India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make a brief stopover in Kuala Lumpur to meet Malaysia newly-elected Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, on May 31 (Thursday). According to India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), this would be a stopover during Modi’s upcoming visit to Asean countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the two other countries being Indonesia and Singapore on May 29 to 31 and May 31 to June 2 respectively.
This would be the first meeting between the two Prime Minister. The Indian leader is also expected to meet our Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and her spouse Anwar Ibrahim during this coming visit which is also another first meeting between them. Modi’s last visit to Malaysia was on Nov 23, 2015. India is Malaysia’s largest trading partner in South Asia, with total trade amounting to RM61.43 billion in 2017. Modi’s visit to Indonesia and Singapore are at the invitations of the countries’ respective leaders and will include bilateral meetings with the leadership, delegation-level talks, and meetings with the business and Indian communities.
Putrajaya’s decision to scrap the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project is final, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has declared. At a press conference today, the Prime Minister also said he was informed that the penalty for withdrawing from the agreement is close to half a billion ringgit. “This is a final decision, but it will take time because we have an agreement with Singapore. “I am told it is almost RM500 million,” he said but added that he would confirm the exact compensation figure at a later date.
According to Tun Dr. Mahathir, the HSR is not beneficial, as it only shortens the travel distance between Malaysia and Singapore by one hour, but would cost Malaysians a large sum of money. “We will make no money at all for this operation,” he stressed. Asked if the Singapore government was informed or whether he would meet his counterpart on this matter, Mahathir said: “I don’t know.” However, he added that the government plans to scrap the project in “the least cost possible”. It was an ‘Unnecessary project’. Mahathir had earlier told the Financial Times that the HSR project was one of the country’s “unnecessary projects,” and belt-tightening measures were needed to avoid the country being declared bankrupt. “We need to do away with some of the unnecessary projects, for example, the High-Speed Rail project which is going to cost us RM110 billion, and will not earn us a single sen. That will be dropped,” he was quoted as saying.
The HSR project was conceived as part of the previous Barisan Nasional administration’s Economic Transformation Programme in 2010. The bilateral agreement with Singapore was inked six years later. Two project delivery partners – the Malaysian Resources Corporation Bhd-Gamuda Bhd consortium and the Syarikat Pembinaan Yeoh Tiong Lay Sdn Bhd-TH Properties Sdn Bhd consortium – signed on to the project last month. The project was aimed at cutting travel time between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore to just 90 minutes. The Financial Times also quoted Tun Dr Mahathir as stating that his government would be renegotiating several “unequal treaties” with China too which including the East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) project. Like the High Speed Rail, the East Coast Rail Line has been branded by critics as another of the previous Najib administration’s non-viable, big-ticket projects.
ECRL involves an RM55 billion loan from a China-owned bank and the employment of a state firm as the main contractor.