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KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 — Tun Daim Zainuddin has dismissed the view that Putrajaya would be fine if it can get Beijing to agree to reduce the cost of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project by RM10 billion.
The former minister, who has been appointed to lead Malaysia’s negotiation team on the suspended 688km rail project, told The Star in an interview published today that China is well aware of the government’s intent to slash costs.
“They understand that the price needs to be lowered and, post-construction, to assist the government to ensure that it is optimally utilised and does not become a white elephant.
“I read that out there, a price reduction of over RM10 billion is okay. It is definitely not okay with the government,” he was quoted as saying.
Daim recently said Putrajaya expects to close the deal by April, the most positive statement to date after months of uncertainty clouding the fate of the RM81 billion project.
In the interview with The Star, Daim again reiterated China’s importance to Malaysia as a trade partner and clarified that the Pakatan Harapan government opposed the ECRL project only because it felt the initial terms were lopsided.
“The actual case is that the Pakatan government is against the ECRL in the form that was signed by the Barisan government before GE14.
“It is silly to China to say they were taking advantage, but the fact is that the Barisan government allowed this situation to happen and signed a very clearly lopsided agreement,” he was quoted as saying.