Singapore

There must be 'strong agreement' in execution

Who pays what in High-Speed Rail linking S'pore and M'sia must be clearly defined

The cost-sharing of the proposed construction of the High-Speed Rail (HSR) linking Singapore and Malaysia will need to be spelt out clearly, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

In an interview on Monday with Mr Azman Ujang, chairman of Malaysian state news agency Bernama, Mr Lee said there needs to be a "strong agreement" on how the project is structured, executed and backed by both governments.

According to a transcript of the interview released by the Prime Minister's Office yesterday, Mr Lee said: "That is the first requirement, that we have a very good agreement which sets out clearly a sound basis to build and operate the system."

The issue of who pays what was one of the items that have made the project complicated.

"When you have two authorities involved, you have to decide how to partition, where the line is drawn.

"I build my part, you build your part, and we have to meet at the same point," Mr Lee said.

"If it does not meet then we have a big problem."

But Mr Lee added: "It is complicated but there is a will. And there is a good will, and we would like to make it succeed."

Both countries have made good progress on a bilateral agreement on the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur HSR after more than a year of discussions, he noted.

"We are almost there, and I hope when I meet Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the next retreat, we will be able to sign the agreement," he said.

Calling the rail project "very ambitious, very complicated and very expansive", Mr Lee added: "We have to try our best to anticipate what the likely issues are, when we build it, when we operate it, and have a clear understanding on how we will deal with it if a situation arises."

On Tuesday, Malaysian Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan met Singapore's Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

Mr Abdul Rahman said on Instagram that they met "to harmonise last minute details of the Bilateral Agreement on Malaysia-Singapore High Speed Rail project before signing ceremony in December".

A memorandum of understanding for the HSR project was signed in July by both ministers, and witnessed by the two prime ministers.

Construction of the project is expected to begin in 2018, with trains running by 2026.

EXECUTION

The project's execution will be very important, Mr Lee said.

"Several high-speed rail systems in the world have been lobbying very hard to get this contract - the Japanese, the Koreans, the Chinese high-speed rail," he noted.

"Each has its strengths, and we will have a very difficult decision evaluating the bidders who come along and deciding which one is the best overall."

Asked if a third bridge between Singapore and Malaysia - which some in Malaysia have suggested recently - is necessary with the HSR project, Mr Lee said there are no plans for it.

"I have seen some statements in Malaysia suggesting one, but the high-speed rail is a very ambitious project. I would focus all my energies doing that one before we launch a new big project." - THE STRAITS TIMES

Joint projects 'coming up, rising steadily'

Giving an update on two joint projects between Singapore and Malaysia, in Marina South and Ophir-Rochor, Mr Lee said both buildings were "coming up and rising steadily".

He added: "I read that they have reasonable sales, so I think the projects will succeed."

The developments were born out of a land-swop agreement, where Malaysia gave up control of its railway land that ran through Singapore in exchange for a Malaysia-Singapore joint venture involving six land parcels near Singapore's Central Business District.

Mr Lee also noted that the Afiniti Medini wellness centre project in Iskandar was making progress.

Prime Minister Lee on...

Mr Lee was asked by the Bernama chairman about a range of issues in Singapore.

Here are some excerpts:

On the next presidential election here, which will be reserved for Malay candidates

Mr Lee said the Government did not have a specific candidate in mind, "but we know there are people who will qualify".

"There is no shortlist. It depends who comes forward. It is not for the Government to arrange.

"It is for the candidates to come forward," he added.

Will Singapore see a non-Chinese prime minister?

"It could happen in our lifetime," Mr Lee said. He cited how Mr Barack Obama became US president, saying: "It is a long process but it is possible and I hope one day, it will happen."

"The racial patterns of voting is something very deeply ingrained.

"It is so in Malaysia; it is so in Singapore, perhaps less so in Singapore, but it exists.

"If you look at the US, it was clear the different ethnic groups had very different voting patterns. That is a reality of human nature we have to accept."

How Singapore stays corruption-free

Mr Lee noted that civil servants and ministers are paid a fair salary to minimise temptation.

"You cannot expect to get rich in the Government, but you should not become poor because you had to do public service."

The People's Action Party has always wanted to "run a clean system, a clean civil service, and a clean political leadership".

"We have been unsparing in enforcing that.

"Whoever transgresses, whether senior or not, whether a civil servant or a minister, we have to investigate and consequences have to follow," Mr Lee said.

The public has also come to expect the Government to run a clean system.

"The public attitude is very important. Without that, if the public accepts that it is a normal way to do business, that if you are in power then these are perks of the office, that will be a different situation even if we have the laws," said Mr Lee.

On restricting civil servants' Internet access

Mr Lee said the move was a necessary "basic precaution".

"So I see a tempting line or a photograph and you click it, I compromise not just my own computer but the whole network," he said.

Mr Lee, who has been using the new system since the start of the year, said: "It is a nuisance, but it is workable."

"It is a more secure way of operating, keeping our system clean."

Lee Hsien LoongSingaporemalaysia