Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s confirmation that the Singapore Government has pumped a hefty $250 million into the KL-SG High Speed Rail (HSR) project, despite the lack of clear commitment from Malaysia, has angered Singaporeans.
The HSR project was signed between the Singapore Government and the former Malaysian Government, led by ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak, that was toppled by the opposition coalition in a stunning election upset during the 2018 Malaysia General Election in May. Najib was arrested over corruption charges last week and awaits trial.
Following the election, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad suspended the project citing that it does not justify its high costs, especially given that Malaysia is in debt to the tune of RM1 trillion.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Khaw said that the Government has already spent $250 million on the project, from the commencement of the project to the end on May, based on preliminary estimates. Adding that the Government incurred an additional $6 million costs in June and expects to incur a similar amount this month for the project, Khaw said:
“This is actual money that has already been spent, our taxpayers’ money.
“We can recover value for some of the expenditure, even if the HSR project does not proceed. But a significant amount which has been spent will be completely wasted expenditure if the project does not proceed.”
Khaw added that at least $40 million more is expected to be pumped into the project, between August and December 2018.
Curiously, the Government is going ahead with spending exorbitant amounts of “taxpayers’ money” into the project even though it has yet to receive official confirmation from Malaysia over whether the project is going ahead or not.
Acknowledging that numerous attempts to get official confirmation from Malaysia have yet to draw a response, Khaw said that Singapore has been “left with no choice” but to go ahead with its end of the deal. He added:
“It will be most unfortunate, if Malaysia has in fact decided to terminate, but delays in notifying us, because there will be further wasted expenditure.”
While the Minister said that the Government will continue to press for official clarification and “act according to its rights,” Singaporeans have expressed anger at the fact that the Government has spent so much on the project without consulting taxpayers.
Questioning why the authorities plan on pumping millions more into the project as it awaits official confirmation from Malaysia, Singaporeans also asked why Khaw specifically tagged the money spent on the HSR project as the “taxpayers’ money” and wondered whether the Minister was trying to gain the people’s sympathy by using such words: