04 Jan 2021 04:36PM (Updated: 04 Jan 2021 06:23PM)
SINGAPORE: The “main concern” that led to the termination of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project was Malaysia’s suggestion that the assets company that was to manage the project be removed, said Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung on Monday (Jan 4).
Speaking in the first Parliament session of the year, Mr Ong also revealed that Singapore had incurred more than S$270 million in costs for the project, which was first announced in 2013.
The revelations come after the prime ministers of both Malaysia and Singapore issued a joint statement on Jan 1 to say that the HSR would be discontinued after an agreement on the project lapsed on Dec 31.
The statement noted that the Malaysian government had proposed “several changes” to the project in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s economy.
Both governments had conducted several discussions on these changes and had not been able to reach an agreement, said Mr Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Muhyiddin Yassin.
This company would have supplied the train system as well as operated the network, and would have been accountable to both countries.
The removal of the assets company represented a “fundamental departure” from the bilateral agreement and could not be accepted, said Mr Ong.
Malaysia then decided to allow the agreement to be terminated, he added.
He noted that while Malaysia is obligated to compensate Singapore for the termination of the project, the exact terms of the compensation cannot be revealed due to confidentiality agreements under the bilateral agreement.
The amount will include various abortive costs – such as for consultancy services, design of infrastructure, and manpower – but not land acquisition costs as the value of the land can be recovered, he said.
Singapore is also verifying a “small component of miscellaneous abortive costs” for the project’s suspension requested by Malaysia, he added.
Cost of compensating Singapore for HSR can’t be revealed, says Tok Pa
FMT Reporters – January 4, 2021 9:37 AM
PETALING JAYA: The cost of compensating Singapore for the cancellation of the High-Speed Rail project cannot be revealed, says Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for economic affairs, Mustapa Mohamed.
In a Facebook post, Mustapa said the government has yet to receive details on the compensation as they would cover certain costs incurred by Singapore for the project.
“We are waiting for the details from Singapore and once we receive them, they will be studied and confirmed. These claims are allowed and have been agreed to.
“But the amount cannot be revealed because under the bilateral agreement, both countries are bound by a secrecy clause.”
He also elaborated on the proposed amendments to the HSR project which Malaysia and Singapore could not agree to.
This, he said, included an HSR model used in Europe, the UK, Japan and South Korea, a new project structure that would provide flexibility in funding the project, and other changes.
“These amendments include changes to the alignment and designs of the station which would have reduced the expenditure by around 30%.
“These proposals can reduce the costs, save time and retain the benefits of the project,” he said, adding that, unfortunately, both parties failed to reach an agreement.
January 3rd, 2021 by financetwitter
After almost 10 years and 3 administrations, the controversial HSR (high speed rail) project linking Kuala Lumpur (KL), the capital of Malaysia, and Singapore is officially cancelled. Both countries had on January 1, 2021 announced that the KL-Singapore HSR project was terminated after Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin chose to let the agreement lapse on Dec 31, 2020.
When then-Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the mega project together with his counterpart Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Feb 2013, it was trumpeted as a game changer. The grand plan, or at least the sales pitch, was to cut travel from 4 hours (by car) to 90 minutes (by train). The 350-km link would have cost an estimated RM60 billion to RM80 billion.
The actual cost, however, is not known even until today. Before the ambitious project could complete in 2031, Mr Najib unexpectedly lost power in the May 2018 General Election. Even his buddy PM Lee was stunned by the defeat, the first in the country’s history since Najib’s coalition – Barisan Nasional – ruled Malaysia for more than 60 years since independence in 1957.But was the project absolutely necessary? Not to Singapore, but was an absolutely vital project to feed the corrupt Najib regime through kickbacks and cronyism. This is not the Channel Tunnel or Eurotunnel, a 50.45-kilometre railway tunnel between the island of Great Britain and the European mainland, as crooked Najib would like people to believe.
But was the project absolutely necessary? Not to Singapore, but was an absolutely vital project to feed the corrupt Najib regime through kickbacks and cronyism. This is not the Channel Tunnel or Eurotunnel, a 50.45-kilometre railway tunnel between the island of Great Britain and the European mainland, as crooked Najib would like people to believe.
When the Pakatan Harapan coalition won and took over the government in May 2018, then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the HSR project would be scrapped due to its high cost and the country’s financial constraint. Under the corrupt and the spendthrift Najib regime, the national debt ballooned to RM1 trillion. Mahathir administration revealed the project would actually cost RM110 billion.
Even after his defeat, Najib continued to defend his pet project, arguing that the high speed rail could have created 110,000 jobs. The infrastructure project, claimed the former premier, could also contribute a whopping RM650 billion in gross national income (GNI) by 2069. Interestingly, Singapore PM Lee was equally passionate about the project.
It’s not hard to understand why Mr Lee was trying so hard to defend Mr Najib. Both leaders had been scratching each other’s back for years. Singapore does not need the HSR project from the beginning. After all, more than 90% of the railroad will be on Malaysian soil. Yet, amazingly, the agreement was so lopsided that Singapore would be compensated RM500 million if the project is cancelled.
As it turned out, the Singaporean government had been secretly helping Najib Razak during the peak of the 1MDB scandal. It was believed that the Lee government was closing one eye in helping Najib and his partner-in-crime Jho Low. In July 2019, Singapore finally returned to Malaysia at least RM152 million seized in connection with the 1MDB massive financial scandal.
For years since the 1MDB was first exposed, Singapore had kept silence over Najib’s 1MDB scandal – until his defeat. As the world’s 3rd top financial centre (behind London and New York), it was an insult to the peoples’ intelligence that Singapore didn’t know the documents supplied by 1MDB relating to its Brazen Sky Limited account were false bank statements.
The simple fact that Muhyiddin is still eager to proceed with the project, even after the agreement with Singapore had lapsed, raises red flags. You need a thief to catch a thief, and the answer can be found from Najib himself. Upset over the cancellation, Najib claimed he has an idea how PM Muhyiddin plans to milk the HSR as a cash cow through cronyism.
The evil plan was to award a private company – a crony of Muhyiddin – as the new player of KL-Johor high speed rail without any tender, replacing the KL-Singapore original crony. And since there’s no way this crony company can be profitable without Singapore passengers, the government will be forced to compensate this private company using taxpayers’ money.
The business model is like how Barisan Nasional cronies were given highway concessionaires to collect tolls for decades. Not only the concessionaires are guaranteed profits and riches, they would be compensated for toll reduction by way of extension of concession period – forever. It was like highway robbery, and Muhyiddin now plans to do the same to HSR.
Of course, Najib knew exactly how Muhyiddin’s dirty and corrupt game works because it was a copy of Najib’s same plan to benefit from the HSR project – before he was defeated in 2018. Both Najib and Muhyiddin wanted the high speed rail to continue because the potential kickbacks are irresistible – billions of dollars. The only difference is who calls the shot.
Najib’s cronies had already made the killing when they purchased strategic lands and other assets before the high profile project was made public 10 years ago. Still, the juiciest meat is still in the ultimate construction, maintenance and operations of the rail assets. That is why Najib is foaming at the mouth accusing Muhyiddin of having awarded the project to his cronies.
The decision to terminate the HSR project means Muhyiddin’s crony can re-negotiate or re-start the entire project to milk maximum benefits. The prime minister just needed to cook up some silly changes to frustrate Singapore to quit. Regardless whether the project cost is RM60 billion, RM80 billion or RM110 billion, the fact remains that the country does not need a new white elephant.
Malaysia-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) Cancellation – A Crony War For A Piece Of RM110 Billion Cash Cow