For the coming financial year (2010), the Penang Municipal Council is projecting a budget deficit of RM40 million based on revenue collection of RM230 million, two thirds of which come from taxes. Over the last year, the council should be commended for making extra effort to collect arrears from various parties…
It is therefore strange that the Council plans to blow RM30 million in capital expenditure in its 2010 Budget on a new convention centre project. This centre will be located within the premises of the Penang International Sports Arena (Pisa) at a spot where the present fountains are. It is believed that a further RM20 million will be allocated in the 2011 financial year.
Now, Pisa as everyone knows is an under-utilised white elephant, saddled with expenditure – hardly the most productive asset in Penang. So where is the logic in building another convention centre next to it? And how is it going to affect the already ailing Pisa, which is owned by the Council and managed by a private firm, Penevents (formerly owned by the PDC until a management buyout)?
A few city councillors have openly expressed their reservations about the project while some others are also believed to be quietly unhappy about the weak financial justification for the project.
“RM30 million is a lot of money especially when you consider the Council has been scrimping when it comes to the upgrading of public markets, which has had to be done in phases, and in the provision of other basic amenities,” one councillor told me. “With that kind of money, we could do a lot to improve basic services and amenities.”
It is believed that another major developer has plans to build another convention centre not far away from Pisa several years down the road.
But certain decision-maker(s) in Penang are somehow convinced that Penang needs a major convention centre (in addition to Pisa) quickly in line with its aspirations to become an “international city”.
I am not sure how we can justify such a drain on Council funds and risk landing up with a Pakatan white elephant to accompany the present BN white elephant. The firm tasked with designing the new centre is apparently the same one responsible for Pisa, according to the councillor.
Is this use of council funds a case of penny wise, pound foolish? If Penang really needs a gleaming convention centre, couldn’t Pisa be spruced up and upgraded?