While there has been much ado about a subject close to the hearts of Penangites (i.e. whether foreign cooks should be allowed to cook at hawker stalls licensed to locals), it has diverted attention away from the big issue of multibillion ringgit contracts.
Nazri has come out in favour of local cooks for Penang hawker cuisine.
But I am more interested in the multibillion projects lined up for Penang.
Topping the list is the RM6.3bn tunnel-highways project awarded to Zenith Consortium, which is led by mystery man Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli under a controversial land swap deal.
I am more interested in what Nazri’s thinks of the the tunnel and its award to Zenith Consortium, led by Zarul, under a lucrative 30-year concession than by what he thinks of Penang hawker food.
I am also interested to know why Penang Umno seems supportive of the tunnel after GE13 when other BN component parties seemed critical of the tunnel project before GE13. In fact, I nearly fell off my chair when I read about Penang Umno actually singing the praises of the tunnel!
The tunnel is part of the larger RM27bn worth of projects under the Penang Transport Masterplan made up of RM10bn for public transport and RM17bn for highways. Now, if the Penang government is serious about public transport, why is it thinking of spending more on highways than on public transport? Shouldn’t the figures be the other way round i.e. RM10bn (or much less) for highways and RM17bn for public transport?
Instead of another road link (the tunnel) across the channel, why not expand the ferry service to different points and build a cross-channel rail link? And what about the public transport plans for the mainland?
It also seems to me that property developers with federal links or businessmen well connected to BN politicians are now active in Penang in a big way.
For instance, E & O, which is embarking on the mammoth and controversial Sri Tanjung Pinang Phase 2 land reclamation, is 22 per cent owned by Sime Darby, a federal GLC. (The developer of STP2 is also 22 per cent owned by the Penang state government.)
A well connected developer is now involved in the Bayan Mutiara property development deal.
Another politically well connected firm at the federal level, Gamuda, has been mentioned among the names of possible companies lined up for the proposed LRT project from the airport to Komtar, with possible compensation in the form of lucrative and massive land reclamation. We are talking a few thousands acres of land reclamation with GDV worth billions of ringgit.
So it is all about Big Business snapping up mega contracts while the Penang public has to live with the consequences, good or bad.
But the public debate is about who should cook our hawker food!