GEORGE TOWN: A consumer advocate today came down hard on the Penang government for wanting to press ahead with reclamation projects, saying it was an exercise in futility based on past experience.
Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) president SM Mohamed Idris said reclamation projects were not beneficial to the larger strata of society and only benefitted a small section of the people.
He said most of the properties built on reclaimed land were expensive and out of the reach of most people.
Two major reclamation works are currently ongoing off the waters of Gurney Drive and Tanjung Tokong. Penang also wants to reclaim three islands to finance its RM46 billion transport master plan.
Yesterday, state executive councillor Jagdeep Singh Deo had said Penang had to reclaim more land as the island was running short of space and environmental groups protest everytime the hills are cut for development.
Idris said prices of reclaimed land ranged between RM1,000 and RM3,000 per sq ft.
He said despite that, such expensive properties continued to be built, leading to many unsold units in the market.
“Why do you keep building properties which no one wants to buy? Stop talking nonsense and think carefully about what people really want and then build it,” he said.
Idris said 20 years ago he had prophesised that there would be a glut of houses, and that such homes would be abandoned as a result.
He said he had also predicted that the 68-storey Komtar tower, widely recognised as the state government seat, would be largely unoccupied.
Idris said his prediction had come true. He said CAP had strenuously protested against the project in the 1960s but the former chief minister Dr Lim Chong Eu had ignored it.
“Chong Eu used to call me so many names for opposing Komtar. Look at it today. So many units are empty.
“What politicians fail to understand is they are in power for five years. They do as they like and they go away.
“When we speak about reality, the powers that be get upset. All of you blindly vote for them to be in power.
“To the chief ministers, and ministers, you can claim to be the wisest man on earth, but tell me, we are spending so much, but who is really benefitting in the end?” he asked at a press conference today.
As of August last year, 271 privately-held units in Komtar remained vacant. The state authorities had attempted to purchase the properties below market rates but the owners refused to sell.
Idris was responding to a question on Penang’s plan to push for federal approval for its reclamation project.
He said the state government must take heed of the number of bankruptcies, repossessed cars and homes for auction to get a deeper understanding of the people’s problems.
He said as trustees of the current world, “we must do right for the next generation and leave this earth a place they can live in”.