ALLEVIATING urban poverty is one of the main areas of focus for Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad.
He noted that the cases of joblessness, lack of food, malnourished children and school absenteeism among the B40 group were interrelated and in need of a solution.
“In Kuala Lumpur, urban poverty is a serious issue.
“We are working with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to organise a conference in Septem-ber that will bring people from other countries like India and the Philippines to find ways to solve this problem.
“Many NGOs are trying to help the poor by providing food via food bank and other efforts, but it is not addressing the source of the problem.
“One of the efforts that we have done is to arrange jobs for the jobless in the People’s Housing Project (PPR) where they live.
“We negotiated with the cleaning contractors to hire these people who need a job,” he said.
Khalid said that by first helping them secure a steady job, the authorities could get the PPR tenants to settle their outstanding rent.“Some have rental arrears in thousands of ringgit despite the monthly rental being only RM124.
“So they have to pay double the rent every month, including the amount for the current month until they pay up the total sum they owe,” he explained.
A few hundred people are already benefitting from this programme.
“We also have schemes to provide micro-credit through Federal Territories Foundation (YWP) to those interested in starting small businesses.
“We want them to stand on their own feet and improve their family finances, so the children will also be better cared for,” he said at an interview to mark his first year anniversary as minister.
Going further, Khalid said developers had agreed to adopt PPRs to develop, clean, beautify and upgrade facilities at the public housing, as part of their corporate social responsibility.
“A total of 11 developers have agreed to take part and will be informing me of their selected PPR soon.
“The problem with the upkeep of PPR is partly the people’s attitude.
“Some of the PPRs are in such a bad state that it will take a lot of time, effort and money to restore.”
He hopes that with the help of developers to kick-start and fund the projects and awareness campaigns, the upkeep will be easier.
“When the developer moves on to the next PPR after one year, the residents, Kuala Lumpur City Hall and NGOs can help to maintain the cleaned up flats,” he added.
When asked about his first year as a minister, Khalid confessed that he had never worked as hard in his life.
“The first months, especially, were very challenging because we had to hit the ground running.
“There was no training, induction or course on how to take over the reigns of a ministry; we had to perform immediately.
“We take over and learn while doing our duty,” he said candidly.
He admitted that the most challenging was handling the relationship with government servants.
“We were in the Opposition and known as the noise-makers, disturbance and people who criticised the Government and its policies.
“Now that we are the Government, like it or not, we are the ones who set the policies but the people who are going to execute the new policies are still the same government servants.
“So we have to win them over and that takes time. They think we do not know what we are talking about because their exposure was such,” he added.
The minister also spoke about internal challenges in meeting expectations of the people who supported the new government and their political party members.
“There was a lot of pressure.
The people want to see changes fast.
“Those (political party members) who fought together for this change are still in the same position. They are disappointed and disillusioned. They feel that they should be included in the organisations to bring about change.
“We cannot fulfil everybody’s wishes. We fought for a new administration, but did not promise positions to anyone,” he said.
When asked about present policies that needed to be changed, Khalid pointed to a review of welfare of squatters and settlers in redevelopment projects.
He opined that the practice of giving discounts on development charges and land premiums to developers in exchange for the relocation of squatters and settlers was not the best method.
“We might have given the developer RM20mil in discount but the developer might have only spent RM10mil on the required relocation.
“DBKL has the revenue in terms of development charges and is in a position to offer better deals than the developers, especially to those who have been staying in an affected location for over 30 years.
“After all, DBKL is still the one responsible to evict the squatters and settlers from land earmarked for development.”
Another aspect of Kuala Lumpur administration the ministry is giving a lot of attention to is traffic management.
“We want to give more emphasis to public transport and reduce private vehicles on the road.
“We will look at past and present traffic studies to look into the feasibility of more buses, and possibly trams, to improve connectivity in the central business district,” said Khalid.
He is also hoping to get a clear way forward in the redevelopment plans for Kampung Baru by the end of the year.
“We are meeting all the landowners and their next-of-kin to discuss their preferred buy-out plan in September.
“We will present our recommended offer and get their feedback, whether they want it in cash or other forms such as an apartment.
“Once we establish how much money and apartments are needed, we can plan better.”
He gave assurance of a decent offer.
“I hope the people of Kampung Baru will cooperate.
“The redevelopment plan has been delayed for many years and the people who objected in the past are now in their golden years, still unable to enjoy their ‘wealth’.
“We will help liquidate their assets. It is on prime land and worth millions of ringgit. They can share it with their family.
“We have not decided on funding. There are many ways including forming a consortium of developers.
“There are also investors from China and Qatar who have expressed interest to be part of the development,” he disclosed.
He reiterated that the condition of Malay ownership would remain, regardless.
Finally addressing the question on everyone’s mind, Khalid said he wished to tackle the gazetting of the 154ha Bukit Kiara soon.
“We will do it in two phases.
“The Cabinet paper is ready to be presented for the first phase of about 81ha.
“The remainder, which is partly leased until 2025, will be gazetted after the lease period ends. No development will be allowed on the leased land throughout the period,” he added.
To commemorate his first year in office, Khalid launched a book titled 365 Mengurus Transisi dan Memenuhi Harapan (365 Managing Transition and Fulfilling Expectations) yesterday.
It details the Federal Territories Ministry’s achievements and challenges, and includes a compilation of Khalid’s speeches at events over this past year.