Lee Hsien Loong and Najib from Malaysian Insight

Reiterating his commitment to remove the High Speed Rail in Singapore, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad stated that such billion-dollar projects is only about the popularity of Prime Minister:

“Many large projects and government agencies set up by Najib were not necessary at all. Mostly it was about trying to make the prime minister popular and it cost billions of dollars. To prevent such abuses in future, I will repeal draconian security laws and strengthen parliamentary oversight so that one person could not dominate the system in the way that Najib did or that critics accuse Dr Mahathir of doing in the past. It will not be a kleptocratic government, certainly, it will be a more democratic country.”

In the interview with Financial Times, the 92-year-old PM also pointed out that he will scrap the unnecessary project because Malaysia is in debt:

“We will scrap the multi-billion-dollar Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project as part of drastic cuts to government spending and investment that are required for the country to avoid being declared bankrupt. One of the most important priorities of course is the financial situation of the country. We need to do away with some of the unnecessary projects, for example the high-speed rail, which is going to cost us RM110 billion (S$37 billion) and will not earn us a single cent. That will be dropped…We have an agreement with Singapore. We have to talk with Singapore about dropping that project.”

According to the new Malaysian Finance Minister, Malaysia is currently in RM1.09 trillion of debt. In an earlier interview with Malaysian media, PM Mahathir revealed that Malaysia would have to pay Singapore US$125 million in penalty.

Update: Malaysia PM Mahathir told Singapore state media CNA that the decision is final:

“It is a final decision, but it will take time because we have an agreement with Singapore. It’s not beneficial. It’s going to cost us a huge sum of money. We’ll make no money at all from this arrangement. This is only a short track. It is only going to save people one hour by taking the HSR.”

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has in recent years spent billions in lucrative projects like Garden By the Bay, Bishan Park’s man-made river, Singapore Sports Hub (a mega fiasco where the Singapore government chose not to hold national day parades at this national stadium because it is too expensive in rental), Project Jewel and Marina Bay Sands. A few new projects costing tens of billions in plan now are Terminal 5 and Tuas Mega Project.