Malaysia Deal On China-Backed Railway Project To Be Finalised Next Month

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Today, the representative of Malaysia on the deal regarding a $20 billion rail project that has been suspended since July last year is set to finalise the negotiations with China early next month.

In an interview with a local television station, Daim Zainuddin, the envoy of the country for the discussions, said that the renegotiations could likely end up in huge cost savings amounting to more than 10 billion ringgit ($2.5 billion) for Malaysia.

The representatives of China have extended an invitation to Malaysia for a visit on the 2nd of April to conclude the negotiations on the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) in the first week of next month.

Daim stated: “They were here two weeks ago in talks with me, and they have invited me to China … to finalise talks.”

Daim said that the renegotiations could include commercial elements that would be beneficial for Malaysia, however, he did not elaborate regarding the matter.

The ECRL had been warned by cancellation since Mahathir Mohamad, the Prime Minister pf Malaysia who came into power in May last year, pledged to renegotiate or cancel what he calls “unfair” Chinese projects that are authorised by Najib Razak, his predecessor.

Hit by increasing costs, the lack of transparency and the risk it could saddle Malaysia with uncomfortably massive debt, the project that was launched in 2017 has come to symbolise the scandal-ridden administration of Najib.

Last January, ministers flip-flopped on the decision of Malaysia on the ECRL. The project is considered as the centrepiece of the infrastructure push of China in Southeast Asi. The ministers first said that it was cancelled and then announced that the negotiations were still ongoing.

Last January, Reuters cited some sources that disclosed that China had offered to almost cut the cost of the project in half to save the 688-km (430-mile) rail project.