PETALING JAYA: Locating fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low (pic) was not part of the renegotiations with China on the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
"It had nothing to do with Mr Jho Low.
"But, of course we will seek the help of the Chinese government if he is at all in China," Dr Mahathir told reporters at a press conference announcing the resumption of the ECRL project Monday (April 15).
He was asked if the successful renegotiation with China was linked to Jho Low and the possibility of him being tracked down.
Asked if the ECRL renegotiations also covered palm oil exports to China, Dr Mahathir said that although there was no direct connection to the project, it would pave the way for more palm oil exports to China.
"It is not directly related but we are taking advantage of the signing of the agreement to work out purchase of palm oil from China. That will happen," he said.
On the issue that initial cost of the ECRL project was inflated by the previous administration to bail out debt laden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), Dr Mahathir said yes.
He noted that the Barisan Nasional government had given out the ECRL project to a company through direct negotiations and a lump sum payment, resulting in a high cost.
"That was what happened as the price was so high. We have reduced it by RM32bil.
"Had the project been handed out in the usual manner, we would have gotten a better price," he said.
Asked if the renegotiated ECRL terms had allayed fears of the nation falling into a Chinese debt trap, Dr Mahathir said there were initial concerns owing to the high cost of the project agreed by the previous Government.
"There were concerns but there is now a solution to our concerns," he said.
He said that Pakatan Harapan had raised this fear when it was the Opposition before taking over Putrajaya last May.
Asked on his view of Chinese companies being involved in future mega projects, Dr Mahathir said they could do so if their expertise were required.
"If there are mega-projects that we can give to the Chinese, we will.
"But our policy is to give mega-projects to Malaysian companies and if they don't have the expertise, they can call some foreign companies to come in," he said.