PAKATAN Harapan will review several “unnecessary” mega-projects which will burden the country financially if it takes over Putrajaya in the next general election, said Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The PH chairman singled out the RM55 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and the RM60 billion KL-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) projects.
“A lot of these projects are wasteful and unnecessary. We need to renegotiate and even cancel some and pay compensation. But, it is better to pay compensation than to carry this horrible huge RM200 billion borrowings that this government has made,” Dr Mahathir told a forum on the impact of Chinese investments in Malaysia.
Present at the forum, held at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, were Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah, Professor Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram and economist Azrul Azhar.
“It is going to take us more than 50 years to pay these loans. We have to look if we can put a stop to this ECRL or the high-speed train, which are not necessary ,” Dr Mahathir said.
Jomo agreed with Dr Mahathir that it did not make sense to have the ECRL.
“Does it make sense for the ECRL to carry 10 times more cargo than KTMB trains? There is no reason to carry freight on high-speed trains. Why the need for the ECRL when the people in Kelantan and Terengganu are not commuting daily to work in Kuala Lumpur,” Jomo told the audience of about 800 people.
The HSR will connect KL with Singapore. Tenders for the project are expected to be given out by year-end. China and Japan are said to be strong contenders for the project.
The ECRL railway links Gombak in Selangor to Kota Baru in Kelantan and will be built and funded by a Chinese company. The rail link is expected to be completed by 2024.
Dr Mahathir said he was wary about foreign direct investments (FDI) as he did not want to see land in Malaysia taken over by foreigners.
“We are concerned about Forest City. Is it not that we don’t welcome FDI but this is different. Because this involves the ownership of a large portion of land that can accommodate 7,000 people.
“The development is also very luxurious… the Johor people would not be able to afford the properties, and because of this, the government will have bring in a lot of foreigners.
“This means we have to implement loose immigration policies. We did not have that before.
“Because of certain policy changes by the government, we welcome foreign ownership of valuable land in our country. In Johor, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and in Pahang. Is estimated that all these developments will accommodate three million immigrants,” the former prime minister said.
Dr Mahathir said with this number of immigrants, there are bound to be clashes because they don’t even know how to put up the Indonesian flag, referring to the recent gaffe at the ongoing Sea Games where the official booklet had the Indonesian flag upside down.
Dr Mahathir said just because we are friendly with China it doesn’t mean we should sell the country to foreigners.
“It is not because they are Chinese. We are not anti-Chinese. If they bring in three million Bangladeshis, they might cast their votes and if the Arabs come in, there will be a RM2.6 billion donation. I will still feel uncomfortable.
“We don’t want to any country to come in to defend their investments and we lose control. We want our investments to be balanced with investments from other countries.”
NEW AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY? BUT INABILITY OF LOCAL SUPPLIERS TO RAISE THEIR QUALITY & BE COMPETITIVE WAS THE PROBLEM BEHIND PROTON, WAS IT NOT?
Dr Mahathir also said there is a possibility he will start a new automotive industry if the opposition takes over Putrajaya in the next elections.
“Maybe we will do it. There are a lot of good engineers who have left Proton and I think they can start a new industry.
“We have all the skills, we can design, make and test the models. We also have some of the most sophisticated electronics now. Over 200 small electronics inside the car now,” he said after the forum.
Dr Mahathir said no other developing country had been able to produce a car of that standard that is the same of developed countries.
“I’m very sad because Proton was doing relatively well for a developing country. It had all the features of cars coming in from other countries.
“There are a lot of companies that had opened to supply parts. This would also provide opportunities for people to manufacture the car.”
DRB-Hicom Bhd is selling a 49.9% stake in loss-making Proton Holdings Bhd to China-based Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd (Geely Holding).
As part of the deal, Geely would also buy the entire stake in Lotus, the British sports carmaker from Proton. The deal was said to cost about RM770 million.