A FORMER finance minister today questioned whether mega projects from China – which are touted as milestones of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration – are actually investments or loans.
Tun Daim Zainuddin said one of these initiatives, the RM60 billion East Coast Railway Link (ECRL), was actually a loan instead of a direct investment.
The project is expected to be funded through a loan from the Export-Import Bank of China, which will be used to pay main contractor China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).
Daim said in this response to questions from the media on whether the country should be worried over foreign investments from China.
“How much investment did they bring in? Like Forest City? Does the train project (ECRL) bring in money?,” Daim told reporters after attending a closed door dialogue session with pressure group Malaysia Baru, an entity founded by PKR deputy youth chief Afif Bahardin.
“If it is a loan, that means we have to pay (it) back. If you have to pay (it) back, does that mean it is an investment? If you were an investor, what would you say?”
“Its not (an investment). It’s a loan.”
The Najib administration has boasted that the 688km ECRL will be a game changer that will transform the economies of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang. It will connect Wakaf Baru, Kelantan with Port Klang on the West Coast via Kuantan.
ECRL’s critics have questioned its viability and decried its high price tag as being the most expensive rail project in the the world.
Although he was skeptical of the ECRL, Daim nevertheless wanted the government to continue attracting investors into the country.
“The importance of investment is that it creates jobs. There are many out of work graduates and the unions are complaining that many are getting retrenched. This is an urgent matter that needs to be addressed.”
Meanwhile, Daim said he has no plans to come back to active politics.
“I have retired and I want to continue my retirement,” he said when asked on his hopes for the country after the 14th general election, which must be called before August 2018.
Daim served twice as finance minister under former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, from 1984 to 1991, and from 1999 to 2001.
He refused to be drawn into the ongoing public discussion over whether his former boss Dr Mahathir will be Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) candidate for prime minister.
“There is no proposal from them yet. If the people want him, then that’s up to them, it’s not me that decides.”
PH is currently considering fielding Dr Mahathir, who is the coalition’s chairman, and president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as its prime minister and deputy prime minister candidate respectively.