Malaysia, Singapore have agreed to defer HSR project, confirms Azmin

DAWN CHAN

SHAH ALAM: Singapore has accepted Malaysia’s view on deferring the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail mega project, says Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali.

Azmin said the outcome was agreed upon in a meeting with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Both countries, said Azmin, agreed to defer the project.

“The HSR project benefits both countries, enabling better connectivity and could generate long-term economic growth. However, given the current economic situation (of Malaysia), it is impossible for us to continue with the project and after a series of discussions, Singapore has agreed to accept the Malaysian government’s view to defer the project to a certain period. We are confident that by then, Malaysia’s economy will improve.

“Lee was happy that both countries had agreed to defer the project and there is no compensation needed to pay during this deferral period. It must be paid if at the end of the deferral period, we (Malaysia) decide to cancel the project,” said Azmin.

Azmin said this when met at the sidelines after the opening of the second meeting of the first term of the14th Selangor state legislative assembly by Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.

The event was also graced by Tengku Permaisuri Selangor Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin and Raja Muda Selangor Tengku Amir Shah.

Azmin, who is also Bukit Antarabangsa state assemblyman, however, stopped short of elaborating on how long the deferral would be.

He assured that “a reasonable period” had been agreed upon by both parties and that an agreement would be sealed in Kuala Lumpur in the near future.

Though deferred, Azmin added that discussions will continue to see how the cost of the project can be reduced through the use of new technology or other aspects.

He said Malaysia wants to continue with the project once the deferral period ends as the services will be economically beneficial to both countries and its people.

“We want to discuss ways to lower the cost and one of the steps we will focus on is the international service first. There are two components to the HSR, one is the international service route from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and another is domestic service, which has seven stations along the way.

“We will focus on international service only as it gives a good economic impact to both Malaysia and Singapore,” said Azmin.

Business weekly The Edge had prevously reported that Malaysia and Singapore had reached a compromise over the implementation of the HSR.

The deferral, claimed the report, will be in effect until May 31, 2020.

The report also said Malaysia would be spared a RM500 million penalty the two-year deferral.

According to the report, the original agreement to build the HSR, signed in 2016, did not contain provisions for a postponement.

Pakatan Harapan, after taking over the government after the May 9 general election, had said the project could cost up to RM110 billion. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd