This is yet another deserted mall in Penang. This place in Bayan Baru used to be bustling with eateries. No longer.
Fewer people can afford to eat out? A glut in property?
Blog visitor Michael writes:
It is because ‘development’ in Malaysia is not driven by a social consensus about what works well for people living their lives. Rather ‘development’ is mostly driven by private businessmen only intent on one thing; how to enrich themselves by acquiring land at lower cost, and employing shoddy building methods that result in shabby rundown looking buildings after a few years.
Money is then spent on advertising their newer better project down the road (these days they put somes plants at the top and have some hanging down the walls, which seems to give them licence to call the building green) which sadly entices consumer-minded people to go there and abandon something built a few years back. Hence a cycle of waste is perpetuated.
Buildings are being torn down after 20-30 years or totally renovated because the materials used means that they have leaked, and we all know what leaking water can do to a building.
It seems to me that new is always better here in Malaysia, thus generating a frenzy of always abandoning the old… unless the old can be proven to attract tourists, and even then developers want to build high rises on heritage sites. All they have to do it seems is use the heritage building as the front door step … how ugly.
I would advocate for the strict introduction (and enforcement) of federal and state laws whereby the government uses the democratic process to ensure that development in Malaysia is appropriate to and enhances the social and economic wellbeing of all. It is well past the time when the laissez-faire attitude that private interest knows best is put to death.
There is a very important role for government to have at all levels of society, from the local resident committee to local council, to state and federal levels. They provide the the voice of the people, a necessary restraint to the freewheeling private investor who is often divorced from the area within which the ‘development’ takes place.
In fact, give some leverage to the ordinary person on the street and I think we would all be amazed at the innovative and constructive thinking that is forthcoming. There is a role for the businessman; however, they must accept that money should not drive all decision-making and recognise the right of people to have a major influence on how their most immediate environment are constructed.
It is indeed sad to note here that the Penang state government effort to reintroduce local government elections into Penang has been rejected by the Federal Court. An essential element of any democratic government system has been missing in Malaysia for 49 years.
The current crop of buildings being erected in Malaysia don’t meet the standards of what a sustainable building should be. Huge concrete towers destroy trees, create heat islands, require air conditioning, and is increasingly seen, creating scars on the landscape somewhere else.
Malaysians need to go back to the drawing board, and I suggest they rediscover the elements of their older towns and cities. What type of buildings are sustainable for a tropical environment? How can we re-integrate the forest back into our lives and thus benefit from the clean air, the natural cooling shade, the natural accumulation of the humus forest layer for our gardens. A building should last for more than a 100 years and will do so if built appropriate to the environment to start with, and then regularly maintained.
Why are the shop houses of Georgetown still strong while modern homes seem to deteriorate so quickly?