Will the money still flow into Penang?

Posted by SM Maulana
Tuesday, 17 June 2008

WHEN two new high-profile investments in Penang were announced,

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng basked in the glory. The real challenge, however, is whether he will be able to sustain the momentum for industrial development.

NEW STRAITS TIMES

After all, Japanese printed circuit-board maker Ibiden Co Ltd’s announcement that it would invest


Director – Ibiden Co Ltd’s

RM1.2 billion in the first phase of its new printed wiring board plant at the Penang Science Park, and the RM115.2 million Honeywell International, through its business group Honeywell Aerospace, will pump into its avionics manufacturing facility, must surely be the result of groundwork done by Lim’s predecessor Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

That Koh and Penang’s second chief minister Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu have laid the foundation for drawing foreign direct investments cannot be denied — the factories are concrete evidence.

Lim thus has his work cut out to show that he can sustain, or even improve, the momentum for industrial development.

So far, Lim has established contact with potential investors in Hong Kong and Korea and embarked on a networking exercise as he takes steps to ensure that Penang remains the destination of choice for investors.

He has also indicated that efforts are in place to woo high-tech investments, biotechnology firms and sectors engaged in the acquisition of new technologies.

Also on Lim’s industrial development radar, is the creation of high wage job opportunities.

This should bode well for Penang, in the face of lay-offs by several multinational investors.

The benefits to be accrued from the tourism industry have not been missed by Lim either, as he looks to giving the tourism and services sectors a much needed boost.

Although he has indicated a willingness to spawn the development of small- and medium-sized industries in the state, not much has been unveiled by Lim so far in terms of actual follow-up programmes or policies.

Thus, all eyes will be on whether Lim and his team can bring in investments on their own, rather than reap the reward of efforts expended by others.

The fact that Lim still has not announced the full line-up for the board of investPenang (a non-profit entity formed by the state government to drive investments and economic growth) has given rise for concern in the business community on the seriousness, and even ability, of the state authorities in ensuring that Penang continues to remain an economic powerhouse.

For its part, the new Penang government has announced it will target countries like India, Indonesia and Australia for smaller investments to serve as a cushion for the state’s economy, in anticipation of hard times ahead.

Lim’s willingness to work with the Federal Government has been reflected in the interest and support shown towards the Nothern Economic Corridor projects which could benefit the people of Penang.

Besides stressing the urgency to see the completion of the Second Penang Bridge to woo more investors, Lim and his team have also looked into the federal government-initiated monorail project, in a bid to alleviate the island’s long-standing and worsening traffic congestion.

On the property front, Lim has made several players jittery, although he has the support of the ordinary Joe on this.

One case in point is Gurney Plaza Sdn Bhd which had a stop-work order slapped on its RM70 million extension project for the sea-fronting Gurney Plaza shopping mall for continuing to carry out work till the wee hours of the morning despite directives against it.

Ivory Properties which is developing the RM1 billion “Times Square” project has also been taken to task by Lim, after nearby residents complained that cracks are emerging in their pre-war properties surrounding the project area.

The prompt attention paid by Lim to concerns raised by the man in street in hauling up corporations, is being watched closely and is said to bode well in ensuring that corporate social responsibility is practised and that companies in Penang can no longer do whatever they please.

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