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Malaysian officials say hospitals, easing traffic conditions, better roads more important than ‘crooked bridge’

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Since Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Osman Sapian said on Tuesday, October 16, that Malaysia’s government is again looking at building the “crooked bridge” project proposed during the first term of Dr. Mahathir Mohammed years ago, several officials have reacted to this news.

The project was scrapped for several reasons by Dr. Mahathir’s successor. But now, it seems that the Prime Minister wishes to revive plans for the bridge. Mr. Osman told reporters, “At an Iskandar Regional Development Authority meeting last month, he (Dr. Mahathir) asked me whether Johor still needed the crooked bridge. I said, ‘It’s up to you, it’s your idea. If you say you want to continue, I’ll just follow.’ It has a lot of benefits.”

However, Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, when asked about the revival of plans to rebuild the “crooked bridge” that would connect Johor Baru and Singapore, said that healthcare should take priority.

The Prince tweeted, “In my opinion, it’s better to go ahead with the hospital in Pasir Gudang that the government tunda (postponed) and increase healthcare budget for the state.”

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As well as, “All hospitals in JB, including districts, needed more beds and medical equipment. Just my humble opinion.”

The building of the 300 bed public hospital in Pasir Gudang had been approved under the 11th Malaysia Plan sometime ago, but hit a snag over its RM500 price tag. A 20.23 hectare plot of land in Jalan Gunung in the Bandar Seri Alam township had already been identified for the hospital.

The hospital is one of the projects under review in the effort to decrease Malaysia’s RM 1 trillion national debt, that Mazlan Bujang, the executive councillor for Johor Works, Infrastructures and Transport, said came about as they received a letter from the Finance Ministry.

While Mr. Osman said that the bridge would be discussed between Malaysia and Singapore later on this month, Liew Chin Tong, Malaysia’s Deputy Defence Minister and Johor DAP chief, said that it is not a priority. He focused instead on improving traffic flow between Malaysia and Singapore, deeming this to be more important.

He said that another bridge in Sungai Rengit in Pengerang, Kota Tinggi district, that would help ease traffic at the Second Link Crossing and the Johor Causeway, is more important. This bridge will connect Pulau Ubin in Singapore with the southeast part of Johor.

Meanwhile Azmin Ali, the Economic Affairs Minister of Malaysia, has also put his two cents in, saying that roads and hospitals take first place over building the bridge. He also expressed concern over the fiscal situation in the country, saying that it’s “not good at present”.

Mr. Azmin said, “Malaysia’s fiscal situation is not good at present (to invest in the infrastructure) … We need to prioritise our infrastructure projects.

I’m sure that the (Johor) state government will raise this (issue) at the federal level. Once we receive the proposal, the ministry will look into this matter and see whether we have the capacity at this point of time to continue with the project or maybe we can consider a point when the situation is much better for us.

The priority is projects that will benefit the people … Hospitals, schools and roads should be given priority as it will benefit the people directly.”

The construction of the ‘crooked bridge’ has never been favorable to Singaporeans, since it would mean a disruption to the country’s water supply, as well as the demolition of the Causeway. The Lion City would experience “no significant benefits” from the bridge, as well as spend a considerable amount in building its half. But Singapore has always been willing to discuss building the ‘crooked bridge’ in relation to other bilateral issues, including airspace, sand and raw water.

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