Najib to witness signing of RM15bil railway double track project 

(Bernama) –  Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will witness the agreement signing for the USD$5bil (RM15 billion) electrified double track railway project to be built by a Malaysian company that will turn landlocked Laos into land link.

The master concession agreement is between the Laotian government and Giant Consolidated Ltd, the Malaysian company, to develop the 220km track from Savannakhet to Lao Bao, near the Vietnam border.

Malaysian Ambassador to Laos Datuk Than Tai Hing (pic) said Laotian Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong would also witness the signing ceremony to be held here Monday.

Najib will arrive here this afternoon for a three-day working visit to Laos and to attend the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).

Than said the five-year standard gauge railway project would link the east and west of this country and turn this nation from landlocked to land link, apart from realising the Asean Connectivity by 2015 and contributing to this country’s economic development.

Najib, who is also Finance Minister, will open Maybank‘s first branch in this country here Monday, completing the bank’s presence in all the 10 Asean member nations.

Currently, Maybank, Malaysia’s largest commercial bank and regional financial services leader, has an international network of over 2,200 offices in 19 countries, including in the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, China, Hong Kong and India, apart from Asean member countries.

Than said Najib would also meet Malaysian investors engaged in a hydro-electric project and in a special economic zone in this country here. Malaysians have invested about USD$165 million (RM495 million) in Laos between 2000 and 2011, making them the ninth largest investors in this country, he said.

Malaysians’ investments in Laos are in banking, insurance, education, semiconductors, tourism and agriculture sectors.

Public BankDominant Semiconductors Co LtdMega First Corporation BhdSavan Pacifica Development Co Ltd and Dansavanh Nam Ngum Resort are among Malaysia’s major companies that have invested in this Asean member state.

“Malaysians’ new investments are in the electrified double track railway and hydro-electric projects that will definitely change Malaysia’s position as the largest investor in this country currently being led by China,” he said.

Najib will also join 48 leaders from Asia and Europe at the two-day ASEM starting here tomorrow.

The meeting themed “Friends for Peace, Partners for Prosperity” will further strengthen economic and political cooperation between the two regions amid the current euro zone debt crisis.

ASEM leaders are expected to discuss the global economic situation, reforms to international financial institutions, water, energy, food security, disaster management, interfaith dialogue, tourism and migration, among others.

Than said Najib is also expected to promote the global moderation movement concept at this meeting.

The ASEM grouping membership will be expanded to 51 with the inclusion of Bangladesh, Norway and Switzerland at this meeting.

ASEM was established in 1996 with its inaugural meeting in Bangkok.

ASEM leaders meet every two years alternately in the two regions.

Najib will also hold separate bilateral meetings with France President Francois Hollande, Norway Prme Minister Jens Stoltenberg and PakistanPrime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on the sidelines of the meeting.

Najib will be accompanied by his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, during the visit.

This is the first time, Laos, a country with six million population, is hosting its biggest international conference.