Big Changes For Penang
The second day of the launch of the NCER has brought the Prime Minister back to Penang. His unveiling of a slew of projects during the event has brought new excitement to the state.
THERE is little doubt that Penang is about to be transformed, thanks to the projects lined up under the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) initiative.
But when the Prime Minister arrived for the launch of the NCER, a number of those present noted the somewhat “transformed look” about Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi himself.
Abdullah was sporting a pair of rimless glasses and was much slimmer.
And it was no illusion. Abdullah has shed 9kg over the last couple of months and looks fitter and more energetic.
Some attributed it to the homely influence of Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah, who was a picture of understated elegance in her printed beige baju kurung featuring a mandarin collar and cream coloured shawl.
His aides say he has been keeping a healthy diet and exercising and planned to continue with his health regime.
But looks and transformation aside, there was definitely a sense of homecoming for the Prime Minister during the launch.
First, Penang is his home state. Second, the genesis of the NCER is said to have begun somewhere up in the air over Seberang Prai.
During the great flood of 2003, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had surveyed the flood-damaged area from a helicopter. He was very affected by the destruction and told people how water does not respect state boundaries. It is likely that the seed of the NCER was sown then.
There was also little doubt in the minds of many of those present that the Penang sector, especially, is as much a political project as an economic plan.
Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, who speaks fluent Malay, amused many by the way he buttered up the Prime Minister in his speech. But most of all, they noted that parts of his speech could easily be used again during the general election.
This is the best thing to happen to Penang in decades and Koh was very upbeat, describing the projects as “a gift” from the Prime Minister.
The projects lined up for Penang are among the more concrete and visually impressive parts of the NCER proposals. 
There is the second Penang Bridge, the monorail and new bus system, an urban centre scheme for Butterworth and the ambitious Penang Global City Centre project.
Expansion plans are also afoot for the airport and port in line with Penang’s logistic hub status.
The exhibition booth at the launch site had a fabulous model of the second bridge, snaking over the channel and lit up by little lights.
The model of Penang Sentral looked like something that will transform the face of Butterworth and there was even a futuristic video clip of a rainforest resort proposal for Pulau Jerejak.
Has Penang got the juiciest wedge of the NCER pie?
Not really, said those behind the master plan.
The plan builds on the existing assets of the region and Penang, already a trading and tourism centre, was the natural choice to build on as a logistic hub.
Abdullah has also urged Dr Koh and the three Mentris Besar to think as one rather than in terms of individual state interests.
“The PM has no particular bias towards his home state. He is as excited about the Northern Corridor as he is about the Eastern Corridor and the Iskandar Development Region. All three corridors will be his legacy for the country,” said Finance Minister II Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcob.
Incidentally, Nor Mohamed was born in Butterworth, not far from where the launch was taking place.
It was also a homecoming of sorts for Equine Capital Bhd executive chairman Datuk Patrick Lim whose company is set to develop the Penang Global City Centre project in the area where the Penang Turf Club is now located.
Besides, Lim’s father was a veterinarian and chief steward at the turf club and his mother was a horse trainer.
The Penang-born Lim – Penangites would appreciate that he used to live in Macalister Road opposite the famous Sisters char kueh teow – is planning an ambitious and iconic project encompassing residences, health care, cultural and business centre as well as a metropolitan park.
“We want it to be a world-class showcase of what Penang is about. It is a matter of pride for Penangites to tell people where we are from and I see that happening again with all these plans taking place,” Lim said.
Some of the projects will be seen three or four years down the road. Others will take longer.
“I am confident it will work out given our human capital and infrastructure base,” said Deputy Information Minister Datuk Seri Chia Kwang Chye.
He said Penang’s history of survival against the odds would work in its favour again.
And Penang being Penang, some call it the nasi kandar culture – that is to do something really well and be famous everywhere for it.
Source :The Star 01/08/2007 Close Window