The Malaysian government said it would resurrect a multibillion-US dollar property and transportation project in Kuala Lumpur involving a Chinese state company, calling it a contribution to China’s global Belt and Road Initiative.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who is to travel to China next week to attend the second Belt and Road Forum, on Friday said that the Malaysian Cabinet had agreed to reinstate the Bandar Malaysia project, which is expected to cost 140 billion ringgit (US$33.9 billion).
The decision came a week after Malaysia resumed a China-backed rail link project after the Chinese contractor agreed to cut the construction cost by one-third to 44 billion ringgit.
Mahathir said that both projects would boost ties with China and add economic value.
Bandar Malaysia, which is 40 percent owned by the Malaysian government, would be developed with the same consortium partners, Malaysian developer Iskandar Waterfront Holdings and China Railway Engineering Corp (中國鐵路工程), he said.
The 202 hectare project would boost urban development and serve as a hub to woo global finance, technology and entrepreneurial firms, he said.
Bandar Malaysia was started by the indebted 1 Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) state investment fund in 2011, but it later sold a 60 percent stake to the consortium.
The government took over 1MDB’s stake due to its debt problems, but the project was terminated by the previous government in May 2017 after a payment dispute with the consortium.
The 1MDB scandal led to the election ouster in May last year of former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, who is on trial for alleged corruption.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has made the Belt and Road Initiative a signature policy. The estimated US$1 trillion-plus plan aims to weave a network of ports, bridges and power plants linking China with Africa, Europe and beyond.
“These two major projects will also be a significant contribution to the Belt and Road Initiative, which Malaysia expects to be able to tap on and exploit its multiplier effects,” Mahathir said.
The revived project would include 10,000 affordable homes and a people’s park, and would prioritize the use of local construction materials, Mahathir said.
It was originally designed to house the main hub for a high-speed rail line connecting Singapore to Kuala Lumpur that would cut travel time to 90 minutes, but Mahathir’s government suspended the rail project on grounds that it was too costly, although Mahathir said that it could be built if conditions change.
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