All foreign projects, including KL-S'pore HSR, to be reviewed

An artist's impression of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail Terminal in Jurong East.
An artist's impression of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail Terminal in Jurong East.PHOTO: FARRELLS

The new Malaysian government will review all foreign contracts and projects, including the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) project and those under China's Belt and Road Initiative, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday.

"With regard to all those contracts, we will review them to see how they favour us," he added at a press conference.

Following the shock win of opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan led by Tun Dr Mahathir, there has been uncertainty over mega infrastructure projects like the HSR.

The HSR deal was inked in December 2016 with the Najib administration, and the 350km rail was expected to begin operations in 2026.

But Dr Mahathir has opposed the HSR before, citing the debt Malaysia would have to take on. "We have to know whether we really need this HSR or not," he told The Sunday Times in January last year.

During this year's election campaign, he also pledged to review all mega projects sanctioned by Barisan Nasional under former PM Najib Razak, saying that some of them might be cancelled as they were wasteful and unnecessary.

Still, Dr Mahathir seemed cautiously optimistic about the HSR's potential benefits last year.

He also opened the door to expanding the HSR to "go to Penang or even the Thai border".

Analysts have said that the fate of the HSR is still uncertain - the deadline for the primary tender was pushed back from June to December following requests from bidders, but the election results may delay this further.

Even so, Dr Mahathir said yesterday that despite the review, Malaysia would "maintain friendly relations with all countries".

Last Thursday, Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said it is still "early days" to assess what the Mahathir team's win will mean for major projects such as the HSR.

Rachel Au-Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 13, 2018, with the headline 'All foreign projects, including KL-S'pore HSR, to be reviewed'. Print Edition | Subscribe