Putting out the Fire: The Water Dispute Between Malaysia and Singapore

Media Coverage | August 21, 2018

On July 5, the chief minister of the Malaysian state of Johor suggested that the price at which Singapore buys water should be raised by 1600 percent. Water-scarce Singapore has depended on Malaysia for supply since their split in 1965, and has been buying water at 3 sen per thousand gallons. The same deal that has provided Singapore with up to 60 percent of its water has been the biggest wrench in relations between the two countries ever since. With the new Malaysian prime minister’s revival of the issue in the past month, the city-state needs to act quickly to de-escalate the situation.

When Malaysia’s main opposition party Pakatan Harapan swept ruling party Barisan Nasional from power for the first time in the country’s history, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was reinstated as prime minister of Malaysia. His predecessor Najib Razak presided over what was lauded as the “golden era” of Singapore-Malaysia relations, signing mutually beneficial infrastructure deals such as the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR)project and a stock market trading link between the two countries.

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Image: "HDR with Nokia 808 Full Res" (CC BY 2.0) by kyeniz