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.