Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng today scoffed at PAS’ suggestion for east coast state governments to continue the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project if it is terminated.
Lim (PH-Bagan) asked how the state governments of Kelantan and Terengganu would be able to do so, considering that they were unable to pay the salaries of their civil servants.
Lim said he preferred that the Central Spine Road replace the ECRL if the rail project is scrapped, as this would make it easier for those who wished to return to their hometowns in Kelantan and Terengganu.
“Of course, this is up to the Cabinet,” he added. “We would like to see the Central Spine Road take place.
“You wish to take over the project (if it is terminated after negotiations conclude)? I will wait for your letters if you are keen to do so.
“But at the same time, I wonder how you are going to do that when you cannot even afford to pay the salaries of your civil servants,” he said to Takiyuddin Hassan (PAS-Kota Bahru) in the Dewan Rakyat.
Lim’s reply sparked a brief commotion, with PAS MPs asking when the salaries of civil servants were not paid.
Adding that this was an insult to the Kelantan government, they demanded that Lim retract his statement and refrain from making accusations and misleading the house.
Speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof, however, ruled that there was no need for Lim to retract his remark as he had pointed out that the federal government was giving assistance to the state governments.
Earlier, Lim, in responding to the initial question by Noh Omar (BN-Tanjung Karang) on the progress of discussions between Putrajaya and China on the matter, said the government had yet to finalise the project’s direction.
When Noh asked whether Lim agreed that it would be a waste if the project was terminated, as well as unfair to the people in the east coast, Lim reiterated that the federal government had not yet decided to scrap the project.
“When a decision is made, we will notify you,” he said. “I hope you can understand that the cost is very high. Aside from the RM81 billion, the government has not considered the 20-year interest for the loan we need to pay.
“Don’t talk about capital expenditure. We will not even be able to recoup operating expenditure. The government would also have to bear management costs.”