Penang projects not like ECRL, says CM

KUALA LUMPUR: Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow today dismissed calls for a review of the Bayan Lepas LRT and Pan Island Link (PIL) of the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), saying they are unlike the mega infrastructure projects being reviewed by the Council of Eminent Persons.

Chow, who is also Penang state executive councillor for transport, information, land matters and land development, said the state government had taken a “highly balanced approach” to ensure Penang residents benefitted from the PTMP and the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) project.

“Most importantly, public coffers will not be unduly burdened by the project, and the rakyat will receive crucial transport infrastructure in the form of both the Bayan Lepas LRT and the PIL within several years.

“Penang will also witness continuing vibrant economic growth via the new land provided by the PSR, transforming Penang into a vibrant globally interconnected smart city of the future, while still retaining the heritage and cultural values of fishermen of south Penang.”

Chow was responding to a call by the Penang Forum, carried by FMT on June 7, for a review of the PTMP mega project.

In a statement, he said the Penang government welcomed open discourse on its projects, including the PTMP, but that he needed to rectify some misleading statements by the NGO.

“When Daim Zainuddin and the Council of Eminent Persons began reviewing mega infrastructure projects (eg the East Coast Rail Link and KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail) to determine their benefits to the rakyat, it was in the context of using large sums of public funds to finance such mega projects, and whether there would be a positive return to our nation and rakyat.”

This, he said, was different from the major components in Penang’s PTMP – the Bayan Lepas LRT and the PIL expressway – as both these projects would be fully funded by the revenue generated from the sale of land reclamation in the PSR project.

He also explained the steps the Penang government had taken in the project, including the professionalism and transparency shown in the studies undertaken and the calling of tenders, and engagement with stakeholders.

On the PSR, he said apart from funding the PTMP, it would provide new land for the continued economic growth of the state. For instance, he said, land was required adjacent to the current Bayan Lepas free industrial zone for expansion.

There are also plans to develop new tourist attractions within the reclaimed islands to maintain Penang’s competitiveness in tourism.

Chow said among others, the government intended to appoint an independent economic consultant to provide data and recommendations on developing the reclaimed land.

He said it would also conduct a master planning competition among top global architect and developmental teams “to ensure the best global minds are employed to provide the latest ground-breaking ideas in the master planning of the three reclaimed islands”.

“Furthermore, the provision of substantial numbers of public and affordable housing will be a key agenda to ensure sustainable living standards at the reclaimed islands for all Penangites.

“The three islands will be designed as smart cities, to leapfrog Penang into the future and provide a firm foundation for future economic growth.”

He added that public participation had been sought and studies done to safeguard the well-being of fishing communities in southern Penang.

One of the things the state planned to do for the fishermen, he said, was to build new jetties along the beachfront and create artificial reefs. Fish aggregating devices and other related infrastructure will also be built to ensure sustainable catch for the fishermen within the area, he added.

“The state will also provide re-skilling training for those fishermen who wish to embark on alternative careers, as well as educational priorities for all children of fishermen.”