Malaysia is reviving a multibillion-dollar property development project with a China-linked venture that was shelved by the former administration two years ago.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad yesterday announced that Bandar Malaysia - the 197ha former air force base on the southern fringes of Kuala Lumpur - will be reinstated, after it was "abruptly terminated in May 2017".
The project, which will include offices, a park and 10,000 units of affordable homes, is expected to draw foreign direct investments and generate an expected gross development value of RM140 billion (S$46 billion).
"Like the ECRL, the Bandar Malaysia project should be viewed within the larger context of fostering and cementing long-term bilateral relations between Malaysia and China, while ensuring that such projects add maximum economic value to the country," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement yesterday.
The ECRL, or East Coast Rail Link, is another Malaysia-China venture that recently received the go-ahead after being suspended last year by the current administration. The 640km railway line connects ports on the west and east coasts of Peninsular Malaysia.
Bandar Malaysia will resume with its original contractors - a Malaysia-China consortium consisting of Iskandar Waterfront Holdings and China Railway Engineering Corp (IWH-CREC) - but with a new development plan, said Tun Dr Mahathir.
No corruption or any form of shady deals will be tolerated. This approach will prevent leakages, questionable dealings and abuse of power and will translate into massive savings for the government.
MALAYSIAN PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE, in a statement yesterday.
Bandar Malaysia was launched as a business and transport hub project of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in 2011 by then Prime Minister Najib Razak.
A stake in it was sold to master developer IWH-CREC in 2015 to help 1MDB with its finances, but the deal was called off in May 2017 over alleged missed payments.
IWH-CREC had at the time disputed the allegations.
Najib currently faces 42 charges of corruption, abuse of power, and money laundering involving funds linked to 1MDB.
Under the new plan, IWH-CREC will make an advance payment of RM500 million - in addition to the original deposit sum of RM741 million - to be paid within 60 days from the date that the government officially reinstates the project.
"It should be stressed that the principle of integrity, accountability and transparency will remain paramount at all times. No corruption or any form of shady deals will be tolerated," said the Prime Minister's Office statement. "This approach will prevent leakages, questionable dealings and abuse of power and will translate into massive savings for the government."
Reacting to the news yesterday, Najib called the move "another big U-turn" by Dr Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.
Najib said in a post on Facebook that the deal was the same one that was signed during his tenure.
"All the accusations that PH once threw at me and BN can be recycled back to PH," he said, referring to his former ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional.
"Selling the country. Shady project. Bowing to China."
Bandar Malaysia was slated to become the country's biggest transport hub, with the MRT line, KTM Komuter intercity trains and the airport's Express Rail Link line converging there.
The original plan had included a terminus for the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail, which has been put on hold by the Mahathir administration.