Should Penang follow the path of Hong Kong and Singapore?


Someone from the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce has said, “If you ask me or the young, they want Penang to be similar to Singapore and Hong Kong where there are plenty of economic prospects.”

Once again, we have a clash of competing visions for Penang. I asked half a dozen young private college students yesterday and none of them wanted Penang to emulate those two places. In fact, they looked a bit alarmed at the thought.

Another concerned Penangite, Lim Li Lian, who used to work in Hong Kong before returning to Penang, shares her opinion:

I think what we all want is:

  • economic prosperity
  • abundant nature
  • uncongested roads
  • vibrant life: arts, heritage, cuisine, sports, culture

Probably as a result of our education system people tend to only know how to copy others. We can have a Penang that is unique that we ourselves define.

We need to emphasise low density. This means the industries that we target in Penang should be the ones higher up the value chain.

So I think we can achieve those ideals above in a low population density environment, supported by a highly skilled labour force.

I also believe that a HUGE impediment to achieving those targets is the property market – how it has been turned into a pyramid scheme with developers and the super rich sitting at the top. Having such high prices I feel is choking economic activity.

Hong Kong, like Singapore, has very low taxes, 17% for personal and corporate. This is lauded as a huge reason for economic growth and prosperity. But what many don’t realise is that the rakyat are being taxed extremely heavily elsewhere through a different mechanism. It is like a consumption tax but it is on property.

This is because the Hong Kong government controls Hong Kong land supply. It earns revenue from land sales and also land reclamation to sell to developers (sound familiar?).

So although income taxes are low, the people are paying a huge amount of their incomes for rent or to buy property. Property prices keep moving up and up.

The Hong Kong government sits at the top and controls land prices. One tier below sit the developers who bid for the land at auctions.

The Hong Kong people have no choice but to work hard to afford housing. And I suspect Penang state is trying to raise revenue this way as well.

P.S. I used to work in Hong Kong. When I came back here and managed my local business ‘Hong Kong’ style, it definitely did not sit well with the local staff. Penang people definitely don’t want Hong Kong and all the sacrifices that come with it.

Lim Li Lian is a mother of two.

From theSun:

Penang at the crossroads of success: PCCC
Posted on 22 May 2018 – 01:56pm
Last updated on 22 May 2018 – 03:06pm

Ian McIntyre
[email protected]

GEORGE TOWN: Penang needs to define what future path the state wants to take following the thumping victory earned by Pakatan Harapan in the 14th general election, said a corporate captain here.

The crossroads here is whether Penang wants to follow the course of Hong Kong and Singapore by becoming an island-centric metropolis or to be a heritage city in the mode of Vienna in Austria.

Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce vice – president Datuk Finn Choong said that this is a course which new Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow may need to underline as Malaysia moves ahead in the Pakatan – era of governance.

“If you ask me or the young, they want Penang to be similar to Singapore and Hong Kong where there are plenty of economic prospects. The young want to enjoy a good quality of life in Penang,” he said.

As such, he said Penang needs to define itself clearly now, so the business of growing the economy and in meeting the state’s potential as a global city can be achieved.

Speaking to theSun, Choong said that if Penang wants to be similar to Singapore or Hong Kong, the state needs to undertake the necessary infrastructure upgrade.

Choong, who is the eldest son of badminton great Datuk Eddy Choong, who had passed on in 2013, said that to be in the mould of Vienna, there is a need to place greater emphasis on conservation and preservation policies.

Ideally, a balance of both would be great, but the state needs to urgently undertake segments of the proposed Penang Transport Masterplan

“This is to ease the current suffocating rate of traffic congestion here,” he said.

In Penang, Choong believes that the young opted for a change because it wants the state to become a thriving city so they can stay and work here.

“Parents definitely want to be near their children; even more their grandchildren. But for this to be realized; there must be a push for higher economic growth.”

He added that the state should give priority to constructing the three paired highways linking Air Itam, Gurney Drive and Batu Ferringhi to the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway soon.

Choong said other aspects of the RM27 billion masterplan can be done in stages – since Penang had announced that it was a 50-year-old plan to alleviate congestion.

Choong was referring to the immediate plans by the Chow – led state government, who wants to expedite discussions with the federal authorities to plough ahead with plans to conceive the projects listed under the transport masterplan.

Among which, is the reclamation of some 30,000 ha of land across the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas.

It was previously met with a sharp rebuke by the Penang Forum, a loosely based gathering of civil society activists and organisations.

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Heng GS

Follow Singapore and Hong Kong? You must be joking. They have good public transport system and car ownership being restricted.
Here below RM30k you can drive away with a brand new Proton Saga or RM26k an Axia!

Penang Forum do get real with reality. Don’t want road expansion then do the part of educating the people to use RapidPenang.


Not only use bus, but bus must have more rights of way than cars. Buses stop to drop and pick up passengers takes time, but if bus can take almost or slightly later than cars, pg lang will opt for bus.but if bus take 20 to 30 minutes slower, then who wants to takd bus?


“The young want to enjoy a good quality of life in Penang” so said the folks of Penang Chinese Chamber of Commercialisation folks.

They should check first if their millenial generation children/grandchildren are willing to take public transport like the average folks in Singapore and Hong Kong.


But Penang cannot fully follow like Singapore, because if fully like Singapore than we as a mechanic will lost our jobs


Unknown to most Malaysians, Singapore currently has more parks (open thethe public) than Penang: Nature Reserves/Parks: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve Central Catchment Nature Reserve Labrador Nature Reserve Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Admiralty Park (270,000 m²) Sisters’ Island Marine Park Bukit Batok Nature Park (357,000 m²) Bukit Batok Town Park/Little Guilin (422,000 m²) Dairy Farm Nature Park (630,000 m²) Yishun Park (139,000 m²) Zhenghua Park (135,000 m²) Community Parks: Ang Mo Kio Town Garden East (49,000 m²) Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West (206,000 m²) Bedok Town Park (146,000 m²) Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park (620,000 m²) Choa Chu Kang Park (50,000… Read more »


Agree. Pg lang thinks fhey are centre of the universe. Cut a few trees and few slopes. But singland flatten ang suah and reclaim marine parade and regarden the island.
They tried to factory farm the sows, but china has sows multi storeys sow factories


Need to go Singapore to see for yourself before making any unfair comparison at the comfort of your keyboard.

BB resident

Penangites should be proud of their Teddyville Museum, as featured on NTV7 news recently:

Siong Yee

Singapore, A City in a Garden

Penang can learn to adopt.


Penang island oredi lost its charm with too many cars congesting the road. Hong Kong and Singapore people can take public transport.


Lim Li Lian said Penang people definitely don’t want Hong Kong and all the sacrifices that come with it. Someone should explain to her the ‘lepak culture’ and locals shun 3D jobs (want easy jobs with money) so wai-laos can earn decent living here. Productivity is an alien term here.

Mah HS

It is not so much of the path of any country.
Urban folks aspire for higher standard of living, which will drive up the cost of living. Already almost every household now has air-cond and Astro (becoming necessities in life). If you cannot afford, keep your lifestyle simple and avoid the temptations from retailers (including the online ones).


The Human Resource Ministry will be studying the Singaporean model in managing foreign workers, said Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran.

He said the city-state recorded a low absconding rate among foreign workers.

“We do not need to look at faraway places like Switzerland on management of foreign workers, because Singapore is a success story in this,” he told Bernama in an exclusive interview.

Heng GS

Many Wailau through hard work and connectivity have become successful entrepreneurs eg home repair contractors or wholesalers of vegetables for own Wailau market.


Uni graduates are kiasu and kiasi but std 6 to form 5 graduates are SAS who dares win


The agency that bring in the foreign workers must be accountable for these foreign workers eventual return to their home countries after the end of contract. But this is not happening.

Tan Wee Theng

Historically, people compared Penang to Hong Kong and Singapore. All three “island states” then were under the same British rules, it was reasonable to make some comparisons. Even then Penang was disadvantaged geographically. Today, Hong Kong is autonomous, Singapore is a sovereign country. Both have full control of their own destinies and maximise their geographical advantages to become financial and logistic hubs. Is it likely for Penang to become a financial hub and logistic hub? I doubt because we need the laws and the geographical location. Though we are nowhere near Singapore and Hong Kong in GDP terms, Penang is… Read more »

Heng GS

Education hub? No library at BB for a year.

Medical hub? Protest over Island hospital expansion and Dental hub at controversial Taman Manggis ?


No library but got Swavosky show room in place at Bayan Batu!


That YB is sleeping on the job?

BB resident

Already more than 30 days after GE14, but the library in Bayan Baru is still missing. YB Sim still busy hoping for cabinet position at Putrajaya?


Becoming a financial/IT hub: Does TRX have a hope of becoming a financial hub? Did Cyberjaya have a hope of becoming an IT hub? Did the Perak film area have hope of becoming an entertainment hub? Ditto for the many high-tech and free-trade zones. What were all these “developents” but real estate scams at public expense?


It’s about making the economy better and benefits for the public. Not about car ownership. With good, comfortable and reliable public transport, you mostly won’t need a car. Hence, you have more disposable income instead of paying and maintaining your car. Sometimes, we should step back and look at the big picture. Emulate some of Hong Kong and some of Singapore. But not all of it.

Johan Khun Pana

In other words, they wanted everything , all of it. How many of them that are making demands are willing to commit contributions? – economic prosperity- might need to import more foreign workers as locals shuns low level jobs. -abundant nature- but the demands for more houses, economic prosperity, wastage of resources such as clean water and electricity. -uncongested roads- some families owns more than 1 vehicle, govt intention to do away with tolls, cheap fossil fuel – vibrant life arts, heritage, cuisine, sports& culture- this is 1 segment that might have a “limited” possibility. But arts & culture &… Read more »

Lim Li Faye

As a holidaymaker to all three places, I believe Penang’s uniqueness lies in its balance of laid back atmosphere but competitive and hardworking people (reflected in thriving eateries, shops, etc and good service); balance of modern conveniences and entertainment plus cheap, cheerful and good places to eat, shop, repair your shoes, etc; greener and less polluted vs HK and low density or congested vs both HK and Singapore. I agree with most that important things to tackle first are more efficient, comfy and affordable public transport plus curbing car use; as well as accommodation. If I wanted to live in… Read more »


Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng told a group of entrepreneurs that it is time that Malaysia gave some healthy economic competition to Singapore. “We must have the can do spirit. For example, why must we lose to Singapore every time? Beat them at their own game, you can do it. Penang has beaten them many times,” he told a group of entrepreneurs here at the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre’s (MaGIC) Global Accelerator Programme (GAP). “I’m not being anti-Singapore here but I’m just trying to motivate you that you can do it! After all if you look at Singapore,… Read more »


North Korean TV station show to its people the scene of Singapore during Chairman Kim’s visit for the summit ladt week:

BB resident

Happy Father’s Day to all Penang fathers.

Watch this Singapore-made Celebrating Fathers video featuring our very own’s Patrick Teoh who has to Cari Makan in Singapore Mediacorp’s TV station:

Patrick as grandpa advice, “patience and caring teaches more than punishment”

J. Chew

Emulating the neighbouring Singapore and HK will destroy the uniqueness of Penang. As an overseas young Malaysian who is thinking of relocating to Penang in the future, I’m attracted to Penang for the slower pace of life, friendlier people, the greenery, the street food, an island rich history and historical building as well as the vibrant culture it has to offer. To make it better, introduce greener mode of transportation to ease traffic congestion, establish well connected bus links and ensure it is efficiently run, improve the road safety for bicyclist and encourage cycling and introduce workplace showers. Improve the… Read more »


Old people or less ambitious and contented young people will opt for this. No difference from village and ulu people. Young people will seek new knowlege, opportunities, financial trading and night life as clubbing, crooning, r n b until vee hours.
But now you will not come here now because of earning big bucks and bugs in other places. Si wait become old. Place for retirement like ang mohs

Mah HS

An example of outside people made money elsewhere but come to Penang for childhood memories and old nolstagia, selfishly not wanting the locals to progress for modern day living.

BB resident

‘Imperial’ Penang of yesteryears should appeal to J. Chew, uses trishaws instead of motorised vehicles:


Back to the future Penance style.


Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain dead at 61, suicide suspected US celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain (above), host of CNN’s food-and-travel-focused “Parts Unknown” television series, killed himself in a French hotel room, CNN said on Friday, in the second high-profile suicide of a US celebrity this week. He was 61. Bourdain, whose career catapulted him from cooking at New York’s top restaurants to dining in Vietnam with President Barack Obama, was found dead in a hotel room in Strasbourg, France, where he had been working on an upcoming episode of his program, CNN said in a statement. His death comes three… Read more »


Ego too high to seek help for his mental problem? I lost respect for such people. I agree with Val ‘Iceman’ Kilmer’s calling Bourdain selfish.

Heng GS

For Penang foodie, Anthony Bourdain tested Chin Fook Wan Tan Mee and at Red Garden Good Court of upper Penang Road, both now cater more to tourists especially the latter.

Mah HS

Bourdain is fascinated by the culinary diversity of Malaysia, having tried food sold on the streets and in classy restaurants in big cities. Bourdian’s impressions of Malaysia’s food culture are encapsulated in several television episodes. He described Malaysia as a place where one meets Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus – Malays, Chinese and Indians – and called Kuala Lumpur a place where all these ethnic groups come together. “It is a place you can visit as a tourist, but it is best experienced as an enthusiast,” he remarked in his travel show during a visit to a Kuala Lumpur market. Drawing… Read more »


News of Anthony Bourdain’s death shook people around the world on Friday morning. We asked for your stories of how this gifted storyteller and chef touched your life. Thousands of you have offered your heartfelt stories. We will continue to update this through the weekend with some of your responses.


The argument of like-Singapore HK or against ARE both wrong.. Unlike Singapore or HK, Penang govt owns very little land on the Island – its not a source of revenue, fact is selling reclamation rights is desperate funding and economic growth. Its actually unsustainable because its a one-trick pony. Penang is more like Manhattan. Like it or not that is the real model. Penang cannot be Southern California, it just does not have the land mass nor the resource. Even if Penang Island become a tech and innovation hub it will still look closer to Manhattan. It can never be… Read more »

Mah HS

Penang is not a country.
What comparison to make?


“I think what we all want is…”

These standards will soon be luxuries. None of them will come about if insane fascists and demagogues continue to set the agenda, and to distract, divide and tyrannise us. We are still in denial regarding climate change. Billions of humans are likely to succumb to extremes of weather, disease and deprivation, within a few decades at most.


Too many cars releasing CO2 to Penang atmosphere. Climate change alert.

Meanwhile more Penangites are buying new cars because there is no GST, while CAP is quiet.

M Pillay

Easy to own private cars, penangites become lazy to walk a distance, ego forbids many to take public buses, no wonder the island is choked with carbon. Time for retirees to seek homes in rural mainland, less stressful.Tension and Depression can be suicidal, see what just happened to Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade.


With Malaysia frying weather.. .. lack of trees to cool down the walking paths try walking at 11am and wait @bus stop.

Heng GS

So Penang Forum must encourage planting more shady trees leafing to a sheltered bus stands, got to start from somewhere instead of complaining, right?


Ideal, Ivory, MBI etc can do CSR by building sheltered bus stands and covered walkways in return for ‘naming rights’. Win-Win?

Maxis sponsored live World Cup matches on TV1 in return for prominent TV advertising slots. This is an example of Win-Win deal

Heng GS

Penang Forum can do good service to the people of Penang by getting CSR support to sustain your noble initiatives, otherwise they say no money no talk only syiok sendiri. Thank you.


Too bad. Legacy of the pommies. If folllow french and chinese will be different. To to cholon,saigon. The road has bushy trees. Same as satow. Too bad, no teochew going back to satow or chachou? Some streets are lined with shady trees


Some more mahal hit going to give you third national car. Like that no hope for public transportation. This give chance for BN to come back. Oredi wee kS seeing some hope.


Perodua cheapest RM30K take 9 year loan one month installment less than RM500. Everybody can drive in Malaysia and climate change is happening with carbon release to our atmosphere yet Penance Forum or CAP never bother?