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Bandar Malaysia: then and now

  • The revised Bandar Malaysia serves multiple purposes: revamp the supply chain, win back the trust of Beijing and mend the souring ties with Johor palace.

Sin Chew Daily

The repackaged Bandar Malaysia project is pushed back to the market once again.

What the Pakatan Harapan government is doing is nothing unusual. Be it Bandar Malaysia, ECRL, or the future KL-Singapore HSR project, etc., these are more of the government's political chips than economic undertakings per se.

When these projects were shelved, the excuse given was mounting national debts, but when the projects were revived, they were said to be able to spearhead the country's development and benefit the rakyat.

Malaysians are indeed getting very confused. They find themselves unable to cope with the speed the administrators are changing their minds.

The same thing in Malaysia today can have two completely polarized values. The government's decision-making process has upended all known economic reasonings.

Major infrastructural projects will hardly be immune from political ramifications. When a person comes to power, the first thing in mind is to ax the original projects in a bid to break the economic sources of his opponents.

However, when the time is ripe, the old projects will be revived with some additions and omissions in place, with an overhaul of the line-up of developers, contractors and suppliers.

Understanding such a logic, it is apparent that all previously quoted economic theories and the numbers are but a disguise.

How could it be that mega projects of such an enormous scale be reincarnated one after another while the government still moans that government debts have topped the trillion ringgit mark and that the government must tighten its belt to prevent it from going bankrupt?

“Slashing debts” is no more in fashion nowadays but “catalyzing economic development” is.

Of course, the various projects that have come on stream of late all have something to do with the country's political developments.

PM Mahathir is about to set off for a visit to China to restore bilateral relationship and to win back Beijing's trust next week. So, he'd better keep his “neocolonialism” comment under lid.

To protrude his sincerity, the prime minister will bring two presents with him: ECRL and Bandar Malaysia, in hope of restoring faith with the Chinese authorities.

It doesn't matter to Beijing whether ECRL will bypass Gombak and Bentong. Most importantly this whole project must go ahead, and China's strategic needs are not compromised.

As for Bandar Malaysia, the revised project will go to a joint venture of Johor-based Iskandar Waterfront Holdings (IWH) and China Railway Engineering Corp (CREC).

Mahathir explained that he was previously against the project because he did not know that Malaysia actually had a majority stake in this mammoth project.

The revised Bandar Malaysia project serves multiple purposes. Not only has the supply chain been replaced, the government has also been able to win back the trust of Beijing as well as restore the relationship with the Johor royal family.

Nevertheless, there is still this big question mark hanging over the project.

One of the conditions for Bandar Malaysia is to become a future transportation hub, in particular to serve as the site of the KL-Singapore HSR terminus. Without the HSR, the project's economic benefits and feasibility will be compromised.

Notably, another precondition for the revival of Bandar Malaysia project is enhanced bumiputra participation.

And this is definitely not going to be the way forward.


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