High Speed Rail, relationship with Malaysia among issues to be discussed in Parliament

An artist’s impression of the Bandar Malaysia station, part of the high-speed rail project.
An artist’s impression of the Bandar Malaysia station, part of the high-speed rail project.PHOTO: EDELMAN

SINGAPORE - The status of the High Speed Rail project between Singapore and Malaysia will come up for discussion during next week's Parliament sitting starting on Monday (July 9), with six MPs having filed questions on the matter.

The issue has generated interest and concern following pronouncements in May by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that Malaysia plans to scrap the multi-billion dollar project that is already underway.

Dr Mahathir has also been quoted saying that he had not formally informed Singapore of the decision.

According to the agenda for the Parliament sitting, MPs including Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC), Mr Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir SMC), and Ms Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC) want to know the costs that Singapore has already incurred since June 2018, and whether it can be recovered should Malaysia renege on the agreement to build the line linking Jurong and Kuala Lumpur.

Mr Ang said he tabled the question in part due to concerns of residents who "have been asking whether it is on or off". The HSR station is to be located in Jurong, and his residents have been looking forward to the convenience the rail line will bring, and anticipating a boost to the value of their property among other things, he said.

Others such as Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) and Non-constituency MP Daniel Goh asked how the cancellation of the project would affect Government revenues and expenditure.

Mr Singh, who is the Workers' Party chief,said the scrapping of the project would have implications on the Government's spending on infrastructure. "If, indeed, the HSR project is not going forward, then it begs the question: Is that going to affect the Government's timeline with regard to the implementation of GST (Goods and Services Tax)?" he added.

The issue has thrown up questions about the bilateral ties between Singapore and Malaysia, and Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) wants to know whether both countries will continue to have a mutually beneficial relationship.

Another issue to do with foreign affairs will also get an airing, with MPs concerned about how the trade war between the United States and China will affect Singapore.

Nominated MP K. Thanaletchimi wants to know if there will be any impact on Singapore workers and consumers, as well as Singapore's strategy to overcome any resulting challenges.

Closer to home, MPs will also talk about the closure of bike-sharing firm oBike, cost of living, and salaries for work permit holders.

Some oBike users were unable to get a refund of their deposit, and MPs such as Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) have asked how they can get their money back.

The Chinese-founded firm announced its sudden exit from the Singapore market last month, and owes about US$4.6 million (S$6.3 million) in deposits to users.

During the sitting, which is expected to stretch over two days, the House will also debate seven Bills and hear from five NMPs who will speak on education as the foundation for the future.