Tucked away in the PM’s Budget 2017 speech was this nugget:
240. The Government is also committed to upgrade public transport in rural areas through the following measures:
First: Implementation of the new East Coast Rail Line project connecting Klang Valley to the East Coast,
in phases. The 600-km rail will connect townships such as Port Klang, ITT Gombak, Bentong, Mentakab,
Kuantan, Kemaman, Kerteh, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Bharu, and ends in Tumpat, with an estimated cost of RM55 billion;
A cool RM55bn. Interesting that there are no qualms going for such a mega project at this time.
This comes at a time when the government also has no qualms about slashing the budget of public universites by almost 20 per cent!
Public universities will see their combined operating budgets for 2017 slashed by about 19 per cent, or RM1.5 billion, a bigger cut than this year’s budget.
Out of the 20 public universities in Malaysia, 10 of them will be facing massive cuts ranging from over 10 per cent to over 31 per cent ― including many top-ranking institutions ― under Budget 2017 announced yesterday….
Taken as a whole, the budget for 20 universities’ combined operating expenditure in 2017 will be RM6.12 billion, which is a cut of RM1.46 billion or 19.23 per cent from the allocation of RM7.57 billion in 2016.
This comes as the Ministry of Higher Education’s total allocation for next year went down further to RM12.13 billion from RM13.38 billion for 2016, even as Putrajaya increased its overall budget to RM260.8 billion for 2017.
So much for the talk about becoming a high-income developed nation.
Let’s get this straight: they are cutting the budget for higher education by over RM1.2bn BUT increasing the budget for BR1M by RM1.4bn (from RM5.4bn in 2016 to RM6.8bn)?
If funding for public universities can be cut by so much in this and the previous budgets, I don’t know what else to say.
Back to the RM55bn East Coast rail project. In July 2016, Works Minister Fadillah Yusof denied Sarawak Report’s claim that the federal government wants to double the cost of the East Coast Rail Line project from RM30bn to RM60bn to pay off 1MDB debts.
Whatever… we need to keep a close eye on this project just as we are also dissecting the controversial RM46-50bn Gamuda-led SRS Consortium proposal for Penang transport infrastructure (originally estimated at RM27bn) and the other billions on the KL MRT and other rail projects.