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FEER: Birth of a City
By Lorien Holland
5/5/2001 5:37 pm Sat
[Bandar Putrajaya yang mencecah USD$10.6 bilion itu masih lengang
kerana pegawai kerajaan sendiri enggan berpindah ke sana. Banyak
yang masih menetap di bandaraya untuk berulang. Bayangkan cuma ada
SATU sahaja stesen minyak petrol di sana! Kebanyakkan restoran hampir
tidak berpelanggan langsung. Rumah kediaman pula banyak yang tidak
Syarikat Putrajaya Holdings menafikan projek pembinaannya tergendala.
Tetapi mengikut jurutera-jurutera yang terlibat di sana banyak jambatan
tidak dapat dibina begitu juga sistem monorel bawah tanah.
Projek ERL (RM2.4 bilion) sendiri tidak siap mengikut jadual sepatutnya
pada 1998. Hanya 2/3 siap pada Mac 2001 lepas dan dijangka beroperasi
Begitu juga KLIA yang bernilai USD$3.5 bilion - ia baru sahaja
ditinggalkan oleh kumpulan syarikat Aeroflot. Inilah sebahagian
daripada wawasan Mahathir yang akan mengurangkan lebih USD$20 bilion
dari kantung negara semuanya.
Projek MSC pula tidak menyumbangkan sebarang impak kepada ekonomi
sebagaimana yang diakui oleh Mahathir sendiri. Pada awalnya ia memanggil
gergasi IT dunia untuk mencerna syarikat IT kecil dalam negara. Sekarang
baru ia sedar ia perlu mencerna syarikat IT kecil untuk memanggil syarikat
IT besar dunia.
Ada setengah pihak mengkritik bandar moden itu tidak mempamirkan ciri-ciri
tempatan. Ia lebih kepada ciri-ciri rojak idaman Mahathir seorang yang
mahu dia diabadikan seperti Shah Jahan di India. Lagipun dia berasal dari
Kerala, India ... patutlah perangainya sedemikian.
Birth of a City
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is determined to create a new
administrative capital--and torpedo the naysayers
By Lorien Holland/PUTRAJAYA
THE AMERICANS built one; so did the Turks and the Australians. Now the
Malaysians are halfway through. The feat? Creating an administrative
capital from scratch.
Set on 4,581 hectares of land 30 kilometres south of the present
capital of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya--as the new city is named--is
rising out of land once covered by dense oil-palm plantations.
Constructing a new city is tricky business under the best of
circumstances, but even more so when the driving force behind the 23
billion ringgit ($10.6 billion) project is Malaysia's long-serving
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Mahathir, who's eyed a new federal capital for most of his two decades
in power, is pressing ahead with Putrajaya despite Malaysia's
continuing economic gloom and despite criticism that the project is
too costly and should be scaled back. He's also moving forward despite
the fact that many of Malaysia's other major infrastructure projects,
such as the Bakun Dam in East Malaysia, have been delayed for lack of
"All these things [at Putrajaya] are done not for today," said
Mahathir at the new capital's recent inauguration as a federal
territory. "They are done for the future. Of course, they look big
today but in the future they will look very small." Whether that's
true of course remains to be seen. But few would question that the
development is ambitious.
In addition to the actual city, the new development boasts the $3.5
billion Kuala Lumpur International Airport and the Multimedia Super
Corridor, Malaysia's answer to Silicon Valley. When finished, in
around 2020, this 60-kilometre stretch of development will house both
Putrajaya and Cyberjaya, its hi-tech twin city, and a rail link
between the old capital and the airport.
If all goes according to plan, the cost for the development for the
government will be a heady $20 billion. Whether all will go exactly to
plan is far from clear. The airport, the MSC and the new cities are
already experiencing significant teething problems. In Putrajaya these
include construction delays, opposition charges of overspending, and
resistance to the move by Kuala Lumpur government officials.
This last problem means that with the exception of the Prime
Minister's Department and Home Ministry, which already made the move
to the new city, all other ministries are still firmly rooted in Kuala
Lumpur--and like it that way.
"Putrajaya is an infrastructure-led project, and it will take off
because the government will make it take off," says Lim Eng Chong,
director of property consultants Henry Butcher Lim and Long in Kuala
Lumpur. "Government departments will have to move there and so will
civil servants, and they will provide the critical mass."
By 2012, when all government ministries are slated to move in--along
with 76,000 civil servants--the population of Putrajaya is forecast to
be 330,000, and Cyberjaya is expected to have some substance, too.
Meanwhile, today, most of the housing in Putrajaya is unoccupied,
roads are deserted, only one petrol station is operational and the few
open restaurants are virtually empty. The only signs of life revolve
around the large, green-domed prime minister's office, the enormous
pink Putra mosque, and the slightly smaller prime minister's
The residence particularly has been singled out for fierce criticism.
The opposition charges that large amounts of public funds were wasted
on the building. And jailed former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim
claims it cost 200 million ringgit, not the 80 million ringgit figure
given by the government.
Construction delays, the bane of any major construction project, are
also dogging Putrajaya. Although Putrajaya Holdings, the developer,
insists in press releases that construction is on schedule and in some
areas is ahead of schedule, engineers involved with the project
disagree. They say some bridge construction has been delayed, as has
the underground monorail project which aims to make the centre of
Putrajaya a pedestrian zone. Putrajaya Holdings declined to comment.
The delay in the rail link to the airport, which should have been
completed with the airport in 1998, is yet another impediment. The
operator, Express Rail Link, says on its website that the 2.4 billion
ringgit project was two-thirds complete by the end of March 2001 and
should finally start operations on April 20, 2002. When this happens,
the railway will enable passengers to halve their travelling time to
the airport from Kuala Lumpur to 30 minutes.
Finally, another problem with Putrajaya is that city planners appear
to have made little effort to reflect Malaysia's multicultural makeup.
Obvious Chinese or Indian influence, for example, is missing, even
though both groups have a strong presence in Malaysia's urban areas.
"Driving around Putrajaya, you would have no idea that Malaysia is a
multicultural society," says an ethnic Chinese architect. "At the
centre, there is that enormous mosque and a replica of the Isfahan
bridge in Iran."
Besides these problems, Mahathir's vision has run into difficulties
elsewhere: the Multimedia Super Corridor.
A recent confidential study by management consultants McKinsey & Co.
found that the MSC, with its centre in Cyberjaya, had not attracted
substantial investor interest from global technology companies. Also,
it found the corridor has had no significant impact on the country's
economy, despite hefty government efforts to transform it into a
Othman Yeop Abdullah, executive chairman of Multimedia Development
Corporation, the state-run project management firm, concedes that
changes in Cyberjaya's development plan need to be made, but insists
that the vision of creating a hi-tech backbone remains valid.
"At the start, we thought we had to attract the big players to spawn
small players," he says. "Now it is almost the reverse. We have to
spawn small players in order to attract the big ones."
Despite it all, Mahathir remains resolutely behind the project and his
vision of Malaysia as a developed, hi-tech nation. "We need time," he
said at Putrajaya's recent inauguration. "People may think that we
waste money and all that, but it is not so."