An MPPP councillor has urged his fellow councillors to think about what sort of development they want for Penang.
Dr Lim Mah Hui, an Aliran member and civil society rep in the MPPP, was speaking at a full council meeting of the MPPP yesterday. Now, Mah Hui is neither a politician nor a businessman: he is just contributing his time – and MPPP work on various committees does takes up a lot of time – and experience as a form of public service.
A former professor and international banker, he certainly knows what he is talking about. He has a PhD in development studies, and taught politics, sociology and political economy prior to becoming a banker, working for over 20 years in a string of major international banks around the world. His full profile here.
All those who care about Penang should take note of his message:
I would like to touch on the issue of what type of development is Penang, in particular Penang island, heading towards.
Let me begin with an anecdote. Last week I had dinner with Mr Ramesh Chander who was a Chief Statistician in the Department of Statistics of Malaysia in the 1970s who then went to work for the World Bank and is an advisor to many countries in setting up their statistics department. He was here on a visit from Washington DC to advise SERI, now Penang Institute, on improving their data collection. He said the last time he came to Penang was about three to four years ago and the thing that struck him the most this time was the enormous number of high-rise and tall buildings all over Penang Island. He is not the only one to say this. Many other visitors have observed the same thing. And he continued he fears that we are heading towards a housing and construction bubble.
The present state government is right to say that it wants George Town to be an international liveable city and to be a magnet to attract talent to this city. In its rush to achieve this goal, it has opened the flood-gates to developers to build as much and as fast as possible: more houses, more high-rise apartments, more shopping malls and more commercial offices. If this is not properly planned and controlled we could end up destroying the unique charm of Penang island.
Full text of his address on the Aliran website.