Kuala Lumpur, 20 April 2020 –A former secretary-general of the Finance Ministry today urged the government to roll out three big-ticket construction projects that have been in the pipeline for some time to kickstart the country’s post-COVID-19 economy.
Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim said the three multi-billion ringgit projects the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) and National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP) could spur the sleeping economy and repair the economic damage left behind by the pandemic.
“The government has not said much to tell the public when these three projects will start rolling out so as to generate work orders for professional firms, construction companies and employ the lawyers, accountants, engineers, technicians and general workers.
“And when they work and get salaries, they will spend on nasi lemak, fried mee, fried bananas, teh tarik, thus bringing back economic activities,” he told Bernama. But the bigger question, according to Sheriff, would be the budget for the projects.
“Does the government have the budget to kickstart the mega projects? If it is not money, what is the problem in starting the projects?” he asked. It was reported on Feb 13 that the RM44 billion ECRL project, which will connect Port Klang and Kota Bharu in Kelantan, is 15 per cent complete. Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd is the project and asset owner of ECRL and China Communications Construction ECRL Sdn Bhd is its main contractor.
In December 2019, the Malaysian government was reported as saying that the RM60 billion KL-Singapore HSR project would be continued, but it may require certain adjustments to reduce its costs. On the NFCP, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission has announced an allocation of RM3 billion to roll out six projects this year.
The projects intend to reduce the digital divide through the expansion of coverage and improvements in the quality of both fixed and mobile broadband, whilst laying the foundation for new fifth generation (5G) networks. Sheriff, who is a founder of the group of 25 former top civil servants better known as G25, also likened these projects to the locomotives to pull the economy out of the recession.
“I ask the government to give the public an explanation on what is going on with these three big projects,” he added. Sheriff also welcomed the appointment of Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar as the new chairman of Bursa Malaysia, replacing Datuk Shireen Ann Zaharah Muhiudeen. “Wahid’s appointment is a good sign. He will tell Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to observe good corporate governance practices,” he said.