JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Reviving the high-speed rail (HSR) project without Singapore would be a waste of resources and has no economic value, says a former Johor mentri besar.
Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, who is also the Umno vice-president, said that the government's plan to implement the HSR project to Johor Baru was not viable as the city was not an economic powerhouse like its island republic neighbour.
"During the pandemic, Johor Baru sat still in terms of growth and resilience, without tourists, investors and (economic) players from Singapore.
"I hope that the government will not waste time and money with unviable plans such as implementing the Kuala Lumpur-Johor Baru route for the HSR with the exclusion of Singapore," he said in a statement on Saturday (Oct 23).
He said this in response to the government's consideration about going ahead with the HSR project, linking Kuala Lumpur to Johor Baru, replacing the earlier planned Kuala Lumpur-Singapore HSR project.
Singapore and Malaysia announced the termination of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore project after both countries were unable to reach an agreement on changes proposed by Malaysia, The Straits Times reported in January. The agreement had lapsed on Dec 31 last year.
Mr Mohamed Khaled criticised Malaysia's economic planners, saying that they "did not possess an overreaching strategy to implement a high-impact, cross-country and exceptionally successful project such as that".
"Meanwhile, in various international trade forums and negotiations, Malaysia has been going on and on with its rhetoric of regional economic integration through trade connectivity, and consumer and labour mobility.
"However, we cannot even link Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, both metropolises being the most dynamic in South-east Asia," he said, adding that the excuses of cost and government abilities were those given by the unimaginative.
"When Malaysia built the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Putrajaya and the North-South Expressway, we were not a rich country then.
"But we still did it with economic planners who had vision and were ahead of their time," he added.
Mr Mohamed Khaled reiterated that in the era of fast connectivity, high-speed rail infrastructure was what Malaysia needed - whether it was Kuala Lumpur-Singapore or Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok.
"The country also needs economic planners who can unearth Malaysia's true strength and our economic plans can no longer be inward looking.
"I hope that the Prime Minister will not repeat the mistakes made by Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional. I am confident that he wants to revive the country's economy through competitive and fruitful projects.
"Otherwise, Malaysia will become a third-world country that is only slightly better than other third-world countries," he said.