Dr M wants more bridges with Singapore, says Johor has lower cost of living advantage

Zurairi Ar
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is keen on building more road links between Malaysia and Singapore. — Picture courtesy of the Information Department of Malaysia

SINGAPORE, Nov 14 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is keen on building more road links between Malaysia and Singapore and indicated that he has not given up his original suggestion of a “crooked bridge” from Johor.

The prime minister said a new bridge would benefit both countries. He cited high traffic flow between Johor and the island republic, supporting his argument by adding that Malaysia’s southernmost state holds an advantage with its lower living cost.

“The traffic between Johor and Singapore is far bigger than the traffic between the mainland and Penang. And yet Penang has got two bridges, and they are constructing a tunnel,” he told Singapore daily Straits Times in an interview here yesterday.

“It stands to reason that we need more bridges between the two countries. We hope that we can have a direct bridge — one half being Singapore, one half being Malaysia. But if that is not possible, of course Malaysia will go ahead with its own plans.”

Elaborating on the plans, Dr Mahathir brought up his previous suggestion for the “so-called crooked bridge which does not encroach on Singapore land or Singapore territory at all”.

Last month, he had already said that Singapore may not consent to a third bridge, and reiterated that the S-shaped bridge he first mooted in 2003 would not need any permission from the republic.

“More bridges would be better. And it won’t hurt anybody. We need of course to be careful about migrants and things like that. But those things can be handled,” he replied, when ST pointed out that a “crooked bridge” would not be an additional link and simply a replacement to the Causeway.

Earlier this week, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian reportedly said construction for the third bridge linking Malaysia to Singapore will begin next year.

This comes even as Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali downplayed the Johor mentri besar’s suggestion to revive the “crooked bridge” project last month, saying the current economic situation is not conducive for it.

In the ST interview, Dr Mahathir also asserted that Johor has ports that can compete with Singapore, and the latter’s strategic location “is no longer valid”.

“There are other areas where we can cooperate or compete, taking advantage of the wealth of Singapore and the high cost of living in Singapore; the high value of the Singapore dollar, which would be beneficial for Singaporeans to go to Malaysia — where one Singapore dollar will buy three Malaysian ringgit worth of goods,” Dr Mahathir said.

He also denied a curb on foreign ownership in Johor, such as in the controversial Forest City, saying that Malaysia merely opposes the practice of “bringing in people from other countries” to live in a manufactured sophisticated city.

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