FOCUS On POVERTY alleviation, not income creation for billionaires–Mahathir’s outdated policy prescriptions


January 16, 2019

FOCUS On POVERTY alleviation, not billionaires —Mahathir’s outdated policy prescriptions

by P. Gunasegaram

Image result for the malaysian maverick by barry wain

QUESTION TIME | When Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad sank low to say that wealth should be distributed equally among races, he indicated plainly that he has no solid plan to increase incomes and alleviate poverty for all Malays and Malaysians. His priorities are elsewhere.

Note that he talks about the distribution of wealth, not increasing incomes, which is more important because this is what will eventually result in a proper redistribution of wealth by valuing fairly everyone’s contribution  to wealth creation.

During his time as Prime Minister previously for a very long 22 years from 1981 to 2003 out of 46 years of independence at that time – nearly half the period of independence – he had plenty of opportunities, but squandered them.

He did not care for the common Malay, but was instead more focused on creating Malay billionaires overnight through the awarding of lucrative operations handled by the government or government companies previously, such as roads, power producers, telecommunications and others.

He depressed labour wages by bringing in millions of workers from Indonesia, and subsequently Bangladesh and the Philippines, to alter the religious balance in Sabah. A significant number of them became Malaysian citizens over the years, altering the overall racial and religious balance in the country.

By doing that he let his own race down, many of whom were workers and small entrepreneurs whose incomes were constrained by imported labour. Even now, Mahathir has not shown a great willingness to increase minimum wages, which will help many poor Malays and bumiputeras increase their incomes.

As Mahathir himself well knows, distribution is not an easy thing. Stakes held by others cannot be simply distributed, but they have to be sold, even if it is at depressed prices as it was under the New Economic Policy or NEP, when companies wanted to get listed.

Instant millionaires

There are not enough Malays rich enough to buy these stakes, but many of them in the Mahathir era and earlier, especially the connected elite, became rich by purchasing the 30 percent stakes for bumiputeras that had to be divested upon listing by taking bank loans.

By simply flipping the stakes on the market at a higher price after they were listed, they pocketed the difference and became instant millionaires.

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It was Mahathir’s brother-in-law – the straight, honest and capable Ismail Ali – who was the architect behind the setting up of Permodalan Nasional Bhd or PNB to hold in trust for bumiputera stakes in major companies. PNB now has funds of some RM280 billion and has been enormously successful in this respect.

But Mahathir, with advice from Daim Zainuddin who became his Finance Minister, still cultivated selected bumiputera leaders, many of them Daim’s cronies, and gave them plum deals. A slew of them who were terribly over-leveraged got into trouble during the 1997-1998 financial crisis.

The government, often through Khazanah Nasional Bhd, had to rescue some of the biggest ones, resulting in Khazanah holding key stakes in many companies such as Axiata, CIMB, PLUS and so on. Recently, the government has been talking about, not surprisingly, selling these stakes to investors, accusing Khazanah of not developing bumiputera entrepreneurship, which was not anywhere in its original aims.

It becomes more obvious what Mahathir is talking about. Redistribution of wealth now will come out of the selling of government (Khazanah) and PNB stakes to individual Malay entrepreneurs to equalise wealth distribution among the races. To make it more palatable, some willing Indian entrepreneurs, too, may be found.

The modus operandi will be to sell the stakes when prices are depressed and perhaps even to offer a bulk discount to these so-called entrepreneurs who, of course, will not only be among the elite, but who are cronies. That will ensure a steady flow of funds into Bersatu in future from donations to help make it the premier party in the Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Image result for the malaysian jomo and gomez

Mahathir knows full well that equal wealth distribution is impossible – it’s never been done anywhere before and makes wealth acquisition disproportionate to intelligent effort and hard work, a sure recipe for inefficiency, corruption and patronage. As eloquently argued by prominent political economy professor Terence Gomez, patronage is king in new Malaysia – if it was cash during Najib’s time.

Mahathir does not have the wherewithal to lead anymore, if he ever had it in the first place. Eight months after GE14, he is still bereft of a plan to increase incomes and improve livelihoods. He needs to recognise he does not have one and that he stays in power because of the strength of the other parties in the coalition.

Wrong direction

The only way to close the wealth gap is to increase future incomes across all races. Anything else is the expropriation of other people’s wealth. In the meantime, the holding of wealth in trust by state agencies is perfectly acceptable because the income comes back to the government.

This can be wisely used to improve the quality of education, get better quality investments, raise productivity and hence labour wages, and provide equal opportunities for growth and innovation among all communities. As so many people have said before me, you can equalise opportunities, but not outcomes.

So far, 61 years of UMNO-BN have not managed to equalise opportunities for all as the government education system is in shambles, among others. And eight months of Harapan is heading in the wrong direction under Mahathir.

Despite Bersatu being a party expressly formed to fight for Malay rights, Mahathir’s party had the lowest support from Malays of parties looking after Malay rights, including Umno, PAS, PKR and Amanah.

He is still stuck in a mode to widen his rather narrow and vulnerable power base (his Bersatu won only 13 seats of 52 contested, the worst win rate of any party in the coalition) unethically by attracting tarnished MPs from Umno into the Bersatu fold, in the process willing to break agreements with other coalition partners and doing/advocating things which are against the principles of a properly functioning democracy.

He has also said he will not honour some manifesto promises, saying that these were made when Harapan did not expect to win the elections – a rather lame excuse. He has not even made solid moves to undo repressive laws introduced by his predecessor Najib Abdul Razak.

Mahathir, obviously, has no intention plan to improve the livelihood of the common Malay and all Malaysians;  he is stuck in old-school forced distribution which is injurious to the economy, maybe even fatal in the long term.

 Malaysians don’t want the creation of Malay (or any other ) billionaires from government wealth.


Old wine in a new bottle is still sour. E-mail: t.p.guna@gmail.com

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

 

“Look East” to Japan –MAKE Agriculture exciting and profitable for an ageing Malaysia


November 20, 2018

Look East” to  Japan –MAKE Agriculture  exciting and profitable for an ageing Malaysia –FIMA Group 2.0

Opinion

by Phar Kim Beng

COMMENT | Between 1990 and 2020, the size of the Malaysian population increased by 80 percent. But in the same period, the number of people who aged also increased by a whopping 210 percent.

By 2050, 23.5 percent of the total population of Malaysia will be above 65 years of age. By then, Malaysia will be an aged society. But Malaysia could be there even sooner. By 2030, 15 percent of the Malaysian population will be above 60 years of age.

An ageing society is one where up to seven percent of its population is above the age of 65; whereas an aged society is one which has 15 percent of its population above this age range. Currently, Malaysia is moving towards being an ageing society by 2030, then an aged society by 2040. Time is of the essence given the size, and speed, of this problem.

Based on the statistics of 1990-2020, those above the age of 65, in other words, have increased at almost three times the rate of youths in Malaysia.

While it took France 115 years to become an aged society, Malaysia will experience it in 24 years. Invariably, learning from Japan is not an option now but a strategic necessity. Between 2019-2025, Japan will be in need of 500,000 skilled and semi-skilled workers a year.

This labour shortage is caused by ageing effects which Malaysia will continue to face in 2030 and 2050 respectively. Therefore, it is important to learn from Japan now, especially when switching to robotics./technology and knowledge

Indeed, Japan has long passed the stage of being an aged society as defined by the UN. By 2045, its total population will further shrink from 130 million to 90 million people. But is ageing affecting the agriculture and fishing industry in Japan? Not quite. Malaysia should learn from this Japanese experience.

Research has shown that in 2016, the average age of Japanese farmers was already at 66 years. Those in the fishing industries are aged between 60 and 65.

But Japanese agriculture has increasingly used robotics and mechanisation to make up for the shortfall of labour. The top five Japanese fishing companies are Maruha Nichiro, Nihon Suisan, Toyo Suisan and Kyokuyo.

Each of them is doing well and will continue to do well with strong support from the Japanese government.

Image result for aquaponics and hydroponics

Aquaponics, for example, can produce three times a higher yield than natural methods of farming. A greenhouse that uses robotics, and an automatic system of water sprinklers, can produce 30,000 to 50,000 tonnes of cabbage a day as opposed to 21,000 tonnes a day with just human labour

The Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industries in Malaysia may often be overlooked by the national planners. It received the lowest budget allocation last month. This is wrong and must be reversed if Malaysia wants to be the top food producer country in Asia.

Adapting to ageing

This ministry, however, can reverse the process of benevolent neglect especially if it begins to take the Look East initiative as a powerful policy compass. Looking East, it can learn from Japan on how to attenuate the problems of ageing and agro-farming and fishing in the long run.

To be sure, while Malaysia does not show it, the country will become an aged society in 15 years, when fifteen percent of its population will be above the age of 65.

Thus, it is incumbent upon Malaysia, especially the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry to Look East in order to understand how Japan adapts to the process of becoming an ageing society.

There is no silver bullet solution to all of the above. But a strong and confident ministry should not be ruled out as a potential national saviour; this provided it can set up a unit to learn from the aged population of Japan even as Malaysia is ageing. Why is this important?

Image result for kumpulan fima berhad

What about FIMA2.0?

First of all, the contribution of agriculture to the GDP of Malaysia has always remained between 8-11 per cent between 1957-2018. Japan has faced the same dilemma before and overcome it.

Agriculture in Malaysia is coming from a low base and contributes close to RM3.5 billion to the GDP every year. But this is also how and why the agricultural economy can grow further, according to the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister. All one needs is tenacity, a concerted effort of modernisation and mechanisation, all of which are possessed by Japan in abundance.

Image result for airasia


Furthermore, the establishment of AirAsia, a low-cost carrier, has expanded the reach of Malaysia to half of the world’s population within a span of six hours. The latter is critical. What was originally an impediment – a large Asian geography – is now a strategic opportunity.

If anything, it is important to learn from Japan in terms of how fast it can deliver its exotic fruits and food to almost half of Asia. Indeed how? Even with a low population farmer base of fewer than two million farmers in Japan in 2017, Japan has become adept at combining robotics, aquaponics and the use of farmland banks to improve its exports.

Nevertheless, farming and fishing are two planks of the industry that require careful planning at all stages. Malaysia is no exception. This is why it is better to learn from Japan now.

If the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry seems to feel that Malaysian agriculture might be facing the same problems in terms of an ageing society, shortage of labour and high migration to urban centres, it is high time that it has a Look East policy that draws from the inspiration of Japan.

In this sense, in an interview with Johan Jaffar in Sinar Harian last week, Salahuddin Ayub was right in affirming the importance of Look East, not just in focusing on the revival of Malaysian agriculture but also learning on other matters from Japan.

The sooner this ministry learns from Japan, including Japan’s industry and livestock, the sooner Malaysia will move away from the perpetual fear that the farmlands and industries will collapse.

Indeed, it would be wonderful to see Malaysia’s Agro Bank and farmland banks working side-by-side to make Japan and Malaysia the fruit basket of the whole of Asia ranging from tropical fruits to saltwater fish.


PHAR KIM BENG is a multiple award-winning head teaching fellow on China and the Cultural Revolution at Harvard University.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

Judge Pakatan Harapan in 5 years, Dr. Rais Hussin


August 17, 2018

Judge Pakatan Harapan in 100 days, maybe too soon, but in 5 years definitely too late, Dr. Rais Hussin

Shocking  Admission

Image result for Pakatan Harapan Manifesto

 

The Pakatan Harapan Manifesto was launched in March 2018. It is now more than 100 days. How much more time do our new  Yang Berhormat Menteris and Timbalan Menteris need to read and understand their own pledges? What a shame.–Din Merican

Pakatan Harapan ministers and deputy ministers must take the time to read the coalition’s election manifesto, said Bersatu policy and strategy bureau chief Rais Hussin, who was part of the Harapan manifesto committee.

–www.malaysiakini.com

Interview with Dr. Rais Hussin, Pakatan Harapan’s Top  Spinner

by http://www.malaysiakini.com

100 DAYS | Pakatan Harapan ministers and deputy ministers must take the time to read the coalition’s election manifesto, said Bersatu policy and strategy bureau chief Rais Hussin, who was part of the Harapan manifesto committee.

“It is an observation but even ministers and deputy ministers have not read the manifesto.

“So, my first request is that the people, who are supposed to chaperone and deliver the promises, must read the manifesto,” he told Malaysiakini in an interview conducted in conjunction with Harapan’s 100 days in government.

Rais said this should also be expanded to chief secretaries and top civil servants.

“All those implementers, they also need to read this manifesto. It is important for them to read because this is the policy and main points of the Harapan administration – therefore they should be in the know,” he said.

Harapan had made 10 pledges for its first 100 days, but moving on, its longer-term promises will comprise 60 items.

However, Harapan was only able to fully fulfil two of the 10 promises within the first 100 days, namely the abolition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), and the review of mega projects.

Rais stressed that this was not a case of promises being broken, pointing out that the ministers were hard at work to try to fulfil them, albeit with a delayed timeline.

He reiterated that Harapan’s manifesto was drafted based on public information and without details that have now become available after the coalition became the government, particularly on the debt level.

“But we believe that given some time and recalibration of our plans, all these promises can be fulfilled,” Rais said.

Instead of finding excuses to justify failing to deliver on promises, he added, he believed in looking for solutions.

Post-GE attention on manifesto ‘unprecedented’

He added that the fact that Harapan’s manifesto is being talked about on a daily basis after the 14th general election was an achievement in itself.

“In the last 13 general elections, manifestos were only discussed before a general election but not afterwards.But after the 14th general election, everyone is talking about the manifesto every day. There is a new intensity in participatory democracy… people have become more sensitive,” he said.

Rais was also asked about Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad downplaying the manifesto, such as his statement that it was “not a Bible” or that it was too “thick“.

“If someone comes and say that it is not a ‘kitab suci’ (holy scripture) and all that, I leave it up to that person. Maybe it is to build a narrative to soften the blow or pressure on the ministers.

“In managing the country, you can’t write a thin manifesto. You need a thick manifesto, especially when it covers all walks of society.

 

“What is important is that what is contained, regardless if the manifesto is thin or thick, is the deliverables. We should not focus on excuses but on how to deliver,” he said.

Rais, who had previously said on May 14 that a manifesto monitoring committee would be formed, said he did raise the subject with the government.

‘Judge us in five years’

However, he said the government decided to have the committee within the cabinet and that the committee is chaired by Mahathir himself.

“If I was the Prime Minister, I would have an external person to audit (the manifest) because there’ll be an independent perspective – you can’t audit your own work.

“But it is his wisdom to have it at the cabinet level – to show its significance,” he said.

He stressed the promises in the manifesto were not arbitrarily drafted, and had gone through a rigorous process.

He said the pledges were derived from public consultation, research firms and party consultation before being approved by the leadership of the respective parties as well as the Harapan presidential council.

“I think with the capable ministers that we have now, under the very capable stewardship of Mahathir and his Deputy Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, I think this is doable.

“If we set our mind and focus towards fulfilling the promises rather than being defensive, I think it’ll be better for us.“At the end of the day, end of the fifth year, assess us then. We should be able to fulfil most of it,” he said.

This interview was jointly conducted by NIGEL AW, NORMAN GOH and ZIKRI KAMARULZAMAN.

RELATED REPORTS

What’s the progress of Harapan’s 100-day pledges?

New M’sia, 100 days later: A look back at Harapan’s first 100 days in power

100 days under Harapan – whither the national economy?

10 promises in 100 days – monitoring Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto pledges

KJ: After 100 days, time for BN to stop harping on the manifesto

Mustafa defends Harapan ‘failure’ in fulfilling 100-day promises

 

 

Tun Daim Zainuddin and his Colleagues get down to business


May 13, 2018

Tun Daim Zainuddin and his Colleagues get down to business

KUALA LUMPUR: The newly set up Team of Eminent Persons meant business and wasted no time as they convened their first meeting soon after the announcement of its formation by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed.

Chaired by former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin (left), the meeting, which went late into the night, was also attended by three other members of the team, namely (from right) former Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas President and Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Marican and economist Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Billionaire tycoon Tan Sri Robert Kuok was not present as he is currently overseas. Bernama Photo

No honeymoon period and prolonged post-election euphoria as the government is determined to restore the confidence of the people and investors after Pakatan Harapan’s unprecedented win in the 14th general election on May 9.

Image result for Tun Daim Zainuddin

The Prime Minister with Tun Daim Zainuddin and Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz

Chaired by former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, the meeting, which went late into the night, was also attended by three other members of the team, namely former Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, former Petronas President and Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Marican and economist Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

Billionaire tycoon Tan Sri Robert Kuok was not present as he is currently overseas.

Speaking to Bernama after the meeting, Daim said the five-member team was briefed and deliberated on current economic situation, the national debt, the ringgit, Goods and Services Tax (GST) and fuel subsidies, amongst others.

“These are the major things. We are making the recommendations to the government. At the end they will decide,” he said.

Daim said the council would be calling the Public Private Partnership Unit (under the Prime Minister’s Department), related ministries and government-linked companies (GLCs) to brief them on various mega projects and the governance of GLCs, including Lembaga Tabung Haji, Majlis Amanah Rakyat and the Federal Land Development Authority.

“As for 1MDB, there will a special task force, I have identify those who can assist the probe into 1MDB. It would be under the purview of the Team which will submit the report to the government,” Daim said.

He said another pertinent issue that needed to be addressed quickly was the oversupply of office space and housing.

“Another example is the cost of security for schools. It cost more than the assets they’re guarding,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Daim said the team would hold meetings daily for 100 days, and in fact on some days, it would be a few times a day.

“I want this to finish this within 100 days. After that I want to sleep,” he quipped. –Bernama

 

Book Review: Dr Shankaran Nambiar –Malaysia in Troubled Times


May 11, 2017

Book Review: Dr Shankaran Nambiar –Malaysia in Troubled Times

by Tricia Teoh

“THE absence of good institutions and transparency in public undertakings, government procurement, and … the design of public policy has the potential to shake investor confidence” is how economist Shankaran Nambiar sums up the macroeconomic conditions of Malaysia.

In his latest book, Malaysia in Troubled Times, which compiles Nambiar’s articles in newspapers between 2014 and 2016, he deftly articulates his positions on issues. He grapples mainly with the question of “where is the economy headed towards”, which he asks numerous times across his pieces, an evident sign of his deep concern over the trends taking place in the country.

Nambiar articulates what many observers of Malaysian issues have struggled with: despite our economy not hitting negative growth, not being in danger of defaulting on sovereign debt and the fact that the central bank having adequate reserves to cover shortfalls, he states clearly that yes, indeed, we should still exercise great caution with respect to the Malaysian economy.

And why so? Various pieces indicate why observers should be worried – an outflow of foreign funds, the sharp decline of oil prices, which has in turn led to a growing federal fiscal deficit, and … “doubts on the efficacy of government linked companies”.

Image result for  Idris Jala

When Malaysia is in trouble, follow Idris Jala and play the Guitar

The challenges facing Malaysia stretch beyond our borders, and here Nambiar wades through regional waters to help readers understand the dynamics behind the now-dead Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, the Regional Cooperation Economic Partnership, and the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, which he highlights is indicative of China flexing its muscles in the region.

Malaysia, he says, “has a special, valuable relationship with China, which places it in an excellent position to help establish a stable security landscape in the region”. Of course, the “special relationship” we have with China would now be interpreted in a very different light today, given the many bilateral deals Malaysia has now signed with China. Apart from arguing for how ASEAN can build itself up as a stronger regional pact, it is also refreshing that he brings in Asean-India economic ties and goes on to push for greater Malaysia-India improvements in trade and investment, which apparently our neighbours Singapore and South Korea have put a lot more effort in than we have.

Above all, Nambiar is a faithful believer of Keynes, whom he quotes several times in the book, saying that “positive expectations and ‘animal spirits’ spur aggregate demand and economic growth”, and that “at the moment it seems that the animal within the economy is wounded”. He cleverly works his critique of the economy through metaphors such as these, but stops short of blatantly dismissing any efforts being made by policymakers to improve the economic conditions of the country. He could also have done more in providing solutions to what he considers to be ailing our economy.

Despite the nuanced tone of his writings, it is clear that he harbours silent frustration with public policies and their implementation in Malaysia. Although the book focuses mainly on technical economic matters, Nambiar also ventures into “getting the big picture right”. He questions Malaysia’s dismal performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). He emphasises the importance of good public transport, education, human resource development and healthcare. And perhaps most importantly, he questions whether our politicians and policymakers are truly connected with the economy “as experienced by traders, technicians, taxi driver and executives”.

It is now almost two years after one of Nambiar’s pieces titled “Do we need to create scenarios for a future Malaysia?” and yet it seems even more imperative to do so today. With the elections near, this is what policymakers ought to do. And if they are not, then citizens ought to instead, and demand that their representatives pave the way for the right future to actuate.

An imagined future has to be one that, Nambiar argues, goes beyond motherhood statements like “being united in diversity and sharing a common set of values and aspirations” that he considers merely “dreamy visions of the future”. One has to concretely build scenarios based on concrete issues such as income distribution, incorporating input from a “constraint approach” (what are the stumbling blocks?) as well as a “global basis approach” (how does Malaysia fit into this matrix based on global trends?).
It is on this note that the book hits the nail hard on its head. Nambiar’s voice that constantly urges and pushes for the creation of the “spirit of this big picture” reminds us that simply, there is none of this presently that so inspires. His is a thoughtful, objective and incisive perspective of a nation that could be much more – and his desires for a better, more productive, wealthy Malaysia are evident.

Policymakers and politicians serious about addressing challenges to the Malaysian economy would benefit from a thorough reading of Nambiar’s book. They should also take heed of his advice that in thinking of the long-term, they must be “realistic about the present state of affairs”. This would be a good first starting point.

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

Irate Expat takes on Penang’s Chief Minister Guan Eng over Traffic and Development


June 3, 2016

Irate Expat takes on Penang’s Chief Minister Guan Eng over Traffic and Development

by Predeep Nambiar

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com

 Lim-Guan-Eng

Businesswoman from China raises concerns about development, saying ‘Why must Penang be like Singapore or Hong Kong? Penang must remain calm, beautiful’

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng spent five minutes calming down a frustrated expatriate who had complained about worsening traffic and uncontrolled development in the state.

Chinese national Sophia Zhou, vented her frustration at Lim as he was leaving the Golden Screen Cinemas in Gurney Plaza last night. Zhou, who has businesses in Europe, raised concerns about the need for an undersea tunnel and uncontrolled development in Penang.

Penang–Still Pearl of the Orient

Lim had just opened the Penang Le French Festival, accompanied by French Ambassador to Malaysia Christophe Penot. Lim, who appeared unfazed with her comments, calmly explained to her that with progress came development and the need for proper transport infrastructure.

“Do you know that The Aga Khan Trust has an agreement with the Penang government to develop our heritage city?The fact that they want to come here means they are confident that Penang can promise a sustainable development,” he said.

Zhou then related her experience when she first moved to Penang under the Second Home programme. “When we arrived five to 10 years ago, there were hardly any tall buildings around. Right now, everywhere there are buildings. Now you want to build a third bridge,” Zhou said.

To this, Lim said the government was keen on building a tunnel, and the third bridge remained an option if the Federal Government allowed it. Lim then told Zhou that the undersea tunnel would only be ready 12 years from now in 2027.

Zhou also queried why the contract and land was given to a Chinese company. Lim then explained to her that a Malaysian company won an open tender to build the tunnel.

It had been reported previously that the entire Penang Tunnel project was awarded to joint venture company Consortium Zenith-BUCG Sdn Bhd, which comprises Zenith Construction from Malaysia and Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) from China.

Later, Zhou commented that the Penang Government should focus on building reliable public transport instead of roads. She suggested to Lim perhaps a subway (underground train system) could be built.

“I think public transport needs to be improved. I waited 40 minutes for a bus. Why don’t you build a subway? There are too many cars on the roads and we are often stuck in traffic.

Lim then said: “That is why we are building an LRT system. Subways are expensive.” The Chief Minister was then led off by Penot.

Zhou then addressed the media present, asking: “Why must Penang be like Singapore or Hong Kong? Why can’t it be what Penang is supposed to be? Calm and beautiful.”