KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 15 — Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has estimated the cost of operating the East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) at between RM600 million and RM1 billion annually if the mega project were to proceed.
He said the construction cost of the project itself is already very high, and which remains a key issue for the federal government in reviewing the project’s viability and feasibility.
“We must bear the potential operating expenditure in mind,” Lim said in the Dewan Rakyat today.
He was answering Ipoh Timur MP Wong Kah Woh who asked why the ministry issued a work suspension notice for the project on July 3, to China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) via its incorporated company Malaysian Rail Link Sdn Bhd.
Lim also answered a query by Maran MP Datuk Seri Ismail Abdul Muttalib, who asked how the government would compensate residents along the East Coast whose now-frozen land was acquired for the project, as well as assist the project’s retrenched local employees.
“Regarding the compensation of landowners, we adhere to the Land Acquisition Act 1960. If no payment has been made since the land acquisition was finalised, then the compensation payment will depend on whatever losses were incurred by its owners.
“However, if the compensation has already been paid then the land belongs to the government, which raises no issues as far as I see,” Lim said.
Lim added that as the employees were not hired by the government but by CCCC, then their compensation must be brought up to and managed by them.
“Whatever the project’s final decision is, the government is ready to provide assistance if needed for the domestic employees.
“But I must point out that there are more foreign employees than domestic ones, whom we cannot help,” he said.