Penang still the ‘stepchild’

  • Focus
  • Tuesday, 11 Jun 2019

ALMOST the whole of Penang was submerged, with parts on the mainland in water up to the rooftops of kampung houses.

Trees were uprooted, seven lives were lost and even a ferry was ‘lifted’ to the dock in the storm said to be the worst in the state.

All reporters of The Star, including yours truly who was recalled to work, will never forget Nov 5, 2017. In fact, the rain actually began on Nov 4.

A state official told me the downpour was a typhoon-fuelled phenomenon, an extraordinary event which was estimated to happen once every 200 years.

Even the then prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak described the incident as beyond expectation, saying “It’s very unusual with the wind blowing at 40kph.”

According to the then chief minister Lim Guan Eng in 2017, RM2.66bil had been announced for flood mitigations in Penang but only RM1.02bil was spent.

He was quoted as saying that the allocation had been promised to Penang since the late 1990s.

Based on my understanding, the funding for Penang’s flood mitigation projects has just started trickling in.

The point here is that the flood mitigation projects are still being carried out on a piecemeal basis, with funds coming in bits and pieces.

Are flood mitigation projects not of utmost importance?

During the 2017 flood, at least 10,000 people had to be evacuated from their flooded homes.

Now every Penangite expects things to change after Pakatan Harapan took over the Federal Government last year.

But Penang is still very much on its own.

Just take the RM46bil Penang Transport Master Plan for instance, where major components of the project will be fully funded by revenue generated from the sale of reclaimed land of the Penang South Reclamation project.

The view that Penang is being treated like a ‘stepchild’ is nothing new as it was a ‘battle cry’ of DAP during the time of Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu and later Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon as chief ministers.

I still remember the late Dr Lim, who sought a new hospital in Penang as the present one then was not able to cater to the growing number of patients.

“They would rather build a hospital in Tambunan, Sabah, than give us funds for a new one,” he said in a press conference before the general election in 1986, referring to the Federal Government.

Last November, Bukit Tengah assemblyman Gooi Hsiao Leung again said that Penang had been treated as a stepchild for a very long time as only 3% of its annual taxes to the Federal Government was returned.

Two years ago, we heard Penangites paid an average of RM6bil yearly to the Government despite being the second smallest state in the country.

But it definitely doesn’t look like we are being treated fairly when it comes to funding for developments and public infrastructure.

Since 2008, we have heard that the DAP-led administration was being ‘marginalised’ or ‘sidelined’ by the Federal Government.

With the critics now part of Pakatan Harapan that helms the Government, are we seeing better things to come? Only time will tell.

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