Friday, October 31, 2008

Eurocopter purchase: Abdullah gives exact figure for deal

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and DPM Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and DPM Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday provided the exact figure for the Eurocopter deal after he was given a clarification by the Defence Ministry.

The prime minister said the correct figure was RM1.607 billion, and not RM1.7 billion quoted when he announced to the media earlier this week the government's decision to defer the purchase.

"I have been told that the actual amount is RM1.607 billion. I apologise for the mistake," he said after chairing a cabinet committee meeting on palm oil industry competitiveness.

Abdullah questioned why the opposition was making so much fuss about the issue as the deal was not binding in the first place.

"It is really very technical and academic to argue about the price, especially when a decision has been made (to postpone the purchase)."
He said if conditions permitted in the future, negotiations on the purchase would resume.

"When we feel there is money to spare, then we will negotiate the price."

Abdullah, however, declined to say whether the price would differ should fresh negotiations take place.

"Whatever it is, we will still have to negotiate."

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who was present, said the opposition was making a meal of the proposed purchase, especially with its contention that the government had not conducted physical and specification inspections on the helicopter.

He said the Eurocopter was a proven helicopter in several developed nations, including France.

"The helicopter has also seen combat in Afghanistan, and our pilots have flown it in exhibitions. They know the performance of the Eurocopter."

According to Najib, before a sale is confirmed, a free delivery inspection is held and that is when the helicopter would be thoroughly examined.

"So, what we have done is nothing unusual. It's not experimental and it's not that it has not been tested."

At the press conference, Abdullah also said the government would embark on an oil palm replanting scheme for trees aged over 25 years.

The government will allocate RM200 million for this scheme to replant trees in some 200,000 hectares.

"An incentive of RM1,000 per hectare will also be given to those who want to take part in the scheme."

He said plantation owners and smallholders had been reluctant to replant before due to the high prices for palm oil.

"Now that prices have dipped, the government feels that this is the right time to embark on the scheme."

The committee also decided to implement a five per cent bio-diesel blending exercise using methyl ester and diesel.

Abdullah said the programme would be implemented in stages beginning February. The blended fuel will be used in government vehicles, followed by the industrial and transport sectors.

"We estimate using about 500,000 tonnes a year for this. Since our yearly palm oil production is about 17.8 million tonnes, this should not be a problem."

Abdullah gives exact figure for copter deal
New Straits Times, Malaysia