The Sarawak Report has exposed new documents which alleged that the Malaysian Government is in the midst of finalising a new contract to award China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) for a whopping sum of RM60 billion. The East Coast Economic Region Development Council had previously expected the cost of the project to be ‘only’ RM30 billion.
Malaysians are taken aback by the speculated cost for the project and cannot be blamed for giving Sarawak Report the benefit of the doubt because the whistle-blower website has been proven right time and again, especially with regards to its reporting of the multi-billion dollar 1MDB scandal.
As a measure of comparison, the 329km Ipoh-Padang Besar double-tracking project was awarded to MMC-Gamuda consortium for RM14.5 billion in 2003. More recently in December 2015, the 179km Gemas-Johor Bahru link was awarded to China Railway Engineering Corporation for the sum of RM7.1 billion. On average, the railway projects cost RM44.0 million and RM39.8 million per kilometre respectively.
However, at the cost of RM60 billion, the 620km ECRL will cost a monstrous RM96.8 billion per kilometre to construct. That would mean that the ECRL will cost 120% and 143% more than northern and southern double-tracking projects respectively!
The massively inflated alleged cost of the ECRL without a tender exercise lends credence to the Sarawak Report documents which detailed how the “excess” was to bailout the debt-stricken 1MDB.
The documents reveal that CCCC, upon the award of the inflated contract, will via a nominated “credit-worthy” company pay 1MDB the sum of US$850 million (RM3.4bn) for the purposes of repayment for International Petroleum Investment Corporation (IPIC) advances, and assume the debt of 1MDB subsidiaries amounting to US$4.78 billion (RM19.4bn) inclusive of interest which had been guaranteed by IPIC.
These payments are clearly meant to go towards the settlement with IPIC which has taken 1MDB to the London arbitration court for the amount of US$6.5 billion.
More interestingly, part of the sum from the inflated cost will go towards acquiring substantial stakes in fugitive Low Taek Jho-linked companies, Putrajaya Perdana Bhd and Loh & Loh Corporation Bhd for US$244 million and US$71 million respectively.
In addition, there is a proposed payment by CCCC to a “consultancy/strategic/comms services” company and another “nominated company” for the amounts of US$65 million and US$200 million respectively. The payment for the unnamed mysterious “nominated company” was to be made upon the official signing of the ECRL contract expected in December this year. Hence, it appears that even in the exercise of a desperate bailout, generous commissions will be paid to certain parties, perhaps to continue their lifestyles of luxury and debauchery.
In effect, the Najib administration is merely ECRL as an excuse and an outrageous cover up to mask additional borrowings of RM30 billion in order to repay the billions embezzled from 1MDB. Most tragically, it means that ordinary Malaysians as the Government will finance the entire ECRL project with more crippling debt. We are merely covering up a gigantic hole by digging ourselves an even bigger hole.
We call upon Dato’ Seri Najib Razak to confirm or deny that the award of the contract to CCCC is in the works, and provide transparent and accountable justifications for the award in the absence of any competitive tender exercise.