PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia’s Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng on Tuesday (Apr 23) dismissed allegations that land was offered to China for free as part of a deal to reduce the cost of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).
Controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin alleged last Friday that about 4,500 acres of land along the route was given to China Communications Construction Company Ltd (CCCC), while Malaysia got a reduction of costs amounting to RM21.5 billion (US$5.2 billion) under the renegotiated deal.
"I have not been informed about 4,500 acres being given for free. I don't think it’s correct,” Mr Lim told reporters on Tuesday.
The finance minister added that the Cabinet would have to approve any such agreement.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced last Monday that the ECRL project is back on track following a renegotiation to slash its cost by a third to RM44 billion for the revised route of 640km.
The project was suspended last July by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government pending a review of the contract that was deemed “lopsided” by Dr Mahathir, who had vehemently questioned China’s investments in Malaysia.
The revival of ECRL was hailed by PH as its achievement in reducing the country’s financial burden. Shortly after coming into power last May, the coalition had said it was dealing with a RM1 trillion national debt inherited from the previous Barisan Nasional government.
According to the supplementary agreement signed between Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd and CCCC in Beijing on Apr 12, the cost of ECRL was reduced from RM65.5 billion and the route was shortened from 688km to 640km.
On his website Malaysia Today, Petra alleged that the saving of RM21.5 billion in the ECRL project is not a discount because China is “getting 10 times more that amount in land and development rights”.
Mr Lim said on Tuesday that the official contract details will be revealed.
"As far as I know, it is not given for free. If you look at TOD (transit-oriented development), then it’s not for free. TOD is a standard tool for all infrastructure projects," he said.