which was leading the revival of the project, is likely to undergo another round of restructuring following the change of government in March. The last KBDC restructuring took place in October 2018.

KBDC chairman Tan Sri Ambrin Buang said the group has yet to make a definitive decision on the restructuring exercise. However, he said there is a possibility of a reshuffle in the board that could further delay development.

“There is a potential (for change) since there is a change of government. I will check with the CEO (Lokman Omar) when we meet,” he told TMR. Lokman was appointed CEO on June 1, 2020.

Non-mega infrastructure projects such as the RM300 million waste-to-energy (WTE) incinerator plant at Ladang Tanah Merah in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan, had encountered setbacks since 2018.

Developer Cypark Resources Bhd has received another six-month extension to commercially operate its WTE incinerator plant at Ladang Tanah Merah in September 2019.

“Local workers have resumed, but foreign specialists are still restricted from travelling into the country. Hopefully, the (restrictions) will be lifted soon, so we can be back in full force,” Cypark CEO Datuk Daud Ahmad told TMR in a text reply.

The WTE plant’s construction is monitored by foreign experts who provide similar technology to Japan, Sweden and Germany.

The Ministry of Housing and Local Government when contacted said it is still waiting for technical input from the Department of National Solid Waste Management before responding.

Rapid Bus Sdn Bhd has announced that Rapid KL will be expanding its midi bus services to other routes after its successful trial on Route T300 from Bukit Indah hub to Ampang Point via Jalan Rasmi in August 2019.

The encouraging feedback from commuters praised the turnaround time achieved by using the smaller midi buses, which are easier to manoeuvre along tight road stretches, it said.

“Ridership also increased for these routes due to better service punctuality provided by the midi buses.

“Rapid KL is currently evaluating the data and feedback collected from both the T300 and T304 midi bus trials in order to plan further service enhancements for implementation after the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) has ended,” Rapid Bus told TMR.

The RMCO is in effect from June 10 to Aug 31.