Scrapping of big Penang projects riles opposition

But some residents are pleased as they say the costly plans were controversial

The Straits Times

THE decision by the Malaysian government to defer two major transportation projects in Penang were slammed by the state government and the opposition, but not all Penangites are unhappy.

The Penang government, led by the three-month-old Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition, said it was unhappy with the decision to shelve the monorail and Penang Outer Ring Road (Porr) projects, and would have to study other ways to reduce congestion.

But others gave the thumbs up, saying the projects had been saddled with controversy from the start due to high costs and allegations that well-connected businessmen would benefit.

The government on Thursday shelved the RM1.5 billion (S$625 million) Porr highway and the RM2 billion monorail, saying it was diverting the funds to more ‘people-centric’ projects.

The opposition and the PR government in Penang criticised the move because the industrialised state needed the projects to reduce worsening traffic congestion and upgrade the ageing transport system.

‘Without help from the federal government, the state will have to look for its own solutions,’ Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said on Thursday.

He said the shelving of the projects was an act of politically motivated revenge as Penang fell to the opposition in the general election in March.

The charge was denied by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who said essential projects would be carried out whether or not a state is under opposition control.

Datuk Teng Hock Nan, the state secretary for Parti Gerakan, a member of the ruling coalition, said a delay would hamper plans to turn Penang into a northern logistics hub.

But others are gleeful. Influential Penang blogger Anil Netto wrote: ‘All those who cherish sustainable and cost-efficient public transport for Penang will be celebrating.’

He and others who have been opposed to the two projects say they prefer trams to be built, replacing the old, smoky buses and taxis that do not use meters.

Telecommunications worker G. Baskeran gave another reason why it was good the projects have been shelved.

‘If the projects are carried out, not everyone will benefit because they are only for those who live in the towns,’ he was quoted by Utusan Malaysia newspaper as saying. The projects did not involve mainland Penang, which includes many rural districts.

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