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Finance minister: HSR can be 'so much cheaper'

Lim Guan Eng

PETALING JAYA (June 2): The Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) can be “so much cheaper”, said newly sworn-in Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.

“If the financial architecture is done right, it doesn’t need to cost so much… If you work out the financial architecture, I think we can get it so much cheaper. With the Bandar Malaysia land and all that… but I don’t want to reveal too much,” he told The Edge weekly.

He stressed that the HSR was a project that can be revisited in the future, reiterating Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s earlier statement.

“Even now, Singapore is saying that given the economic climate, what the Malaysian government is doing is necessary, but I think the crux of the matter is that the cost is too high,” he said.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, he even said: “’Is it [HSR] worth it? You can get something for cheaper, for half the price.”

Dr Mahathir had earlier announced the scrapping of the HSR, which he claimed cost RM110 billion – far more than the RM72 billion stated by former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

The HSR, along with the third mass rapid transit (MRT 3) line, were stopped earlier this week.

They are some of other mega projects that are being reviewed, renegotiated, and possibly put off in efforts to control the national debt and spending.

Singapore's Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a statement yesterday that the island republic was still awaiting clarification from Malaysia on the termination of the project.

"We have informed the Malaysian Government that in the event Malaysia terminates the project, Singapore will study the implications and exercise our rights in accordance with the terms of the HSR bilateral agreement. This includes any right to compensation for expenses incurred," he added.

The termination has been estimated by the Malaysian government to be at RM500 million, although it seeks to negotiate the figure down.

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