The claim was made by Barisan Nasional Strategic Communications Unit chief Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan on Tuesday (May 29) who said it was "too simplistic" for Dr Mahathir to deem the project non-beneficial "because it's going to cost our country a huge sum of money and it will make no money at all from the operation", according to a New Straits Times report.
"It is a final decision, but it will take time because we have an agreement with Singapore", Mahathir said.
The government, which recently delivered a shock victory in the May 9 elections, is taking austerity measures to address the nation's debt, which reportedly ballooned to over RM 1 trillion (US$250 billion) while under the previous administration led by ousted Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Malaysia and Singapore signed a deal in 2016 to build the railway. The unilateral decision was made without the knowledge of the cabinet, as hinted at by transport minister Anthony Loke, and also caught joint venture partner Singapore by surprise.
While Malaysia is working out how much it is should compensate her neighbour for pulling out, observers say the loss of the rail connection will have far-reaching consequences for Singapore.
Najib said this is because the project was not created based on the decision of one country alone, but done after careful study on its benefits.
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Najib was ejected from power by voters disgusted at corruption allegations surrounding sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. But of course, why we cancelled the project is because of affordability.
But it seems that any further effort to champion the mega project would unlikely bear any fruit as Dr Mahathir announced at a press conference on Wednesday (May 30) that Malaysia's Cabinet had already agreed to call off the HSR project.
A computer generated image of the planned high-speed station at Seremban, Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir, who was sworn in as Malaysia seventh Prime Minister just over two weeks ago, said Malaysia would have to pay RM500 million (US$125 mil) in penalties to Singapore over the cancellation of the project.
The move comes after a private fundraising initiative 'Please Help Malaysia!' received more than $3,500 of donations on website GoGetFunding in a campaign to help the Southeast Asian country reduce debt. Minister of Finance, Lim Guan Eng ends the statement by expressing their honest appreciation and gratitude to all Malaysians for all their support and concern.