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Port Klang racks up massive debts; causes acute embarrassment to PM Badawi

Port Klang racks up massive debts; causes acute embarrassment to PM Badawi

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian authorities are facing a scandal over debts allegedly exceeding US$1 billion incurred by the country's main port authority, sparking concerns about a possible government bailout, politicians told the Associated Press yesterday.

The issue is politically sensitive for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi -- who is widely expected to call for general elections before mid-2008 -- because he has repeatedly pledged to boost transparency and battle the financial mismanagement that has plagued high-profile Malaysian projects in the past.

Abdullah said last week he needs more details and refused to comment on media reports saying the Port Klang Authority has racked up debts totaling about 4.6 billion ringgit (US$1.3 billion) because of problems with the Port Klang Free Zone, a much-hyped shipping area that opened in western Malaysia last year.

Fears mounted that troubles with the 1,000-acre (400-hectare) PKFZ could hurt investor sentiment after the Dubai-based Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone Authority said last month it was pulling out of a pact to manage the zone because of what it called strategic reasons.  [22/08/07]

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