PICC still on the cards


It looks as if the Penang government is still keen on the Penang International Convention Centre (PICC), going by a Bernama report.

The state should think again whether this is really a prudent use of our precious – and limited – financial resources. Even during colonial rule in early 19th-century Penang, the island’s British administrators experienced difficulty in raising funds. Little has changed now, with the BN federal government denying the state its rightful allocations and even by-passing the Penang state government by channelling funds through Finance Ministry-owned entities and parallel federally-overseen state development offices.

The way I look at it, the PICC is a luxury (or white elephant) we cannot afford especially when other privately built convention centres are already in the pipeline in Penang. Penang has so many other more pressing needs requiring the use of public funds e.g. the upgrading of public markets and a new computer system for the MPPP.

As for putting out tenders for the management and operation of Fort Cornwallis, it might be worth taking a look at how historical monuments in other countries are managed without falling into private hands. In the UK for instance, the Tower of London is managed by Historic Royal Palaces, which is a ‘charity’ or non-profit NGO, governed by a chairman and a board of trustees (non-executive and unpaid) chosen for their skills and expertise.

The chief executive of HRP (who heads a board of directors) reports to the board of trustees on the performance of the monuments and sites and ultimately to the legislative assembly to account for the public assets they are entrusted with.

HRP receives no funding from the government. Instead, it relies on the support of visitors, members, donors, volunteers and sponsors. Can’t a similar model, suitably adapted, work in Penang for our own historical sites such as Fort Cornwallis, Crag Hotel and Suffolk House?

Not all public assets have to be handed over to for-profit private corporations to manage, you know!

This is the Bernama report:

Penang Invites Foreign Investors To Develop Landmark Projects

SINGAPORE, June 30 (Bernama) — The Penang state government on Wednesday offered Singaporean and international investors an opportunity to participate in building and developing some of the island’s landmark projects and historical sites.

Top on the list is the high-end integrated development of a 24-hectare site in Bayan Mutiara, comprising prestigious offices, specialist medical facilities, commercial blocks, residential enclaves, retail and public spaces.

Another project is to build the 70,000 sq metres Penang International Convention Centre (PICC) in Bayan Baru, and upgrading of the existing Penang International Sports Arena (PISA) and Aquatic Centre nearby.

For historical sites, the state government wants the iconic, British Fort Cornwallis at the Esplanade, and the Crag Hotel on Penang Hill to be restored, refurbished, redeveloped and managed as unique and prestigious tourism products.

The request for proposals was made by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng during a press conference held on the sidelines of the ongoing World Cities Summit at the Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre here.

In addition, Lim also requested proposals to build and operate a gold and jewellery bazaar on a strip of 0.4 hectare land near Komtar, in a move to revitalise the area.

The plan is also to promote the city as a regional gold and jewellery centre.

Lim said the projects are in line with the strategy to unlock state assets and capitalise on the sizable heritage value, adding that, it was also to fulfil the desire of the electorate who wanted to see concrete developments taking place in the state under his leadership.

The Chief Minister also said the promotion of the projects is being made here, as he believed Singaporean investors can offer quality proposals and of international standard, looking at what has been undertaken in the republic.

Moreover, local investors are more familiar with the state as Singapore and Penang had an identical history, and the people shared a similar social and cultural background.

However, Lim said the five projects would be given to any investor who could offer the best proposal, regardless where they came from.

He said many Malaysian investors, especially government-linked companies (GLCs), had also shown strong interest in the projects.

Earlier, Wan Zailena Noordin, Managing Director of PDC Properties Sdn Bhd, which is coordinating the projects, said only companies with a minimum paid-up capital of between RM100,000 (US$31,000) to RM50 million (US$15 million) are eligible to participate in the respective projects.

The request for proposal documents for the Bayan Mutiara and the gold and jewellery bazaar projects, can be obtained from the Penang Development Corporation office, while documents for the PICC project is available via the Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang website at http://www.mppp.gov.my.

Documents for the Fort Cornwallis and Crag Hotel projects can also be obtained online at the state government website at http://www.penang.gov.my.

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Andrew B
Andrew B
28 Dec 2010 9.03am

As a Penangite, it’s good to see such developments in the pipeline. We’ve been stagnating for far too long. Obviously all views posted here has its personal or professional basis, but what is vital is “What’s Good for Our Children…”. The time will come when we will cease to exist, and our children will lead the state, or even the country. Infrastructures such as expressways, FIZ, Intl Airports, and not forgetting convention centres, are meant to serve the people on a long term basis. Not being pro to any one organization, but being pro-Penang, anyone and everyone can say, “No… Read more »

5 Jul 2010 8.36pm

SamG is as childish as you.

5 Jul 2010 12.20pm

hi pearl, how do you know it will be wasterd, please read SamG. TQ! by the way, i really would appreciate if Penang government can mend all the potholes and re-tar some of the roads, eg Jalan Kelawai… I think Hunza property should make to take up the responsibility to re-tar Jalan Kelawai when Gurney Paragon completes as most parts of the road have been damaged by the trucks and lorries and trailers in the construction site. That also includes Jalan Gurney. Jalan Tg Bungah, too, i think the Penang government should impose on the developers to re-tar the main… Read more »

4 Jul 2010 11.21pm

The 50 Mil dollars wasted in the PICC will be the final nails for your political coffin. From then onwards Barisan Nasional will use the issue as the showcase of Lim Guan Eng’s … practices.

Please come clean, Lim Guan Eng, while you still can.

4 Jul 2010 10.25pm

Dear Anil,

Penang state is not richer than MPPP bearing in mind that the expense of the state is much higher.

Without an elected municipality, the moral authority for MPPP to spend this kind of money is still with the state government.

4 Jul 2010 7.07pm

If LGE thinks that PICC will be good for the State, We shouldn’t stand in his way as long as i. Open and transparent tender. Absolutely no hanky panky. No “kang tau” for anyone. ii. Tell the people of Penang what are his projections (sales & cash flow)for this convention centre. Doesn’t matter if the project will not make money the next 10 years. As long as he thinks it is beneficial to the state in other ways, like attracting investments, he should build it. Very often, to venture into something different, hunch is important. However, as a custodian of… Read more »

3 Jul 2010 6.12pm

Anil, looks like people are more positive now abt the PICC project.

i agree with SamG.

Guess, AlbertG is right, we need to give LGE a chance to prove…

Kamal B
Kamal B
3 Jul 2010 10.35am

Hello anil

You seem to be opposing the PICC.

If only you could use the same fervour to object those grandiose and wasteful BN projects, you would be a national hero.

In other words, you should ‘spread your wing’ and be more vocal about the BN’w wasteful and ali-baba-styled construction projects.

2 Jul 2010 9.16pm

Hi Loh Yeow Boo why are you thinking negatively. Why start accusing when you don’t even know who gets the jobs maybe you like to try your luck if you are qualify or are you just plain sour grapes. No kang tau eh. We have tolerated 50 years of BN rules and abuse so its time we give LGE a chance to prove.

2 Jul 2010 7.29pm

The alternative is to inject PISA and the proposed PICC into a SPV, and for this SPV to be funded via the PPP model.

The proposed PICC is needed not only for its own sake. If done properly, the combined PISA and PICC can be made into an integrated sports and MICE venue.

Having said that, I do recognise that potential competition from the various new coastal developments are very big.

So, the SPV that I mentioned earlier is critical. The private sector discipline will be needed to ensure the competitveness of the integrated PISA and PICC.

tan, tanjong bungah
tan, tanjong bungah
2 Jul 2010 5.44pm

Hi everyone,

There must be a comprehensive study on the PICC project, to include parking and traffic dispersal, financing and gestation period, fiscal benefits to the state from events organisation with quantifying spill-over effects on tourism and projection of the State’s image, etc. The study would need to consult lots of experts in various fields.

Unless this is done and then its findings disclosed to the public, it is debatable whether to proceed with the project.

2 Jul 2010 5.14pm

Yes, Penang should hold MICE activities, and divert the people from KL to Penang.

KL has been poorly managing MICE, Even Puterajaya Convention Centre is a white elephant.

BN is incompetent. Let the DAP Penang show them the way.

2 Jul 2010 4.32pm

I agree with BigJoe. We can argue and debate until the cows come home, and we will ony agree to differ. Anil, we have to start somewhere on MICE. We have the large, medium and small Conventions and Exhibitions. Singapore, KL and Bangkok are very expensive centers. We can take the first step by capturing the medium and smaller ones which focusses in this region. We cannot keep depending on the huge factories to churn revenue and jobs. When there are no facilities, then no one will come. If you check the records, PR & PDC have done a very… Read more »

4 Jul 2010 10.13pm
Reply to  Anil Netto

Sorry Anil to bring out the old topic. Remember Kampung Buah Pala….What say you on this? Same analogy can use too….

Aiyaa…..This one I am with you…..But only because of money no enough

Loh Yeow Boo - Penang
Loh Yeow Boo - Penang
2 Jul 2010 4.24pm

The State Government and their cronies also needs to cari makan. All the going to retire CEO’s of GLC in Penang also needs to live.
The best way to makan is to have big meg projects, awarded to cronies, then you scratch my back and I scratch yours. You can see all the engineers, architects, developers, etc….rushing to be LGE cronies.

2 Jul 2010 1.15pm

PICC is not justified if you are trying just to save money. BUT if you are trying to generate growth and economy, it can be.

All the criticism of the project I have seen assume that the Penang govt cannot take an active role in growing the MICE business in Penang. The truth is BN did a lousy job in that area. Properly executed Penang can grow the business in multiples of what happened under BN.

If you are not a sceptic of that, then the project makes sense. If you are, then there is a debate.