ASEAN Seeks Foreign Investment for Railway
Southeast Asian nations will look for foreign investment for a proposed railway line from Singapore to the Chinese city of Kunming that is expected to bolster regional trade, Malaysia's trade minister said Monday. Rafidah Aziz acknowledged it would not be easy to woo private investment as it will involve clearing land mines in Cambodia and Laos.
Southeast Asian nations will look for foreign investment for a proposed railway line from Singapore to the Chinese city of Kunming that is expected to bolster regional trade, Malaysia's trade minister said Monday.
Rafidah Aziz said feasibility studies to identify the best route for the rail line spanning over 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) as well as dozens of connecting rails to link it to major towns in the region have been completed.
"Now is the time for us to market it to private investors and private organizations," she said. "We want to get funding quickly so we can implement the project without any delays," she said.
Some members of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, has begun to rehabilitate national rail tracks and construct new rails funded by donors such as South Korea and the Asian Development Bank, but overall financing is inadequate, she said.
"It's a long-term project and the capital outlay will be massive," she told reporters after chairing an ASEAN ministerial meeting on development cooperation in the Mekong Basin.
Specific details of investment needed in the project will be unveiled at a conference next year to be held in Malaysia before July, she said, adding that Thailand will chair a committee to seek financing for the project.
She didn't say how much the project is worth but trade officials estimate it will cost at least 1.8 billion dollars (euro1.5 billion).
The Singapore-Kunming rail link is expected to be a major trade boost for impoverished ASEAN members such as Cambodia and landlocked Laos, which are struggling to speed up economic development after years of isolation.
Rafidah acknowledged it would not be easy to woo private investment as it will involve construction in difficult terrain in some countries, clearing land mines in Cambodia and Laos, and harmonizing customs and immigration.
She urged ASEAN nations involved in the rail project to offer incentives such as land, tax exemptions and other facilities to woo investors.
"The railway project in the Mekong Basin where it's virgin territory is not going to be immediately viable, so there must be spinoffs from there," she said.
Von: 28 November 2005, http://www.forbes.com (AP)