HSR: Why oppose joint AssetsCo if it can help grow local firms, Anwar asks

HSR: Why oppose joint AssetsCo if it can help grow local firms, Anwar asks
HSR: Why oppose joint AssetsCo if it can help grow local firms, Anwar asks

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim has questioned the logic behind Putrajaya's opposition to a jointly tendered asset company (AssetsCo) with Singapore, for the now-cancelled Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project.

Anwar said Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin must address this matter as it reflects on Malaysia's integrity as a trading and bilateral partner with other countries.

"Why is the Perikatan Nasional government against having a joint asset company that would have the skills that both countries lack?

"Especially if we could have negotiated to ensure it included increasing the capacity and technical ability of our own local companies, providing growth for them, and long-term employment for Malaysians?

"Doing it jointly with Singapore would have ensured neither side could abuse the process and created transparency for the rakyat.

"Perhaps this is the reason," Anwar said in a statement issued last night.

On Jan 1, it was announced that the bilateral agreement on the HSR would be terminated as Malaysia and Singapore could not come to an agreement.

Singapore's Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said the main reason why both countries could not reach an agreement on the HSR project was because Malaysia wanted to do away with the AssetsCo.

Under the AssetsCo model, Malaysia and Singapore must jointly call for an international tender to appoint a suitable company to take the role of AssetsCo.

The AssetsCo will be responsible for the design, construction, financing, and maintenance of all rail assets for the HSR project, with joint oversight by Malaysia and Singapore.

Without AssetsCo, Malaysia and Singapore would likely tender the components of the HSR in their own borders, with the other party having little say in their counterpart's tender process.

Mustapa Mohamed
Mustapa Mohamed

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mustapa Mohamed said the AssetsCo model was too costly.

Furthermore, Mustapa said the new model proposed by Malaysia would have given Putrajaya the freedom to appoint local contractors and consultants.

The government is now exploring a domestic HSR to run from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru instead - which Anwar said would be a waste of public funds.

"With an existing rail line by KTM, this new HSR plan will be another white elephant, a testimony to this government’s penchant for wasting public funds," he added.

The PKR president also said that Malaysia seems to be making a habit of paying compensation to Singapore, citing the RM270 million paid to the latter over the cancellation of the "crooked bridge" project at the causeway.

It is still not clear as to how much Malaysia will pay Singapore for cancelling the HSR project.

Mustapa gave his assurance that the sum would be "significantly lower" than the S$270 million (RM891 million) which Singapore said was the amount incurred by the city-state for the project.