WHEN he first started his political journey in 1986, never would he have imagined that he would be the Penang Chief Minister one day.
“I am a quiet and a low-profile character. However, as the Chief Minister of Penang, I must be at the forefront of decision-making.
“In politics, you have to rise up to the occasion when the call for duty comes,” he said in a radio interview on BFM 89.9 The Business Radio Station today.
Leaving a legacy
Chow said that he learned a lot from his comrade Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
“Lim left a great impact on Penang for the past 10 years, and I am happy to continue this journey with him in the Federal Government, while I do what is best for Penang,” he said.
Speaking of legacy, Chow said he does not want to be remembered for (building) ‘mammoth buildings’.
“I would like to leave behind a better-connected Penang; in terms of transport infrastructure and to provide a more livable Penang.”
Elaborating further, he hoped to improve the rakyat’s quality of life and to make available good and quality jobs.
“I launched the ‘Penang2030: A Family-focused, Green and Smart State that Inspires the Nation’ action plan to achieve what I have just said.
“We will be launching a booklet (on the Penang2030) in May, but the details are not something that are cast in stone,” he said.
He said that the programmes or projects could be reviewed according to its viability.
“New programmes or projects can also be included from time to time to encourage a vibrant development in Penang,” he said.
PTMP – the long-term transport master plan
Chow said that the state was still waiting for the relevant approvals for the projects under the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).
“The final cost of the entire PTMP project has not been finalised and cannot be determined at this juncture; unless we obtain the approvals or conditional approvals needed and are able to move forward to get the actual costs when we tender out the work components.
“We are still waiting for the railway scheme approval for the LRT project, on top of the Environmental Impact Assessment, and Social Impact Assessment studies which we have to comply. We hope that the Transport Minister will at least give us a conditional approval.
“We just need the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval for the Pan Island Link 1 project. The Department of Environment (DoE) technical committee had their last meeting with the representative of the state government last week and I feel that a decision is forthcoming very soon.
“With regard to the Penang South Reclamation project, we need to present the project to the National Physical Planning Council, which is scheduled to meet on April 16. The meeting will be chaired by the Prime Minister. Probably, the proposal will be tabled and a decision can be made.
“This is aside from obtaining the EIA approval for the project,” Chow said.
He also spoke on the RM6.3 billion three major roads and Penang Undersea Tunnel project.
Chow said that the Penang Undersea Tunnel ‘northern link’ is still a feasible link.
“It is the shortest connection between the Penang island and the mainland, serving the northern region.
“We are still waiting for the completion of the tunnel’s feasibility study before we proceed with the EIA submission. Since the feasibility study for the tunnel has not completed, we can’t proceed with the final design.
“Feasibility study for the three major roads has completed. The project delivery partner is now working on the final design for the Package Two of the major roads project, before the work agreement can be signed between the state and the company (Consortium Zenith Construction).
“If this can be done, Phase Two can begin in August.
“The final design for the Tanjung Bungah-Teluk Bahang major road project is currently in progress. However, the Penang government has asked the consortium to put on hold the final design for the Pangkor Road-Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway major road project,” Chow added.
Chow said that these transport plans are to prepare Penang beyond 2050.
“If we do not set the corridor for roads now, it will be quite impossible for Penang to build roads in the future when lands are released for development. (The entire transport master plan) must be looked from a long-term perspective,” he said.
Penang stays competitive
Chow said that Penang managed to attract many large companies to invest in the state despite not being able to offer them free or cheap lands.
“The companies are willing to invest in Penang because of our ecosystem.
“We have to accept the fact that Penang is a small state. We have land constraints and have to be on ‘acquisition spree’ to meet future demands.
“We are running out of industrial land to meet the demands from the industry. The state is still enjoying good Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow.
“We have the ecosystem, the talent pool, and the infrastructure. We want to provide the best service to our investors,” he said.
Chow said that the state government also focused on promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education among the students.
“We also have the Penang Future Foundation Scholarship to encourage students to pursue higher education and retaining talents in Penang.
Diversification of the tourism sector
Penang is focusing on arts, heritage and culture, Chow said.
“We want to diversify our tourism products to attract high-value tourists to Penang.
“We are looking into promoting arts, culture and heritage. We are also planning to boost MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) events in the state.
“Our Swettenham Pier Cruise Terminal (SPCT) will be undergoing an expansion, and I believe it will contribute to the growth of the state’s tourism sector.
“The cruise terminal is strategically located in the city and the George Town World Heritage Site.
“We are also giving equal emphasis to Seberang Perai. The state government and Penang Development Corporation (PDC) are putting in efforts to grow Batu Kawan and the surrounding areas as the new growth centres for Penang.
“We also collaborate with Think City to rejuvenate old towns in Butterworth,” he added.
Story by Christopher Tan