If the underlying purpose of Malaysia's decision to negotiate a deferment of the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail (HSR) project is to avoid paying the cancellation fee, with no specific deadline for its revival, then it is best for the country to terminate the project immediately (Malaysia to negotiate deferment of high-speed rail with Singapore; July 20).
This is because the costs of postponement could escalate to much more than the cancellation fee, and will inevitably be passed on to the Malaysian taxpayer.
On the other hand, the Malaysian government could reduce the scope of works on the portion of the line within its jurisdictional responsibility.
For example, the construction of stations of lower priority could be deferred to a later date if Malaysia does not have adequate funds to realise them currently.
Their scale and extravagance could also be downsized, while private investors could be enlisted to pump in liquidity for a reasonable equity, similar to Malaysia's recent revival of the idea for a new national car project despite its financial woes.
The HSR project is subject to an open tender process, which should be able to accommodate a change in the scope of requirements fairly seamlessly and transparently.
It would also create many good jobs for Malaysians.
In short, there are several viable options on the table that will allow Malaysia to proceed with the project instead of deferring or cancelling it.
But ultimately, Malaysia must decide what is in its best interest, and it must decide as soon as possible, by taking into account all the trade-offs.
Partnerships work best when there is "prosper-thy-neighbour" goodwill, sincerity and respect towards each other and a shared project.
Toh Cheng Seong