Malaysia's decision to build a bridge reaching only halfway across the waterway separating it from Singapore will benefit the two nations even if its neighbor refuses to complete its side of the project, the deputy prime minister said Friday. Najib Razak said, however, that negotiations on the project are ongoing and that Malaysia is still hopeful of persuading Singapore to come on board. "There can be a lot of benefits because the scenic bridge will facilitate movement of people, goods and services between Malaysia and Singapore," he told reporters. "But we hope that it will be a full bridge. We hope that it will be a testimony of better relations between Malaysia and Singapore."
In 2000, Malaysia proposed that the two countries build an elevated bridge to replace the 1.06-kilometer (0.66-mile) causeway completed in 1924 that links them across the Straits of Johor. Singapore says it is still evaluating the project's economic impact.
Malaysia took the neighboring city-state by surprise Thursday when it announced it had awarded a contract to build the Malaysian part of the bridge after years of delay. Officials have said the bridge's design will allow Singapore to link up later.
Singapore said it will seek clarification, as discussions between the two countries on the bridge and other bilateral issues have not been concluded.
More than 100,000 people cross the causeway each day, and Malaysian officials have said a new bridge would ease congestion and boost the flow of cross-Straits traffic.
The project had been part of an earlier deal that included contentious talks on Malaysia's supply of water to Singapore, but negotiations for that stopped in 2002 without an agreement on the bridge design, reports the AP. I.L.