PETALING JAYA: Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has defended the state’s decision to sell a 2.5ha piece of prime land along Peel Avenue, alleged to have been transacted without open tenders, saying it was at a price above market value.
He said there were exceptions to the implementation of open competitive tenders for “urgent projects”, in cases of economic development strategies, natural disasters and emergencies.
“As an industrial state, Penang requires investments in manufacturing, medical tourism and the services sector to power economic growth in the state.”
He claimed the sale of the land to Island Hospital Group in late 2016 would attract RM2 billion in investments to build the largest private hospital in the country.
“The 1,000-bed private hospital will help strengthen Penang’s leading position as the largest medical tourism market in Malaysia,” he said in a statement today.
Lim said direct sales of land to qualified companies in various sectors were done not only under his administration but also the previous government since 1970.
“Land is sold directly to these companies to attract tens of billions of US dollars in investment that generate economic opportunities and create hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he said.
Penang MCA chairman Tan Teik Cheng had said at a public talk on Thursday that lack of open tenders in many land sales by the state government since 2008 had become “the shame of Penang”.
He was reported by The Star as claiming that the state government had sold off 2,180ha of land, with most done without open tenders and cited the sale of the Peel Avenue land.
In May last year, Gerakan had also queried why the land was parked under Chief Minister Incorporated (CMI), a company wholly-owned by the Penang government, rather than regular government agencies like Penang Development Corporation.
Gerakan state Youth chairman Jason Loo had claimed the sale of the land, through CMI, was a “one-man decision”.
“This land belongs to the people of Penang and the DAP state government can’t simply sell off our lands,” he said.
Lim had said on May 17 that the state had sold the Peel Avenue land for RM156 million.
He said it had been alienated to the hospital on a 99-year lease, with a RM30 million down-payment already made.
He said after the end of the lease, a piece of land owned by the Island Hospital within the 2.5ha, would be surrendered to the state. The size of this piece of land was not disclosed.