George Town, 17 February 2021
Penang Gerakan chairman Oh Tong Keong has urged the Penang State Government to suspend the implementation of the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) until the Covid-19 pandemic ends. Rather than continuing work on major infrastructure projects, Oh suggests that the State Government should only focus on fighting Covid-19.
Such a statement reveals a shallow understanding of the nature of the pandemic which is not merely a health crisis but also a socio-economic one. Would he consider surviving the pandemic a success if we allow our society and our economy to collapse?
The fact is that the provision of medical care, social aid and economic upliftment are all equally important. As a responsible State Government, we have to ensure that our economy survives as much as our citizens. Adverse economic repercussions such as a unemployment, business closures and market capital deficiency have to be addressed.
For this reason, the State Government has formed the Penang Socio-Economic Recovery Consultative Council (PSERCC) chaired by the Chief Minister. This Council, which is made up of representatives from both government and industry, oversees the efforts towards recovery across various sectors.
Among the key recovery drivers identified by the Council is the implementation of the PTMP projects including the Penang South Reclamation (PSR). Besides the creation of new jobs, these projects will also inject domestic direct investment into the local economy besides catalysing future growth and foreign investment.
As Gerakan has just joined Perikatan Nasional, Oh should perhaps take a leaf from his own colleague Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz who recently stated that the implementation of large-scale infrastructure projects is a priority measure to stimulate the economy.
Instead of condemning the Penang State Government’s efforts to safeguard the social and economic well-being of Penangites during and after this pandemic, Oh should urge Putrajaya to reinstate all the major infrastructure projects that they cancelled including the Penang Hill Cable Car and the loan guarantee for the development of the Light Rail Transit project in Penang.
Zairil Khir Johari
Penang State EXCO for Infrastructure and Transport