Penang needs to reclaim past glories

Artist’s impression of the three man-made islands in the PSR project.

LAND is a scarce resource on Penang island.

Luckily, in these modern times, we do not have to go to war to seek territorial expansion.

There is something called reclamation, which is common in the world nowadays.

For Penang, reclamation is nothing new as it was done in Bayan Lepas back in the 1970s.

The state’s economy was effectively transformed, with people getting jobs and enjoying a good life as a result of the existence of the Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone (FIZ) then.

Thanks to the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, we were branded the ‘Silicon Valley of the East’.

Fast forward to 2019, I feel Penang is no longer a force to be reckoned with.

We have been left out in the race to be a major player in the technologically advanced industries, losing out to the likes of Singapore and Taiwan.

We have even lost to countries like Vietnam and China, which have adapted fast to new technologies and appealed more to international investors.

Yes, we still have the Bayan Lepas FIZ, and the Prai and Batu Kawan Industrial Estates.

Penang’s factories and companies have yet to embrace the Industrial Revolution 4.0.Penang’s factories and companies have yet to embrace the Industrial Revolution 4.0.

But to put things into perspective, Penang never moved forward, and the ‘old’ free industrial zones and industrial estates are testimonies to this sorry state of affairs.

Just take a quick trip to the Prai Industrial Estate, and one can see how dilapidated the roads are, coupled with factories that barely have cutting-edge technology.

Penang should have embraced the Industrial Revolution 4.0 but according to Muhamed Ali Hajah Mydin, who heads the Penang Skills Development Centre (PSDC), many companies have yet to tap into the RM2 billion allocated by the government towards achieving IR 4.0.

So when the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) was mooted, I was excited over this proposed development near Teluk Kumbar.

It is set to change the entire landscape of the island with development shifting to the south.

There will be three man-made islands measuring 1,800ha in total or the size of 3,600 football fields.

On July 5, the state government announced that the PSR had obtained Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval with 72 conditions to be fulfilled.

It is expected to generate RM70bil, of which RM46bil will be used to fund the Penang Transport Master Plan.

No doubt critics will say that land is abundant on the mainland and it is needless to reclaim more land that could harm the environment and marine life.

But those on Penang island will agree that the ‘action’ is always here and the PSR augurs well to push the state to become a global industrial player once again.

We have a lot of catching up to do but it is better late than never, as the entire project will only be realised in years to come.

The first island – known as Island A – is touted as a continuation and expansion of the Bayan Lepas FIZ while Island B will be ‘a playground for city planners and architects’ with a tram system and green spaces.

As for Island C, it is meant for a mixed development project.

As pointed out by Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, the Bayan Lepas FIZ, in the past 50 years, had provided job opportunities, trained and produced small and medium enterprises to support multinational companies.

He said the state had moved from low-cost mass production to high-tech research development.

Such a continuity can help us grow with our neighbour Kedah, which has embarked on the development of the Special Border Economic Zone, a catalyst for the Kota Perdana development project near Bukit Kayu Hitam.

The Kota Perdana-Asean Industrial Metropolis is a joint project between Malaysia and Thailand, where 3,515ha of land is to be developed.

Upon completion, it will provide world-class facilities for manufacturing and commercial sectors, including free trade zones to encourage bilateral trade between Asean member countries.

The project has seven phases and is expected to be completed in 20 years.

I strongly believe the PSR can actually jump-start Penang’s advance into the industries of the future.

It will provide the much-needed transformation under the Penang 2030 vision.

It is not the time to ask ourselves whether the PSR is needed.

We should ask ourselves if we can afford not to have the PSR which is vital for the state’s economic progress in the next 30 years.

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