Tuesday, March 12, 2013

CM Lim Guan Eng's Dare on RM6.3 Billion Project: "PR Willing To Lose Votes" is a Projection of His Resolute Leadership or Inflated Ego?

Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng is adamant that the project, consisting of an undersea tunnel connecting the island to the mainland and three highways, be implemented despite criticisms and protests by NGOs and Penang Barisan Nasional.

“We are willing to lose votes and support by implementing this project because we do not want to be a “do nothing” government,” he said in a press conference at his office today.

He said the state government had exhausted all means to implement an effective public transportation system in the state, but were unable to do so as public transport is under the purview of the federal government.

“We have proposed for the councils to buy its own fleet of buses to provide public transport but we are unable to get the approval and relevant permits from the federal government so we could not do it,” he said.
The state government had also previously proposed to pay RM10 million to RapidPenang for the company to provide free public transport during peak hours but the proposal was not officially approved as RapidPenang is under the purview of the Finance Ministry.

It is difficult to verify Lim's claims that his government through the local councils had applied for permits to run their own buses from the federal-level Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB). 

Anyway, it is important to understand the historical background of what has transpired. Did the federal government force itself on the management of public transport in Penang? The answer is no. 
Until 2007, the public bus system in Penang was privatized to a few companies. As reported in a well written article by Anil Netto: 

"The failure of Penang's privatization model mirrors the experience in the national capital Kuala Lumpur, where the public-transport system of buses and a light-rail train was privatized in piecemeal fashion to well-connected firms, which later ran up huge losses due to a lack of integration among different services and poor coordination and enforcement. 

As the losses mounted, the government finally stepped in to bail out the private firms. A government-owned firm, RapidKL, eventually was tapped to take over the capital's bus and light-rail-transit services. The same firm is now set to enter Penang under the name RapidPenang, charged with revamping the public-transport system and giving the incumbent private bus operators a competitive run for their money."

The sorry state of Penang's public bus system was partially the responsibility of ex-CM Dr Koh Tsu Koon. Under his leadership, the local council had stopped providing a reliable bus service to supplement the private bus operators' routes. I used to take these buses when I was studying in primary and lower secondary in the 80's. Penang city council offered discounted bus rates for students and senior citizens.  

Despite the reservation of public bus campaigners of an imported solution/firm from Kuala Lumpur (Rapid KL) coming in to fill the gap, the chief minister Dr Koh Tsu Koon had pleaded with PM Abdullah Badawi to allow RapidKL to manage the Penang bus system and integrate it with a proposed monorail system scheduled to be built over the next few years. Koh said the state government did not have the expertise to manage a public-transport system.

Anil reported that activists from the Citizens for Public Transport (Cepat), a coalition of Penang-based civil-society groups, pinned the blame for poor service on:

1. The buccaneering private operators and weak regulatory enforcement. 
2. Lack of enforcement from a federal agency, Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB), for allowing the private bus operators to flout regulations and permit poor conditions with impunity. 

In fact, there are a few steps which have to be taken by any state government planning to run its own public bus system:

1. A good public transport plan which integrates all modes and forms on public transport available in the state e.g. taxis, trishaws, trains, ferries and later monorail or trams.
2. A good monitoring body at the state level with enforcement powers (likely formed by local councils) to regulate public buses and private bus operators
3. The state government needs to make a decision if privatization of public bus system should be reintroduced but with better terms, regulations and expectations

Since the nationalization of Penang's public bus system was not deliberately implemented but was done after the plea of the last chief minister, there is reason to believe that the state government can bring the federal government e.g. CVLB, SPAD and Ministry of Transport back to the negotiation table if it is able to present a solid and comprehensive plan to manage its own public bus system. In fact, the Penang city council can propose to supplement and complement Rapid Penang with additional routes and buses. 

Instead of throwing a challenge at Penang voters, the current Penang CM Lim Guan Eng should provide enough evidence that his administration has done enough preparatory work to come out with a comprehensive public transport plan which can help to supplement Rapid Penang. It took DAP five years to come out with a state level blueprint - the Penang Paradigm. It has really done nothing, policy wise, over the last five years. 

So far, his government has failed to convince me that it is moving in tandem with the expectations of the people. Numerous questions posed in this blog, regarding the RM6.3 billion project, have not been answered. No alternatives were provided to the people. 

The only justification, that the federal government has refused to entertain the local councils application for permits to operate their own buses is difficult to digest. I would appreciate it if Lim could publish all records including full correspondences with the federal government on the permits. Perhaps some experts could give a hand to the state government to put the proposal and applications in proper order and help engage the federal government again (if BN continues to rule since PR is confident of winning the next GE) to reconsider the application.

Both ways, it is difficult to accept that CM Lim has chosen to politicize the public transport issue by linking it to the next GE. If he has made up his mind to go ahead with the RM6.3 billion project for a mere 27KM of roads and tunnel (@ RM233,333.33 per meter), he should call off all future public dialogues. It is pointless to waste anyone's time since his administration has chosen not to listen and consider other alternatives.

Lim said he is willing to lose votes to carry out the project sounds so familiar. Replace his name with another on the caption, it could well come from a leader from the regime that so many of you are trying to pull down. 

A dare is a dare. So be it. CM Lim will lose my vote for the Tanjung Bungah state constituency. Then again, I am just a small fish in DAP's big pond. However, there could be many more small fishes like me among the silent majority. Together we could make a different. 

To some, Lim's dare is a manifestation of his resolute leadership. To others, it could be a sign of power arrogance, over confidence and inflated ego. I leave it to Lim's own wisdom to decide if he is doing the right thing. 


Ken Ong said...

"CLAP, CLAP, CLAP"...Very well written, Khoo!!!

It's pointless to finger point & avoid responsibilities in such manner. I perceive the statement made by LIM GUAN ENG as an ARROGANT one. Regardless whether it's really the federal govt.'s fault or the local state govt's fault, such kind of remarks/statements should NOT even be coming out from the mouth of a so-called leader.

The screams of LIM GUAN ENG being an arrogant fool had been heard many years ago but I initially thought it was merely a political ploy. However, this recent statement coming out from his own mouth is sufficient to prove it's indeed somehow TRUE. Regardless whether the chances of retaining Penang is high or low, it's inappropriate to simply point fingers without showing proof. After all, there's a saying which goes "ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS".

If LIM's reason is indeed true, all he has to do is to show proof. There's no need for further speeches. The proof would speak a thousand words for him.

It's really amazing to find out politicians are sometimes ain't as wise & intelligent as we thought they are. However, one thing I know for sure they are good at is none other than TELLING LIES.

NirwanaLau said...

Talk is free. Suggest you put yourself up as a candidate in the coming election and if elected, show us how good you are.

Anonymous said...


My sentiments exactly.

Unfortunately YC Teh (Tg Bungah) is one of the more decent DAP assemblyman who dares speak his mind.

In his case I vote for the candidate and not party but if they (DAP) drop him I'm almost certain to split my votes.

Instead of trying to convince us of his project, he is saying its a done deal whether you like it or not.

Worse still you dont have to vote for us if you dont want.

Doesnt that sound a bit arrogant?

This is the same attitude the BN goverment has.

It now feels like out of the pan into the frying pot.

LGE has made me think of doing what Najib and his man couldnt.

That really makes me sad.

Anonymous said...

Pathetic Kay Peng. So many blatant abuse of tax player money, the violent protest of UMNO goon you do not blog but CM Lim does this and that you criticize and put down.
He call for forum and the people voices out both pro and not in favor but those in favor super ceded those not in favor.
If he did not call for the public forum and then go ahead with it then not only you should protest but all the people should protest.

CS Lee

Khoo Kay Peng said...

Nirwana Lau,

This is the best you can do? It sounds consistent with our CM.

I will not put myself up as a candidate because I am not a politician. But I will vote accordingly as suggested by our CM.

No need to get elected to show you how good I am. My team and I are willing to be engaged as consultants to draw up the plan and help engage with the fed govt. Save Penang the RM6.3 billion

Anonymous said...

The new pair road connecting Tg Bungah to Batu Ferringhi and Teluk Bahang will be choice land for developers to build exclusive villas and super condos on both sides of the road. These properties will have breathtaking views overlooking the northern coastline. Developers are waiting with bated breath to rush in to develop these super prime properties on these hills. When asked if he would guarantee there will be no development on the hills on both sides of the new pair road, the CM's reply was a non commital "we will follow guidelines". So you can figure out why the rush to build the pair road in a hurry.

Khoo Kay Peng said...

CS Lee,

You must be a lazy fella. My blog criticizes BN 85% of the time and you take no effort to find out.

Firstly, you said those who supported the project overwhelmed those who did not support it at the forum. How many people attended the forum? 300. On that basis, you are saying that they represent the whole of Penang? We have 1.6 million people living here.

Second, he promised to allow the 1.6 million people to decide on the project. How? If there going be a referendum? No.

He issued a statement to say that he is going ahead with it regardless of how these 1.6 million are going to feel.

Now, who is more pathetic? CS Lee, blind royalty is sad and dangerous.

Billie cudk said...

Kay Peng

Its (sudden)authority and power that engulfs these set of people. It changes them from once an ordinary, on the street human, clad in basic short sleeved cotton sweat stenched shirt who had to look up to the Rakyat to deliver his ideals and political chantings.

Now, armed with power, recognition, popularity and their celebrity status, it has made them portray their inner and true nature.

We need a two or more party system for check and balance but we detest politicians, of whatever political divide who are arrogant, lacking in humility and belittling their (4-5 year once) voters.

Today they sit in their high rise air conditioned offices donned in their suits and ties feeling aloft with advisors, aides, secretaries, assistants, officers at their beck and call.

The sudden windfall and rise to power & fame and aloft is where they are now. How ironic, they once had no advisors, aides, secretaries, assistants, officers at their feet. It could be said the same is true for most countries.

Hence, in Malaysia, political maturity both from politicians and voters are still far from ideal. We shall get there, hopefully. We just have to live with the journey of political evolution. No country is perfect and certainly Malaysia is no exception but still much better off compared to others.

Strangely, this is human nature and it is indeed sad to yearn for a leader capable and humble.

The late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu was one and the few whom had vision, intelligence, capability and above all, one whom had respect and humility for his Rakyat. For that, the feeling is mutual.

Anonymous said...

The CM is exploiting and politicising the sentiments and rejection of Penang voters against BN as support for his policies and projects. We have to keep reminding him and all other Penang voters that voting against BN is NOT total endorsement of his policies and initiatives. We need to bring this message to town.

Anonymous said...

Aren't you exposing yourself to a very simple refutation? All that LGE has to do to demolish nascent BN-love is publish the correspondence with the Federal Government impeding the Penang Government's public transport plans.

Anonymous said...

Well done! At last you have revealed your true colour. Despite all the positives you wrote on Penang under the opposition, you’re no different from a one trick pony. At the end how you vote boils down to one issue. All the other issues (which you previously credited to the opposition efforts) count to nothing. As I read it you are driven by the belief that if this project doesn’t go ahead Penang will be honkie dory - a much happier place. Good luck to you!!

Khoo Kay Peng said...

Anon 11.02,

The state government just passed the Freedom of Information Act 2012. Disclosure of such correspondences should be encouraged. At least we know where to assist if needed.

Am I saying that this is the only thing he has to do?

Come on, if being a state leader is so simple then we do not need to go through labourious elections every 5 years.

Khoo Kay Peng said...

Anon 2.40pm,

Don't blame me for putting my voting decision solely on this issue. This is suggested by the CM. Perhaps you might want to have a word with him. That is why I told him to use his own wisdom to find out if it is indeed wise to act this way.

If a state government works hard enough to improve congestion through proper policy intervention and not just taking a simplistic approach of building more roads and tunnels as a remedy to improve traffic congestion, it would be a better place to live in.

Believe me, try visit the nordic states, scandinavia etc where people walk, cycle and take the public transport because alternatives are amply provided vis a vis private vehicles.

Good luck to you if you think CM Lim GE can do no wrong.

proud2bmalaysian said...


This is also Election speak. Maybe the news reported Lim GE sounding arrogant but he does take a stand to improve the long term congestion issues of Penang.

He also did say that if PR forms the next Govt that Penang will have modern trams which I am very much in favor of.

Perhaps new highways are overdue too to modernize Penang.

As to the tunnel, I am no expert but if it is good, then by all means but do it the right way. Koh TK also was moving on this previously as I had read somewhere.

I think this is a case of reporting or communication.