The government received offers as low as RM10 billion to complete the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), revealed Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The government, he said, was unwilling to pay the initial estimated cost of RM55 billion for the ECRL, which would stretch from Kelantan to Port Klang.
However, he said, it had been prepared to pay more than RM10 billion, according to The Malaysian Insight.
“Paying RM55 billion for something that the highest estimate is only RM30 billion would not be good for our financial health.
“Some even said they can do the ECRL for RM10 billion instead of RM55 billion. Some are Chinese companies, some are local companies.
“We have to talk with them if there is a possibility of reducing the cost from RM55 billion to RM10 billion. We would be stupid not to accept,” he was quoted as saying.
He did not name the companies that made such offers or state if these were for existing or modified parameters.
However, the prime minister said the offers must be studied to see if is possible to complete the project for that little.
Earlier this month, Mahathir had visited China to negotiate the ECRL and two gas pipeline projects.
The prime minister said he had told China that Malaysia simply could not afford the projects.
When asked to explain the discrepancy between his announcement in China that the ECRL and two gas pipeline projects were cancelled and his subsequent clarification otherwise, Dr Mahathir said he only announced the matter “in principle”.
“The details of all these things must be done at the official level.
“For me, I had only said it in principle, we have no money and we have to cancel or defer or reduce cost,” he said.
While he said the intention was to cancel these, studies were ongoing to see if they could also be postponed or made cheaper.
Dr Mahathir had blamed the previous administration for the inflated costs.
He had also pointed the finger at former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak for these lopsided contracts with China, but Najib has defended his administration.
Najib had called on the new government to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into these projects to vindicate himself.
However, Mahathir said an RCI would not solve anything as the perpetrator is already known.
“RCI doesn’t solve anything. It is just meant to point fingers and the fingers are pointed at him (Najib).
“There is no need for an RCI. He is the perpetrator, we wouldn’t have this problem if Najib hadn’t been the prime minister,” he said.