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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Making KL a greater place

With the NKEA in mind, it is time to make GKL a livable place which is clean and peaceful, and filled with environment-friendly economic activities producing high-quality, high-value goods and services.

MANY analysts compare, rather simplistically, the economy of Singapore with that of Malaysia. This is like comparing apples with oranges.

The two economies cannot be compared in that simplistic manner because of the markedly different economic structure of two, with Malaysia having a large rural sector and abundant land, and Singapore, a service-oriented trading economy.

It would be more meaningful to compare Singapore with Greater Kuala Lumpur (GKL), or what was often referred to as the Klang Valley.

After all, the latter is already very urbanised and is endowed with modern infrastructure.

The inclusion of GKL as one National Key Economic Area (NKEA) is befitting given that it is the epitome of our economic space and national urban system.

In fact, we can take up issue with the physical and development planners of GKL if the region fails to perform socially, economically and culturally, on the scale achieved by city economies like Singapore and Hong Kong.

The GKL region should be the leader in productivity and intellectual capital creation in various fields especially in services such as finance, education, communication and the arts, and high-value manufacturing where intellectual capital and K-economy-related activities are the natural choice.

To date, the GKL has expanded much on the basis of organic growth.

The processes of population concentration and agglomeration have led to what GKL is today.

Its status as the national capital attracts many business houses to establish their headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, thus putting pressure on space and impacting property value.

Thanks to earlier efforts, we have been able to avoid GKL from becoming a primate city, such as Manila, Mexico City, Bombay, and Cairo, with the attributes of over-population.

Indeed, the earlier years of development concern for regional disparity restrained GKL from overexpansion and as such, growth was dispersed to other parts of the country, as expected by the spirit of federalism.

In fact, on realising this, the seat of Federal Government administration was moved to Putrajaya, leaving Kuala Lumpur to become the financial and commercial centre of the country.

In line with the NKEA objective, let us make GKL a livable place, clean and peaceful, and filled with economic activities which are environment-friendly yet producing high-quality, high-value goods and services.

These activities will have a high content of intellectual capital.

GKL does have the potential to attract high-return activities such as banking and finance, tourism, advertisement and professional services such as legal, accounting, engineering, healthcare and arts and design.

The presence of premier tertiary educational institutions in and around GKL can help spur the growth of these activities in the area.

The lower costs such as rentals of premises in the GKL compared with the rates in Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok can attract these services.

In the same breath, GKL should not be the location of manufacturing activities which demand high-labour content and low technology.

Other places where labour is still plentiful can be the location of such industries.

This is one reason why regional corridors are established.

The GKL, which covers various urban conurbations and the surrounding townships of Klang, Kajang, Bangi, Putrajaya, and Shah Alam, has to be targeted as a planned modern urban space and that its untoward features of squatters, traffic jams and unhygienic stalls have to be phased out or upgraded speedily to befit the region as the foremost urban centre of the nation.

The transition has taken place, with Shah Alam, Bangi and Putrajaya leading the pack, but its momentum has to be expedited.

The mindset of urbanites in GKL have to change fast to accommodate the emerging status of GKL.

It is heartening to see that public transport has been given due emphasis in the National Key Result Area and the NKEA of the current administration.

Indeed, the issue of traffic jams in the city of Kuala Lumpur, especially on Friday evenings and particularly when it rains, demands a strong political will to address as it is the consequence, in part, by our car ownership policy.

On this matter, an independent transport and road planning body can be given the task to plan and carry out road and transport planning in the region, having regard for the current multiplicity of agencies with power to influence transport system in GKL.

A final point that is worth reflecting is the position of Kampung Baru and Chow Kit in the context of future urban renewal expected to take place under the impetus of the NKEA of developing the GKL.

The cultural and historical elements of urban planning have to be equally considered and there is no better window than capitalising on the opportunities arising from new developments of GKL, which has to grow with an identity of its own.

By The Star

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