Malaysia is currently stuck in a catch-22 situation: pay up RM500 million for terminating the High Speed Rail (HSR) project or incur a RM110 billion for continuing. Given its trillion RM national debt, the Malaysian government could not afford either.
Giving Singapore a RM500 million for free is out of the question, after all, Malaysia has to factor its own losses for terminating its local project developments.
The only solution is to postpone the HSR, until Malaysia’s finance improved. Or until Singapore has a change of government. Despite Singapore being a single-party dictatorship, the latter is a very real option. Lee Hsien Loong, this time, could no longer capitalise on his father’s influence to canvass for Singaporeans’ votes. With his open rebellion denying Lee Kuan Yew’s last will during the 38 Oxley Road saga, the old man’s supporters have in recent years openly critical of his effeminate son.
A new Singapore government would not play “hard ball” with Malaysia as the ruling party PAP does currently. The compensation clause can be renegotiated with greater empathy on Malaysia’s finance and also an opportunity for Singapore to mend ties with Malaysia after Lee Hsien Loong literally made an enemy out of his neighbour.
Singapore’s incumbent Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has a personal feud with Malaysia’s PM Mahathir Mohamad. Aside from taking revenge for his friend Najib Razak who has been arrested for corruption, Lee Hsien Loong wants to “get back” at his late father’s long-time nemesis. This is why the he is insistent on making Malaysia pay up more than the contracted RM500 million.
The next Singapore general elections is due by 2021, but state media Straits Times have earlier speculated that it would be 2019 as the election clashes with an unpopular GST tax increase. Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad has earlier commented that Singaporeans, like Malaysian voters, are tired of having the same government and they may emulate Malaysia’s regime change.
With a new government, Singapore could see itself starting to catch up with Malaysia on democratic progress, and healing the strained relationships with major trading partners like China.