KUANTAN, Malaysia, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) — The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), a major infrastructure project between China and Malaysia, is set to greatly enhance connectivity in Malaysia, bringing more balanced growth to the Southeast Asian country.
Even before the expected completion of the ECRL in 2026, the megaproject is starting to open up new opportunities for Malaysians by creating jobs and providing knowledge-sharing and technology transfer as construction gradually moves into full swing.
NEW PROSPECT FOR DEVELOPMENT
When Mohd Haziq Akhmal learned about the ECRL’s recruitment roadshow, hosted by main contractor of the project China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) and the project’s owner Malaysia Rail Link (MRL), he traveled from the historical town of Malacca on the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia to Kuantan on the East Coast, where the event was held.
The 260-km trip across the peninsula currently involves a four-hour drive, but the 31-year-old civil servant, who applied for an engineering position in the ECRL, considered it worthy to earn a new opportunity.
“I have a background in engineering, so that’s why I applied for this job,” he told Xinhua at the roadshow on Friday. “I found out about the job offer from friends, so I came from Malacca straight here to apply for the job.”
He is well aware that his travel time will be cut in half once the 640-km ECRL is operational.
“There are many benefits. It will shorten travel distance, and it will create jobs for each state that’s involved in the construction,” he noted.
The railway, which runs from Malaysia’s largest transport hub Port Klang and travels across the peninsula to Kelantan state in northeastern Malaysia, will link the country’s less-developed region on the East Coast to the economic heartland on the West Coast.
The prospect of working in her hometown of Kelantan is attractive for Khairulnisa Kamarulzaman, a 27-year-old civil engineer who currently works in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur.
“I want to work in Kelantan. I want to work in my hometown,” she said. “This project brings a lot of benefits, especially to our locals.”
June Yow, a human resources manager with the CCCC, said the feedback received at the roadshow was very positive. “We actually started at 10 o’clock in the morning, but I think by 9:15, when we were busy doing the set-up, people were queuing up,” she said.
The manager added that many of the applicants knew a lot about the ECRL and wanted to be a part of the project.
WORKING HAND IN HAND
This was maybe the same reason why 65-year-old Osman Haron deferred his retirement plan and accepted an invitation from his colleagues from the CCCC to work for the ECRL.
Osman was a veteran at the Chinese company. “I have been with the company for 19 years, nearly 20 years,” he noted.
Now working as a section director in charge of health and safety and environment issues, he is confident that the ECRL will bring benefits to his hometown of Temerloh, which lies almost at the center of the peninsula.
“Of course it will be good for my hometown, because it will be easier for them to travel to Kuala Lumpur,” he said. “I feel very happy to contribute maybe my last service this time.”
Over the years, Osman has enjoyed working with his Chinese colleagues. “I have done my service according to what responsibility needs to be given. Maybe because of that, they like me,” he joked.
“To me, I like to work with them because they like to know further. They like to learn something that’s new for them,” he noted. “I love to give them training and so on.”
Osman’s colleague Satnam Singh Ajit Singh, a CCCC section manager in charge of authority and community liaison, was expecting to experience culture shock when he joined the company.
But he was soon surprised at how his Chinese colleagues had been trying to adapt to the local culture.
“You see how they respect our culture. ‘What shall we do and what shall we not do’ — all these things are always on their mind,” he said, adding that his Chinese colleagues visited nearby villages and orphanages to interact with locals.
Collaborations between Malaysian and Chinese people, who work hand in hand, are essential for the smooth development of the ECRL.
EARLY BENEFITS EMERGED
The benefits of the ECRL and the opportunities it presents are emerging long before the trains will start running.
The four-day recruitment roadshow in Kuantan over the past week revealed the efforts being made by both the CCCC and the MRL to tap local talent in construction.
The ECRL project stands to create 23,000 jobs during the peak of its construction period in 2021, said the two companies, adding that the project seeks to recruit professionals, skilled workers and general workers.
“The recruitment roadshow is in line with the ECRL’s role as a catalyst for economic equality between the West Coast and East Coast of the peninsula. Hence, we take this opportunity to highlight to Malaysians that there are ample job offers via the ECRL project, which prioritizes a local workforce,” the two companies added.
Malaysian Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said last month that the construction of the ECRL would greatly benefit locals and boost knowledge-sharing between Malaysia and China.
“The ECRL project will provide new jobs for local vendors and contractors,” he said at the ceremony when Small Medium Enterprise Development Bank Malaysia announced it would set aside 1 billion ringgit (240 million U.S. dollars) especially for local contractors to participate in the ECRL.
At least 40 percent of the civil works will be done by local contractors, according to the CCCC.
“The ECRL will also provide the platform for knowledge-sharing and technology transfer,” Lim noted. “This is crucial as Malaysian companies, especially the smaller ones, must urgently raise their competitiveness and improve their work and service quality.”
Malaysia and China are also actively exploring opportunities for joint ventures along the ECRL. Such cooperation between the two countries, said Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook in July, would support the implementation of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.
For Osman, the ECRL is the largest and most challenging project in his career with the CCCC, but he is confident in its success. “I look at the management set-up, it’s really well established and well organized. I’m sure the project will be completed on time,” he noted.