KUALA LUMPUR: The Finance Ministry is hopeful that negotiations on the price of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project can be wrapped up by next month.

The negotiations with the Chinese contractors are still ongoing.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said last week that Malaysia would proceed with the project if the construction costs could be reduced.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said he supported the prime minister’s statement that a price reduction was necessary to continue with the project. He was speaking to reporters at the launch of the Industrial Digitalisation Transformation Fund here today.

“The Chinese government has offered to reduce the price so we hope that the discussions will result in a positive outcome,” he said. “I hope the discussions can be completed before the prime minister visits China at the end of April.”

According to him, Mahathir had said that Malaysia could not afford to pay the inflated price.

“With a price reduction the project can move forward, so we are hoping for a positive outcome from these discussions,” Lim said.

Mahathir had said earlier that it would take Malaysia 30 years to settle the loan, if the government has to pay RM55 billion for the ECRL.

The prime minister last visited China in August last year, during which he met China President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Lee Keqiang.

On a separate matter Lim, who is also DAP secretary-general, said he was not surprised that MCA president Wee Ka Siong had gone “on the offensive” over remarks he made about the Umno-PAS alliance.

“This is not strange. Of course they will ask for action to be taken against me because PAS and Umno are their friends,” he said.

A news portal had reported that Lim described the Umno-PAS alliance as a declaration of war against non-Malays. Wee described Lim’s statement as “inflammatory and irresponsible”.

The portal subsequently changed its headline to read “Lim warns Umno-PAS union will target non-Malays”.