(ls) Malaysia and China appear to have agreed on new terms for the East Coast Rail Link deal, making the realization of the project more likely again. China apparently agreed to reducing Malaysia’s financial risk by cutting the fees by one third to RM44 billion (S$14.4 billion) and creating a 50-50 joint venture to operate the 640km line across Peninsular Malaysia. Moreover, local participation in civil works of the key land bridge in Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative has also been increased from 30 to 40 per cent. [Straits Times]

Analysts said the scale of concessions from the Chinese side was a display of Beijing’s increasing desire to push back against accusations that the Belt and Road Initiative was a form of “debt trap diplomacy”. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir’s administration had initially suspended work on the rail link after its election victory last May. Construction is now expected to resume as early as next month. [South China Morning Post]

In neighboring Indonesia, China’s high-speed rail project linking Jakarta and Bandung is also under increased scrutiny. Fears have intensified over a potential debt trap. Moreover, the project has been marked by delays and complaints of inadequate compensation for villagers. It is now a central point of debate in the coming election. [South China Morning Post 2]