Penang land reclamation: ‘The incompetent leading the unwilling to do the unnecessary’


Our guest writer today is Eric Britton, who discusses the land reclamation in southern Penang island, which is linked to the over-the-top SRS proposal for the Penang transport masterplan.

Step 1: Dump the land reclamation plan which has no good reason for existing. It is a rapacious, wrong-minded insult to the people of Penang, to the environment, nature, culture, wellbeing and way of life. You are being held hostage by your government for no good reason. And certainly, not that of needing more money to finance a ridiculous “transport master plan” that cannot stand independent international inspection.

Again and again and again, when it comes to “transport master planning” in Penang, it seems as if we always end up circling the same old structurally wrong thing. And in the process allowing the undertrained proponents of the Big Bang “solution” of the present government package to occupy the centre of the debate. This is a huge mistake.

It is my position that the starting place for responsible and effective transport planning and policy in Penang is NOT to link it to land deals — but to look at the challenge in and of itself from a well-defined, explicit strategic perspective. Some will say that they do not have enough money to accomplish their objectives — which quickly become wild, pharaonic, costly and not related to the real problems and priorities at hand. Remember, transport for people and not for cars (infrastructure included)

Here is the simple question that the policy-makers need to ask and resolve:

READ MORE:  Mumbai monorail first phase seen as 'failure' - so why monorail for Penang?

(a) What is it that they can accomplish for the people of Penang,
(b) working with available resources in order to
(c) alleviate the day-to-day mobility problems of the people of Penang – with
(d) especial attention to the needs of the poorer half of society and the vulnerable populations (elderly, disabled, poor, isolated, non-car owners, and
(e) above all, women of all ages and stations of life, and all that
(f) in the coming four years, ie, 2017-2020.

How hard is that? And why is no one minding this store? Please someone, tell me why this is not being done.

Prof Emeritus Eric Britton
Sustainable Development, Economy and Democracy
Institut Supérieur de Gestion, Paris

Please help to support this blog if you can.

Read the commenting guidlelines for this blog.


  1. Reclamation Projects at Danga Bay, Johor Bahru

    Listen to the pains of a fisherman

    The reclamation works on the Straits of Johor have affected coastal and riverine fishermen all along its coast. The destruction of mangrove, the quality of water, pollution and so forth have reduced the numbers of fish, crustaceans and other marine life that provide these fishermen with a livelihood.

    The Malay and a family of Chinese fishermen share Kampung Bakar Batu with an Orang Seletar community. The Orang Seletar live in a 14-acre Asli Reserve — at least for now they are safe from the property developers who now own this stretch of land that lie between two rivers.

    The Malay and Chinese villagers of Kampung Bakar Batu have been ordered to vacate and move to low cost flats, with minimal compensation and without due consideration to the berthing and security of their fishing boats.

    • China developers offer china customers ‘buy one free one’ – pay for a China property with price inflated and get a free one in Iskandar Johor. This is a way for the Chinese nationals to ‘move their money’ out of the country (as China has strict control on movement of Renminbi out of the country), so as to have an asset overseas, in case one day they have to escape PRC for reasons known to them. A win-win-win for the China developers, China buyers and those influential people in Johor. The ultimate losers are Johoreans paying inflated price for their unaffordable homes.

      For your reference, each unit of the condominium at The Astaka in JB cost at least RM3 million. The Astaka will be the tallest residential block in SEA, with twin blocks of 77 and 65 stores!

      • Is Johor leadership (political or otherwise) caring of its people? I doubt.
        All the showmanship are sadiwaras to harness popularity support which is an easy game to blind the people with no thinking caps. The more popular, the more one should open the 2 eyes.
        Think: while some can invest & buy up more properties in Australia or buy monster trucks for public road shows, what can you invest in or have any spare Ringgit to better your life?

      • Three of China’s biggest property developers are changing the face of the southern Malaysian state of Johor just across a narrow strait from Singapore. R & F, Greenland and above all, Country Garden, are undertaking ambitious residential and commercial projects in the fast growing Iskandar economic region. Initial skepticism that these developers could actually pull of their grand plans is giving way to enthusiasm from investors, locals and the Malaysian government as the projects rapidly take shape.

  2. The rapid growth of cities in the developing world is placing enormous demands on urban food supply systems.
    Read: FAO’s role in urban agriculture
    Key facts:
    Urban agriculture is practised by 800 million people worldwide
    It helps low-income urban residents save money on food purchases
    In many countries, urban agriculture is still informal and sometimes illegal
    FAO promotes policies that recognize urban food production as a legitimate land use and economic activity

    • No, when people go to kopi tiams they drive, drink and eat. Now people have modern day diseases like high blood pressure, fatty liver and diabetes. Penang lang over eat and food left over are dumped. Please sustainable is also include how we eat not just building or reclamation.

      • Penang lang might soon be doing what the ancient Romans did, before the decline and fall of the Roman Empire that is:-

        “That’s not to say the Romans were unfamiliar with throwing up, or that they never did so on purpose. On the contrary, in ancient times vomiting seems to have been a standard part of the fine-dining experience. In his Moral Epistles the Roman philosopher Seneca writes, Cum ad cenandum discubuimus, alius sputa deterget, alius reliquias temulentorum [toro] subditus colligit, “When we recline at a banquet, one [slave] wipes up the spittle; another, situated beneath [the table], collects the leavings of the drunks.” OK, it doesn’t literally say puke, but come on. The orator Cicero, in Pro Rege Deiotaro, says matter-of-factly that Julius Caesar “expressed a desire to vomit after dinner”(vomere post cenam te velle dixisses), and elsewhere suggests that the dictator took emetics for this purpose. Caesar’s hosts wanted to take him to the bathroom, since they supposedly had a squad of assassins waiting there (at the time of Cicero’s speech, King Deiotarus was on trial for this alleged attempt on Caesar’s life), but he decided to go to his bedroom instead. Nowhere does Cicero say anything about a “vomitorium.”

  3. anil why not take away the airport and put it in kedah. too much noise pollution and traffic to airport. why we need tourists and potential migrants afterall since 308, penang is no longer belong to pg lang

    • again vinducate pg forum has its self interest. once get rid of airport there is so much land available. but again who in pg forum wants to swim against federal

  4. New Penang attractions like Link Bike, Rainbow Komtar Top and Penang Hill The Habitat Skywalker get no mention in this blog. Not sure if the locals welcome these additions?

    • Penang island could no longer rely on low cost manufacturing (lost competitive edge to neighboring countries) and somehow could not move up to high tech manufacturing (lack of skills and expertise, no investment). Already retrenchment has hit the manufacturing sector very hard in 2016.

      Penangites may have to rely to service sector (tourism, F&B) for income. Like it or not many will have to welcome the ‘additions’ eg. The revitalization of Komtar to attract tourist dollars.

      Ringgit has lost 6% since Trump’s shock victory in the US presidential election on November 8.

      • You mean all the many trips overseas (since 308) by state gomen & InvestPenang have gone to waste?
        Lawat sambil salah-menyalah (blame-game) + akhirnya tak dapat langsung laburan?
        Where is strategic thinking cap @ 28th Floor Komtar?

      • you want gomen to sit down and wait fo r any business? you think gomen is like penang road market waiting for customers? any business there are winners and loserd but you want to win all the time.

      • Go ask Niao Kong why it cannot get any-more FDI.
        Lawat sambil salah-menyalah (blame-game) is not going to work, understood?
        Btw, do you buy from a salesman who “cucuk orang lain”?

    • Good attractions to bring in tourist dollars to Penang island as more manufacturers are moving out and retrenching workers.

      • Unless you curi curi Malaysia to afford overseas holidays, most commoners like me have to settle for cuti cuti Malaysia, so can bring my family to visit Penang and the newKomtar attractions.

  5. Consider the mess of disparate, dysfunctional modes in Klang Valley. At one time, competing private buses and minibuses were good enough. They even kept taxis under control.

    Now, they have consortium buses, a few token municipal buses (free), feeder buses, monorail, LRT, MRT, thuggish taxis (the licences of most of which are held by non-drivers) and of course illegal taxis. Together which changes to road names, blocking of road traffic for the many VIPs and fake VIPs, slow response to accidents, floods and superficial oversight, it is a nightmare for most people, let alone visitors and the disabled.

    Foreigners own some of the call networks for the illegal, call taxis. SPAD claimed for years to be “studying” the matter. Now, it is trying to legalise them – without any guarantee that fares will remain reasonable.

    The common features are lip service (me too), poor planning (leaping before looking), superficial supervision, poor quality and corruption.. This also applies to sidewalks, bus stands, bicycle paths, covered walkways, pedestrian bridges, playgrounds, etc.

    MRT alone may cost RM 141 billion, says Rafizi Ramli. Of course the champions of international finance, “free” market and democracy at gunpoint are cheering. “Over 30 years, 60 of the poorest countries have paid $550 billion in principal and interest on loans of $540 billion; yet their outstanding debt remains at $523 billion” – John Perkins, 2015.

    Penang seems intent on repeating all this.

    • first time i hear pg state gomen can issue transport permits. true?? you mean state gomen not doing a good job on bike track or public more interest in using cars than bicycles. pg gomen borrow money or exchange sea bed fot lrt?

  6. ‘The incompetent leading the unwilling to do the unnecessary’ should learn from the Scandinavian countries.
    Do you see high rise condos, snaking highways, sea reclamations & what else cement to accommodate anticipated population increase? Nope.
    Yet their productivity & happiness quotient is way above ours. We should learn from them how they manage their lives – work, travel, recreation, social interaction, even the bin-chui of the Scandinavians. They seem more happy & balanced without the chase of Money + Glitziness of Cosmopolitan.

    • The problem is not due to there being an UMNO, BN, DAP. PKR or whatever party government but the mentality of the populace who regard a concrete jungle as a measure of “development” and “sophistication”.

      Before the 2008 GE, I thought that a Pakatan government would curtail some of the excesses of building, building and more building under a BN government but after eight years, it has become pretty obvious that they are no different, whether in Penang or Selangor where I live.

      At the end of the day, it looks like the property developers are the proverbial pipers who call the tune.

      Then again, what can we expect in a brickhead economy with a brickhead education system which produces legions of brickheads who cannot who cannot even design and build a decent mobile phone, let alone anything more advanced or innovative.

    • Seemingly no blogs like in Melaka or Johor doesn’t mean no dissatisfaction.
      These 2 states should have more NGOs like Penang to fight for a common cause.

    • How that affect the issue we are discussing here? Are you saying that just because Penang is ruled by DAP we should not criticize the state government ? What’s the difference between BN and DAP then? You remember how Penangites protested (including here in this blog) about the PGCC and PORR? This included the very people who occupy the KOMTAR’s 28th floor.

      What are you saying is that now that Penang is under DAP, all Penangites should just shut up and put up with whatever the Dear Leader Lim says in the spirit of “LGE knows the best”. It is the blind and rabid political supporters who are leading the state into ruin,

      • Take away the habit of worshipping political idols & the earth will heal!
        Open the 3rd eye to see more clearly & the mind will detox of rhetorics naturally.
        What is infallible under the heaven? 9-lives entities?

      • “It is the blind and rabid political supporters who are leading the state into ruin,”

        Well said, Calvin and thanks to Anil for this blog.

      • The scale of this Forest City project is so big, makes me wonder how many Malaysians can afford to live on those man-made islands. I do not think Singaporeans will be interested. Nobody complain…?

      • so mighty and even fishermen and no one here swim against the trend. but here they can bully the state.

      • Forest City is the key sponsor to JDT football team (Luaskan Kuasamu), injecting cash to pay high-salaried players, while Kelantan FA and Selangor FA are both cash-strapped and could possibly miss next seaon Liga Super. So no complaint from Bangsa Johor?

      • … Bangsa Johor … Unless their income level is above the national average, one is ignorant of the undercurrent dissatisfaction ( of unsustainable living standard ) like an ostrich buried in the frenzied pursuit of unsustainable development at the expense of the average Rakyat….

      • It is considered hip to be associated as Bangsa Johor, just ask Harith Iskandar.

        Anyway many head south to be pseudo Bangsa Johor to earn SingDollar in order to amplify their purchasing power 3x in Iskandar zone.

      • Perhaps Prof Eric Britton could comment on this Forest City project after viewing the trailer video?

        The fact that it is having its iwn CIQ means it is targeting foreigners, likely to be Ang Moh expats in Singapore?

      • Eric Button has to be careful not to criticise those development in Iskandar Johor. He should know the influential and powerful one is behind those development.

      • Recent Dubai’s property bubble + financial collapse is a good lesson but we will never learn from them other than to imitate them like Arabs!

    • Watch this promotional video of R&F Princess Cove, the Condominium project next to the JB causeway by PRC developer/influential Johorean:

      R&F Princess Cove, Iskandar Malaysia – Why You Should Buy This Property

  7. Any idea how much the Johor fishermen were compensated when the reclamation of Rapid Project at Pengerang, and the current Forest City project?

  8. Playing the usual quick-route blame game (tinged with political innuendos) is not what the whole contentious issue is about to solve, if any going by the way of fantasised political saviour.
    It should draw-down on what the state as an authority has as available resources to maximise for purposes in its planning. Not to tango with corporations which have no inkling of what’s best for the state & people. We all know too well the trickle of state development funds from the Feds which has limited development potentials but there are financially prudent (not tua-kang-spendthrift of future’s money) options to draw-down what’s best for sustainable development (PTMP included). Already, alternative suggestions from Better, Cheaper, Faster PTMP & paid consultancy from Halcrow are conveniently thrown out of the 28th Flr Komtar, what other options for better sustainable development can the state provide beyond the arrogantly fixated & super-costly PTMP which is a potential problematic for the state & Penangites from property bubbles, abandoned projects, unsustainable LRT + highway management, environmental costs & increasing carbon footprints (from high car ownership). Is the state ready to sell more invisible lands on the seas just to sustain this potential financial monster starting with this PTMP in the near future?
    As a Penangite, I have more concerns than those who can whistling-comment from the comfort of a foreign land with haughty snide remarks without the ground zero experience of what’s real & worrying on a daily basis.

  9. You are dead WRONG. Transport IS ABOUT MONEY FIRST. Like it or not, it IS ECONOMICS which by definition says it hopefully end up being about lives. WORST, for states even for Najib, govt money is about LAND. In Penang, its EVEN WORST BECAUSE IT HAS NO LAND LIKE OTHER STATES.

    The plan is ambitious and not exactly precision high standard planning. BUT since when is Malaysia capable of it? OUR ENTIRE ECONOMIC SYSTEM IS IN FACT STILL VERY CRUDE, there is current heated debate, despite growth for so many decades while other countries have moved up technology in much shorter time in the past AND PRESENT, we have not.

    In Penang was a service, technology or financial hub like other global metropolitan cities and govt can derive revenue from the income, then yes, then at best land is not the issue and money can be found somewhere else. But fact is, its is about money first and not land.

    Those that argue, change the behaviour of the people first, they are delusional and do not know the numbers..

    There is a bigger picture here, a message to the left, unless Putrajaya is changed, real change is not that good, the job at hand is half baked. You do not like it, change Putrajaya, go blame it on Hadi’s PAS and dysfucntional political Islam…

    • Singland is now facing problems.
      Global slowdown means no more money coming, so money is still SGD King?
      No other options to think out of the SingLand Box?

      • try harder. it is still 3ringgit to 1 sing. but what do you expect a small island. just like indo produce cheap palm oil than malaysia. how to sustain driving 4wd with donkey bars in front in penang town

      • Malaysian Ringgit today fell to its weakest level since 1998 Asian financial crisis. So unlikely for Najib to take risk for early election. Meanwhile one Singapore dollar will get you RM3.08 at the money changer today.

      • tun lang forget thousands pg lg cari makan and sing dollars in singland whereas sing lang are buying properities in pg. try harder…

      • Watch this interesting clip on Singapore Kranji Reserves and the Eco-farm:

      • He should try harder on progressing and moving ahead like singland and china which send 2 spacemen in their first docking rather than barking incessantly. No wonder Penang is losing its talent because we have people chasing Penang sons and daughters due to backward thinking.

      • Are Singaporeans ready to take on the future economy?

        Catch this new talk show “It Matters: The Future of Us”, and hear from Minister Chan Chun Sing, Minister-of-State Koh Poh Koon, SMS Sim Ann, Parliament Sec Low Yen Ling, and MOS Koh Poh Koon, as well as other panellists, as they discuss jobs, skills, innovation and what this means against the backdrop of digital disruption in Singapore.

        For more information, visit

      • More than digital disruption, Singland is going to face trade disruptions & more so should Trump decides to raise import taxes (45%?) on Chinese goods to protect American businesses. How to overcome dumping of cheap Chinese goods as a duty-free country when TaiKo PRC is aiming for Asian & Pacific trade block (like EU) & may not use USD as medium of exchange but Renminbi? Singland cosiness with US now comes with a price of uncertainty (coming US President Trump, US interest rate rise, outflow of investment from Asia back to US, possible China dumping of US Bonds & Currency (in China’s reserves) as trade retaliation, Asian countries realignment to China & opening of One Belt, One Road (The Silk Road Economic Belt).
        SingLand had better learn the art of Peking Opera Change-Face in order to survive into the 22nd Century! LSL should ask Jackie Chan for advice.

      • Singapore has FTA (Free Trade Agreement) with USA, thus its export could be exempted from Trump’s proposed 10% import duty?

        Does Malaysia has FTA with USA? Or Malaysia is still pinning hope on TPPA?

      • Singapore has FTA (Free Trade Agreement) with USA, thus its export could be exempted from Trump’s proposed 10% import duty?

        Does Malaysia has FTA with USA? Or Malaysia is still pinning hope on TPPA?

      • Obama is history, TPPA is history, American influence (in S.E.A.) is history.
        The new paradigm shift of China geo-politics + Asian trade alliance (block) are undeniable & those who think otherwise are heading towards self-isolation like Taiwan.
        Trump is putting US with its ‘looking inward’ policies in reverse gear from globalisation of free trade & foreign investment.
        And China is very quick to fill in that void left by US. So, who is the next big global trading partner to benefit from? It’s a no brainer!

      • Talented Malaysians are helping Singapore to progress under meritocracy system, to embrace the structural change into the new economy as Singapore is aiming to replace U.K. As a FinTech (Financisl Technology) centre following Brexit.

      • sing is moving forward we still talk about race, religion, buying 4wds and getting cheap labours and yet we silent … to it. our minds just focus on barking and complains full of negative ions. we have low vision.

    • What happened to my last line? Its a fact..Ultimately the end game of insistence by the left without realistic timed solutions. The Russian ambassador in Turkey just got shot proves my point. Those who did not vote for Hillary Clinton and complain about Trump better prepare. Our left here could do much much worst than those

      • The Clintons are now history!
        So much for the misuse of high security server for personal emails & questionable fiascos of US Embassy seige in Benghazi, Libya 2012 (Americans won’t forget the “Black Hawk Down” fiasco in Mogadishu 1993 under the stewardship of President Bill Clinton). Those dead US Marines will always haunt the Clintons every Christmas Eve for decades to come. And not least of all, the widening gap between the haves & have-nots of Americans, thanks to free market liberalism espoused by the Democrats. People still living under bridges, in dark sewage tunnels, MRT stations & abandoned buildings is a global showcase of the American Dreams of a market-economy leadership, so to speak of all things wonderful of glittering-materialistic America!

      • go back to tongsan in mao’s era where pg lg send money, bicycles and sewing machines to relatives. mao’s era is long gone with chinese all over the world even in darkest africa.

    • It is you and the blind and delusional DAP supporters who are dead wrong and still live in the La La Land.

      Firstly stop giving excuses about DAP unable to perform as per Penangites’ expectation because they don’t control Putrajaya. If this is true, then just ask LGE and his regime to resign and pass the baton back to Gerakan until PH takes over Putrajaya – it is a pathetic excuse to justify poor governance.

      Secondly, if public transport is all about money then you know nothing about public transport. Only the ignorant will say such thing because in their minds, public transport is nothing but mega billion trains, tunnels and highways. You can have a very efficient but cost effective public transportation system and the folks at Penang Forum in fact have come up with one in case you have been living under a coconut shell lately. There are numerous cases of sustainable and cost effective transportation system even in the developed world. Just google.

      Third, we need to be mindful of Penang’s local situation where we have limited land and environmental and heritage situation. Because of this very reason we cannot afford to sell more lands.

      Fourthly, Penang’s budget is not large but large enough if used wisely. However when we look at how the state govt plans to use it, it is all for the wrong reasons. Instead of benefitting people, it is wasting billions on ego-stroking mega project that will only benefit the rich locals and foreign property investors.

      Stop pointing finger at others for Penang’s failures – instead ask the current administration to buck up.

      • I wonder how some folks who have been living (maybe suffering) under LKY authoritarianism in SingLand can now easily rebuke any gomen changing the behaviour of the people!
        Are they already in delusion of past experience for the good of society & knowing the attractive numbers in dollars + cents decide to sing Money, Money, Money to the swapping tunes of Komtar Alley CAT?
        You can’t fathom their hidden desires until they open their mouth!

      • People just blind and love to bark over everything with approval from anil but ban my barking. Unless … can’t see who line up for days to pay respect to LKY and he desires his built in 50’s residence to demolish if no one is staying there. If authoritarianism why people queing for days to see him for less than 1 minute.

      • I doubt you take public transport and one of the 40% missing in rapid bus. Since you work in hong kong you can see the difference between Penang rapid and the HK public bus system. Further senior citizens in Hong Kong just pay RM1 for any single trip any distance.
        You should tell … to buck up over East coast line and high speed train and public transport for KL and Penang since they control the permit and finances.

      • Like many I don’t mind using public transport system as long it is convenient. I always take the public transport in HK, SG and even KL. However Penang is very far behind in public transportation when compared to these cities.

        Why blame RapidPenang when it is just a transportation company? The real culprits are the elected people’s reps sitting at the 28th Floor of KOMTAR. They are the one ultimately responsible to ensure Penang has a good public transportation system that is efficient logistically and cost wise.

        Why are you so concerned about East Coast Rail link or the Forest City when your own house is on fire? Let the folks in Johor decide what’s the best for them.

      • Calvin, you cannot reason with a troll, much less a political worshipper whose ‘fortune’ may be hinged on the operatic sandiwara of his Deity.
        A wrong is always a right. A twist is all it takes!
        Let Karma takes its course. No worry.

  10. Simple explanation of this project: Before Reclaim, southern Penang belong to Rakyat; after reclaim, the ownership [ultimately] transfer to [private interests]…

    • Similarly,
      Before 308, soul of Penang belongs to Penangites,
      After 308 & Cosmopolitan Penang Frenzies, soul of Penang buried under islands & condos & highways!
      To these despicables, even selling grandmas is not an option!

    • you mean we cant drink in kopitiams if they operates there? with more land, more opportunities like undersea aquarium, cruise love, boats, flying boats seaport, jumbo floating food court etc. empty land and spaces to unvoid.

      • That headline speaks volume of a state administration claiming to be an angel steward for Penang but in acts playing the fool with Penangites. It still dreams of 308 euphoria to still blind all of us in its politico-corporate tango on the seas. Such ARROGANCE!

      • also speaks as Action Party doing someyhing and democratic as you, roger and everyone can dissent. try to do that to federal? land up like pkr sg.

  11. The incompetent’s classic approach to swap deal problems & insidious after-effects of land reclamations (from north to east to south) is all too commonplace for years.
    CAT: “You want a fast solution to traffic jams, then don’t oppose.
    No swap deals, no big money for PTMP. Cancel all swap deals, you pay compensations!”

    I just want to ask CAT: “Who in the … first place went about selling swap deals like the oldest profession in the world?”
    “You … ‘screwed’ up the whole thing from north to east to south!”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here