12/06/2024 06:50 PM

PUTRAJAYA, June 12 (Bernama) -- Singapore is open to new ideas including proposals on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project at the upcoming 11th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat, said Singapore Prime Minister Lawrence Wong.

The new Prime Minister said that during the retreat, Singapore would take stock of the progress of the ongoing discussions between the two countries. 

“And of course, along the way, there may be new ideas that come up, and we are open to hearing from Malaysia if there are proposals for the HSR project.

“Whatever the new ideas are, we will keep an open mind and we will discuss it in the right spirit of taking our relationship (further),” he told a joint press conference with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim here today.

Wong was responding to a question on whether the HSR project will be among the focus of the two countries to be discussed during the upcoming retreat. 

The annual Leaders’ Retreat, which is the key platform for the two Prime Ministers to discuss bilateral issues and explore new areas of cooperation, will be hosted by Malaysia later this year.

The HSR project aims to slash travel time between Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore from around four hours by road to just 90 minutes by rail.

Originally scheduled to open in 2026 but cancelled in January 2021, the project was revived last year with the Malaysian government evaluating fresh concept proposals. 

On Jan 1, 2021, Malaysia and Singapore jointly announced the termination of the HSR project, as there was no agreement reached on the changes proposed by Malaysia and the fact that the agreement had expired on Dec 31, 2020.

However, on Nov 29, 2021, former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was reported as saying that the republic was open to any new proposal from Malaysia on the project, although both countries had earlier agreed to terminate the project.

Previously, Malaysia and Singapore had inked bilateral agreements for the HSR project on Dec 13, 2016, with the completion of the 350-kilometre railway line scheduled in 2026.

Meanwhile, Wong also said both countries are also pursuing “promising projects” together, which include the Johor-Singapore Special Economic Zone (JS-SEZ) as well as the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link. 

“The projects we have, including the RTS Link, are major game changers that can leverage the complementarities between Malaysia and Singapore. 

“Both (projects) will increase cross border flow of people, goods and investments and will bring our countries close together and ultimately, benefit both Malaysians and Singaporeans,” he added.

Regarding the JS-SEZ, Wong said both countries have all the ingredients to make the economic zone “a very successful” one.

Meanwhile, commenting on the current state of Singapore and Malaysia’s bilateral relations, Wong said both countries “are in good shape” and progressing very well. 

“And there is potential for us to do even more together going forward,” he added.

In 2023, Malaysia and Singapore were each other’s second-largest global trading partners. 

Singapore was also Malaysia’s largest trading partner among the ASEAN countries, with total trade valued at RM363.13 billion (US$79.60 billion).

Wong also pointed out that the real competition lies beyond Malaysia and Singapore borders whereby both are in the broader Southeast Asian region and globally.

“Although our two economies and people are often seen as competitors, in reality, we complement each other significantly.

“So, if we can press forward with good master planning, clear and consistent policies around the JS-SEZ and the RTS, I think that will unlock a lot of economic benefits for both our people and we can really realise the potentials of these collaborations. 

“What we are doing, between Singapore and Malaysia and between Johor and Singapore, is also in many ways what ASEAN ought to be doing to strengthen our economic integration as one community,” he added.

Therefore, he hoped that both countries could provide that strong anchor for a stronger and more integrated ASEAN community.


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