DECEMBER 21 — I refer to the glowing media reports on the completion of Phase 1 MRT Sg Buloh - Kajang line and would like to join the public in congratulating the government and the MRT Corporation 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, it will 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 life style 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 networkover a larger part of the K.L urban area.
Thus, in a few years’ time, together with the High Speed Rail project between K.L and Singapore, and the several on-going projects to make the city an attractive place for work and living, we can expect K.L. to rival other great cities as the most liveable, making it competitive in attracting more foreign investments, multinational corporations, professionals, entertainers, international universities and tourists to come to our country for business, education and pleasure.
As with all primary growth centres, the accelerated development of the K.L - Klang Valley region will have spill-over effects of lifting up other regional growth centres such as Penang and Johore.
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 into the hinterland, and creating a trickling down process of pulling up the rural towns and kampungs 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 per cent of the population are living in urban centres and this is expected to reach 75 per cent in the next ten years at the rate the rural-urban migration is happening.
Cities are the life blood for creativity, innovation and innovation in the economy, and for enhancing the cultural, educational and artistic aspects of social development.
We should congratulate our government for its long term foresight of putting soul into our economic development. An economic plan must have a soul in it to lead the change.
The large investments needed to develop the urban transport and other high impact city – centric projects 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 government to introduce structural reforms for improving the standards of public sector governance, with emphasis on strengthening the institutional checks and balance to prevent abuse of power, corruption, nepotism and favouritism.
At the same time, in the effort to win public support for its development efforts, the government must also control the dangerous politics of race and religion as they are harmful to our national unity.
It must urgently 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 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.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.