GEORGE TOWN: Rafizi Ramli, asked about Penang’s massive land reclamation plans, has spoken about the need to move on from the “brick and mortar” type of development involving property projects.
Giving his personal view, he said “something as big as that (the Penang south coast reclamation) definitely affects the livelihood of many others” and there was a need to balance between the economic value of the project against its effect on livelihoods.
Rafizi, who is deputy president of PKR, was responding to a question from a member of the audience at his Ayuh Malaysia political rally at Komtar.
He had been asked to comment on the Penang South Reclamation project, which entails the construction of three artificial islands covering an area of 17 sq km.
An audience member said housing projects that had sprung up on reclaimed land in Penang island were too expensive and that only wealthy foreigners could afford them.
“Economically, I think we have to move away from brick-and-mortar type of development where there is no end to building. Although “hot money” will be coming in, what is the point if the locals cannot afford it (the houses)?” Rafizi said.
He gave the example of Sihanoukville in Cambodia which he said “is very fancy and so on but it is a ghost town” built on Chinese money but local Cambodians could not afford to buy property there.
Rafizi prefaced his remarks on the Penang reclamation project by saying that it was difficult to respond as he lacked locus standi on the matter, and that his remarks when reported would become fodder for Umno or MCA to attack Pakatan Harapan in Penang.
“So definitely our component parties will ask (why did you) go to Penang and wreak havoc? But that is my view,” he said.
“I think, principally, something as big as that definitely affects the livelihood of many others and we really have to be careful to balance between the economic value that we want (from this project) versus the effect on livelihoods.
The reclamation project has been opposed by local NGOs and fishermen, who said that the construction of the three islands will ruin their livelihood and destroy the marine biodiversity of southern Penang.
Last month, state executive councillor Zairil Khir Johari, said work could begin as early as November if the necessary approvals are obtained.
The state government’s plan to sell the three man-made islands to finance its ambitious Penang Transport Master Plan hit a brick wall last year when environmental approval was withdrawn on an appeal by fishermen.
The state government’s attempt to seek a judicial review of the decision was rejected by the High Court in Kuala Lumpur early this year.