The controversial China-backed ECRL project has been given a reprieve from the government as RM20 billion of the project cost has already been paid, subject to a re-negotiation of the price tag, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told online news portal The Malaysian Insight. Pic by NSTP/ROSLI ZAKARIA.

KUALA LUMPUR: The controversial China-backed East Coast Railway Line (ECRL) project has been given a reprieve from the government as RM20 billion of the project cost has already been paid, subject to a re-negotiation of the price tag, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told online news portal The Malaysian Insight.

Earlier the PH Government had announced plans to scrap the project because of its exorbitant cost of RM60-RM70 billion, which various estimates claimed could be completed for under RM40 billion.

Lim was also quoted as saying in the interview with the news portal that the government was “still undecided” on whether to proceed or defer the KL-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR).

Prior to further discussion with Singapore, Lim said the Attorney-General had been tasked to investigate the legal aspects of the projects.

“In the ECRL, we have already paid RM20 billion. So it doesn’t really make sense to just scrap it because we’ve already paid RM20 billion,” Lim reportedly said.

Lim, however, could not reveal the terms of the ECRL contract and how much recduction in cost the government was trying to negotiate.

“Let us discuss this first. We cannot have these discussions in public. The negotiations have to be done behind closed doors.”

In an earlier media report Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad described the ECRL project as a strange contract, as Malaysia has to fund the project with a loan from China, while also hiring contractors from China, as opposed to drawing down the loan in Malaysia and paying it to the foreign company’s local subsidiary.