ECRL needs to bring industrial growth to east coast – Azmin


Bernama

April 30, 2019 14:45 pm +08

MELAKA (April 30): The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project needs to bring new industries and industrial sector development to the East Coast, which in turn, spurs economic growth that benefits the people, says Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali.

He said if there were no new industries and growth, no cargo to be transported via the ECRL, then there is be no reason to proceed with the project.

“Among the new conditions we laid down was to bring new industries to the East Coast. The ECRL is important if there is industrial growth that can generate economic growth and transfer of industrial cargo to Port Klang,” he said.

Mohamed Azmin said this to reporters after delivering his keynote address titled “People’s Hope Development: A New Malaysia Mechanism or Just a Rebranding?” at the Melaka Berwibawa Seminar in Bandar Hilir, here today.

The two-day seminar, which started yesterday, was officially launched by Melaka Chief Minister Adly Zahari earlier. Also present was Deputy Primary Industries Minister Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar.

It was reported that the ECRL project would be revived and the construction costs for Phase 1 and Phase 2 have now been reduced to RM44 billion from RM65.5 billion.

Mohamed Azmin said the project’s RM21.5 billion savings was not due to the scaling down of its scope and specifications as alleged by several parties, instead they remained unchanged.

“It is still double track and the alignment and distance is about the same. What happened is that we do not allow them to pass through Gombak as there is a dam there and we do not want any problems (to occur). This decision was made when I was the Selangor Menteri Besar.

“We also have the Klang Gates Quartz ridge which was registered with Unesco as the world’s longest quartz ridge and we do not want them to bore through it and construct a RM10 billion tunnel. We’ve saved almost RM10 billion here.

“We are against the abuse of power, corruption and leakages, and we will continue with these practices and principles, including for the Bandar Malaysia project which will be governed by a new development concept,” he added.

Source: theedgemarkets.com “ECRL needs to bring industrial growth to east coast – Azmin”

Note: This is theedgemarkets.com’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

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Less traffic congestion for Port Klang residents once ECRL completed, says MP


1 May 2019

PORT KLANG, May 1 — The decision to resume the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project is expected to provide comfort to the local residents who have been facing traffic congestion and damage to infrastructure due to container lorries plying the roads in the port town for so long.

Port Klang assemblyman Azmizam Zaman Huri said the realignment of ECRL that focusing on the cargo segment would provide comfort to local residents who had been competing with container lorries on the roads on daily basis for so many years.

“Based on the data I received, there are about 300 transport companies operating here with a total of 8,525 containers lorries, used to transport cargo from two major ports operating here, the West Port and North Port.

“With less number of container lorries (once ECRL completed) here I expect the presence of domestic and foreign tourists will increase as Port Klang has various tourist attractions including floating houses, fishermen and indigenous villages in Pulau Indah,” he said when contacted by Bernama here today.

Earlier this month the government announced ECRL would resume at a lower cost following the signing of supplementary agreement (SA) between Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd (MRL) and China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC).

The original RM65.5 billion construction cost for Phase 1 and 2 had been reduced to RM44 billion, a reduction of RM21.5 billion.

The new ECRL alignment will run through 20 stations, among others, from Kota Baru to Kuala Terengganu, Kuantan, Mentakab and proceed to Jelebu, Bangi/Kajang, Putrajaya Sentral and onto Port Klang.

Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin said cargo load would bring in more profit to ECRL compared to passenger ridership as the rail link would cut travel time significantly between Port Klang and Kuantan Port.

The cargo load would contribute an estimated 70 per cent to revenue versus 30 per cent for passenger traffic due to its shorter travel time and greater reliability as a mode of transport. — Bernama

Source: Malaymail.com “Less traffic congestion for Port Klang residents once ECRL completed, says MP”

Note: This is Malaymail.com’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Geopolitical Influence Not BRI Goal But BRI Consequence


China’s Silk Road economic belt and 21st century maritime Silk Road (BRI) does not aim at gaining geopolitical influence but will result in tremendous rise of China’s geopolitical influence in BRI-related areas.

To that consequence, the US has made and is making great contributions.

The US knows well that BRI win-win cooperation may bring prosperity to and thus enhance China’s geopolitical influence in participating countries. It is afraid that such consequence may cause China to take over world leadership from the US. In order to hinder BRI, the US and pro-US media have made great efforts to spread the lies that China exploits BRI to attract participating countries into China’s debt traps so as to control and dominate them.

China certainly may not benefit from such debt traps. China provides cheap finance to help participating countries grow prosperous so that it may utilize their labor and natural resources and expand its market there. If those countries have grown prosperous to enable China to obtain resources and expanded market, China will still gain lots of indirect returns from the debts even if those countries fail to fully repay relevant Chinese loans.

However, if China’s loans have caused borrower countries to be insolvent, China will not only lose the money it has lent but also get no indirect returns from access to natural resources and expanded market. Moreover, failures of BRI projects may make participating countries suffer so that the people there will hate China. That is what China must strive to avoid.

Chinese leaders are wise. They do not become hostile to the US, but remain active in resolving trade disputes friendly through negotiations with the US. US lies make Chinese leaders more careful in providing loans to avoid making borrowers insolvent. Moreover, they became more prudent in assessing the results of the projects built with the loans provided by China.

For example, Malaysian new prime minister Mahathir suspended the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project funded by China due to his worry that Malaysia would not be able to repay the loan.

At that time, China’s negotiations with Myanmar had been successful to enable China to build a deep-water port at Pyaukyu, Myanmar. To utilize that port, Myanmar had to build a railway linking the port with China; therefore, China was sure that it could bypass the Malacca Strait through Myanmar, As a result, the route through Laos, Thailand and ECRL to bypass the strait was not so indispensable to China. However, the railway will enable Indochinese countries to bypass the strait and thus greatly benefit Malaysia.

Still, Chinese leaders were considerate as win-win cooperation with Malaysia, though not so indispensable, would after all improve China’s connection to Southeast Asia and thus benefit China. They allowed Malaysia to renegotiate the project resulting in substantial reduction of the cost of the project by alteration of the route of the rail link.

China has thus convinced Mahathir that BRI indeed aims to pursue mutual benefits instead of geopolitical dominance. I had a post today titled “Belt and Road Initiative not China’s plan to dominate: Dr Mahathir (Updated)” on that, which is a reblog of The Sun Daily’ report “Belt and Road Initiative not China’s plan to dominate: Dr Mahathir (Updated)”
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The report says that previously PM Mahathir thought that BRI was China’ attempt to dominate Southeast Asia, but now he sees that BRI is a cooperative efforts to develop participating countries through development of infrastructures with Chinese financial assistance.

US media Bloomberg also sees that in the Second Belt and Road Forum. It says in its report “Xi Jinping’s Second Belt and Road Forum: Three Key Takeaways”, “The president (Chinese President Xi Jinping) stuck to discussing steps China is taking to clean up the project, and vowed ‘zero tolerance’ on corruption.”

The report says that the joint statement of the forum “repeatedly called for ‘high-quality’ projects and standards.”

No wonder with such improvement BRI has become even more successful. At the first forum, China promised additional investment of 100 billion yuan ($14.8 billion) without any deals being signed for that amount of investment. At the second forum however, $64 billion worth of deals were signed. The US has indeed made great contributions to China’s success in BRI with its lies on debt trap, geopolitical dominance, etc.

BRI’s success will certainly raise China’s geopolitical influence. What shall the US do? Bloomberg says at the second forum “developed countries including Austria, Switzerland and Singapore signed up for so-called third-party market cooperation. Japan, France, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Australia have already signed the document, agreeing to help build infrastructure in developing countries.” Those countries’ geopolitical influence will also be enhanced along with China’s. Will the US join them?

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on The Sun Daily and Bloomberg’s reports, full text of which can respectively be viewed at https://www.thesundaily.my/local/belt-and-road-initiative-not-china-s-plan-to-dominate-dr-mahathir-updated-CA828400 and https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-04-28/xi-jinping-s-wins-and-losses-at-his-second-belt-and-road-forum.


ECRL, China’s Second Route to Bypass Malacca Strait


China and Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding on China-Myanmar Economic Corridor. The corridor will be T shaped with a east-west section consisting a railway from China’s Ruili to Myanmar’s port of Pyaukpyu that China is building for Myanmar. That will be a shortcut bypassing the Malacca Strait.

China is building a railway from Dali to Ruli linking Chinese railway network with the planned railway in Myanmar. The railway has already half completed and is scheduled to be fully open to traffic on December 1, 2022.

Amended route of ECRL

Now according to theedgemarkets.com’s report “ECRL is now 40km shorter but will still have double tracks” yesterday, China and Malaysia have signed a supplementary agreement to resume the construction of the suspended East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).

ECRL will provide China and Indochinese nations with rail link to Port Klang at the western coast of Malaysia that bypasses the Malacca Strait.

China is building a railway through Laos to the border of Thailand for the rail link to ECRL through Thailand and Malaysia. That will be a part of the Pan-Asian Railway desired by Indochinese nations. China signed an agreement with Thai government for the Thai part of the railway but the project was later cancelled by Thai military government. However, with China-Laos Railway and ECRL under construction, the newly elected Thai government may very likely resume the cancelled railway project as it will greatly benefit Thailand.

With Hambantota and Gwadar ports under construction, China’s 21st century maritime Silk Road through the Indian Ocean is taking shape.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on theedgemarkets.com’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/ecrl-now-40km-shorter-will-still-have-double-tracks


BRI Project ECRL to proceed at smaller scale, lower cost


Kong See Hoh

07 Apr 2019

FOLLOWING months of negotiations, Malaysia and China have reached an agreement to resume the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project, which was suspended last July.

It will be carried out on a smaller scale, and at a lower cost with some changes to the route, Sin Chew Daily reported today.

The daily learnt that the cost of the project, which was originally tagged at RM66 billion, will be slashed by more than RM10 billion.

A well-placed source told the daily that what the two parties had arrived at was a win-win solution as the re-negotiated project includes new commercial elements, which will bring about greater benefits to local entrepreneurs and people.

It is learnt that an agreement will be signed prior to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s visit to China at the end of this month, marking the resumption of the project.

The source said Council of Eminent Persons chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin, who is representing Malaysia in the negotiations, will fly to Beijing soon to sign the agreement.

Mahathir is scheduled to visit China from April 24 to 28 at the invitation of Chinese premier Xi Jinping to attend the second Belt and Road Initiative summit.

It is understood that Mahathir will address the summit and emphasise Malaysia’s support for the Belt and Road Initiative.

According to the report, environmental considerations are the main reason that changes will be made to the ECRL route.

Source: Sun Daily “BRI Project ECRL to proceed at smaller scale, lower cost”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Malaysia Wants BRI’s ECRL Project More Earnestly than China


Malay Mail says in its report “Daim: Govt to finalise ECRL project in early April” yesterday that Tun Daim Zainuddin, Malaysian official in charge of ECRL negotiation with China, said that Malaysian government was expected to finalize the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project in early April with cost savings of more than RM10 billion.

Why so fast to resume the railway project?

A memorandum of understanding on China-Myanmar Economic Corridor was signed between Myanmar and China. One of the two parts of the corridor goes from Ruili China to the port of Kyaukpyu, Myanmar China has already been building. There will certainly a railway from Ruili to Kyaukpyu through Mandalay to make the port useful for Myanmar and China. That will provide China with a shortcut to bypass the Malacca Strait.

As a result, China does not need so earnestly the rail link to bypass the Malacca Strait from China to Malaysia’s Port Klang through Laos and Thailand, of which ECRL is the final section. However, that rail link is the essential part of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir’s dream of Pan-Asian Railway that will benefit Malaysia. It will provide Indochinese countries a route to bypass the Malacca Strait. Given China’s huge volume of shipping through the strait, it will also provide China with a major supplementary route to bypass the strait.

Now, ECRL will mainly benefit Malaysia, especially the development of its less developed parts.

China has already been building China-Laos Railway with more than half of the construction completed. In July 2017 Thailand signed contracts with China on the construction of the Thai section of the rail link from Bangkok to Nong Khai on Thai border with Laos for connection to China-Laos Railway. The section between Bankok and Thai northeastern city of Nakhon Ratchasima passed environmental assessment and began construction in November 2017.

Now, Mahathir regrets his decision to suspend ECRL, the last section of his dream of the Pan-Asian Railway he suggested 2 decades ago. China agrees to reduce ECRL cost by more than 10 billion yuan, but the railway remains a heavy financial burden for Malaysia, However, the return to the investment makes the project worthwhile especially for Malaysia as the return will be much greater to Malaysia than China. ECRL is now Malaysia’s own BRI project rather than China’s as China can do without it. The China-Laos and China-Thailand railways will greatly benefit China in its trade with Indochina including Malaysia even without ECRL. On the other hand China-Pakistan and China-Myanmar Economic Corridors will be quite enough for China to bypass the Malacca Strait.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Malay Mail’s report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/03/22/daim-govt-to-finalise-ecrl-project-in-early-april/1735549.


Malaysia Wants to Keep $20 Billion ECRL Project if or when Affordable


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.