KUALA LUMPUR - The deadline given by Singapore to discuss the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail (HSR) project by the end of July was just a "suggestion", Malaysia's Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali clarified on Tuesday (July 31).
Datuk Seri Azmin said the meeting will likely take place in August instead, reported news site the Malay Mail.
"That is Singapore's suggestion. As I mentioned in my letter last week (to Singapore) we will firm up the date," Mr Mohamed Azmin told reporters in Parliament on Tuesday.
"We are quite occupied for Parliament, hopefully we will meet in early August," he added.
Malaysia is considering delaying the HSR project - inked in 2016 and due to be completed in 2026 - as it grapples with RM1 trillion (S$336 billion) in national debt. It estimates the project would cost RM110 billion.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had said in July that his government would negotiate a deferment of the 350km rail link so as to avoid paying compensation to Singapore under an earlier plan to scrap the project.
He also said there will be discussions on the matter when Mr Mohamed Azmin visits Singapore by the end of July, but the discussions have yet to take place.
Singapore has already spent S$250 million on the project, and is likely to pour in another S$40 million by the year end.
Singapore's Transport Ministry had asked the Malaysian government to provide a written response clarifying its position on the HSR project by July 31.
A ministry spokesman said in July that if Malaysia wishes to meet Singapore to discuss the HSR project, it should do so by that same date.
"They have yet to provide to Singapore the clarifications sought, or communicate their proposed dates for such discussions," said the spokesman, who added that the ministry made its request to Malaysia via diplomatic channels.
THE STRAITS TIMES