Talks on the HSR continue, but to what end?

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

Despite the Malaysian administration oscillating between whether or not to continue with the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project, Malaysian Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali held a meeting with Singapore’s Transport Minister and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure Khaw Boon Wan last Saturday.

According to The Straits Times, Datuk Seri Azmin said that the meeting held in the Republic was “official… good and productive”. He also added that, “I explained Malaysia’s position on the project. The (Coordinating) Minister for Infrastructure will have to bring it to Singapore’s Cabinet”.

A spokesman for Singapore’s Ministry of Transport said, “The ministers discussed the HSR project and agreed to continue discussions in the coming weeks”.

According to unofficial reports, Malaysia’s intentions conveyed at the meeting were to postpone the HSR. A spokesperson for the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Office said, “Our position is to have the rail project postponed pending review”.

Singapore has also been having its doubts about Malaysia continuing with the project after Mr Khaw said last month that The Republic has spent more than $250 million on the project, and is likely to incur another $40 million by the year end.

Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad initially spoke of scrapping the project due to Malaysia’s debts of more than RM1 trillion (S$336 billion). However, because of the penalties that it would incur for cancelling the project, Putrajaya added that it was looking to a deferment of the project.

Dr Mahathir: Either reduce the price of HSR or we’ll do it at a later date

Malaysia has yet to clarify its official position on the project, with much speculation taking place in Singapore over the variously worded replies from their ministers. The Republic also continues to lose money as it proceeds with its end of the project. An official reply either way would help the situation without Singapore being kept in the dark.

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obbana@theindependent.sg