PETALING JAYA: Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday (Jan 29) said no final decision has been made on the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project.
“At this moment no final decision has been made, some decisions were made but now we have to find a better solution,” he told a press conference after chairing a Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) meeting.
When asked to confirm that the project had not been called off, he said: “We are still negotiating.”
Dr Mahathir added that the government felt that more time should be given to the concerned parties to come up with the solution to the problem concerning the RM81 billion (US$19.7 billion) project.
“I'm not in the position to give the explanation about what we are going to do, but no decision has been made at this moment,” he said.
As to whether the government would look at any other option rather than calling off the project, the prime minister responded: “There may be some other options, we are open.”
Dr Mahathir added that the government had always been studying the cost of the ECRL project.
“Apparently there are offers by others that will cost the government much less. I think the previous government had made a very high estimate (of the cost), we need to attend to that,” he said.
The prime minister said Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng would make an announcement on the matter once the negotiations were completed.
Regarding claims that conflicting information on the ECRL project would worry investors, Dr Mahathir said the situation arose because statements by ministers on the matter were interpreted differently.
Earlier on Tuesday, Dr Mahathir commented that Malaysia will be "impoverished" if it continues with the ECRL.
Since winning power last May, Dr Mahathir has repeatedly vowed to renegotiate or cancel what he calls "unfair" Chinese projects authorised by predecessor Najib Razak, whose near-decade long rule ended in electoral defeat amid a massive financial scandal.
On Monday, Dr Mahathir said the status of the ECRL project will only be announced by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.