KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 — Penang was not intentionally sidelined when Putrajaya chose the four cities to be included in the 11th Malaysia Plan’s (11MP) “city competitiveness master plan” last month, a minister said today.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar said that Penang’s exclusion was not “discrimination,” attributing it instead to the limited number of spots available.
“We only have room for four cities, two in peninsular Malaysia, one in Sabah and one in Sarawak.
“We always believe in inclusiveness, it’s just that we only have room for four cities, two in peninsular Malaysia that’s why we proceed [sic] with these two cities (in Peninsular Malaysia),” he said during a question and answer session at a forum titled ‘An Update on the 11th Malaysia Plan — Addressing Current and Future Challenges.’
He added that Penang and every other state in Malaysia has every opportunity to be part of the city competitiveness master plan in the future.
The cities that were listed under the master plan are Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu
Penang’s exclusion drew ire from Penang DAP leaders including Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari who deemed the move a “travesty” and a cheap shot to punish the opposition government.
Wahid insisted that Penang was not overlooked because it was administered by the DAP, reiterating again the government’s emphasis on inclusiveness.
“If you notice in the announcements some key projects have been in the states ruled by the opposition,” he said.
The minister also pointed out that the master plan aimed to bridge the gap between the urban and rural divide, thus the insistence on including a city from Sabah and Sarawak respectively.
“When we talk about being an inclusive country and this being an inclusive plan, we talk about development, it has to be balanced between urban and rural (like) Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced during the tabling of the 11MP last month that Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu will be developed as growth catalyst cities in order to maximise benefits for the residents and to stimulate national development.
The cities were selected based on their potential in terms of population size, gross domestic product, existing major infrastructure, concentration of higher learning institutions and geographical advantage.
Zairil insisted, however, that Penang meets all the criteria laid out under the 11MP to qualify as a top city, being the second highest population distribution after Kuala Lumpur as well as an important contributor to the country’s economy in terms of GDP.