GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government is mulling a RM1bil soft loan from the federal government to start the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) but a non-governmental organisation (NGO) has voiced their objections.
Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M. Mohamed Idris said CAP was shocked that the loan was being considered.
He said Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and his predecessor Lim Guan Eng, who is now Finance Minister, had assured the public that the project would not involve any public funds.
“Now a different story is being told. If this loan goes through, it may put at risk the financial situation of Penang as there are large economic and environmental risks associated with the PTMP,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Mohamed Idris expressed concern that the state would have to borrow more later if the RM1bil was insufficient.
He said the federal government, including Lim, had said Malaysia cannot afford mega-projects because of the trillion-ringgit national debt.
“Why should an exception be made for the PTMP? The estimated cost of the project is over RM40bil,” he added.
He pointed out that funds from the federal government were needed but stressed that they are needed for essential expenses which include the rehabilitation of hillslopes and hill areas which were affected by landslides.
He said the funds could also be used for improving the state’s rivers and the creation of green spaces and permeable surfaces to absorb rain water.
Federal funds, he said, were also needed to rehabilitate and conserve coastal areas including mangrove forests, flood mitigation projects, and improving the living conditions of vulnerable poor communities.
“These are all vital areas for financing if Penang is to recover from the damage caused by recent storms and floods,” he said, adding that PTMP would add to environmental problems rather than solve them.
He said the recent release of the Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment for the proposed Pan-Island Link (PIL) I shows that many public amenities, including Penang City Park, schools, temples, and sensitive areas such as Penang Hill will be affected.
“PTMP should be suspended until a comprehensive review is done and the affected communities are able to provide feedback.
“The Penang State Government should not be asking for the loan and the Federal Government should not provide it,” said Mohamed Idris.
The state announced that it was considering taking a RM1bil soft loan from the federal government to expedite PTMP’s implementation, which Chow said would be used as a bridging loan to carry out both Bayan Lepas Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the 19.5km PIL I highway from Gurney Drive to the airport.
PTMP, which is the state government’s multi-billion ringgit transport project involving highways, LRT, monorail, cable cars and water taxis, depends on funding from property development on a proposed trio of man-made islands known as the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) scheme.
PSR is a massive plan to reclaim the islands totalling 1,800ha off the southern coast of Penang.
PIL I came into the limelight recently after its Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment became available for public viewing 10 locations in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur and Penang until Aug 10.
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