Penang Forum challenges population figure given by CM

Penang Forum says the population in Penang is expected to grow by only 12% between 2018 and 2030. (Bernama pic)

GEORGE TOWN: A coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said today Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s claim that there will be 2.3 million people in the state by 2030 is off the mark.

Penang Forum said official federal government data showed that the population would only hit an estimated 1.98 million by 2030.

In a statement, it said the 1.98 million number was just a tiny increase from the present 1.77 million (2018 estimate) population figure and not “at least 30%” as claimed by the state government.

The population figure dispute comes on the heels of an argument by the coalition that the population numbers were inflated unrealistically by the project delivery partners of the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

The PTMP would see a network of highways, rail lines and public transport modes to be built at a cost of RM46 billion, financed by the creation of three islands which would be sold to interested parties.

“Are the state government and project delivery partner projecting a much higher population for 2030 for the sake of legitimising their own plans?

“Without the projected population increase to ‘at least 2.3 million’ by 2030, it would be difficult to justify the proposed massive land reclamation, with an additional 7,700 acres as stated in the draft Penang Structure Plan 2030 — the controversial RM46 billion transport proposal and the idea for a new airport.

“So where did the state government or the project delivery partner pluck its projected figure of ‘at least 2.3 million’ population in 2030 from?” Penang Forum said.

The NGO was responding to Chow, who had said NGOs were “sometimes plucking figures from the sky, without referring to official statistics”.

Chow had said that, based on population data, Penang had a population of 1.7 million last year and this was expected to grow by between 25,000 and 30,000, or at a 1.5-2.5% rate each year in coming years, and that by 2030 there would be 2.3 million people in the state.

In response to this, Penang Forum provided data released by the federal government’s open source data portal, data.gov.my on Penang’s population statistics.

Year Total (‘000)
2020 1,806.5
2025 1,900.5
2030 1983.2
2035 2053.6
2040 2113.9

(Statistics from data.gov.my, provided by Penang Forum)

“We can see the projected population for Penang by 2030 would be 1.983 million, and not ‘at least 2.3 million’.

“Even by 2040, the projected population would be 2.113 million – well below the state government’s figure of ‘at least 2.3 million’ in 2030.

“In other words, the population is expected to grow only by 12% between 2018 and 2030 – and not by ‘at least’ 30% as estimated by the state government/project delivery partner,” it said.

Penang Forum also said the data showed after 2030, the rate of population growth for the 10-year period to 2040 was expected to slow to 6.6%, a lower figure than the 9.8% growth experienced between 2020 and 2030.

“This is probably because the total fertility rate will shrink further, compounded by an ageing population.

“As it is, the present total fertility rate for Penang is 1.5 children per woman, which is already well below the population replacement level of 2.1.”

FMT has contacted Chow for his comments on Penang Forum’s claims.