Contracts Awarded To China Under Scrutiny; High-Speed Singapore- Malaysia Rail Link Deferred Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. (Photo by How Hwee Young - Pool/Getty Images)

Malaysia and Singapore have signed an agreement to defer the High Speed Rail (HSR) network that connects both the countries, and is aimed at reducing the travel time to an hour-and-a-half.

Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport, Khaw Boon Wan, and Malaysian Economic Affairs Minister, Mohamed Azmin Ali, inked the agreement at the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya on Wednesday, reported Straits Times.

In accordance with the agreement, Kuala Lumpur has to cough up 15 million Singapore dollars for suspending the work, temporarily. The delay is for two years, as of now. This was announced on 5 September (Wednesday) in a joint press conference held by leaders of both the countries.

The commencement date has been postponed to January 2031, as opposed to December 2026. The 15 million dollars has to be paid by the end of January next year, 2019, calling it as ‘abortive costs’.

Prime Minister Mahathir’s party took everyone by surprise by winning the elections conducted in May. Former PM Najib has been accused of several corruption charges.

The HSR rail network’s progress shall continue by May 2020, failing which the project will be terminated. Hence, both the countries have called off the international tender process. The project’s length is 350 kilometres, and connects Kuala Lumpur and Jurong East in Singapore.

This is aimed at reducing Malaysia’s debt by 333 billion Singapore dollars.

Companies from China, Japan, South Korea and Europe have expressed interest in winning the contract. A 1.7 billion dollar-deal fell through from a Malaysia-Chinese consortium’s hands in May 2017.

Mahathir’s administration is reviewing several multi-billion dollar projects approved by the previous government of Najib Razak, and has so far paused over $20 billion worth of projects awarded to Chinese companies, reported Reuters.

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