Global, regional, and national outlook for Penang’s transport infrastructure

ASIAN Development Bank (ADB) estimated that the second largest sector (35%) with investment need is in transport infrastructure. That translates to RM148 billion (US$37 billion) a year for developing economies to enable them to “continue its economic growth momentum, eradicate poverty, and respond to climate change.”

Separately, in Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s (AIIB) report, the projected investment need for “transport infrastructure to support trade and economic growth” was in the region of RM2-3.6 trillion (US$500-900 billion) a year. In fact, the transport sector took up the largest share of AIIB’s services. Transport infrastructure is not cheap, but necessary all around the world.

However, among 22 developing countries in ADB’s report, Malaysia was the third lowest with infrastructure investment. Neighbouring countries such as Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Vietnam had invested more in infrastructure than Malaysia.

Vietnam is currently building not one but two metro lines (Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi), and had the third highest infrastructure investment among the 22. Recently, Vietnam has even surpassed Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia as the best destination for investment.

The newly launched National Transport Policy 2019-2030 (NTP2030) aims to set the agenda for our country’s transport sector along with the technological advances enabled by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The development of transport infrastructure is widely recognised as a top priority for progress. It is in view of this trajectory that the NTP2030 is definitely timely and very significant for Malaysia’s development.

These global, regional development and national focus are all the more significant for a trading state like Penang that is currently implementing a transport master plan (PTMP).

The five policy thrusts of the NTP2030 serve as good guide for PTMP. Penang’s transport plan comprises land and sea mobility that aim to improve the transport sector (policy thrust No. 1). The balanced approach of expanding road network while building reliable public transport such as the light rail transit (LRT) is intended to maximise efficiency of existing and upcoming transport infrastructure (policy thrust No. 2).

PTMP’s several development phases set a long term trajectory that covers not only the island but also the mainland in order to create seamless mobility for people and goods transfer through multiple modes of public transport (LRT, bus rapid transit, tram, monorail) and road network, thus in-line with NTP2030’s policy thrust number 3.

Green technological ecosystem (NTP2030 policy thrust No. 4) is constantly developing with better electric vehicles and more energy-efficient rail system. PTMP will be reviewed at each phase to ensure the best green infrastructure to be implemented.

With regard to expanding transport services into the global supply chain (NTP2030 policy thrust No. 5), a better transport infrastructure developed through PTMP will definitely create a more convenient and reliable mobility experience to fulfil the demand of the logistics sector.

Currently, over 80% of the total electrical and electronic (E&E) products manufactured in Penang is exported from the state’s airport into the world. Moreover, the airport will be anticipating to accommodate 20 million passengers a year from the present 7.8 million.

Furthermore, Penang being the top exporter in the country for the second quarter of this year goes to show that a good transport infrastructure connecting the airport to the E&E ecosystem and the central places should be prioritised.

Critics of the PTMP often do not have this global, regional, and national outlook to evaluate the necessity of PTMP, or they do not understand Penang’s unique place as a trading state, or they do not know the details of PTMP.

The article by P. Gunasegaram that compares PTMP with other projects is the latest example. For one, his cost comparison between greater Kuala Lumpur’s rail systems with PTMP (that comprises LRT, bus rapid transit, trams, monorail, undersea tunnel, major paired roads, elevated highway, etc) is flawed.

Penang will have to move fast to move ahead with the PTMP while the nation is gearing up our transport infrastructure through the NTP2030. Other countries like Vietnam will not wait for us. They are moving ahead aggressively to get a bigger share of the global economy. – November 1, 2019.

* Chang Kah Loon is the president of the Society of Logisticians, Malaysia (LogM); Joshua Woo is a former councillor of Seberang Perai Council.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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