KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 — Malaysia’s success in renegotiating the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) with China sets it apart from other nations dealing with the Asian superpower, according to one US economist.
Panos Mourdoukoutas, the chairman of LIU Post’s Economics department, wrote an opinion piece for Forbes to laud Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for avoiding the so-called debt trap associated with China’s Belt-Road Initiative projects.
“The new deal is a big win for Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
“He made good on his election campaign promise to re-negotiate China’s investments in the country, which served the interests of Beijing more than they served the interests of Kuala Lumpur,” Mourdoukoutas said.
He contrasted this with Sri Lanka, citing press reports that said the South Asian state was heavily indebted to China via infrastructure projects built using loans from the latter.
Dr Mahathir previously said the ECRL in its original form would have forced Malaysia into debt that would last generations.
In the piece titled “Chinese Investments: Malaysia Dares Something Sri Lanka, Pakistan, And Philippines Didn’t”, he then asked if the governments of Rodrigo Duterte and Imran Khan will now dare to challenge China in the vein of Dr Mahathir.
Last week, Putrajaya announced that China has agreed to reduce the cost of the ECRL by RM21.5 billion from the original projection of RM65.5 billion.
The new agreement cuts the original 688km alignment by 40km and will see the per kilometre cost go from RM98 million to RM68 million.
Dr Mahathir is scheduled to visit China later this month for a conference on the Belt-Road Initiative, of which the ECRL represents its flagship in Malaysia.