Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s recently concluded visit to China has been a failure, believes MCA deputy president Wee Ka Siong.
Wee claimed that Mahathir had failed to achieve his goals, including negotiating price reduction for the East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) and two gas pipeline projects, namely the Multi-Product Pipeline (MPP) and the Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline (TSGP).
Based on observations and media reports, he said China appears to be standing firm on the cost of the three projects.
“In addition, I’m upset and disappointed with Mahathir’s decision to cancel the ECRL and the two gas pipeline projects, and to announce it while still in Beijing.
“(It) is not good for our relations in China, since it involves One Belt One Road initiative projects that have been China’s priority,” he said in a statement posted on his Facebook page today.
‘Not just direct revenue’
In his statement, Wee also pointed out that the benefits of projects should not be gauged in terms of direct revenue alone, but also tax revenue raised through the resulting increase in economic activity.
At his final press conference today before his return, Mahathir told reporters in Beijing that Malaysia will find ways to exit the projects at the lowest possible cost, but lamented substantial amounts would still have to be paid as compensation.
“We must find a way to exit this project (ECRL) and at the lowest cost possible, (and) we will have to pay compensation.
“But this is our own people's stupidity. We can’t blame the Chinese for that,” he said.
Mahathir claimed that the Chinese government “understood” when he explained that Malaysia could not afford the ECRL and SSER projects.
‘Problems inevitable in cooperation’
When asked about Mahathir’s press conference, a diplomat said China and Malaysia had agreed to resolve differences through friendly consultation.
While highlighting the mutual benefits of ongoing cooperation between the two countries, Ministry of Foreign Affairs China spokesperson Lu Kang said that problems are inevitable in any cooperation.
“Of course, there will inevitably be problems when any two countries cooperate, and there may be different views at different times.
“When problems do arise, it should be resolved through friendly consultation with a view of developing warm bilateral relations and cooperation.
“I can tell you that this is also the consensus reached by both parties during Prime Minister Mahathir’s visit,” he said, according to a transcript released by the ministry.
Separately, Amanah deputy youth chief Faiz Fadzil said the party’s youth wing supports the cancellation of the projects, citing its high cost.
He also urged that former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak be investigated to determine elements of criminality or abuse of power, since there appear to be “hanky-panky” in the projects.
“This is because the ECRL is alleged to be well above its original estimated cost of about RM30 billion.
“The MPP and the TSGP, meanwhile, involve unusual contractual terms where payments are made based on timeline and not work progression, whereby 88 percent of payments had already been made although the project is only 13 percent completed,” he said in a statement.