Sunday, April 14, 2019

ECRL is up and running again

ECRL is up and running again

It is confirmed – Malaysia has managed to bring down the construction cost of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project by RM21.5bil, which is almost a third of the original cost.

The new price is set at RM44bil now, down 32.8% from the previous RM66bil.

Tun Daim Zainuddin, who led the negotiations with China, said the latest cost estimate was far more manageable for the government.

“It will also require a smaller loan from Exim Bank, which will further reduce the interest to be paid,” he told Malaysian journalists at the Malaysian Embassy here yesterday.

Earlier yesterday, Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd and China Communications Construction Company Ltd signed a supplementary agreement to pave the way for the resumption of the suspended project.

The agreement also saw slight changes to the route from Kota Baru in Kelantan to Port Klang in Selangor, with the length cut by 40km to 648km.

“It will still be double-tracking,” said Daim, who is the Special Envoy of the Prime Minister.

The realigned route will see the rail track diverted to Negri Sembilan from Mentakab in Pahang, bypassing Bentong in Pahang and Gombak in Selangor as planned earlier.

“It will start in Kota Baru, then to Mentakab, Jelebu and Kuala Klawang in Negri Sembilan, continue on to Bangi, Kajang, Putrajaya and end in Port Klang,” he said, without elaborating on the changes.

He said construction would commerce as soon as possible with the new date of completion reset to 2026, a two-year delay from the project planned originally.

Daim, who is also chairman of the Council of Eminent Persons, added that it had been agreed that 40% of the sub-contractors for the project would be Malaysians.

Negotiations on the loan and interest rate were still ongoing, he said.

“Now that the cost is lower, the loan will also be lower,” he said.

Daim declined to reveal more details, saying that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad will address a press conference on the ECRL on Monday.

China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said his government was glad to see the issue being settled through friendly negotiation.

He said China and Malaysia were good neighbours and partners, which viewed each other’s friendship with importance.

Lu Kang said China hoped to see the project recommence soon.

In Putrajaya, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) confirmed the latest details involving the ECRL.

“The signing was achieved after months of negotiations between the companies involved as well as the governments of Malaysia and China.

“This reduction (in cost) will surely benefit Malaysia and lighten the burden of the country’s financial position,” it said in a statement yesterday.

The PMO said the supplementary agreement covered the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning aspects of the ECRL.

It confirmed that Dr Mahathir would address the media at 11am on Monday.

The original 688km ECRL proposal comprised Phase 1, stretching from the Klang Valley to Kuantan.

Phase 2 is from Kuantan to Kuala Terengganu and Phase 3 connecting Kuala Terengganu to Kota Baru and Tumpat.

The Pakatan Harapan government suspended the ECRL project after winning the general election last year.

~News courtesy of The Star~

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Malaysia, Indonesia tie for top spot among Muslim-friendly travel destinations

Malaysia, Indonesia tie for top spot among Muslim-friendly travel destinations

Malaysia has taken the top spot in the MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) for the ninth year in a row, but for the first time it is sharing that position with Indonesia.

The GMTI 2019 report, which includes 130 destinations globally, gave both countries a score of 78.

In a joint statement today, MasterCard and CrescentRating said Indonesia had climbed from second place to the top spot through sustained efforts by the country’s Tourism Ministry to invest in its tourism and travel industry, and develop Muslim-tourist friendly infrastructure.

The rest of the top 10 countries are Turkey (score of 75), Saudi Arabia (72), United Arab Emirates (71), Qatar (68), Morocco (67), Bahrain (66), Oman (66) and Brunei (65).

In a joint statement today, MasterCard and CrescentRating said Indonesia had climbed from second place to the top spot through sustained efforts by the country’s Tourism Ministry to invest in its tourism and travel industry, and develop Muslim-tourist friendly infrastructure.

Last year, Malaysia received a score of 80.6 while Indonesia tied with the United Arab Emirates with a score of 72.8.

Singapore remains the premier Muslim-friendly travel destination among non-Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) destinations this year, followed by Thailand, the United Kingdom, Japan and Taiwan.

The index tracks the health and growth of Muslim-friendly travel destinations in four strategic areas – access, communications, environment and services. — BERNAMA

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Be prepared to pay a departure levy

Flying out of the country? Be prepared to pay a departure levy

Anyone flying out the country will have to pay a fee when the Departure Levy Bill 2019 is passed in Parliament.

The Bill tabled by Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah (pic) for its first reading on Monday (April 8) seeks the implementation of a new levy on any person leaving Malaysia.

However, the amount of the proposed levy was not mentioned in the Bill.

In Budget 2019, the government had proposed a departure levy of RM20 for Asean countries and RM40 for non-Asean countries.

The Bill also proposes hefty punishments for those who avoid paying the levy.

Any registered person who makes an incorrect return or information can face a fine not exceeding RM500,000, a three-year jail term or both, upon sentencing.

According to the Bill, a registered person means any operator or agent of foreign operators.

The Bill also states that anyone with the intent to evade or assist another to avoid the departure levy will also be liable to a fine not exceeding RM1mil, a five-year jail sentence or both upon sentencing.

The proposed Act also states that any person who in any way assaults, obstructs, hinders, threatens or molests a Customs officer in the discharge of his function or fails to give reasonable assistance to any Customs offer will also be liable to a maximum three-year jail term, a fine not exceeding RM500,000 or both if found guilty.

~News courtesy of The Star~

Monday, April 8, 2019

TripAdvisor to aid tourism

TripAdvisor to aid tourism



The Tourism Ministry will be working with all the industry players and international travel website TripAdvisor to improve the review ratings for the country.

Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik said they would visit every state, starting with Penang after Hari Raya in June.

“In tourism, it is all about the reviews. We want to bring all the industry players and stakeholders together and share the knowledge on how to obtain a higher rating.

“If you are lowly rated, tourists will not visit.

“If people leave bad reviews about the food or the hotel being noisy, the ratings will be low.

“There are many unknown attractions and service providers that are highly-rated although we may not know about them,”  he said after handing over certificates to five Malaysia Tourism Quality Assurance 2019 (MyTQA) recipients at Entopia by Penang Butterfly Farm in Teluk Bahang on Saturday.

Muhammad Bakhtiar said Gurney Drive last year received low ratings probably due to land reclamation.

“It is rated by the people who went there and for obvious reasons, perhaps after the reclamation, sometimes people were disappointed as they wanted to see the sea.

“TripAdvisor is providing us with big data on why people visit Malaysia so we can figure out a strategy.

“There will be representatives from TripAdvisor joining us to advise the industry players.

Taiping was listed by Green Destinations (GD) as one of its 100 sustainable cities in the world last year.

“This shows that Malaysia has the potential.

“We, however, need to improve our service culture and Malaysian front-liners have to learn how to greet people and give it a personal touch.

“Other countries where English is not their first language have found a way to greet people in a welcoming way,” he said.

~News courtesy of The Star~

彭州大臣宣布刁曼岛获准建新机场

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