Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told reporters in Beijing Tuesday that his government has decided to cancel the China-funded East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and a natural gas pipeline project for the time being at least, Reuters reports.
The projects, which are estimated to be worth around $20 billion, are currently unaffordable for Malaysia, according to Mahathir. “I believe China itself does not want to see Malaysia become a bankrupt country,” the Malaysian leader told reporters at a press conference rounding off his five-day visit to China.
Mahathir has repeatedly affirmed that a number of China-backed infrastructure deals signed during his predecessor Najib Razak’s time in office were “unfair.” The new prime minister, who took office in May, is reported to have discussed the problems with the rail and gas pipeline projects with his Chinese counterparts during his visit.
China Communications Construction Co, the Chinese company contracted to build the rail line, has already laid off 1,800 of the 2,250 people it hired to work on the project, according to Reuters.