Speech By Penang Chief Minister YAB Lim Guan Eng
At Annual Luncheon Dialogue of MICCI
on 8th September 2016 at Equatorial Hotel
Development vs Environment : Can we achieve a Balance?
A very tough and hyper-sensitive subject. Everyone wants a better lifestyle, higher income, a roof over their heads and the list goes on. But the real question is “What are they willing to sacrifice to achieve this?”. Not everything we do today that is to save for tomorrow has to be controlled by the government. There are many things that you yourself can control in your everyday life that will contribute to that of your children and grandchildren. And I’m not talking about material wealth.
How many of you present own a car? Maybe 2 cars? And how many of you present here today have used public transport in Penang in the last 6 months? 1 year? So what are all of us here today doing about reducing our carbon footprint?
Penang’s efforts for a “Cleaner, Greener, Healthier and Safer Penang” comes to nought without all of us putting an effort. Recycling is not only collecting the old newspapers, bottles, plastic containers, etc.. It is how we re-use them or recycle them into something usable.
Coming back to the topic of the day. The Penang State Government has achieved some milestones since 2008 in making Penang among the top 10 city or island in many areas. These are accolades that we have achieved by working together and complementing each other. But we now have to plan for the future as well. We need to develop Penang for our future generations such that they will look back and say thank you for the effort as we are doing today to our forefathers, who invested in Penang in the years gone by such that today Penang is a thriving business hub.
Development brings more jobs. More jobs means more people. More people means need for more homes, This in turn means there should be a higher economic growth for the state. Very good. But then again if there are more people how do they get from point A to point B with out transport. Not all of us have the luxury of working from home. So then we have the problem of connectivity. If everyone drives then the roads are going to be continually congested. We’ll have traffic jams 24 / 7.
It is for this reason that the Penang State Government has proposed the Transport Master Plan, which covers the Penang Transport Master Plan, Bayan Lepas LRT, Pan Island Link (PIL) and Penang South Reclamation (PSR). The PSR is basically to be able to raise funds so as to be able to pay for the 1st 3 projects. We can’t have one without the other.
The plans are all ready and will be submitted for approval at Federal level. Once approval is obtained there will be a Public Display and objection period. There will also be public consultation. Currently the online poll indicates strong support for this project. The PTMP blueprint are plans for the next 3 years, it may be changed or expanded according to the situation.
Penang’s challenges for these projects is ‘lack of good quality land’.
But what is the State Government doing to ensure that a balance is maintained, such that development does not encroach and “eat away” our environment?
We may have found the balance by emphasizing Penang as an on entrepreneurial and welfare state. The entrepreneurial and welfare state model is only possible because we record annual budget surpluses through clean administration. Penang’s CAT administration of Competency, Accountability and Transparency has allowed annual budget surpluses and our reserves to increase from RM850 million to nearly RM1.6 billion in 8 years. Penang’s government debt has been reduced by 90% to only RM69 million – the lowest in Malaysia. We also have one of the lowest income inequality with Gini coefficient at only 0.37 compared to the national average of 0.40 as at 2014. Further Penang’s unemployment rate of 1.5% offers many job opportunities.
We are taking baby steps right now. Remember that 59 years since independence all of us happily went about our daily lives without a care of what would happen to the trees or animals around us. Suddenly we have awoken from our slumber and are now aware that we need green to grow. We need our flora and fauna to sustain the environment. We need to control the carbon footprint we leave. Or our world as it is today, or when we were growing up will be no more. We’ll have something like what we see in the Mad max movies –devastation.
How are we going to achieve this. How is Penang State Government going to achieve this? Well Rome was built in a day. Remember when we implemented no plastics bag – oh the hue and cry over it. But now most Penangites have adapted. Visitors to State are also aware of it. Other states have followed suit. We have planted trees and when we need to widen roads we have uprooted and transplanted trees in other areas so they can continue to thrive. We encourage household to separate their waste. We have built a water treatment plant, which has shown improvement in the quality of water surrounding the island. We are working to resuscitate our rivers, especially Sungai Pinang and Sungai Emas.
On 1st of June this year, we have marked another milestone with the implementation of Waste Segregation at Source Policy in our quest to make Penang the first green state of Malaysia. We are proud to achieve the highest recycling rate of 32% in 2015, which exceeds both the current national recycling rate of 10.5% and the national target of 22% recycling rate and that only by 2020. Penang hopes to achieve the international benchmark of 40% recycling rate by 2020 and that can only be achieved by successfully implementing the Separation at Source Programme.
In line with the State Government’s implementation of Waste Segregation At Source Policy, remember we can only be an international and intelligent city when Penang is a green state.
In our quest to make Penang the first green state of Malaysia, Penang is the first state to ban free plastic bags at shopping centers, ban polystrene boxes and achieve the highest recycling rate of 32% in 2015.
We are trying. Are you?
We are definitely not going to please everyone but we aim to please the majority. Whether we achieve a balance is questionable but we are definitely trying to.