KLANG: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad says Malaysia will continue with the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project with China, but only if the cost of construction is considerably less.
"If the price is right then we will continue, but at the moment we have not agreed on the price," Dr Mahathir told reporters after launching Metrod Holdings Bhd's plant extension at Bukit Raja Prime Industrial Park here on Monday (Feb 25).
He said Malaysia hoped to spend less on the project, as it was too costly at the moment.
Dr Mahathir explained the cost – at more than RM55bil – would take Malaysia 30 years to settle the loan taken to pay for it.
"We will be saddled with a lot of interest, which in the end will amount to RM140bil," he said.
According to Dr Mahathir, the options now are to either bring down the cost or postpone the implementation of the project.
"It's not because we don't want to build, but it is a bit early for us because we don't have the money," he said.
He said Malaysia had to be careful about how it spends as the country has a lot of debt.
"Other than the ECRL, we have debts owned by 1MDB and all that.
"This was incurred by the previous govt and now of course they are telling us how to run the country. But when they were running the country, they didn't do such a good job.
"They incurred so much debt that the country has to spend all its income to pay debts or else we might be sued for bankruptcy,'' said Dr Mahathir.
Last week, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said he believed Malaysia and China could arrive at a deal to revive the ECRL project by April this year.
Lim had also said negotiations were ongoing with China for a reduction of the project's cost and a decision would be made by the time Dr Mahathir visits the country in April.