New works minister Baru Bian has said that the government has yet to make a decision on whether to review the Pan Borneo Highway, according to The Star. In his first press conference as minister, Baru said that the current situation of the project has to be assessed beforehand.

“We have to look at the situation first whether there is a need to review. We will look into it later. We have not made any decision yet,” he said. “We will look at how best it can be implemented and completed, on the cost, feasibility and the implementation. Pan Borneo is the very first highway in East Malaysia and we are happy to have highways in Sabah and Sarawak.”

With regards to the progress of construction, the ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Seri Zohari Akob said that 36% of Phase 1 has already been completed. “For Phase 1, 11 packages have been awarded. At the moment, most of the construction is ongoing,” he said.

Phase 1 of the highway, which spans 791 km and links Telok Melano in the south of Sarawak to Miri in the north, is set to be completed in 2021, while the 77 km Phase 2 towards Sabah is still in the planning stage. The English-language daily previously reported that the RM29 billion project would proceed despite a change in government, albeit with the contractors undergoing an audit.

However, it later wrote that the 1,236 km Sabah portion could be scrapped, following the cancellation of other mega-projects like the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR). At the time, it was reported that the bulk of construction in the state has yet to be carried out, making it easier to be deferred.

Baru also said that the ministry would pay special attention to five states that are in serious need of better infrastructure, which are Sabah, Sarawak, Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu. “We will look at all states, all areas but we will give more focus on these five states, mainly on infrastructure like federal roads, highways and airports,” he said.

He added that while the works ministry needed RM2 billion annually for the maintenance of federal roads nationwide, it only received between RM600 million to RM800 million over the past three years, which was insufficient. Baru said that 30% of federal roads are now in poor condition. “I was told roads need to be resur­faced every seven years,” Baru said, adding he would raise the matter of increased allocation in cabinet.