Pan Borneo project will continue, says Baru Bian

Nor Ain Mohamed Radhi and Nadia Hamid

KUALA LUMPUR: The Pan Borneo Highway project will proceed based on contracts agreed between the government and the stakeholders, said Works Minister Baru Bian.

He however said the mechanism and implementation of the project was subject to the on-going re-examine conducted between his ministry and the Finance Ministry.

“This is a project under the Federal government and it will proceed as scheduled,” he said in a special interview with NSTP at his office recently.

He said as all the packages and contracts had been awarded and signed, the only thing which could be done right now was to review the cost through the appointment of an independent consultant.

He said recently the Finance Ministry had met up with representatives from Lebuhraya Borneo Utara Sdn Bhd to discuss cost reduction.

Sarawak’s portion of the highway comprises 11 work packages, with the project being kicked off in September last year and scheduled for completion by June 2021.

Asked on the ministry’s priority to complete the Pan Borneo Highway instead of assisting the state government to build coastal roads in Sarawak, Baru said; “The coastal roads are under the purview of the state government.

“As for the ministry, our main priority is Federal road. Right now, we are focusing on upgrading the existing Federal roads, but currently we are facing some financial constraints.

“Nevertheless, we are ready to assist in terms of technical advice and expertise in the implementation of infrastructure projects in Sarawak particularly the construction of coastal roads.”

He said the government would continue to assist the state which was currently under the leadership of Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

The Selangau MP said the Federal government had completed a few bridges near Sarawak coastal roads, including Sadong Bridge, Kota Samarahan Bridge and Pusar Bridge.

He said the construction of another three bridges at the Federal roads - Rambungan Bridge, Batang Lupar Bridge and Igan Bridge - would depend on the 2019 Budget that will be announced soon.

“In view of the current financial situation and based on the Finance Ministry circular dated June 29, we are subject to the guidelines.

“If there is no Sales and Service Tax (SST) or agreement letters issued, then the construction of the bridges will be temporarily suspended, until the country’s financial condition is back to normal,” he said.

The Pan Borneo Highway project was announced by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, as part of then ruling coalition manifesto in the 13th General Election (GE13).

The highway is expected to spur local development and enhance the people’s socio-economic status, including through the creation of many new towns along the highways and boost the tourism sector.

The highway, spanning 2,325km, made history as the first highway project, with a four-lane dual carriageway, to be built toll-free.

The project with an estimate cost of RM29 billion was funded by the Federal government.

Previously, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was reported to have said that the government would review several mega projects such as Bandar Malaysia, Tun Razak Exchange and Pan Borneo Highway. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd