COMMENT Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan has just burst the bubble of excitement, which left us wondering whether Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s visit to China had helped to attract RM143 billion worth of business investments.
Even Ramon Navaratnam in his article recently had described “the multi-billion deals sealed as bold, bright and beneficial, not only to the government and the economy but also to the people.”
I believe Ramon would now agree with me that the deals signed were after all going to be a burden to the people, and what makes me unhappy is not about China’s involvement in infrastructure development in Malaysia, but that Najib did all this without even consulting the August House.
Dare we trust an alleged kleptocrat any more?
How many of our lawmakers, for example, were aware of what Najib did, signing Malaysia into bigger debts? For example, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said that the RM55 billion deal was a Financing Framework Agreement (FFA), but he was unable to elaborate on it.
Does this include an arrangement to pay off the debts incurred by 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB)? This has been asked a number of times by several parliamentarians. After all, 1MDB owes International Petroleum Investment Corporation (IPIC) some RM6.5 billion which is under arbitration. Does 1MDB have the money to pay the debt?
What amazes me is that not even Liow, as transport minister, is aware of the full agreement and what it entails. After all, the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) comes under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Department, surprisingly, not his ministry!
When one is already identified as an alleged kleptocrat by the US Department of Justice, there is a lot of concern why there is no check and balance. Even after former second finance minister Ahmad Husni Hanazlah asked some important questions in Parliament, he was being investigated for sedition and revealing government secrets.
Not sweet business deals after all
That is why when there was a lot of chaff especially in the first week after the visit, where Najib gave the impression that he had managed to attract a lot of investments, I was not excited.
Most of us were left wondering what kind of investments they could possibly be, when based on the RM55 billion ECRL project and the purchase of expensive Chinese-made warships.
Kuala Terengganu parliamentarian Raja Kamarul Bahrin Shah has raised this question, how is it that we can afford to buy the warships when the patrol boats of the Fisheries Department and the Marine Police are short of allocations to allow them to conduct patrols to monitor and control illegal encroachment by foreign fishing vessels.
Now, the truth is out, thanks once again to Rahman. He was also the one who told the whole world who the Malaysian Official 1 is. It appears to me that the Malaysian government was on a spending spree using borrowed money, which has to be paid for by Malaysian taxpayers eventually.
According to Rahman, the ECRL will be built using a soft loan from the Export-Import Bank of China which has to be paid over a tenure of 20 years. In short, Malaysians will have to pay for the loan plus interests even if they are not using the ECRL.
The RM2-company which Rahman said has since been transferred to the Finance Ministry signed the agreement. Presumably, it will also be operating the ECRL as soon as the project is completed.
I can bet that the company is not going to be making enough money to pay the loan. After all, which public transport company in Malaysia has been profitable? This means that it is eventually the people who have to pay the loan.
There is no free lunch after all. No sweet business deal. As I mentioned in my earlier article, the RM55 billion was definitely not an investment from China. I am right after all.
Contrary to an investment, money would have to flow out of the country for the next 20 years to repay the loan, whether or not there is return on investment from the ECRL.