PETALING JAYA: A think tank has called on Putrajaya to disclose the details of the new costs of financing the realigned East Coast Rail Link project, which is expected to cost about RM50 billion.
The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) said that the government had not made clear to the public how the new project costs will impact upon the total amount and conditionalities of the loan from Export-Import Bank of China, including the interest rate.
IDEAS chief executive officer Tricia Yeoh said release of the details would allow the public to assess the project’s financial feasibility and the implications for public debt, which IDEAS expects to increase by 58% this year.
“This transparency is key to ensure accountability and efficient use of public funds,” she said in a statement.
The government also needs to ensure that the decisions made around the 665km project were based on achieving value for money and high-quality service delivery,” and not subject to political agenda”.
Two days ago, the transport ministry said the ECRL, which will now be known as ECRL 3.0, will revert to the northern alignment to connect Pahang and Selangor as previously planned by the Barisan Nasional administration.
Construction will take seven years and the ECRL will be operational in 2027.
Yeoh said that when the project was renegotiated by the previous Pakatan Harapan government, it had resulted in a reduction of RM21.5 billion and in significant realignments.
At the time, these renegotiations were initiated as a cost-saving exercise as 85% of the project costs were being funded through a loan from EXIM Bank which has a 3.25% interest rate and seven-year repayment moratorium.
“Although the transport minister has argued that the prior revised costs under the PH administration had excluded certain other expenditures, IDEAS stresses that the conflicting information coming out concerning the ECRL project points to the need for greater transparency.”
She also said there was “a serious lack of coordination” between federal and state governments in the process.
This was based on Selangor state executive councillor Teng Chang Khim’s statement that the state government had not been engaged by the federal government prior to changes being made to the track alignment.
Yeoh said that news reports also suggest that the Selangor state government has completed the preliminary works required for land acquisition for the southern alignment under the “ECRL 2.0”.
“Since these incurred costs are unrecoverable, the proposed changes would demonstrate a dire lack of planning and fiscal prudence from the government in the use of public resources.”