"The question that needs to be asked to the Prime Minister's Department is, if the government has to fund 70 percent of the project, why bother privatizing it in the first place to a 37-year concession?"
John Berthelsen, Asia Sentinel
UMNO-linked steelmaker looks like winning contract to build RM100 billion commuter rail project
A "private sector initiative" criticized by opposition figures in Parliament earlier this week to build a RM1 billion commuter train project linking the Malaysian state of Johor to Singapore is starting to take on the trappings that sank a controversial national cattle feeding scheme in 2012, which earned it the nickname "Cowgate" because of the magnitude of the scandal.
The circumstances of the contracts are about the same. In the feedlot episode, the Malaysian government granted a RM250 million soft loan to individuals closely connected to the United Malays National Organization that had no experience remotely related to the operation of a company feed and slaughter 60,000 imported cattle each year.
In the Johor case, a joint venture called Metropolitan Commuter Network, a 60:40 joint venture between Malaysia Steel Works or Masteel and KUB Malaysia Bhd, has won the commuter project, 70 percent of which is to be financed through a government soft loan. As with the National Feedlot operation, both sides of the Metropolitan Commuter Network are linked to UMNO and are in the process of finalizing the contract to build and operate the 100km inter-city rail service in Johor.
Like the National Feedlot Corporation, which established the cattle feeding operation without any prior experience in dealing with cattle but plenty of experience in dealing with UMNO -- since the concern was headed by Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, the government minister for women, family and community development – Masteel acknowledges that it has never built anything remotely resembling a 100-km light rail commuter operation. In fact, it has mainly been involved in steel manufacturing.