Written by Emily Eng

What happened?
Adding to the string of events that signal strained ties between Malaysia and Singapore, Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has expressed that the water deal that Malaysia has with Singapore needs to be renegotiated as it is “too costly“.

“I think it is manifestly ridiculous that we should sell water at 3 sen per thousand gallons. That was okay way back in the 1990s or 1930s. But now what can you buy with 3 sen? Nothing,” Mahathir had told Channel NewsAsia in an exclusive interview.

However, he had made clear that he would try to strike a fair deal with Singapore, while maintaining friendly relations. He had also mentioned that while he did have intentions to renegotiate the deal, there were other national issues that took priority over the renegotiation of water prices, and that he had only brought up the topic as it had been raised by a reporter.

So what?
This is a little worrying for Singapore, particularly with imported water making up half of our water supply. According to Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the 1962 water agreement is no less than “sacrosanct” to Singapore.

The water issue has been a thorny one since Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. And while things were much more stable during Najib’s reign, the reinstatement of Mahathir back into power does not seem to be boding well for Singapore, seemingly echoing the tensions that existed during Mahathir’s earlier rule between 1981 and 2003. First, it was the calling off of the high speed rail project, and now it is about water – will things get worse between Singapore and Malaysia?

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