Singapore and China understand Malaysia's debt problem: Minister

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng is confident that China and Singapore understand Malaysia's debt predicament, the key reason it is reviewing mega rail projects entered into with both countries.

In an interview with Channel News Asia's Conversation With, Mr Lim, who is grappling with federal debt of over RM1 trillion (S$337 billion), said he believed the two countries would be willing to lend Malaysia a helping hand.

Malaysia's new government that was ushered in last month had said it would axe the RM110 billion Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High-Speed Rail (HSR) link, a deal which was inked in 2016 under the former administration and due to be completed in 2026.

"As far as the HSR is concerned, it's scrapped for now as announced by the PM, but in the future, that is something that we want to discuss with the government... In that sense, we're talking about the possibility of deferring and discussing with our good neighbours Singapore to see how they can help us out of this debt predicament," said Mr Lim. "I'm sure Singapore would understand that this is not the moment for us to embark on high-cost projects such as the HSR."

The Finance Minister left the door open for reviving the project in the future.

"A year from now, two years from now... it's something that we need to discuss," he said.

Meanwhile, the terms of the China-backed East Coast Rail Link, which was originally meant to cost RM55 billion, were being renegotiated, Mr Lim said.

"We are confident China understands our debt predicament and they'll be willing to help us out, give us a helping hand," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2018, with the headline 'Singapore and China understand Malaysia's debt problem: Minister'. Print Edition | Subscribe