Malaysia Wants to Keep $20 Billion ECRL Project if or when AffordablePosted: February 26, 2019
The Straits Times says in its report “If the price is right then ECRL may go ahead, says Malaysian PM Mahathir”, “The cost of building the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is too much for Malaysia under the current circumstances. Given this, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said, there were two options for the country, which was either to bring down the cost and proceed when the price was right or to postpone the implementation of the project.”
I said in my post “China’s Major Belt and Road Project in Malaysia to Remain” on February 22 that China has three alternatives to bypass the Malacca Strait and the railway through three countries Laos, Thailand and Malaysia to the western coast of Malaysia is but one of the alternatives. Kra Canal is perhaps the best geographically but China may not own it for return of its huge investment in the canal. Therefore the rail link through Myanmar to Kyaukpyu, Myanmar at Bengal Bay is perhaps the best alternative as it is shorter and goes through only one country. In addition, China has already built oil and gas pipelines from China to Myanmar’s Kyaukpyu. The three- year survey China conducted for building the pipelines will facilitate the construction of a railway parallel to the pipeline.
Now China has concluded an agreement with Myanmar on building a deep sea port at Kyaukpyu, it will certainly be able to build the railway as Myanmar has greater need for the railway but has to rely on China for funds and technology in building the railway. As a result the major Belt and Road project of ECRL in Malaysia is not so important for China though it facilitates China’s trade with Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries.
I pointed in my previous post the great benefit ECRL will bring to Malaysia:
The railway will facilitate the development of Malaysia’s underdeveloped areas. It will benefit Malaysia much more than China. That precisely proves the benefit of China’s Belt and Road initiative that provides much needed funds for developing countries in building the infrastructures indispensable for their economic development.
That is why Mahathir says that if the cost of ECRL can be reduced to the level affordable to Malaysia, he will proceed with it. Otherwise he will resume the project later when Malaysia can afford it.
The report says that Mahathir blames his predecessor for having incurred too heavy debts so that Malaysia cannot afford ECRL now. It is very clear that China is not to blame.
The report points out that China is cooperative in the negotiations for the reduction of the cost of the project.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Straits Times’ report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/if-the-price-is-right-then-ecrl-may-go-ahead-says-malaysian-pm-mahathir.