Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has challenged proponents of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) to present evidence that over RM200 billion ($50 billion) would be lost should the project be scrapped.
The claim was made by Barisan Nasional Strategic Communications Unit chief Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan on Tuesday (May 29) who said it was “too simplistic” for Dr Mahathir to deem the project non-beneficial “because it’s going to cost our country a huge sum of money and it will make no money at all from the operation”, according to a New Straits Times report.
In addition to the supposed multi-billion dollar loss in gross national income contribution, he said that Malaysia would potentially miss out on the creation of 70,000 jobs upon cancellation of the HSR.
“The abandonment of HSR would also mean that the value of 1MDB’s Bandar Malaysia project, which was to be the terminus station of the HSR, would be substantially decreased – diminishing the ability of 1MDB to repay its debts,” he added.
However, Dr Mahathir retaliated later on the same day with a demand for proof to support the allegations.
He also made reference to how the Pakatan Harapan government had provided evidence and documents to back up its report about the country’s massive RM1 trillion debt, urging HSR project supporters to follow suit.
“What is being said (claims of losses following cancellation of HSR) remains a hearsay. He needs to show proof,” he said after a breaking fast event at Bukit Aman Mosque.
But it seems that any further effort to champion the mega project would unlikely bear any fruit as Dr Mahathir announced at a press conference on Wednesday (May 30) that Malaysia’s Cabinet had already agreed to call off the HSR project.
In a live broadcast by The Star, he said: “The most important thing for us now is to reduce the amount of borrowings by the government. We have borrowed too much money. And we cannot pay so much money if we continue with the project.”
Dr Mahathir earlier said that the Singapore government has yet to be officially notified of the decision to scrap the project but would be informed nonetheless.
At the same press conference, he also announced that GST will be removed in September and said Malaysia will reconsider its challenge to the Pedra Branca judgment.