COMMENT | The replies from the Minister of Economic Affairs Azmin Ali to parliamentary questions from MP for Ayer Hitam Wee Ka Siong and I regarding the High-Speed Rail project were disappointing.
The HSR project is an open international tender jointly called by the governments of Malaysia and Singapore. The tender only closes on Dec 28, 2018, and the winner will be jointly evaluated and decided by both the Singapore and Malaysian government agencies.
The tender also requires the bidders to offer their financing packages. High-speed railway projects are highly competitive and the bidders are usually backed by their respective governments.
Therefore, financing packages are very competitive where zero interest or 0.1 percent per year interest packages are not unusual.
Not too long ago, a Japanese company won a major HSR project in India with a 0.1 percent interest financing packages over 50 years with a 15-year moratorium.
Due to its high profile nature, the Malaysia-Singapore HSR project has attracted unprecedented interest from aggressive bidders.
That is why the answer from the Pakatan Harapan government on why they claim the HSR project cost RM110 billion - which is double the RM55 billion to RM70 billion range previously estimated by the BN and Singapore government- is disappointing.
When questioned, Azmin can only answer that the cost is RM110 billion because it includes unspecified hidden costs even though the tender will be jointly-decided by both countries, the tender has not closed, the price is not decided and the financing package is not known.
Are you also saying that the Singapore government is covering these "hidden cost"?
My questions asking why the Harapan government does not reveal the economic impact assessment for the project which would show what economic benefits our country would lose and how many job opportunities would be lost if the project was cancelled were also completely ignored by the economics affairs minister who preferred to make jokes instead.
This is not a good start for the new parliament as a project of this nature deserves proper answers as it impacts millions of people, hundreds of thousands of jobs, our international relations and the future economic path of Malaysia.
From the Harapan government's questionable answers as to why they claim the cost of HSR has more than doubled to RM110 billion, it appears another standard operating procedure (SOP) of theirs is to double or triple the cost of BN's projects such as the HSR, ECRL and LRT3 and allege that BN had hidden costs.
Harapan will then say they can now halve the costs of the projects and claim credit even though their new cost is higher than BN's original cost.
On the same subject, the member of the Finance Ministry who alleged today that I am aware of the LRT3 cost being an astronomical RM32 billion, please show the documents where I had approved the March 30, 2018 letter requesting for an additional RM22 billion in government guarantees. Show the proof.
It is a shame that the new government is still politicking instead of safeguarding our country's economic future.
NAJIB ABDUL RAZAK is the former prime minister of Malaysia.
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