PAC blamed Penang Island City Council (MBPP) for failing to enforce laws on hillside development


Becoming bald: A view of the clearing work seen at Bukit Relau which was visible from the Penang Bridge in November last year.

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had faulted the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) for failing to monitor and enforce laws on hillside development in the state.

In its report on hill land development tabled on May 19, PAC said the lax monitoring not only resulted in unchecked hill clearing, but landowners were able to build houses, chalets, hotels and restaurants on Penang’s hill range.

“This situation happened because of MBPP’s failure to monitor and patrol hill land after notices were issued to landowners.

“This led to risks of soil erosion, landslides, mudslides, river sedimentation and disruptions to the surroundings,” it stated.

PAC’s report gained public attention after Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin brought it up in a dialogue session held by Penang NGOs and residents associations on flood and landslides on Sunday.

She told 200-odd members of the civil society that the report was tabled in the state assembly but never presented.

PAC stated that according to the state Audit Department, out of 31 illegal hill land clearing cases in 2015, four were in the Teluk Bahang water catchment area.

The committee, chaired by Bagan Dalam assemblyman A. Tanasekharan, visited nine of the cases on March 1.

It highlighted the Bukit Relau hill clearing case 410m above sea level and visible from Penang Bridge.

“Media reports and public comments should have been enough for MBPP and other authorities to take immediate action.

“Mitigation works on Bukit Relau have taken so long to be completed. The local authorities neither monitor the work frequently nor supply regular updates,” it added.

On illegal clearing that took place on Penang Hill, PAC expressed frustration that the actual dates and specific locations of the earthworks could not be determined because of the unsatisfactory records and monitoring.

“On Penang Hill, there was confusion on the existing agricultural plot and the new clearings.

“There are no definitions of allowable hill land agricultural works that involves digging,” it added.

PAC also objected to an earlier suggestion by the state Local Government Committee to exclude hill land earthworks related to agricultural activities from needing work permits.

Source: The Star by Arnold Loh

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Penang tables election budget for 2018: higher defict of RM740.5mil, paints rosy economic picture …



GEORGE TOWN: Penang has tabled a higher deficit state Budget of RM740.5million for the next fiscal year of 2018.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng when tabling the budget, stressed that it was an estimate and it can be reduced if the state records a higher revenue collection.

Among some of the initial highlights for the state was a free Rapid Penang bus service during peak rush hours in the mornings and evenings.

Allocations would also be given to aid the medical tourism and hi-tech manufacturing sectors.

Penang has tabled a projected budget deficit of RM748.5 million for next year, compared to a RM667 million deficit for this year as administration and living costs continue to escalate.

However, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng stressed that the state has a unique distinction of tabling projected budget deficits every year yet recording actual surpluses.

Next year’s operating expenditure is RM1.25 billion, while the forecast revenue collection is RM503.7 million.

The cost savings come principally through the open tender system and an efficient administration, Lim told the state legislative assembly today.

After some 10 years of facing various external economic challenges, Lim said the state’s gross domestic product is projected to outstrip the national average growth of 5.2% for this year.

Penang is targeting a GDP growth of 6% this year with the main contribution coming from manufacturing and services, with farming also showing signs of promise through fish farming.

GDP per capita has increased from RM33,597 in 2010 to RM47,322 in 2016, a 30% increase. Penang’s GDP per capita is the second highest in the country, behind only Kuala Lumpur.

From 2015 to the first half of 2017, Penang attracted a total of RM13.8 billion in approved Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Tourism has also grown with the number of passengers at the Penang International Airport (PIA) hitting 6.7 million passengers in 2016, exceeding the airport’s capacity of 6.5 million passengers.

The success story in the last 10 years is reflected by annual budget surpluses since 2008, with accumulated budget surpluses over the eight year period between 2008 to 2015 reaching RM578 million.

Lim also announced a range of fresh initiatives, which pundits have described as a people-friendly fiscal plan designed to endear the state government to the voters with the next general election looming near.

> There is a “I Love Penang” card, which is a smartcard for all local residents that allows access to social amenities and benefits provided by the state. The public think tank Penang Institute will be the implementing agency for it, as they have been allocated a budget of RM4.5 million to produce and distribute the smartcards.

> A free public stage bus service was mooted during the daily peak hours in the mornings and evenings – it is aimed at reducing traffic congestion. The project is dependent on the cooperation of RapidPenang.

> Penang has allocated RM60 million to jumpstart a “Pinang Sihat” medical card programme for families whose combined household income is below RM5,000, where the state will subsidise treatment at private clinics.

A medical card will be issued to each recipient, who can only spend up to RM50 per visit to a panel of private clinics who are part of the Pinang Sihat scheme.

“This will help the recipients, who fall ill to see a doctor without worrying too much about expensive charges or travelling to government clinics that are far away from their homes,” said Lim.

> The free mammogram examination scheme for women above 35 years shall continue. So far more than 10,000 women have benefited.

> The state will also be increasing the annual payouts for senior citizens and the disabled from RM100 to RM300 for next year.

> A maximum bonus payout of RM2,000 will be accorded to civil servants who have a good disciplinary record while those below par will only receive RM1,000.

> The state will also allocate RM10 million for hill slope protection efforts, as well as to conceive a study on climate change, and tackle illegal farming.

Later, there was a protest at Komtar, led by former Penang PAS Youth head Mohamed Hafiz Nordin, who urged the state government to rescind the alleged appointment of PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail as the new Penang Islamic Religious Council president, replacing Permatang Pasir assemblyman Datuk Salleh Man.

Hafiz argued that Saifuddin was not a religious scholar, therefore he was not suitable for the post. Saifuddin’s replied that holding protests is normal in a democracy.

Source:  Ian McIntyre and Imran Hilmi newsdesk@thesundaily.com

Much ado about nothing

Penang govt also gave an election budget, says MCA leader

“Public housing shortage is serious in Penang. Badminton courts and
swimming pools can be added into low and low medium-cost housing
projects. Tang Heap Seng”

WHAT is wrong with an election budget?

“Election budgets are happy and beneficial things for the rakyat,” said party secretary Tang Heap Seng.

He, however, advised Pakatan Harapan politicians not to “criticise something but did the same themselves”.

“Many Pakatan politicians criticised the Federal Budget and the Penang government did exactly the same.

“They claimed the Federal Budget will help Barisan Nasional win the general election.

“But then, the Penang government also gave an election budget,” said Tang during a press conference at the Penang MCA headquarters in Transfer Road yesterday.

Among the Budget 2018 goodies were Childcare Aid of RM300 for Working Mothers, RM300 aid for each local vocational school students and one-year waiver of business licence for about 29,000 hawkers and traders.

On the state Budget for next year, Tang said while there were many benefits, he was puzzled by the allocation of RM275mil to build 82 badminton courts and four Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“While sports are crucial to a happy society, we wonder why the state paid little attention to Penang’s urgent problems.

“Public housing shortage is serious in Penang. If the government wants to provide badminton courts and swimming pools, these could be added into low and low medium-cost housing projects,” he said.

Penang Gerakan vice-chairman Oh Tong Keong and secretary Hng Chee Wey also issued statements yesterday, expressing bewilderment at the RM275mil allocation.

In contrast, the tabled development expenditure for state Drainage and Irrigation Department is RM12.3mil.

Penang Island City Council and Seberang Prai Municipal Council will spend RM20mil on flood mitigation and for hillslope protection, RM10mil was budgeted.

Tang also said the RM53mil budgeted for the development of Islam was commendable, but wondered why only RM1.1mil would be given to Penang Hindu Endowment Board next year.

He said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng only mentioned that RM30mil was given to non-Islamic religious development since 2008 when he tabled the Budget.

He said it would be ideal to allocate RM30mil each for the development of Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Sikhism and other minor religions yearly.

In a statement as well, Penang Women’s Development Corporation applauded the RM300 yearly aid for each working mother under the age of 60 with children aged six and below through the state Budget.

Meanwhile, Lim clarified that the bonus for civil servants would come from the reserved funds of this year’s Budget.

Earlier, Pulau Betong assemblyman Datuk Dr Muhamad Farid Saad had expressed confusion, saying, “How could you give a bonus this year through a Budget for next year?”

Floods hit Bujkit Jambul & Hong Seng Estate in Penang


Wet, wet woes: (Above) Bukit Jambul is flooded once again after an evening downpour.

Firemen installing a pump to draw floodwaters from one of the affected houses on a slope in Hong Seng Estate, Mount Erskine.

GEORGE TOWN: A blocked underground drainage saw six houses located on a slope in Hong Seng Estate, Mount Erskine, flooded during an evening downpour.

Firemen and Civil Defence Force personnel had to install a water pump to draw out the rainwater which flooded some of the units to waist-level.

Rojak seller Tan Swee Hoe, 56, said she was shocked to see her kitchen and living room submerged in water at 7pm yesterday.

“I rushed home after receiving a call from a neighbour, saying my house is flooded.

“But I did not expect such a sight. I did not manage to move my furniture and electrical appliances to the upper floor, thus incurring several thousand ringgit in losses.

“I have been staying here for 17 years and this is the first time my house is flooded,” she said at her house.

Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey said 17 people from five houses were affected while the sixth house was unoccupied.

She said the Fire and Rescue Department and the Civil Defence Force personnel moved in to install a 400m pipe to pump the water out from the house manually.

“The water is channelled to a nearby river and it may take a few hours if the weather is good,” she said, adding that the district office will evaluate the losses.

Late last month, seven houses in the estate were affected by soil erosion. A consultant engineer Datuk Lim Kok Khong had said the soil erosion was due to water seeping under the ground.

Penang Gerakan secretary H’ng Chee Wey urged the state government, with the aid of the experts, to look into the cause of the problems.

“The state government needs to ensure that the existing infrastructure, including the drainage system, can cope with the demand before it approve new development projects.

“We hope the local authorities can be proactive in the matter,” he added.

Rising waters also flooded the Bukit Jambul area, reducing traffic to a crawl.

Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin said a RM400,000 flood mitigation project started last month.

“The project will create a shortcut for the floodwater to be discharged directly to Sungai Nibong river instead of passing through Jalan Tun Dr Awang,” he said, adding that the project was expected to be completed at the end of next month.

Source: The Star by chong Kah Yuan

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Call to reassess Penang hillside projects, councillor addresses full council meeting of MBPP


Council should not bow to development or political pressure, says city councilor, Khoo

 

‘Politicians should be ‘wakil rakyat’ and not ‘wakil pemaju’ – CAP legal advisor Meenakshi


A city councillor has called for the Penang Island City Council to impose a moratorium and reassess all development projects involving hill slopes in the wake of the deadly landslide on Oct 21.

THE Penang Island City Council (MBPP) has been urged to impose a moratorium on hill developments and reassess every hillside and hill slope development projects.

Khoo Salma Nasution said as a new councillor, she was surprised to learn that certain policies and guidelines were made at state level and then passed down to the council without discussion.

“As a body with the expertise and technical experience to handle physical development planning, the council should ensure its own rules are not compromised and should not bow to development pressure or political pressure just because Penang is a land-scarce state.

“The council is tasked with spearheading the city’s physical development according to the Town and Country Planning Act and the State Structure Plan 2020.

“The rules and guidelines must follow the Penang Structure Plan as well as minimum safety and environmental guidelines,” she said in her adjournment speech during the full council meeting at the City Hall yesterday.

Khoo urged the council to reaffirm all policies, processes, and guidelines to protect the hills.

“New planning rules for development projects, taking into account the public interest, environmental interest and the interest of affected stakeholders and neighbourhoods, need to be introduced as well,” she said.

Khoo said according to the State Structure Plan valid until 2020, development density was set at 15 housing units per acre (0.4ha) in a secondary corridor like Tanjung Bungah.

She said 30 units were allowed per acre in a primary corridor and 87 units per acre for transit-oriented development.

“The state government, however, has already raised the development density to 128 units per acre overall.

“When development is not planned according to the right principles, disaster is likely to happen,” she said.

MBPP mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif declined to comment as she had just received a copy of Khoo’s speech.

“I will definitely discuss the matter at the next full council meeting,” she said.

Source: The Star by N. Trisha

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This is Khoo Salma’s full address (the Malay version below) yesterday: I
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from early this year. My predecessor Dr Lim Mah Hui served with the
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Penang floods and landslides, looking beyound natural causes!


Seeking solutions: Penang Forum member and soil expert Dr Kam Suan Pheng giving her views during the dialogue session themed ‘Penang Floods: A Call for Action’ held at Teow Chew Association in Chulia Street, George Town.  (Top pic, front from right) Pulau Betong assemblyman Datuk Dr Muhammad Farid Saad, state Opposition Leader Datuk Jahara Hamid and Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin among the participants.
From left) Sim, Cheah, Dr Norlela, Jahara, Shah Headan, Lee and Yap occupying the front row at the dialogue on floods organised by Penang Forum.

Expert: Debris clogging waterways among reasons for flash floods

Some 200 people comprising mostly politicians, experts and residents gather in a dialogue session to discuss the long-standing problem plaguing Penang. Many voice their concerns that over-development in the state could be the cause of the headache.

HEAVY rainfall and high tides are natural causes of floods which cannot be avoided.

However, soil expert and scientist Dr Kam Suan Pheng said there were also other reasons that caused the constant flash floods in Penang.

She said limited capacity to channel off discharge and surface flow which led to water accumulation downstream were some of the causes that resulted in flash floods.

“These issues have been addressed in flood mitigation.

“However, we also have to tackle the causes of increasing impermeable surface areas and debris clogging up waterways, which are also the root causes of flooding problems,” said Dr Kam in her talk on ‘Understanding the Causes of Floods and Seeking Solutions’ yesterday.

Dr Kam, who is also a Penang Forum member, said having proper planning on land usage and development controls, creating more urban spaces and parks besides river bank protection were also vital in flood prevention.

“Stringent monitoring on development projects and protection of hill land and hillslopes are important.

“To do so, policy and legal instruments have to be deployed, while environmentally sensitive and ecologically friendly structural and non-structural solutions should be adopted,” she said.

Dr Kam was one of the speakers at a dialogue session themed ‘Penang Floods: A Call for Action’ held at the Teow Chew Association in Chulia Street.

<< Stringent protection of hill land and hillslopes are vital, says Dr Kam.

Joint Resident Associations of Bandar Baru Ayer Itam chairman K. Suthakar said that for the past two to three years, residents living in Bandar Baru Ayer Itam have been suffering from flash floods.

He said there were some 20 housing schemes in the township comprising 10,000 housing units with a population of 16,000.

“The residents had to face the brunt of it when the whole city was underwater on Sept 15.

“I visited the retention ponds in Lebuh Rambai and Desa Permata Bandar Baru Ayer Itam on Saturday to check whether the ponds have been deepened.

“Sadly, nothing has been done,” he said.

He asked some of the state assemblymen, who were present at the dialogue session, to raise the issue when the state assembly convenes on Thursday.

When hills are at their natural state, they will not collapse, says Aziz Noor. >>

Environmental, health and safety consultant Aziz Noor, in his talk on ‘Implications of Hillside Development’, said landslides commonly happened on hillsides or slopes that were cleared.

“When the hills are at their natural state, they will not collapse.

“But when the natural state is violated with the slopes being cut, then landslides are bound to happen.

“Whenever there is a downpour on the cut hill slopes, there would be mudslides contributing to muddy flash floods as well,” he said.

Filepic of recent flooding in Taman Thean Tek, Ayer Itam, Penang.

The dialogue session saw a packed hall of almost 200 people, comprising mostly residents and representatives of residents associations who were affected by the recent flash floods.

Several state assemblymen and politicians from both sides of the divide also turned up at the event organised by Penang Forum and Residents Association of Penang.

Among those present were Penang Barisan Nasional chairman Teng Chang Yeow, state Opposition Leader Datuk Jahara Hamid, Pulau Betong assemblyman Datuk Dr Muhammad Farid Saad, Teluk Bahang assemblyman Datuk Shah Headan Ayoob Hussain Shah, Kebun Bunga assemblyman Cheah Kah Peng, Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin, Machang Bubuk assemblyman Lee Khai Loon, Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey and Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin.

Sources: The Star by Logeiswary Thevadas

Engineer: Look out for ‘ticking time bombs’ from hill slopes

GEORGE TOWN: A geotechnical engineer has warned the authorities that steeply-cut hill slopes are “ticking time bombs” that need constant monitoring and maintenance.

Zeezy Global geotechnical and environmental consultant Aziz Noor said in view of the Tanjung Bungah landslide on Oct 21 that took the lives of 11 workers, all authorities, not only in Penang but throughout Malaysia, should keep an eye on all steep slopes as disaster might strike at any time.

He said although a hill slope might appear fine from the outside, it could be on the brink of collapse due to water pressure and vibrations from the surrounding environment.

“Most of these slopes are clay mixed with sand. Clay has an affinity ( to stick together). At particle level, they can hold up.

“When water comes down steep slopes they break the affinity of these particles. And yet they still hold up but it just speeds up the time of the collapse.

“That is why they do not fall right away. They are a time bomb, a disaster waiting to happen,” he said at a talk hosted by Penang Forum today.

Aziz, an American-trained environmental and geotechnical expert, was manager of an independent consultant engineering firm investigating the aftermath of the Highland Towers collapse in Ulu Kelang, Selangor, in 1993, in which 48 people were killed.

He said hills cut beyond their “natural angle” were the ones to watch out for.

“A hill slope that is cut beyond its natural stable angle is not a stable slope. Such slopes are at high risk of failure and can end up in landslides.

“When you have bare slopes like that, the portion of runoff is large; the steeper the slope, the faster the ‘teh tarik’ (mud slide) comes down.

“Basically, when the water runs off faster, the more erosion it causes, and the faster it will go down to lower-lying areas and cause flash floods with silt,” he said.

Aziz said to prevent such disasters from happening, engineers ought to cut hills at a more natural angle and ensure drain holes are built into them.

He said drain holes would release the “water stress” that might be building up beneath the slopes.

Aziz stressed that these measures were not one-off solutions and required constant monitoring from all parties.

“Ordinary folk might think, okay, looks like a nice concrete wall. But you do not know what is going on underneath, and hence, you need to maintain the hillslopes from time to time.

“That is why you see the slopes on our PLUS highway are constantly being maintained. It is something you do not mess around with,” he said.

Aziz said many construction sites cut corners by placing plastic sheets on cut hillslopes, which would not help much in preventing landslides.

“This is akin to putting a band-aid on a very sick person,” he said.

On the Tanjung Bungah landslide, Aziz said the state authorities must beef up their monitoring teams and place them on full patrol at all sites in the state.

“We need all the ‘jabatan’ (departments) to wake up and not sleep behind the wheel. Present-day laws are adequate to enforce and punish those who flout the law.”

Sources: Free Malaysia Today

Penangites upset with DAP reps for skipping dialogue

Front row, from right) Penang Barisan Nasional chairman Teng Chang Yeow, Pulau Betong representative Muhammad Farid Saad and state opposition leader Jahara Hamid at the Penang Forum dialogue on flood woes and hill site developments. – The Malaysian Insight pic, October 29, 2017.
RESIDENTS associations in Penang today were upset that most of their elected representatives skipped a dialogue on flood woes and hill site developments, as local civil society groups continue to push for a moratorium on hill projects.
Penang Forum, a coalition of local civil society groups, had invited the state’s elected reps, but fewer than 10 turned up at the dialogue that drew about 200 people to the Teochew Association in George Town.
The assemblymen seen among the crowd were state opposition leader Jahara Hamid (Teluk Air Tawar), Muhammad Farid Saad (Pulau Betong) and Shah Headan Ayoob Hussain Shah (Teluk Bahang) from Barisan Nasional (BN); and Cheah Kah Peng (Kebun Bunga), Dr Norlela Ariffin (Penanti) and Lee Khai Loon (Machang Bubok) from PKR.
Pulau Tikus rep Yap Soo Huey was the sole DAP assemblyman present while the only MP at the dialogue was PKR’s Sim Tze Tzin of Bayan Baru. The only other DAP member present was Penang Island City councillor Syerleena Abdul Razak.
Also present were Penang BN chairman Teng Chang Yeow, several Gerakan leaders, and Penang Front Party’s Patrick Ooi, who has been critical of the Penang government in the past.
Jahara said the BN reps in the Penang legislative assembly would table a motion to call for all hill land and slope projects to be halted.
“We are not here to point fingers, but fingers have to be pointed at the authorities,” she said.
Norlela, one of the most vocal PKR reps on local developmental issues, said she hoped Pakatan Harapan and BN could set aside their differences to solve flood woes and developmental issues in the state.
Norlela was one of five PKR government backbenchers who abstained from voting to reject a BN motion on land reclamation during the state legislative assembly in November 2015.
DAP holds the most seats in the Penang legislative assembly with 19 out of 40. PKR has 10 while PAS has one seat. BN’s Umno holds the remaining 10.
In a press conference last week after a landslide in Tanjung Bungah killed 11 construction workers, some residents association reps warned the state government that it could lose votes if it continued to allow hill site developments and ignored the people’s objections.
At the dialogue today, the joint residents association rep for Bandar Baru Ayer Itam, K. Suthakar, took a dig at the elected officials when speaking about flood woes in his area. He said Lebuhraya Thean Teik had “turned into a river” when a bad flood hit last month, causing residents to miss work and school.
“Why do they become elected reps? Because they want to serve the people, to solve their problems. But after the election, you don’t see them for three or four years. People are crying for help but you have no time to come,” he said.
Tanjung Bungah Residents Association chairman Meenakshi Raman also said she had expected more than 10 elected reps to attend the dialogue.
“We are disappointed that not many could attend. We had hoped to see more DAP reps,” she said.
It was learned that DAP had an internal party programme at the same time this morning on mainland Penang in preparation for the party’s special congress on Nov 12 to re-elect its central leadership committee.
Meenakshi said the residents association and other civil groups, which recently criticised the state government over hill site developments and flash flood incidents in Penang, were still willing to engage the powers that be in dialogue.
This was despite the association not getting replies to letters it recently sent out to all Penang assemblymen and MPs on its demands to solve flash flood problems.
“We are ordinary people. We have nothing against them, but some (leaders) have accused us of being arrogant. Elected reps must be accountable. There is nothing wrong with the people asking the state government and their YBs (assemblymen) what they are doing,” she told The Malaysian Insight after the dialogue.

Climate change
Meanwhile, Dr Kam Suan Pheng, an expert in geographical information systems, told the dialogue session that floods in Penang were caused by both weather conditions and human activities, adding that the situation would worsen with climate change.
“Since 2003, the emerging trend for rainfall is increasing. Flash floods will be more frequent, happening at lower rainfall thresholds.
“With climate change, we can expect heavier and more intense rainfall,” she said, adding that Penang’s urban drainage was not well planned enough to prevent floods.
Kam said the authorities must tackle the root causes with proper land use planning and development control, stringent protection of hills and river banks, strict monitoring of development projects, and by increasing the number of urban parks.
She said the authorities must also look beyond the environmental, drainage, transportation and social impacts of individual projects, use existing laws and policies and adopt eco-friendly solutions.
Aziz Noor – a consultant with more than 30 years’ experience in areas of environment, health and safety in Malaysia and overseas – said Penang should take the recent Lembah Permai landslide as a wake-up call.
“Legislative controls are more than adequate but compliance is sporadic. Enforcement has been weak,” said Aziz, who is managing director of Penang-based consulting firm Zeezy Global.
Another speaker at the dialogue, lawyer Agatha Foo, said legally, the state should stop development on ecologically-sensitive land over 76m above sea level and on slopes over 25 degrees gradient using existing laws and guidelines.
She also said the authorities could impose strict enforcement, and seek a jail sentence for company directors whose firms violate the law as a more effective deterrent than fines. – October 29, 2017.

 

Looi Sue-ChernSource: The Malaysian Insight by   
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The day the earth moved – Analysis

Penang’s ‘balding’ Bukit Relau under the spotlight

Group: Stop approving hill slope projects – Metro News

Forum gets tepid response from reps – Nation

Project’s final approval came from Penang authorities – Nation

Penang DAP: We respect Teh’s decision to quit party – Nation

Tanjung Bungah rep wants to quit DAP – Nation

 

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Front row, from right) Penang Barisan Nasional chairman Teng Chang Yeow, Pulau Betong representative Muhammad Farid Saad and state opposition leader Jahara Hamid at the Penang Forum dialogue on flood woes and hill site developments. – The Malaysian Insight pic, October 29, 2017.

RESIDENTS associations in Penang today were upset that most of their elected representatives skipped a dialogue on flood woes and hill site developments, as local civil society groups continue to push for a moratorium on hill projects.

Penang Forum, a coalition of local civil society groups, had invited the state’s elected reps, but fewer than 10 turned up at the dialogue that drew about 200 people to the Teochew Association in George Town.

The assemblymen seen among the crowd were state opposition leader Jahara Hamid (Teluk Air Tawar), Muhammad Farid Saad (Pulau Betong) and Shah Headan Ayoob Hussain Shah (Teluk Bahang) from Barisan Nasional (BN); and Cheah Kah Peng (Kebun Bunga), Dr Norlela Ariffin (Penanti) and Lee Khai Loon (Machang Bubok) from PKR.

Pulau Tikus rep Yap Soo Huey was the sole DAP assemblyman present while the only MP at the dialogue was PKR’s Sim Tze Tzin of Bayan Baru. The only other DAP member present was Penang Island City councillor Syerleena Abdul Razak.

Also present were Penang BN chairman Teng Chang Yeow, several Gerakan leaders, and Penang Front Party’s Patrick Ooi, who has been critical of the Penang government in the past.

Jahara said the BN reps in the Penang legislative assembly would table a motion to call for all hill land and slope projects to be halted.

“We are not here to point fingers, but fingers have to be pointed at the authorities,” she said.

Norlela, one of the most vocal PKR reps on local developmental issues, said she hoped Pakatan Harapan and BN could set aside their differences to solve flood woes and developmental issues in the state.

Norlela was one of five PKR government backbenchers who abstained from voting to reject a BN motion on land reclamation during the state legislative assembly in November 2015.

DAP holds the most seats in the Penang legislative assembly with 19 out of 40. PKR has 10 while PAS has one seat. BN’s Umno holds the remaining 10.

In a press conference last week after a landslide in Tanjung Bungah killed 11 construction workers, some residents association reps warned the state government that it could lose votes if it continued to allow hill site developments and ignored the people’s objections.

At the dialogue today, the joint residents association rep for Bandar Baru Ayer Itam, K. Suthakar, took a dig at the elected officials when speaking about flood woes in his area. He said Lebuhraya Thean Teik had “turned into a river” when a bad flood hit last month, causing residents to miss work and school.

“Why do they become elected reps? Because they want to serve the people, to solve their problems. But after the election, you don’t see them for three or four years. People are crying for help but you have no time to come,” he said.

Tanjung Bungah Residents Association chairman Meenakshi Raman also said she had expected more than 10 elected reps to attend the dialogue.

“We are disappointed that not many could attend. We had hoped to see more DAP reps,” she said.

It was learned that DAP had an internal party programme at the same time this morning on mainland Penang in preparation for the party’s special congress on Nov 12 to re-elect its central leadership committee.

Meenakshi said the residents association and other civil groups, which recently criticised the state government over hill site developments and flash flood incidents in Penang, were still willing to engage the powers that be in dialogue.

This was despite the association not getting replies to letters it recently sent out to all Penang assemblymen and MPs on its demands to solve flash flood problems.

“We are ordinary people. We have nothing against them, but some (leaders) have accused us of being arrogant. Elected reps must be accountable. There is nothing wrong with the people asking the state government and their YBs (assemblymen) what they are doing,” she told The Malaysian Insight after the dialogue.

Climate change

Meanwhile, Dr Kam Suan Pheng, an expert in geographical information systems, told the dialogue session that floods in Penang were caused by both weather conditions and human activities, adding that the situation would worsen with climate change.

“Since 2003, the emerging trend for rainfall is increasing. Flash floods will be more frequent, happening at lower rainfall thresholds.

“With climate change, we can expect heavier and more intense rainfall,” she said, adding that Penang’s urban drainage was not well planned enough to prevent floods.

Kam said the authorities must tackle the root causes with proper land use planning and development control, stringent protection of hills and river banks, strict monitoring of development projects, and by increasing the number of urban parks.

She said the authorities must also look beyond the environmental, drainage, transportation and social impacts of individual projects, use existing laws and policies and adopt eco-friendly solutions.

Aziz Noor – a consultant with more than 30 years’ experience in areas of environment, health and safety in Malaysia and overseas – said Penang should take the recent Lembah Permai landslide as a wake-up call.

“Legislative controls are more than adequate but compliance is sporadic. Enforcement has been weak,” said Aziz, who is managing director of Penang-based consulting firm Zeezy Global.

Another speaker at the dialogue, lawyer Agatha Foo, said legally, the state should stop development on ecologically-sensitive land over 76m above sea level and on slopes over 25 degrees gradient using existing laws and guidelines.

She also said the authorities could impose strict enforcement, and seek a jail sentence for company directors whose firms violate the law as a more effective deterrent than fines. – October 29, 2017.

 

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Malaysia’s Budget 2018 Highlights


KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Razak has tabled the RM280 billion Budget for 2018, his last before the next general election which must be called by middle of next year.

Below are Salient points of the budget from Dewan Rakyat.

Civil Servants

• 1.6 million civil servants to receive the following benefits:

– second round time-based promotions

– senior servants who retire due to health reasons will be accorded the same benefits as those who undergo mandatory retirement

– special leave for teachers increased to 10 days a year, up from seven

– seven days unrecorded leave for umrah pilgrimage

– women at least five months pregnant allowed to leave work an hour earlier while husbands accorded the same privilege if their work locations are in close proximity to each other

– maternity leave increased from 300 to 360 days throughout service with a maximum of 90 days a year

– RM1,000 set for minimum pension amount

Senior Citizens, Disabled, Children

• RM1.7 billion for the following areas:

– RM603 million to increase allowance of senior citizens from RM50 to RM350

– RM100 million to increase allowance for the disabled by RM50 a month

Digital Free Trade Zone

• RM83.5 million allocated for DFTZ in Aeropolis, KLIA.

• Increase minimum value for imports from RM500 – RM800.

Sustainable Development

• RM5 billion allocated under Green Technology Funding Scheme.

• RM1.4 billion to reduce non-revenue water programme.

• RM1.3 billion to build Off-River Storage as an alternative water source.

• RM517 million for flood mitigation plans nationwide.

Reduction in Income Tax Rates

• Reduction in individual income tax rates:

– RM20,001 – RM35,000: 5% to 3%

– RM35,001 – RM50,000: 10% to 8%

– RM50,001 – RM70,000: 16% to 14%

• Increase disposable income between RM300-RM1,000 while 261,000 do not have to pay tax

Foreign Domestic Helpers

• Allow employers to hire foreign domestic helpers directly without agent.

GST

• No change to Goods and Services Tax but government to propose either exemption or zerorising certain items and services.

– local councils

– reading materials

– cruise operators

– construction of schools and places of worship funded by approved donations

– oil and gas equipment imports under lease agreement

– import of big ticket items like planes and ships

– management and maintenance of homes with strata titles

Health

• RM27 billion for better quality health services.

• RM4.1 billion for medical supplies and consumables.

• RM1.4 billion to upgrade and maintain health facilities, equipment, ambulances and construction of operation theatres in three hospitals.

• RM100 million to upgrade hospitals and clinics.

• RM50 million to subsidise hemodialysis treatment; and RM40 million for medical assistance fund.

• RM10 million for treatment of rare diseases; RM30 million for health community programmes.

• RM50 million for voluntary health insurance scheme.

Housing

• RM2.2 billion allocated to boost home ownership.

BR1M

• 7 million benefited from RM6.8 billion in BR1M payouts and in 2018 the 7 million will continue to receive the same payout.

Orang Asli Benefits

• RM50 million for Orang Asli for economic development and quality of life enhancement.

• RM60 million for Orang Asli village development.

Indian and Chinese Benefits

• RM50 million for Chinese SME loans through KOJADI.

• RM30 million to be channelled to the 1Malaysia Hawkers and Petty Traders Foundation.

• RM65 million allocated for Chinese New Villages and RM10 million for house restoration.

• RM1.5 billion additional Amanah Saham units for Indians.

• Increase the intake of Indians to IPTA and public service (7%)

Bumiputera Benefits

• RM2.4 billion allocated to UiTM.

• RM3.5 billion for the following initiatives:

– RM2.5 billion for MARA higher education and training scholarships

– RM90 million for Program Peneraju Profesional, Skil dan Tunas

– RM200 million for MARA Graduate Employability Training Scheme or GETS

– RM555 million for Bumiputera Entrepreneurship Enhancement Programme (RM200 million for PUNB Entrepreneurship Programme and Business Premises; RM200 million for MARA Entrepreneurship; RM115 million for Vendor Capacity Programmes).

• RM150 million for Pelaburan Hartanah Berhad and RM150 million to EKUINAS.

Defence

• A total of RM14 billion for armed forces; RM9 billion for police force, RM900 million for Malaysian maritime.

• RM3 billion for purchase and maintenance of defence assets; RM720 million for the construction of 11 police headquarters and six police stations.

• RM490 million to MMEA for repair and maintenance of ships, boats, jetties and procurement of three patrol vessels.

• RM250 million to ESSCOM

• RM50 million to enhance weapon capability to combat terrorism.

• Government to build 40,000 houses in phases for families of armed forces personnel.

• RM40 million to upgrade five hospitals; build four polyclinics and one hospital for veteran armed forces personnel.

Rural Development

• RM200 million allocated for Felda for water supply and road upgrades.

• 112,ooo settlers will each receive windfall worth RM5,000.

• RM43 million allocation for Felda settlers and RM60 million for replanting of oil palm, RM164 million allocation to build 5,000 houses for second generation Felda settlers.

• RM1.1 billion for people-centric projects; RM1 billion to develop communication infrastructure; RM934 million for rural projects; RM672 million for electricity supply; RM420 million for clean water supply inclusive of RM300 million in Sabah and Sarawak covering 3,000 homes; RM500 million for public infrastructure maintenance; RM50 million for mapping and measuring of native customary land

– RM30 million for Sarawak, RM20 million for Sabah.

• RM6.5 billion for rural infrastructure which includes RM2 billion for the Pan Borneo Highway.

Education

• RM4.9 million allocated for 100 scholarships for TVET students.

• RM4.9 billion allocated for Technical and Vocational, Education and Training (TVET).

• RM200 million added to PTPTN fund for B40 families.

• Discount for repayment of PTPTN loans is extended to Dec 31, 2018 (20% for full repayment, 10% for 50% repayment, and 10% for direct debit salary deduction).

• RM100 for 3.2 million schoolchildren totalling RM328 million.

• RM2.9 billion for food aid, text books and minor federal scholarships.

• RM2.5 billion for maintenance of schools – RM500 million in Peninsula, RM1 billion in Sabah, RM1 billion in Sarawak, in addition to an existing special fund for maintenance.

• RM654 million for construction of four pre-schools; nine Permata schools; two centres for children with autism; 48 primary, secondary as well as vocational and matriculation centres.

• RM61.6 billion for development of education.

TN50

• RM20 million for Bukit Jalil sports school.

• RM112 million to construct 14 new sports complexes nationwide.

• RM1 billion to conduct sports initiatives to make country a sports powerhouse.

• RM50 million to fund social enterprise and NGOs to solve communities issues.

• RM40 million for open interview programme under the 1Malaysia training scheme (SL1M).

• All undergraduates and those in Form Six will continue to receive book vouchers.

• RM90 million for MyBrain programme for 10,600 students to further their studies at post-graduate level.

• RM400 million for research and development grants to public institutions of higher learning with a special allocation to Universiti Malaya to achieve status of Top 100 universities in the world.

• RM2.2 billion for JPA scholarships, the ministry of higher education and ministry of health.

• RM20 million for setting up of a Cultural Economy Development agency.

• RM190 million to upgrade 2,000 classes to become smart learning classrooms.

• To enhance present computer science module to include coding programme in primary and secondary school curriculums.

• RM250 million to build science, technology, engineering and mathematics centre.

• Special fund set up for children born between Jan 2018 to Jan 2022.

• Tax relief for employers who employ the disabled that include those involved in accidents and have critical illnesses.

• Local councils to make it mandatory for all new buildings to have childcare facilities, beginning in Kuala Lumpur.

Public Transport

• Government studying proposal for a new airport in Pulau Tioman.

• Government to build new airport for Mukah and expand airport for Kota Bahru and Sandakan.

• Government to upgrade Penang and Langkawi international airports.

• RM55 million transport subsidy for rural rail services from Tumpat to Gua Musang.

• RM45 million to create a biometric control system to monitor the movement of express bus services.

• RM95 million for the repair and construction of jetties as well as river mouth dredging.

• RM1 billion for public transport fund for start-up capital and procurement of assets like buses and taxis.

• RM3 billion for transport development fund for the purchase of maritime assets, aerospace technology development and rail.

Infrastructure

• Special border economic zone in Bukit Kayu Hitam to be developed.

• Pulau Pangkor to be declared a duty-free zone.

• RM230 million to continue central spine road project from Raub to Bentong.

• RM5 billion for the west coast coastal highway from Banting to Taiping.

• Government to expedite MRT3 project by two years from 2027 to 2025.

• RM32 billion for MRT2 project (Sg Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya).

• RM110 million to provide alternative road to Port Klang.

Tourism

• RM30 million to be allocated to the Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council to boost medical tourism.

• RM500 million for the promotion and development of tourism.

• RM1 billion to tourism infrastructure development fund.

• RM2 billion fund for SMEs in tourism.

Agriculture

• RM200 monthly for a duration of 3 months for padi farmers while waiting to harvest their crops, which amounts to RM150 million.

• RM200 million for rubber replanting, RM140 million for development, re-planting and promotion of oil palm.

• Almost RM500 million to improve agriculture infrastructure.

• RM2.3 billion in incentives and assistance for the agriculture community.

• RM6.5 billion allocated to the smallholders, farming and fishing communities.

Other Highlights

• RM100 million with a 70% government-guaranteed loan for the furniture export industry.

• RM200 million allocated for training programmes, grants and SME easy loans under SME Corp; and close to RM82 million for halal products and industry development.

• RM2 billion set aside for 70% government-guaranteed loans.

• RM5 billion allocated for start-up capital for businesses.

• RM7 billion allocated to Skim Jaminan Pembiayaan Perniagaan.

• SMEs expected to contribute 41% of GDP by 2020.

• Private sector investment is expected to reach RM260 billion by 2018 and will be the engine of growth.

• Total investments in the country is expected to increase by 6.7% contributing to 25.5% to the GDP for 2018.

• RM26.34 billion for economic sector; RM11.72 billion for the social sector; RM5.22 billion for the security sector; RM2.72 billion for general administration sector.

• Administration budget is RM119.82 billion; other expenditure is RM1.08 billion; asset procurement is RM577 million.

• For 2018, federal government is expected to collect RM239.86 billion in revenue.

• Allocation for Budget 2018 is RM280.25 billion, an increase of over RM20 billion.

• B40 household income has increased to RM3,000 per month from RM2,629 for the period 2014-2016.

• Monthly median income has increased from RM4,585 in 2014 to RM5,288 in 2016.

• Current per capita income stands at RM40,713, expected to reach RM42,777 by 2018.

• Our international reserves now stand at US$101.4 billion.

• In August, exports hit a high of RM80 billion, recording double-digit growth.

• 69% or 2.26 million new jobs created so far from the target 3.3 million to be created by 2020.

• 3 international credit rating agencies have reaffirmed our A-rating with stable prospects.

• Looking at 2009, our fiscal deficit was at 6.7% of the GDP and is expected to decrease to 3% in 2017 and 2.8% in 2018.

• Actual private investment for 2016 is over RM211 billion.

• Government projection growth of between 5.2% to 5.7% for 2017, higher than the projection in March of between 4.3% and 4.8%.

• Projected GDP increase from 4.9% to 5.2% for 2017.

• The country has had a growth rate of 5.7% in the first half of 2017.

Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Penang floods, support pours in for dialogue


(From left) Dr Kam will deliver a talk on ‘Understanding the Causes of Floods and Seeking Solutions. State assemblymen expressing interest in attending are Dr Norlela, Cheah, Muhamad Farid, Ooi and Shah Headan.

School students and the public wading through floodwaters in Jalan Trengganu
The evacuation of stranded residents using a boat in Taman Thean Tek during the Sept 15 floods.
Filepix of cars getting stalled on flooded Jalan Ayer Itam

MORE than 10 elected representatives from Pakatan Rakyat and Barisan Nasional have so far confirmed their attendance at the dialogue session ‘Penang Floods: A Call for Action’ to discuss floods at the Teow Chew Association in Chulia Street on Sunday from 10am till noon.

Kebun Bunga assemblyman Cheah Kah Peng from PKR said the briefing was a good initiative to gather feedback from the people.

“As people’s representatives, we should always have a positive mind dtowards discussions, whether it is positive or negative.

“Dialectics process is necessary to get to the bottom of a problem,” he said yesterday.

Penanti assemblyman Dr Norlela Ariffin, also from PKR, believes the dialogue session would be a great resource for her to learn more about what was happening on the island.

“I have always been concerned about the flooding woes in my constituency and other parts on the mainland.

“I want to know more about flooding on the island too,” she said.

Dr Norlela said the input from the session would be useful for help to raise questions in the state assembly sitting from Nov 2.

Teluk Bahang assemblyman Datuk Shah Headan Ayoob Hussain Shah from Barisan Nasional said the session would be a good platform for the people and affected flood victims to raise their concerns.

“Our priority is to help the rakyat (people) and we will come in support of them,” he said.

Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu, from the DAP, said he would send two of his representatives to the session.

“I will raise flood issues during the assembly sitting. I have done this many times before,” he said.

Pulau Betong assemblyman Muhammad Farid Saad said he would be attending a function in his constituency. However, he said he would try to attend the dialogue “even though I may be late.”

Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi said he would be attending an event to foster unity between Muslims and non-Muslims at Jamek Mosque in his constituency at the same time.

“I will be late if the event at the mosque starts late,” he said.

The dialogue will be moderated by Penang Forum steering committee member Ahmad Chik.

Forum member Dr Kam Suan Pheng, a soil expert and scientist, will deliver a talk on ‘Understand-ing the Causes of Floods and Seeking Solutions’.

Lawyer Datuk Agatha Foo will talk on ‘Laws and Guidelines Relating to Hill Land and Hill Slope Development’.

Consumers Association of Penang legal adviser Meenakshi Raman will touch on the ‘Demands of Residents’ Associations of Penang’ and it will be followed by the dialogue session.

Meenakshi, who is Tanjung Bungah Residents Association chairman, urged resident associations and management corporations to attend the event.

She said 24 resident associations, management corporations and residents groups had joined the Residents’ Associations of Penang which was formed last year.

“We hope more will sign up. More members means more strength in handling issues affecting the community,” she said.

For details on the dialogue, email penangforumm@gmail.com or call 04-8299511 (Jaspal).

Source: The Star by Logeiswary Thevadass

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