No more swap deals?

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The federal government’s intention to “decouple” land swaps from public-private projects should be welcomed.

According to the finance minister, land will now be sold by open auction so that the federal government can maximise revenue from land sales.

On the other hand, projects to be undertaken will be subject to open tender so that the government can receive the best value for the project awarded.

The federal government reportedly said that BN’s land swaps methods had resulted in “extraordinary profits for crony companies”, ultimately shortchanging the government and taxpayers.

But such land swaps were not confined to BN. Ever since I started this blog, I have complained that such swap deals in Penang have been problematic and even lopsided at times, and both sides of such deals should be delinked and evaluated separately on their merits.

We saw what happened during the BN era when land reclamation rights worth billions in gross development value were awarded cheaply in return for building highways worth just a few hundred million ringgit.

The seeds of the Kampung Buah Pala controversy that erupted soon after Pakatan took over Penang in 2008 were sown with a land swap during BN rule.

Under Pakatan rule, we had a convention centre being built in exchange for higher density being given on other property development projects.

Then we saw the controversial swap deal involving 110 acres of prime reclamation rights being awarded in exchange for building a highly controversial tunnel and three environmentally problematic highways.

Finally, the mother of two-sided deals arrived when a consortium (comprising a contractor and two property development firms) proposed that massive land reclamation be used to finance exorbitant transport infrastructure. The arrangement puts the firms in a position of potential conflict of interest – for it is not clear how, if at all, these firms, acting as “project delivery partner” consultants, will be involved, whether directly or indirectly, in the actual land reclamation, property development on the reclaimed islands, and infrastructure construction.

Now, each of these deals may have been slightly different in concept, but they all involved a two-sided equation. They also had the common effect of casting a cloud on the regulatory process, adding pressure, so to speak, as regulatory agencies realised that if their approvals for one side of the swap deal were not forthcoming, the other side of the massive deal would be sangkut.

Such swap deals have also raised questions as to whether the real motivation for some of these infrastructure projects lay in property development (“property plays”) rather than the actual infrastructure provided for the rakyat.

Indeed, in some of these cases, the infrastructure provided may not even be the most appropriate for our times or for the people’s long-term needs. Instead, what is provided may end up:

  • worsening congestion by encouraging more cars on the road
  • posing environmental risks (landslides, mudflows, slope failure, air and noise pollution)
  • providing outdated technology (eg monorails)
  • providing expensive transport modes (an RM8bn elevated SRS-LRT instead of more cost-effective bus rapid transit, modern trams or automated rapid trackless trams (ART)
  • providing excessive high-end homes that few Malaysians can afford
  • adding to congestion through the approval of high-density development
  • aggravating imbalances in development between the island and the mainland.

So while it is good that the federal government wants to decouple such swap deals at the federal level, just look at the ongoing effects of some of these deals in Penang under both BN and PH rule.

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Tan Wee Theng
Tan Wee Theng
10 Oct 2018 11.18pm

Understand that the 10km NCPR is going to cost RM 1 billion to save 14 minutes of travel time. Putting this in perspective, the state government budget for 2018 is RM1.3 billion only and it has no qualm to facilitate RM1 billion on a economically silly highway. Obviously, RM 1 billion can be much better utilised for pressing community needs instead of building an expensive, economically stupid highway, polluting the environment and posing forever landslide hazard to penangites after the contractor is long gone. The state government could easily build ferry terminals near Teluk Bahang and Batu Ferringhi and shoo… Read more »

Shriek
Shriek
11 Oct 2018 7.00pm
Reply to  Tan Wee Theng

Transport like ferries are not meant for tourist. What is there for tourist to see where boats ply coast to coast unlike hong kong, Sydney or Shanghai with its very high rise? If more ferries, pg forum are destroying the fishing ground which you have been trying to champion. Public ferries are meant to help local people to get from one place to another like those fast boats in chao praya. Why sibu wants to build pan Borneo highway when sibu has ferry service from cat capital? Why pg forum don’t protest and protect the ferry service?

Shriek
Shriek
14 Oct 2018 11.27am
Reply to  Tan Wee Theng

How about 14 mins of burning petrol and diesel by a car, lorry etc. How many cars burning in one day? How many tonnes of co2 into atmosphere? How many tonnes of pollutants into the air pg lang is breathing? No wonder pg food taste better? Result of 14 mins extra burning, the earth temperature goes up by ?? percentage. This is the plain tooth.

Karamjit
Karamjit
10 Oct 2018 4.03pm

Inset of selling assets to pay debt, how about offering naming rights of Bandar Tun Razak to highest bidder?

Arsenal football stadium was named Emirates Stadium to get sponsorship money. Can do the same for Bukit Jalil Stadium.

Shriek
Shriek
11 Oct 2018 7.07pm
Reply to  Karamjit

Ask tony? Everyone can give name just like can fly.

Regina
Regina
10 Oct 2018 12.19pm

Rakyat now more concern about the ‘Pain and Sacrifice’ budget due to Najib’s incurred RM1 Trillion debt for our nation.

I suggest the petrol price to be increased 10% to help the national coffer and to reduce car ownership and usage, for green cause too.

Norman
Norman
11 Oct 2018 1.10pm

Land swap or not, upcoming properties are beyond the means of average Penangites.

Can learn from Chow Yun Fat spends only RM424 a month, no need to upkeep bin chui to be frugal to save more.

Despite being an international star worth HK$5.6bil (RM2.97bil), Chow still sees himself as an average man, who finds joy in living the simple life.

Often seen commuting on public transport dressed in old clothes, Chow said that “clothing was not something to show off and anything is good as long as he feels comfortable in it”.

https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2018/10/11/chow-yun-fat-spends-only-rm424-a-month/#QRLz1rXydJgZGBtT.99

Swee
Swee
11 Oct 2018 8.30am

I hope the Federal Government put a stop to these schemes in Penang, despite even the fact that the developers pet is in the finance ministry.

Shriek
Shriek
12 Oct 2018 5.06am
Reply to  Swee

Pg lang must orso put a stop in using cars for private use. Ride rapid, bicycle walk or push scooter. Best if can skate board.

Shriek
Shriek
14 Oct 2018 11.30am
Reply to  Swee

Tell the investors including those building factories, plants don’t come to malaysia.?

Tan Wee Theng
Tan Wee Theng
11 Oct 2018 12.38am

With Tony Pua’s latest open letter to MMC-Gamuda, I think we should request CM to engage Tony Pua’s service to review the costings of our PTMP
Tony Pua says RM2 billion can build 5 hospitals or 50 schools. So, RM 1 billion facilitated by the state government for NCPR can build 2.5 hospitals and 25 schools instead of 10km of stupid highway

Shriek
Shriek
11 Oct 2018 7.05pm
Reply to  Tan Wee Theng

Go ahead, where is Mr chua of Pahang Road builder? There are many contractors building roads and housing unlike tunnelling and underground stations. We have a soil scientist so worked up with faults in mountains. In this we are still relatively little experience

tunglang
tunglang
11 Oct 2018 9.26pm
Reply to  Tan Wee Theng

Very good. Cheers Kopi-O kau kau!
Tony Pua. You don’t need to toe the CAT’s line unlike the former Adun of Tanjung Bungah, Teh Yee Cheu. Penangites need your best service without fear or favor.

NoLRT4Penang
NoLRT4Penang
10 Oct 2018 11.11am

One I can tell you, we will see more high rise building in Penang soon. The Gurney reclamation will be so big, we will not even see the sea and nature anymore.

tunglang
tunglang
11 Oct 2018 9.10am
Reply to  NoLRT4Penang

Not even a breath of fresh sea breeze by present residents of sea front super-expensive condos. Yes, they will be cheated by dream ads of yesterdays.

Shriek
Shriek
12 Oct 2018 5.09am
Reply to  tunglang

Sea breeze smell of kiam her better than smell of belum valley?

Shriek
Shriek
14 Oct 2018 2.38pm
Reply to  tunglang

Who want o can smell salty fish?

tunglang
tunglang
10 Oct 2018 9.13am

No more swap deals?
Remember the warnings of compensations should PTMP be totally revised?
Also the dream legacy (of some politicians) of controversial sea tunnel will be wiped off the memories of Penangites if & when PTMP be tendered anew.
So, no more swap deals? Not too fast, Anil.

Shriek
Shriek
11 Oct 2018 7.12pm
Reply to  tunglang

Ah peak wants all unis and all central and state offices to locate in love lane?