Malaysiakini News

Dr M: Harapan to review 'unbeneficial' foreign projects, may nix ECRL

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Should it come into power, Pakatan Harapan will review all foreign direct investments (FDI) and cancel projects like the East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) if they are found to be contrary to the country’s interests.

This was announced by the coalition’s chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his weekly "Policy Talk" speech on his Facebook page this morning.

Flaying Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s efforts to woo Chinese investors to Malaysia, he said this method of bringing in FDIs was not beneficial to the country.

"FDI, as we understand it, is when we bring in investment and technology from other countries to set up initiatives that are run by Malaysians at every level.

"But what Najib is doing is bringing in money to buy land to build luxurious cities... and these foreign investors do not create job opportunities for Malaysians. They bring in workers from their own countries and this does not benefit our country," he said.

Mahathir did not offer any specific examples but he has gone off the record to state his opposition towards the ECRL - developed by China Communication Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) - and Forest City, developed by Country Garden. 

Malaysiakini published special reports which detailed how Forest City and the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park were mostly reliant on labour and material from China. 

Najib previously engaged Chinese firms to develop Bandar Malaysia but the mega-project has yet to secure a master developer. The Tun Razak Exchange (TRX), another one of Najib’s development initiatives, is being developed by Indonesian firm Mulia Group together with contractors China State Construction Engineering Corporation.

Mahathir said that a Harapan government would study such FDI developments and consider cancelling them.

“We can’t allow our land to be developed by foreigners, for people from their country.

“We believe that when Harapan becomes the government, we will study these investments and if they are not important, we will negotiate new deals to perhaps cancel these projects,” he said.

Back in November 2016, Najib signed 14 memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with China worth a total of RM143.64 billion.

‘ECRL is not viable’

Aside from his disapproval of foreign development of land, Mahathir also reiterated his criticism of the ECRL and predicted that the rail project will not succeed.

“Even the west coast railway (KTM) is not making any profits and often needs to be bailed out by the government.

“And in the West Coast (of the peninsula) we have a bigger population, more industrial activity on the production of materials like palm oil.

“In the East Coast, there is a smaller population and if people want to travel to KL, they have a choice to use budget airlines.

“This shows that this (ECRL) project is not viable,” he said, adding that Harapan would also consider halting the project should it form the government.

CCCC, which has been awarded the contract to develop the RM55 billion rail project, is a Chinese state-owned firm.

The government is also taking a soft loan from the Export-Import Bank of China for the project.

Touted as a "game-changer", Najib previously said the 620km ECRL would boost economic growth in three states along the East Coast.

The rail project is part of China's One Belt, One Road global infrastructure development initiative.

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