MICCI Luncheon – Tilting the Balance from Private to Public Transportation

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Speech by Chief Minister of Penang

MICCI Luncheon – Tilting the Balance from Private to Public Transportation

16 October 2019, St Giles Hotel

Ladies and gentlemen, today’s subject is a very serious and interesting one indeed.

Tilting the balance from private to public transportation may be an uphill task, but it is never impossible. Through the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP), the Penang government has set a mode share target of 40% for public transport and 60% for private vehicles, which, is the same mode share target set by the federal government. Although the 40% target may be way below the percentage set by many other cities, we must bear in mind that Penang is currently starting from a base point of less than 10% public transport mode share.

An act of simply considering the provision of public transportation is insufficient to tilt the balance because this is closely related to our local culture and perception. In Malaysia, a car does not necessarily equate to better quality of life, but a car is definitely deemed as a symbol of wealth and social status. In fact, it has always been an argument that a private vehicle is necessary because of the lack public transportation and harsh weather conditions which deter the will to walk or cycle.

The matter can be further proven through statistics where Malaysia is ranked third highest in the world for car ownership with 84% of households in Malaysia owning a car or more. If you further examine our national statistics for new vehicle registrations, there are at least 40,000 new private motorcycles and new private car registered each month, nationwide between October 2018 to April 2019. On the other hand, during the same period, the number of new public transportation vehicles registered nationwide totalled only at 4,964 where 11% of these were new registrations for public buses and the remaining were mainly taxis and private hire vehicles.

A common perception is that young graduates upon getting their first job should consider taking up a loan to own a vehicle for their convenience and ease travelling to work and other purposes. It clearly shows that the preference for, and the reliance on private vehicles supersedes the consideration to use public transportation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I mentioned earlier, tilting the balance is an uphill task. It is simply because it cannot be solved just by merely providing a comprehensive public transportation network with its respective last-mile connection as, it requires a change in personal lifestyle choices as well as in the way private vehicles are managed and monitored in the country.

A recent study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Green Transportation in George Town suggested several measures that are required to improve traffic flow in George Town. Among the suggestions were a common dedicated priority lane for public transportation and the enhancing of the facilities for walking as well as cycling. Another suggestion that I find interesting is about changes to be made for a systematic management of both on-street and off-street parking. It plainly stated that the rate of on-street parking charges should be a direct reflection of the land value. The higher the land value, the higher the on-street parking charges should be.

According to the consultants, a higher on-street parking rate will effectively reduce the driver’s time spent behind the wheel as it induces changes in them to directly head to off-street parking complexes instead of looking for a relatively cheaper on-street parking. Secondly, significantly higher on-street and off-street parking charges in George Town will deter people from driving into George Town and instead raise the preference for the already available Central Area Transit buses.

In order for this to really work, an overhaul is required of current on-street parking charge rates—by location for instance and synced to other off-street parking complexes. This will be one of the many steps that can be taken to help tilt the reliance on private vehicles towards the preference for public transportation. It will definitely help in reducing the total number of vehicles in the city and additionally improve the air quality in the urban environment for a healthier environment for the public.

It is clear that shifting the reliance of private vehicles to public transportation has more pros than cons to the economy. Public transportation is therefore a service that the public sector must invest in, even as we restructure the current traffic management system into a more effective mechanism. My Penang2030 vision being about building a Family-focused Green and Smart State that Inspires the Nation emphasises on the importance of strengthening the mobility and connectivity infrastructure, having a balanced spatial planning and the integration of municipal services with smart technologies to assist in areas of data collection, monitoring, enforcement and reassessment of the proposed measures for improvement.

The number of traffic enforcers on the street may be limited, but we can complement the function using technology such as CCTV and edge computing. Digital Penang Corporation, the new statutory board that The Penang State Government is establishing, will be able to facilitate in these developments, using the latest technology on the market. At the end of the day, the decision to shift to public transportation will rely not only on the ease of access to public transportation alone, but also the inconvenience of driving to your destination.

It is my earnest hope that as we, the government, work  towards tilting the balance from private to public transportation, the local culture and perspectives will change so that having a car is no longer an asset but a liability, and everyone will come to think twice before investing in one as one’s preference changes from private to public transportation. As its often said, a developed city is one where the upper classes take public transportation. That is the kind of city Penang must aim to be in the long run and I strongly believe that we are all able to do it.

Thank you.


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Ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to congratulate and thank the organizers, the High Commission of Canada for organizing the Penang Transport Forum 2019 – Unlocking Mobility in Penang Through Rail.

Penang is gearing up for Penang2030 with the vision of becoming a Family-Focused, Green and Smart State that Inspires the Nation. In this vision, there are four (4) main themes; the fourth being investing in the built environment to improve resilience. This is important for the development of a holistic transport network.

The Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) is a long-term plan which is aimed at addressing two main concerns affecting Penang. The main concern is traffic congestion due to inadequate infrastructure and transportation network. The other is the lack of quality land for development to meet industrial and commercial expansion that is necessary to cater for the growing population on the island as well as the mainland. Both these issues combined hamper the economic progress in Penang.

 The sustainable development of a state or a country depends very much on systematic and realistic planning. It has a huge impact on the economic growth, liveability and sustainability of a city. Such planning should not be focusing only on being economically expedient and faster, but more importantly, the plans must be reliable, sustainable and feasible for the long-term development of the city. The State Government has taken a serious approach in addressing this problem and initiated a long-term solution since 2011.  PTMP is seen as a transformative transportation development master plan that can address the challenges we are currently facing and can help in striking an economic and social balance for the State Government, especially in addressing the problems of traffic congestion. With the efforts and initiatives of the State Government to develop the Penang State transport network, what we hope to achieve in time to come is the inclusive growth and the narrowing of the socio-economic gap between the north and south - so that future generations of Penang - our children, our grandchildren and our great-great-great-grandchildren will be able to enjoy brighter business prospects for the betterment of their lives. The development of a holistic transport network is a major step which needs to be taken to transform the state of Penang into a modern and smart state; one that is capable of providing desired economic returns in the form of higher income and a better quality of life for her citizens. Furthermore, with the rapid advancement of technology in the global arena, Penang will be marginalized and excluded in the modernization cycle if we do not act proactively by creating an integrated environment with IT-intensive modes and well-developed facilities. The state of Penang has recorded the highest per capita growth in Malaysia for the past few years. It currently has also managed to preserve its heritage legacy. Although we have a superior industrial hub with a well-developed ecosystem and a competitive business environment, we still face challenges which are detrimental to our continued economic and social developments due to critical scarcity of land at strategic locations for sustainable development in the long run. Apart from the PTMP, the Penang South Reclamation (PSR) is a State Government project that is seen as a Penang Economic Transformation project with the aim of creating a robust international service and manufacturing hub. With a proposed 4,500 acres of reclaimed land, the State Government can then provide quality affordable homes at strategic locations linked by LRT, trams and highways. This comprehensive master plan can attract foreign investors and spur Penang's dynamism further. This reclamation will be owned by the State Government and is projected to turn the tables on the issue of land scarcity. We believe that the future of Penang lies with these mega projects - the PTMP and the PSR. They are a springboard for Penang’s highly competitive growth towards gaining international stature as an Intelligent State in the coming decades. I hope the delegates especially those from outside Penang will take this opportunity to enjoy our natural attractions as well as savour our well-known, unique and delicious food. I wish you all a productive forum and that the information gathered and exchanged here will be beneficial to everyone. Thank you.

Opening of 7th Asia Pacific Urban Forum (APUF7)

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Speech by THE RIGHT HONOURABLE Chief Minister of Penang

YAB TUAN Chow Kon Yeow
at the Opening of 7th Asia Pacific Urban Forum (APUF7)

Good morning.

Firstly, I would like to welcome all participants to Penang for the 7th edition of the Asia-Pacific Urban Forum (APUF7). This is the first time the forum is held in Malaysia and Penang is honoured to host this three-day event.

I was told that this is the largest and most diverse urban forum with more than 7,000 delegates participating in its various programmes.  This forum is themed "Future of Asia and Pacific Cities: Transformative Pathways to Achieve 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" with an aim to gather urban stakeholders, civil society and policymakers from various countries to discuss critical urban development issues.

APUF7 is the first forum to be held after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 and the New Urban Agenda in 2016. While the forum focuses on countries in the Asia Pacific, we can see that countries outside the Asia Pacific are keen to take part in this event.

Representatives from a total of 57 countries are attending this forum and out of these countries, 30 countries are within the Asia Pacific region. This forum is an opportunity for Penang, and Malaysia, to connect with stakeholders and policymakers from the ASEAN region, the Commonwealth and other countries from all over the world.

APUF7 is a good platform for all countries to work together towards a common agenda, which is the transformative development through sustainable urbanisation and during this forum, The Future of Asia-Pacific Cities Report 2019 (FoAPC) and the Penang Platform for Sustainable Urbanisation (PPSU) will also be launched.

The FoAPC is a major report that looks at the implementation of urban solutions across different cities under four critical development challenges - natural resource management, climate change, disaster risk and rising inequalities.

Where else, the PPSU is where stakeholders and policymakers can declare their commitments towards a sustainable agenda. This is a platform for each country to determine the timeframe that they will implement their sustainable agendas, the funding that they will commit, the partners that they will work with and the potential projects and programmes that they hope to bring to fruition.

This is a fitting platform for Penang and Malaysia to be involved as we move towards our national and state’s 2030 agenda. It will provide us with the space and avenue to evaluate our 2030 agenda and synergise with other countries in the region. The subject matter discussed in PPSU is one that will involve different societal groups, stakeholders, policymakers, civil society and grassroot groups. It is a sharing platform perfect for various groups to come together to discuss, share and collaborate. As such, it is hoped that through APUF7, we can work with other countries within and outside this region to formulate policies and steps to address pressing environmental and urbanisation issues.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In Penang, we have a vision to become A Family-Focused Green and Smart State that Inspires the Nation. This is our Penang2030 vision. It is not a blueprint for development but an approach and a call to stakeholders to participate and contribute in shaping Penang’s future towards a liveable and green city. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda as it is the world's best plan to build a better world for people and our planet by 2030.

Penang2030 has four main themes - to increase liveability by enhancing the quality of life, to upgrade the economy by raising household incomes, to strengthen civic participation by empowering the people, and to improve resilience by investing in the built environment.


Penang is well on its way in becoming a smart city with our City Councils embracing Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data Analytics (BDA) to implement e-governance and digitalisation. We will soon be installing 5G infrastructure too. In line with this, next year, we will be hosting the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) and the inaugural Penang Techfest 2020 to showcase technological advances at its best from Artificial Intelligence (AI) to 5G connectivity.

Besides that, Penang is well aware of the need to keep a balance between development and environmental protection, so over the years, we have implemented various sustainable initiatives under our green agenda. Through the Penang Green Council (PGC), we have collaborated with various institutions to promote green activities especially in schools and educational institutions so that the younger generation can be involved in pushing the green agenda forward.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Spearheading towards the Penang2030 vision, it is the Penang State Government’s profound hope to work with the global community for the betterment of our state, country and the region as a whole. As such, I greatly hope this forum will result in umpteen positive partnerships and collaborations and I certainly hope the many discussions, dialogues and talks that we will be held over these three days will result in concrete plans that each country can commit and adopt to achieve our goal of creating liveable cities through sustainable planning. With that, I wish all delegates a pleasant and productive stay in Penang!

Thank you.