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Saturday February 28, 2009

George Town needs revival

A LIVEABLE, safe, exciting and attractive city is what George Town needs to become after its recognition as a Unesco heritage site.

Socio-economic and Environmental Research Institute (SERI) Penang fellow Dr Goh Ban Lee said the international acknowledgement was good for George Town, which had been on the decline since the 1960s, to lure locals and tourists back to the city.

“George Town needs to be an engine of growth, a place to raise families, safe, economically attractive, fun and equipped with basic facilities.

“Having people performing traditional trades like cobbling would not be enough to promote George Town as a Unesco heritage site. It needs to be recognised and popularised as a city,” he said on Thursday.

Dr Goh, a former Penang Municipal councillor, was delivering his lecture entitled George Town — From a Forgotten City to a Global One,in the Georgetown Lecture Series 2009 organised by Global Leadership Consultants Sdn Bhd with the cooperation of Georgetown College and HELP University College.

Penang, Dr Goh said, is a blessed state with advantages, and George Town is located within short travel distances from hills, the sea and beaches.

“It is a relatively old city already internationally known with diverse ethnicity that are shown through our built environment, festivals and food.

“The city and the state is located in a booming region where English is not a foreign language,” he said.

However, Penang in reality, he continued, is still struggling with problems like poor public transportation, bad facilities for pedestrians, non-compliance issues, expensive housing, dying city centre, poor management culture, lack of excitement, inconsiderate Penangites and politics.

“Politics always comes first and we have Penangites who do not care that they are obstructing traffic when they order cendol at roadside stalls from their cars.

“We have dirty drains, hawker stalls on pavements, litterbugs, errant motorists and others. With such mentality, a city will not be a nice place to live regardless how efficient the local authorities are,” he said.

Stressing on good governance as the way to lead George Town into a global city, Dr Goh said the state and federal governments, the Penang Muncipal Council (MPPP), civil society and Penangites all have their roles to play.

He said getting George Town a city status like Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur was not important as it was already made a city by the British on Jan 1, 1957.

“Most of the recognised cities in the country obtained the recognition because of political reasons.

“George Town is already the first city in the country and Penang is the first state to have a fully-elected local council in 1956 and first mayor in December 1957. We were also first to have elected people’s representatives in government in 1857,” he said.

The lecture series held at Georgetown College on Beach Street was to provide the public with the chance to listen to professionals, academicians and others speak on urban heritage and its many related issues.

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