I REFER to the media reports on the completion of Phase One of the MRT Sg Buloh-Kajang line and would like to join the public in congratulating the Government and MRT Corp for implementing the project on time and within the budget.
The project represents an important achievement in improving the urban transport system in the Kuala Lumpur region to world-class standards. By providing fast rail transport and reducing the travelling costs, the project will not only help to make city life less stressful but more importantly, contribute towards raising work productivity and improving the income of the working population. Time saved in traffic congestion will translate in many ways into a healthier lifestyle for city residents.
We are also happy to hear that the Government will proceed to implement the other MRT and LRT lines to extend the rail transport network over a larger part of the KL urban area. Thus, in a few years, together with the High Speed Rail project between KL and Singapore, and the several ongoing projects to make the city an attractive place for work and living, we can expect KL to rival other great cities as the most liveable. It will become competitive in attracting more foreign investments, multinational corporations, professionals, entertainers, international universities and tourists to our country.
As with all primary growth centres, the accelerated development of the KL-Klang Valley region will have spillover effects of lifting up other regional growth centres such as Penang and Johor. They too will need to improve their transport systems and public services so that these second-tier cities will develop in an orderly manner to create affordable living for the working population.
The Federal Government should plan to provide more resources for the urban growth in Penang and Johor so that they can complement the central region as catalysts for spreading the economic expansion into other states and the hinterland. This will help push the rural towns and kampung into the modern economy, thereby making development more balanced across regions and states.
The Government deserves credit for making city development an important strategy for achieving a high-growth economy. This is only logical considering that more than 60% of the population are living in urban centres and this is expected to reach 75% in the next 10 years at the rate the rural-urban migration is happening.
Cities are the lifeblood of modern development in the economy, and for enhancing the cultural progress of society. We should congratulate the Government for its long-term foresight. The large investments needed to develop the urban transport and other high-impact city-centric projects already in the pipeline will require a lot of financing, mostly through public sector borrowing.
As the public debt is already high, the planning for expanding the development projects must be carried out within the framework of sound macro-economic policies so as to inspire confidence in the financial markets on the country’s capacity to undertake such a large spending programme.
In addition to sound financial, fiscal and monetary policies, there is also a need for the Government to introduce structural reforms for improving the standards of public sector governance, with emphasis on strengthening the institutional checks and balances to prevent abuse of power, corruption, nepotism and favouritism.
At the same time, in the effort to get public support for its development efforts, the Government must also control the dangerous politics of race and religion as it is harmful to our national unity. It must improve its record on human rights and democratic freedoms to preserve Malaysia’s image as a progressive Muslim country, committed to the system of constitutional democracy and rule of law. In particular, the administration of Islam needs to be modernised in line with international standards of justice as proof of Malaysia’s seriousness in achieving developed country status.
We are living in an age where private sector investors and the international community place high premium on countries with good governance, transparency and integrity in their administration.
If Malaysia can successfully introduce the necessary confidence-building measures, there is no reason for the country to face problems in undertaking the large projects that the Government is implementing and planning to take this country into the ranks of the first-world economies.
TAN SRI MOHD SHERIFF MOHD KASSIM