OPINIONThinking Allowed

Burning Money to Save a White Elephant

The success of the Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS), is a hotly contested topic.

If you approached the management, everything is fine. It is slow during the week, but things pick up at the weekend.

Whilst some members of the public claim that MAPS is a good place to bring the family, others disagree. Comments range from, “The place is expensive, with few rides open”, “It is poor value for money,” “Despite many promises, Dream Zone, is still closed. Renovations and building work continues and my annual pass will expire soon,” and “There are more restaurants than rides, or attractions.”

When you visit the website for MAPS, http://www.mapsperak.com/, online ticket sales are RM80 per adult. Children (4 to 12 years old) and senior citizens are charged RM70 each. A couple and their two children must fork out RM300 for a two-day pass. It is not a cheap day out.

Those who depend on public transport, may find that the journey to MAPS is a nightmare.

In the last edition of Ipoh Echo (IE), Perak DAP chairman, Nga Kor Ming said that the Perak Corporation Bhd (PCB is a subsidiary of the state development agency, PKNP) and demanded that the board should resign and take full responsibility for the RM340.6 million loss, from running MAPS. He also alleged that a loss of RM280 million had already been registered in the 2017 financial year.

Claiming that PCB’s loss is among the biggest in the group’s history, Nga said their debt was bigger than their assets, and he urged the MACC to investigate MAPS urgently. When will the new Perak administration do this?

Like Nga, many people question the role of the previous state government and their eagerness to manage and run a theme park, especially as the business of the state, is to govern Perak, properly and efficiently, instead of focusing on things which are best left to the experts.

The management of MAPS would be shocked at the findings of the survey conducted by IE, in which the majority of readers expressed their disappointment, with the theme park and would like to see it closed for good. This is to prevent more state money haemorrhaging into the propping-up of this white elephant.

Despite the poor ticket sales, expensive tickets, unopened attractions, low turnout, and the more serious issues of infringement of intellectual property rights, the MAPS management deny any problems. What else can they say?

PCB owns 51% of the shares in MAPS, and 34% are owned by co-developer, RCG MAPS Sdn Bhd. The remainder is owned by an individual, whose identity has not been made known. So, who is he, or she? Perakeans have a right to know as their money has been used to fund this failed project.

In the run-up to GE-14, when Pakatan Harapan was the Opposition, it was alleged that low visitor numbers contributed to MAPS losing over RM24 million in 2016, and was projected to perform similarly badly, in the future.

The state government then, which was led by Umno-Baru’s Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, dismissed this allegation, and claimed that the 2016 losses were pre-operational ones, and that they were confident of recouping this money from ticket sales. They also dismissed the low turnout.

In April 2018, the MAPS CEO, Mohd Farid Abdul Aziz, claimed that since its opening, in June 2017, the theme park had attracted 222,750 visitors and recorded around 1,077 people daily.

Three weeks ago, exco member, Dr Nizar Jamaluddin, said that a swift decision was needed about whether to revive, reform, or sell-off MAPS because his own portfolio and role in the state administration were affected.

Dr Nizar, who is in charge of Perak investment, said that the issues plaguing MAPS were undermining the confidence of would-be investors, because of the involvement of the state government.

The policy of involving the state in private business, like theme parks, dates from the previous Umno-Baru/BN government. Instead of focussing on running the state, its involvement in the entertainment business and its mismanagement of MAPS, has bathed the state’s administration, in a negative light.

Dr Nizar has demanded an early intervention to stem further losses, and discover the root causes of the theme park’s losses.

A civil engineer by training, who has run his own company for years, before his involvement in politics, Dr Nizar maintains that the technical problems with the project must first be resolved and where possible, improvements, made. He has also said that the option to close the project would only be taken as a last measure, after all attempts to stem the losses and reform the project had been explored.

Last month, the new Menteri Besar, Ahmad Faizal Azumu, decided to hold the state’s Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house at MAPS. Perakeans wonder why the state is propping-up and condoning a failed Umno-Baru/BN project.

The open house is a particularly Malaysian cultural adaptation, where people of different faiths, throw open the doors of their homes, to friends and family.

The open house has a religious side but the host and visitors are able to meet, greet and celebrate one another’s company and partake in celebratory foods, like lemang and rendang.

Open houses foster national unity, and an understanding of other cultures. They promote a deeper respect for one another’s faith and cultural norms. They build bridges between the communities, and enhance community relations. People interact, and engage, with one another at a personal level.

So how does offering free tickets, free makan, and a mad scramble for free rides and entertainment, foster racial interaction and a deeper understanding of one another’s faith and culture?

Have our morals been corrupted by freebies? This theme park freebie is a cheap political stunt. It is no better than bussing coach-loads of villagers to attend an Umno-Baru ceramah, by enticing the poor with a free-return bus ride, free makan and RM30 pocket money.

By all means, throw open MAPS on Merdeka Day, the Sultan’s birthday or any other noteworthy day. Surely not, on Hari Raya, a day which ended the month long Ramadan, which should encourage charity, compassion, spiritual empowerment and empathy with the poor.




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