Bangkok: The government of Malaysia on Saturday announced its decision to cancel a $20-billion railway link project that was being built and financed by China.
Malaysia’s official news agency Bernama reported that the decision to scrap the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL)construction plan was taken after attempts by the government to bring down the high project cost failed.
The railway link was being built by China Communications Construction Company as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative and some 85 per cent of the project cost was to be financed by the Export-Import Bank of China.
Minister of Economic Affairs Azmin Ali said a review of the costs involved showed that the project exceeded the government’s financial capabilities, Efe news reported.
“If the project is not terminated, the government will have to bear the interest rate of about RM500 million a year,” said Ali.
The Ministry of Finance will now decide on appropriate compensation for the cancellation to the Chinese company that will not burden the country economically, according to Bernama.
Ali also said that the government had still not decided on the new developer for the railway link project but would continue studying new investment applications.
“We always evaluate all new applications for investment in Malaysia, not only ECRL, because we want to maintain foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows.”
The 688-kilometre ECRL was planned to connect Port Klang on the Straits of Malacca to Pengkalan Kubor in northeast Peninsular Malaysia which borders Thailand.
It was designed to carry both passengers and cargo to and from west coast of Peninsular Malaysia to its east coast.
The project was awarded to the Chinese company in 2016 by the government of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who faces several lawsuits on corruption charges and has been under review since he lost the elections in May last year to his former mentor, Mahathir Mohamad, serving as the current Malaysian Prime Minister.
Mahathir has been critical of some China-backed infrastructure investment deals, calling them unfair.