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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MBSA to relax rules to attract foreign investments

Already open: The first phase of the i-City project has been completed.

The Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) is going easy on its strict rules on entertainment outlets in the city as part of efforts to attract foreign investors to the knowledge-based i-City development project.

With such a policy in place, Shah Alam residents may, within the next few years, see the city’s first cinema with the approval for the facilities having been granted.

The cinema is part of the final phase of the i-City, which comprises a shopping mall and a citywalk which are scheduled to be completed in 2015. The intelligent centre is located at Section 7 of the state capital.

“We are making an exemption for the i-City to encourage international companies and franchisors to invest in the intelligent centre,” Shah Alam mayor Mazalan Md Noor said.

“But they still have to adhere to the existing rules and regulations, especially on the operating hours,” he said.

According to Mazalan, the i-City had been conferred the International Park status by the Selangor government in October last year, allowing it to operate entertainment and lifestyle outlets such as cinemas and theatres, bowling alleys, family theme parks, restaurant and clubs.

He said although the International Park status also allowed restaurants in the i-City to sell liquor, this was not an automatic blanket maxim but subject to approval by the MBSA.

“In principle, we are going easy on the ruling for them, but it does not mean that it is automatic permission. The operators still have to apply for permits and we will look into their cases to make sure that they abide to the guidelines,” he said.

Mazalan said he hoped that the move would serve as a catalyst in boosting the development in the state capital.

“We hope the i-City, with its modern infrastructure and high-tech facilities, will function effectively as the city’s knowledged-based centre,” he said.

“We want the i-City to be an icon for the city and hopefully will be emulated in other areas of the city,” he said.

Shah Alam, with about 90% its population being Muslims, has always been strict on the entertainment outlets, with cinemas, pubs and snooker centres being banned.

But the city is a beautiful place to live, with its many natural parks and a handsome lake too. Traffic chaos is also almost unheard of in this garden city of orchids.

Having a cinema and other modern high-tech facilities in the i-City will complement the other cultural and recreational elements available in Shah Alam.

Residents and visitors can enjoy regular cultural activities at the Laman Budaya and soon watch theatre performances at the Shah Alam Royale Theatre.

“We are also processing applications from karaoke centres, so the residents will soon be able to enjoy that too,” Mazalan said.

Allowing the cinema to operate in the city has received mixed responses and reactions from the Shah Alam residents. Even the city councillors are split on the matter.

While some people agree with relaxing the rules, others feel that the city should maintain its sober identity, with no entertainment outlets.

“All the while we did not have any such outlets and this is what the residents want. Having such facilities would not make Shah Alam any better and might even result in negative influences and impacts, especially among our youths,” said Datin Nor’ini Md Top, a councillor in charge of Section 7.

“So I do feel that we should stick to the the status quo - no cinema,” she said.

Nor’ini said the MBSA should not make an exception to the i-City centre as other similar developments would also demand to be given similar concessions.

She felt that the authority should not bend the rules just to encourage more foreign investors to come and start their business at the i-City.

“Why do we have to sacrifice our own culture and ethics just for the sake of encouraging foreign investors?

“Unless the operator could ensure that they would only conduct constructive and educating activities, I believe we should stand by what the residents want,” Nor’ini said.

Councillor Ang Leng Kiat said the MBSA would have to make sure that the i-City operators provide healthy activities for the people.

Ang said it was only fair to seek the views of the residents on what they wanted.

“We are serving the people and if they want a cinema, then they should have it,” he said.

“But we have to make sure that the cinema operator adhere to our rules and regulations,” Ang said.

Adnan Jamburi said that relaxing the rules would be a boost the development and property value in the city.

He said the move would bring in foreign investors to the city, which was needed especially during the current economic slowdown.

By The Star (Stories by Salina Khalid)

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