KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian government must be transparent about its decision to cancel the KL-Singapore high-speed rail project, former prime minister Najib Razak said in a Facebook post on Wednesday (May 30) evening.
Writing in Malay, Najib said that while he understood that it was the new Pakatan Harapan government's prerogative to cancel the project, he was disappointed with the decision.
"I'm disappointed with this hasty decision and urge the government to be more transparent and to first conduct negotiations because their decision has an impact on the future economy, as well as on the Malaysian jobs market," he said.
Najib said the project involved years of detailed research that proved it would bring social and economic benefits for both Malaysia and Singapore.
"I feel like it is my responsibility to shed light on how the Barisan Nasional government made the decision (to launch the project) with the Singapore government," said Najib, adding that the projected cost of the high-speed rail was about RM72 billion (US$18 billion) and not the RM110 billion declared by Pakatan Harapan.
"This includes the land acquisition cost to be paid to Malaysians based on the international rating," he said.
Najib also stated that the actual cost will only be revealed after the closing of the full tender for the design, building, financing and maintenance of rolling stock and train assets, which had been due to close on Dec 28, 2018.
"The government should tell us how they came to the figure of RM110 billion. Was this figure also raised based on politics, like how they came up with a 'national debt' of RM1 trillion?" he said.
Najib also expressed his shock over Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's statement that Malaysia would not get a single cent from the HSR project.
"In reality, an infrastructure project such as the HSR brings about plenty of returns in the form of property value, economic growth, technology transfer, the import of expertise from Singapore, as well as tourism," said Najib.
"I would like to ask Dr Mahathir: Do projects like the Pan Borneo and Central Spine Road highways ... bring about just ticket returns? Obviously not."
Najib said that based on a report he had seen, the HSR would bring about RM650 billion of gross national income until 2069. "There will also be 110,000 new jobs and this is projected to rise to 442,000 in 2069.
"This report should be made public the way the Barisan Nasional government did back when it first invited feedback on the HSR," said Najib.
The former prime minister, who was also finance minister, asked if the decision to cancel the HSR was that of just one person, saying he understood that it was "never discussed in Cabinet" and that the current finance minister did not want to comment on it.
"The economy today is more sophisticated than before and it is disappointing if the PM fails to see that the returns of the HSR go beyond the scope of ticket sales," wrote Najib.
"Don't make such a hasty decision just because you want to seek revenge on certain people or the Barisan Nasional government. A decision based on emotions will only disadvantage the people," he added.
Mahathir said later in the evening that the government stood behind its decision to not continue with the HSR project.
When asked to comment on Najib's Facebook post, he said it would not be efficient if the huge allocation of budget was used to provide only about 100,000 jobs.
“If you want to spend RM60 to RM100 billion so that 100,000 people can work, that is not efficient,” Mahathir told reporters after hosting a breaking of fast on Wednesday night.