Following Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s official announcement on the Malaysia Cabinet’s decision to cancel the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project on Wednesday (May 30), ex-premier Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has come forth to cast doubt on his former mentor’s rationale.
In a Facebook post on the same day, Najib claimed that “detailed studies” revealed socio-economic benefits for Malaysia and Singapore should the HSR project have been allowed to continue, noting that the benefits would have outweighed the costs.
“The projection in the report I have seen shows the economic benefit to be RM650 billion ($163 billion) in gross national income until 2069. There would have been be 110,000 job opportunities created, which would have increased to 442,000 by 2069,” he wrote.
He added that infrastructure projects like the HSR could have reaped benefits in the form of property revenue increases, local economic growth, technology transfer, high-income job opportunities, intake of talent from Singapore and tourism revenue.
It would have led to the building of growth centres while giving new life to cities such as Batu Pahat, Muar, Ayer Keroh and Seremban where the “multiplier effect” would have been prominent, said Najib.
Furthermore, he highlighted mutual benefits for both Malaysia and Singapore with such projects having the potential to “shape the future” and how the two nations could collaborate for common interests.
He said: “Studies also showed Malaysia as the main beneficiary of this project since the majority of the tracks would be in the country.”
With these theorised advantages in mind, Najib has slammed Dr Mahathir’s administration for the seemingly reckless decision to scrap the project entirely, urging the government to uphold a greater level of transparency and hold negotiations before making decisions.
He also claimed the government’s estimates of the cost of the project to be dubious, questioning how the cost could have amounted to RM110 billion when the figure established earlier in the year was around RM72 billion after accounting for payments made to citizens for land transfers.
“The true cost can only be known when the tenders for the design, construction, financing and maintenance of the rolling stocks and assets of the rail are fully closed on Dec 28 this year,” he said.
Nearing the conclusion to his post, Najib expressed suspicion that the cancellation of the project could have been based on the decision of a single person.
He said the HSR project was never discussed among members of the cabinet and noted that the new finance minister refused to provide any comments on the matter.
“Do not make a decision for the sake of vengeance against an individual or the Barisan Nasional government. Decisions clouded by emotions would only harm the people.”