KL halts $22b deals with China

07 July, 2018, 09:39 | Author: Kim Reid
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A flagship scheme of China's Belt and Road Initiative, the 688km East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) had been meant to connect Malaysia's west coast to rural northeastern states with 23 stations, and was initiated under the previous government of Najib Razak, who was this week charged with corruption.

Malaysian and Chinese officials are in talks for Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad to visit Beijing soon, two sources with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters.

The rail link was among several projects halted by Malaysia since a new government was elected in May, promising to review major projects by the previous administration led by Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Mr. Najib had been defeated in the May 9 elections and was charged with corruption over the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad) fund on July 4, 2018.

Billed as a flagship scheme under China's Belt and Road Initiative, the 688km ECRL is meant to connect Malaysia's west coast to rural northeastern states.

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The suspension came just a day after Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng called for a sharp price reduction in the 688-kilometer (430-mile) East Coast Rail Link after discovering that the project's actual cost is 81 billion ringgit ($20 billion), almost 50 percent higher than that estimated by the previous government.

Contractor China Communications Construction Co.

Last month the ministry of finance called the pipelines project a "scandal" because, since the contracts were signed in November 2016, Malaysia had paid 88% of the cost of the pipelines even though only 13% of work had been completed.

"While the duration of the suspension has not been specified, we are concerned about incurring additional cost, losses and damages arising from the suspension".

"We hope to reduce costs a lot, because of a lot of wrong things [are] being done", he said at a news conference in June, referring to the East Coast Rail Link and the billions Malaysia would have to borrow from China to finish it.

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"The terms are very damaging to our economy", he said at the time. "Under the situation, we have no choice but to adhere to the suspension instruction", the company said.

CCCC said in a statement it regretted the suspension and was "upset and concerned" over the livelihood of its more than 2,250 local staff and other indirect hires.

The new Malaysian government has also halted a rail project with Singapore.

Lim said the government has given China Communication 10 billion ringgit ($2.5 billion) in advance payment and 9.67 billion ringgit ($2.4 billion) as a progress payment.

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