Without Malice or Hidden Agenda

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By Jerry Francis

Recently, some friends asked me why I am creating a reputation as a critic of the Ipoh City Council. My reply has been, and will always be, that I harbour no grudges against the city council, its Mayor, councillors or employees.

It is my responsibility as a journalist towards the society, particularly the city’s ratepayers in this case, to highlight the short-comings of the city council. Therefore, since early 1990 I have been raising various issues or forwarding suggestions, not just to city council, but also to those of government agencies and the private sector, in my desire to see good governance.

First through the weekly column “Ipoh Outlook” of the New Straits Times, later the “The Other Side of the Valley” of the Sun, and now “My Say” of the Ipoh Echo. These columns are written without malice or hidden agenda. They are meant to be “feedback” to the relevant authorities.

My cherished wish is to see Ipoh regain the vibrant and beautiful image it had prior to being accorded city status 22 years ago. I had taken a liking to Ipoh since I took residence in 1973; it was then a municipal council, which had many qualities I found worthy of praise.

However, after two decades of my highlighting the issues, the city council appears to have adopted a nonresponsive attitude. Maybe, it feels that “silence is golden” and allows the issues to be blown over, rather than clarifying them or taking steps to remedy them. Therefore, I have been repeatedly raising certain issues, in the hope that the relevant authorities will take note and begin to address them.

Among them is the need for the city council to rejuvenate the city centre. It saddens me to see much of the city centre becoming neglected and desolate and may soon become swiftlet hotels as the recorded chirpings of the swiftlets can now be heard loud and clear.

Already about 10 per cent of the business premises in the heart of new and old town sectors, bordering Jalan Sultan Idris Shah-Jalan Raja Ekram-Jalan Sultan Iskandar-Jalan Sultan Yusuf, have either been vacated or condemned.

Owners of most business premises seem to have lost any interest in redeveloping them as they see no future and much of the business and commercial activities are moving to new growth areas outside the city centre.

Evidence of the city centre being unattractive to investments can be seen by the poor response to the offer for development of the site along Jalan Raja Ekram once occupied by the famous landmark Yau Tet Shin Market, or popularly known as the circular market, which is proposed to be the hub of a cultural district in the city.

If there is going to be any hope of the city centre reviving, the city council must sincerely look into activities that could induce re-development that include parking spaces, but it is yet to come up with some viable proposals or projects. Even existing beautification projects such as the fountains are being neglected.

Ipoh needs a good theme, around which it could be developed and promoted. I don’t see why the well-known slogan “City That Tin Built” should not be used to market the city. These four words aptly describe the history of the city and the heritage it inherited from the once glorious tin mining industry in the Kinta Valley.

Why use other slogans, such as, “City of Bougainvillea…Virtual City…Ipoh Indah dan Maju” and currently, “Bersih, Hijau dan Membangun”, which only serve as mockery to the ability of the city council, while we have the heritage assets to promote tourism for the city.

6 thoughts on “Without Malice or Hidden Agenda

  1. Quite right, Jerry. You should call a spade a spade.

    Until City Hall relinquishes it’s retarded mentality that is causing Ipoh to die a slow and painful death.

  2. Dear joganathan, beautification projects alone will not bring long-term economic benefits to Ipoh, not when Ipoh is experiencing outward migration of young and promising people looking for jobs and opportunities elsewhere. Ipoh needs economic development that will encourage Ipohites to stay and attract people from elsewhere to move to Ipoh.

    Ipoh can be made beautiful. This will enhance the living environment of Ipohites. This may attract visitors and tourists. But will this stop Ipohites from leaving Ipoh in search of better pastures? Unlikely. MBI has to work with state agencies to develop Ipoh. Is MBI doing this?

    New development areas in Ipoh have not produced many new businesses and many new buildings/units remained empty, like in Greentown Square. Most of the businesses and offices in Greentown Business Centre actually moved from other parts of Ipoh. When the city centre is revived, what is likely to happen? Will other parts of Ipoh suffer from closed offices and empty buildings because the offices and businesses moved into the city centre?

    I am all for getting MBI to do more but there must be a coherent plan that will produce results. Piecemeal efforts go nowhere are pointless and just a waste of funds. What benefits will pedestrian-friendly sidewalks bring? Shops may open where there are these sidewalks. But are there enough parking spaces nearby? Will people then park on the roadside and cause traffic congestion?

    Certain issues are out of MBI’s hands. For example, MBI has no say or authority in public transport. MBI can’t reprimand or punish errant bus operators in Ipoh. Everything that concerns public land transport is the responsibility of Land Public Transport Commission (Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat) in KL.

    I have met with State Excos, the Mayor, Council Secretary, department directors, and Councilors over many issues. Let me assure you that I am not passing the responsibility to the next generation.

  3. steven lee, you miss the point, no one suggest that the mbi bring economic development to ipoh. what is being rightly suggested by the writer is that mbi “induces” economic development by providing the impetus, such as beautification projects, pedestrians’ friendly pavements, incentives for owners of business premises to redevelop their properties, and as well as helping to improve public transportation.
    the mayor and councillors need to have “foresight” to plan for the revival of the city centre. it can be done, don’t just wait and pass on this responsibility to your successors.

  4. yup please dato seri…. speed up the economy activity not only in ipoh but Perak as a whole… being 15 years working outside Perak really make me sick… SNAILS PACE DEVELOPMENT

  5. The state government and not MBI should be responsible to bring economic development to Ipoh. The state government has various agencies such as Institut Darul Ridzuan (economic think-tank for Perak), Perak Investment Management Centre (which even goes overseas to attract investments), Unit Perancang Ekonomi Negeri (State Economic Planning Unit), etc.

    MBI doesn’t have any of these special functions agencies, not even a local economic planning unit. The best that MBI has is the City Planning Department, which doesn’t have anything to do with the economy. So, where economic development is concerned, MBI is reactive in that it responds to development proposals from the private sector. MBI may zone specific areas for commercial and industrial activities but other than this, MBI doesn’t do much to attract investors.

    But let us look on what MBI can do but didn’t or failed to do. For example, MBI doesn’t know how to generate revenue from their assets. The area in the Central Market formerly occupied by Super Kinta has been vacant for more than 10 years. The two office units at Greentown Square has been vacant since new (about or more than two years now). How much revenue has been ‘lost’?

    MBI is stuck with yesterday’s ideas and thinking. There is little progressive thinking and vision among the leadership. For example, lack of parking spaces has been a problem for a long, long time and yet nothing effective has been done. But more property developments that require even more parking spaces are approved and worsen the problem.

    There are more but this comment is getting too long.

  6. i’ve no doubt that the old city centre will slowly but surely become a “dead mining town”, if the city council does not come up with plans to encourage economic development.
    there are a lot to be done. beautification must be intensified with landscapping and existing fountains need to be repaired and be operational, and develop pedestrian friendly facilities to encourage walking between old and new town sectors. when there are people walking about, the business premises in the area will become active. pls do something, city council!

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