Pudu project must go to bumiputras

By Andrew Nayagam, The Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR: The government’s bumiputra agenda must be followed at all cost — even if it means taxpayers do not get the best deal from development projects.

This seems to be the conclusion to the testy Pudu Jail redevelopment issue as project owner, government linked company UDA Holdings Berhad (UDA), has been forced to return to the drawing board to select a bumiputra contractor.

The Finance Ministry had mandated UDA to focus solely on bumiputra investors, inciting the ire of UDA chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohammed.

Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin said the ministry and government want UDA to drop a foreign contractor hired for the project through a legitimate tender in favour of bumiputra companies.

“This is where UDA’s role is critical and the government’s mandate must be followed,” he said.

“The government hopes for more bumiputras to be involved in redeveloping the city and we want to help them. Pudu Jail is one of the projects we are looking at. The bumiputra involvement in construction projects in the city is small. We want them to have more of an impact in this area,” he said after launching UDA’s 40 Years Corporate Stamp and opening the Ancasa Express Hotel in Pudu Sentral here, yesterday.

Nur Jazlan told The Malay Mail UDA had been told to make a U-turn and look for bumiputra companies or  individuals to breathe new life into the abandoned Pudu Jail and transform it into a commercial and transport hub.

“This is despite receiving surefire profit-making proposal by four foreign companies,” he said, taking a swipe at the ministry for rejecting an “excellent proposal” presented by a China-based company, Everbright Ltd, which had offered RM2.9 billion in building costs with projected annual returns of at least RM300 million to RM400 million.

“Despite Everbright being backed by the Chinese government and with reserves of US$1.3b (RM4b), the offer was rejected and UDA was directed to look for bumiputra investors,” he said.

Nur Jazlan said bumiputra companies did not have the financial means of foreign companies.

“Not many bumiputra companies are as big as UDA. There’s a high chance those companies will be bailed out halfway,” he said, adding UDA posted profits of RM40m this year with RM1b in assets.

When asked if he felt his power as chairman had been undermined by the ministry, Nur Jazlan said: “My hands are tied. I cannot do anything about it. I’m forced to follow.”

It was learnt 15 companies had bid for the project on the 19.7 acre site. Of the five shortlisted, the sole bumiputra company was a construction company linked to an Umno politician.