Malaysia: Chinese investments must be thoroughly scrutinised – 20 Jul 2017

  • A think tank has warned that Malaysia must not be too enthusiastic thinking that China’s Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI) would come with automatic benefits, advising instead for proposed investments to be thoroughly scrutinised, The Edge reported.
  • Prominent banker Datuk Seri Nazir Razak has called on the government to scrutinise Chinese-led investments in Malaysia that are part of the expansive One Belt, One Road (Obor) initiative, particularly the 600km-long East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) project.
  • Nazir, who is the chairman of CIMB Group Holdings Bhd, the country’s second-largest lender by assets, said the MYR55bn ECRL project should be thoroughly scrutinised as the project should not be solely measured in terms of investment scale, but also in its value proposition.
  • Nazir also questioned the project’s loan repayment. “Are we generating enough tax revenue to pay for it? I’ve not seen the cash flow. Otherwise it is going to flush in the government fund and suddenly, we are going to get a huge debt pile,” he said.
  • In Nov 16, Malaysia had sealed a deal to build the ECRL with China Communication Construction Co Ltd, with financing via soft loans from the Export-Import Bank of China.
  • It was reported that the project would have three phases – from Port Klang to the Integrated Transport Terminal (ITT) in Gombak, from ITT Gombak to Dungun, and from Dungun to Tumpat.
  • Nazir urged the government to review the country’s negotiations with China to ensure that Malaysia will get the best out of the deal.
  • CIMB Asean Research Institute (Cari) chairman Munir Majid urged the government to ensure that any investment was in the country’s best interest.
  • Munir also called for Asean to ensure that its principles remain the driving force when moving forward towards the economic gains that can be achieved under China’s BRI.
  • “The BRI should also be inclusive in involving local SMEs in the short and medium term to ensure long lasting bilateral relations,” he said.

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