Malaysia urged to restart country’s economy with three megaprojects

The former secretary-general of Malaysia’s Finance Ministry has urged the government to begin work on three large projects to restart the country’s economy.

Sheriff Mohd Kassim said work on the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), the Kuala Lumpur-to-Singapore High Speed Rail and the National Fibre and Connectivity Plan (NFCP) would help to mend the economic damage caused by the pandemic.

He commented: "The government has not said much to tell the public when these three projects will start rolling out so as to generate work orders for professional firms, construction companies and employ the lawyers, accountants, engineers, technicians and general workers.

"And when they work and get salaries, they will spend on nasi lemak, fried mee, fried bananas, teh tarik, thus bringing back economic activities," he told Bernama, the Malaysian national news agency.

Of the three, the only one that has started on site is China Communications Construction’s East Coast link, which will connect Port Klang and Kota Bharu. Work on this scheme was begun in 2017, then halted after an election and a lengthy renegotiation of its costs.

It was reported on 13 February that this project, presently expected to cost $10bn, was 15% complete.

In December 2019, the Malaysian government said the $13.7bn Singapore line project would go ahead, but said the scheme may require changes to reduce its costs. A memorandum of understanding was signed between Malaysia and Singapore as long ago as 2016.

Work has not yet begun on the fibre plan, but the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission has announced an allocation of $690m for six projects that are due to begin this year. These will improve access to broadband services and lay the foundations for the country’s 5G network.

Sheriff, who is a founder of the group of 25 former top civil servants known as the G25, added that these projects were the "locomotives" needed to pull the economy out of the recession and asked the government to "give the public an explanation" of what was going on with them.

Image: China’s CJ6-type locomotive, which is expected to operate on the East Coast Link (N509FZ/CC-BY-SA-4.0)

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