Monday, December 18, 2017

Dato’ Seri Rahman Dahlan should answer why inflated ECRL contract was a direct negotiation with a China company, and not whether it was foreign or locally owned.

Yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan once again tried to deflect questions and criticisms of the RM55 billion ECRL project by painting it as “a domestic investment with foreign funding”.

This was in response to the statement issued by former Finance Minister, Tun Daim Zainuddin  who responded to questions from the media last weekend 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?,” he asked

“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,” Tun Daim explained.

Dato’ Seri Rahman Dahlan then retorted in his statement, “Would Daim and Bersatu be happier if foreigners own and operate the ECRL instead?”

The Minister who is in-charge of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) is trying to be disingeneuous in his response.

While the fact of the matter is that ECRL is indeed an infrastructure project which funded with foreign debt, the Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak himself, together with many other Cabinet Ministers have often used the project as a successful example of Malaysia’s ability to attract sizeable investments from China.

For example, earlier in January this year, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak defended “investments” from China, stating that “This is unfair, because investments from China benefits the nation including us in Pahang, not only large investments like ECRL but the price of palm oil also go up, to simultaneously profit smallholders and settlers,” he said said this at ‘An Evening With the Chinese Community In Pekan’ programme.[1]

Hence Tun Daim is merely trying to correct the ‘managed’ perception that these large infrastructure projects are not ‘investments’ from China, but are effectively huge debts which have to be repaid by Malaysians in the future.

The question isn’t where former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad or Tun Daim or any Malaysian for that matter, “be happier if foreigners own and operate the ECRL instead”.

Instead, Malaysians would “be happier” if the ECRL project was tendered openly and competitively so that our tax-payers will receive best value for our ringgit.  Why was a infrastructure project of this magnitude awarded directly without any competitive tender?  Hence, it begs the question - who will really profit from this contract?

It has already been exposed that the Government’s own appointed engineering consultants, HSS Integrated (HSSI) has estimated in December 2015 the project's value was RM29 billion (RM53.2 million per km), whereas China-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) was awarded the contract at RM55 billion (RM91.7 million per km).

We have demanded for the HSSI to be publicly disclosed and Transport Minister, Dato’ Seri Liow Tiong Lai has promised in Parliament in November 2016 to “publish” the feasibility study when it is “finalised”[2].  However, the HSSI report remains a secret document with the BN Government.

The question which remains unanswered to date – if ECRL were to cost RM30 billion or less, why was CCCC awarded the contract via direct negotiation for RM55 billion, even if there so-called favourable financing terms?  Where would the excess RM25 billion go to?  Would it be used to pay-off some of 1MDB’s debts as speculated so as to cover up the Najib administration’s largest international financial scandal?
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