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June 24, 2017

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Malaysia-Singapore HSR money well spent?

The Star/Asia News Network--The Malaysia-Singapore high-speed rail (HSR) is a mega project that not only symbolizes the warming of ties between Malaysia and Singapore, but also the increased economic links between the two countries.

Iskandar Malaysia has been a magnet of sorts for Singaporeans and more investments are flowing in from Singapore into Malaysia.

Both governments have basically given the green light for the HSR project to proceed and tenders are expected to be called next year as studies are ongoing on the finer details of the project.

But as momentum grows toward the construction of an HSR link between both countries, there is growing skepticism whether the project, which is estimated to cost 40 billion ringgit (US$12.45 billion), will actually be money well spent.

There is anxiety that once built, the HSR will benefit Singapore more than Malaysia as the link will serve as another channel for Malaysian talent to migrate to higher paying jobs in the south.

That leads to the cost-benefit aspects of the project, as some feel that the existing train infrastructure under KTM Bhd needs to be upgraded to ensure that the country gains from a railway infrastructure instead of enriching its neighbor and economic competitor.

Surrendering the Hinterland?

"The priority should be to keep economic value within the country and efforts should be made to create one-hour economic zones in Ipoh, Malacca and Kuantan after the mass rapid transit (MRT) is built rather than surrender the hinterland to Singapore," one analyst said.

Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chief executive Mohamad Nur Ismal Kamal said that the HSR does not focus on the aspect of swift mobility of people alone, and that the project is meant to benefit both countries.

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