Malaysia has not clarified its official position on the High-Speed Rail (HSR) project, on which Singapore has spent over $250 million as of end-May this year, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.
These were some of the details that emerged during a debate in Parliament on Monday (9 July) regarding the project’s status, which has been called into doubt following comments made by various Malaysian officials – including Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who said in May that the deal would be scrapped.
The following month, however, the premier indicated that he would reconsider the deal if it were to be scaled down.
Based on preliminary estimates, the amount that Singapore has spent on the project includes the costs of land acquisition, manpower dedicated to the project and hiring of consultancies to design the civil infrastructure, Khaw told the House.
“This is actual money that has already been spent. Our taxpayers’ money,” he added.
Signed in December 2016, the HSR deal aims to provide a 90-minute rail connection between the Jurong Lake District and Kuala Lumpur.
Noting that the “crux of the issue is the sanctity of international law and agreements”, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that a third person note (TPN) had since been sent requesting that Malaysia clarify its official stance on the HSR. Malaysia, however, has yet to reply to the TPN.
Khaw said, “The public statements made by the Malaysian ministers, and Prime Minister Dr Mahathir himself, on the termination of the project have not been followed through with any official communications to us.
“At this point, therefore, we have been left with no choice but to continue performing in accordance with the bilateral agreement and, thus, continue to incur more costs.”
Khaw revealed that the HSR project had cost Singapore’s government over $6 million in June alone and that between August and the end of this year, at least another $40 million is expected to be spent.
If Malaysia were to pull out of the deal, Singapore would pursue compensation for the costs it has incurred, he added, noting that it is “not a penalty”.
The costs incurred are likely to increase rapidly, thus adding to the potential compensation amount, Khaw said. He added that it is thus “in Malaysia’s own interest to officially inform us of its position on the HSR project early on to minimise the amounts involved”.