QUESTION TIME Latest reports indicate that the RM40-80 billion, 90-minute, high-speed rail (HSR) link between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore will likely go ahead. But before we take that final leap and plunge ourselves into another needless orgy of lascivious spending we can ill afford, let us remind ourselves why we really, really don’t need this.
Here are 10 reasons why we should can this unfeasible, money-wasting (perhaps for a few, money-earning), uneconomic, grandiose invention of those who merely want to create a large contract and benefit from its largesse, once and for all. Consign it to the dustbin where it should remain until circumstances are so different that it warrants a re-look.
1. It is very costly. The cost is mostly estimated at RM40 billion. But if it is to be finished only in 2026 - 10 years from now - expect it to at least double. You can bet that the cost will be at least RM80 billion - that’s nearly two times 1MDB’s last-published total liabilities of RM42 billion.
And it’s about two times the Education Ministry’s budget allocation of RM41 billion for 2016. Just imagine the number of schools and universities we can build and the teachers we can train. Sacrifice all that for a faster way to get to Singapore? Whatever for?
2. It is unfeasible. For the project to be feasible and bankable, let’s assume a 7 percent return on project cost. That’s RM5.6 billion - in profit! Assuming a high 20 percent margin, revenue needs to be RM28 billion for that kind of profit. Assuming a ticket cost of RM200 one-way (who is going to pay more?), that will be 140 million trips a year or 384,000 trips a day, a physical impossibility!
That’s a fifth of Kuala Lumpur’s population going to and coming back from Singapore every day of the year. And just for perspective, Malaysia’s tourist arrivals last year were under 26 million. Yes, we know it’s 10 years down the line. But does anyone think that by then, demand would have risen so much to make the service feasible? Surely not!
That means expensive, and I mean expensive, government guarantees now and massive subsidies in future. 1MDB will begin to look paltry by comparison...