Penang CM confident RM46 bil transport master plan will get green light by June

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and state exco Jagdeep Singh Deo taking part in a ‘yee sang’ event with Penang Rehda members in conjunction with Chap Goh Meh at a hotel along Gurney Drive.

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow today said he is optimistic and confident that the federal government would approve the state’s RM46 billion transport master plan (PTMP) in the first half of 2019.

Though Chow didn’t explain what part of the PTMP would begin first, it was previously reported that the reclamation work on creating artificial islands would kick off in tandem with a Light Rail Transit (LRT) project from Komtar to Bayan Lepas.

The PTMP is a series of roads, rail and other modes of transport to be financed through the creation of three islands, which are to be auctioned later.

Chow also announced that the construction of a 5.7km bypass road connecting Air Itam to the Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway will begin on Aug 31.

The road is part of a larger RM6.3 billion undersea tunnel and three roads project, undertaken by the Zenith consortium.

This project was initially separate from the PTMP but was later included in the larger plan. The three roads were approved by authorities two years ago, but the project couldn’t start on time due to the delay in the acquisition of the land.

“This will definitely spur the building and construction industry in Penang and will uplift the state’s economy as a whole,” he said in his speech at the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) Chinese New Year dinner at a hotel today.

Claim that state is ‘in pockets of developers’

On a different note, Chow said claims that the state was in the “pockets” of developers would not affect him.

“In Penang, we are so single-minded in implementing these projects. It’s been said that we have been working too closely with developers. I don’t know why.

“Some say, ‘in the pockets of the developers’, but I think we will not be distracted by insinuation and criticism and will continue to use the mandate people have given us very well,” he said.

Meanwhile, at the same event, state housing committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said the state government will extend the time period for an exemption of a 3% purchase fee for foreigners buying properties in the state.

He said the state had initially offered the 3% exemption for the month of February alone but was now extending it till the end of June this year.

Jagdeep said despite the imposition of the 3% fee on foreign property buyers and high price caps for residential properties, it was impossible to stop them from buying more.

He said the weak ringgit to the greenback over the past few years had made it very attractive for foreigners to purchase properties in Malaysia.

Jagdeep said last year alone, foreigners purchased RM663 million worth of properties in the primary market (purchases directly from the developers), which included RM19.9 million the state received from the 3% fee collected.

He said the total transacted value for all the properties from all categories for Penang last year was “at least RM3.5 billion”. He said foreigners effectively made up 20% of the number.

Jagdeep also announced the government would not raise compliance costs for developers in Penang this year, saying the charges this year will remain the same as 2018.

He said with developers making a lot of money from the foreigners purchasing properties in Penang, the developers ought to be obliged to pay more to the state in compliance costs in the future.

“We have decided to keep the compliance cost down to push for more affordable housing.”