By The Ipoh Echo Team
Ipoh Echo spoke to Perakeans from all walks of life in order to gauge their expectations for 2019 ranging from goals, resolutions to hopes in their respective fields and from the Silver state, as a whole. There is nothing magical about the New Year, except if we decide to make it so. Therefore, are we ready?
A New Year, a New Goal, A New Attitude
In his official New Year speech, Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu explained that the tabled 2019 state budget, which runs on the theme “Together To Drive Hope”, has five focus areas: Strengthening the State’s Economy and Resource Sustainability, Boosting the People’s Wellbeing and Economy, Driving Industrial Revolution 4.0, Expanding the State’s Strategic Network Development and Ensuring a Needs-Based Expenditure.
“As an administration which understands the pulse of the people, Perak Pakatan Harapan will continue to prioritise all efforts to fulfil the wishes of people from all walks of life. Even though faced with multiple challenges ever since taking over the administration, the state government gains wisdom in order to restore the glory of our beloved state,” he stated.
“Reject hatred. Maintain the peace we have achieved today as a platform for greater heights tomorrow,” Faizal added.
Managing director of ipohWorld, Commander Ian Anderson (Rtd) commented, “As a foreigner with absolutely no influence on how Malaysia fares in 2019, and after such momentous political changes in 2018, I have two hopes for the coming year. First, I hope that the new coalition government will stop bickering amongst themselves and get on with the job of overcoming the problems that they have inherited. Second, I hope that the state government, Ipoh City Council and Ipohites will work together to take control of the city and its many problems. They need to consider the heritage and history of the city while clearing it of unsightly rubbish, illegal hawkers, traffic problems and the likes. It is a big job but it can be achieved and would make Ipoh a better place to live.”
President of Ipoh City Watch (ICW) cum Chairman of Koperasi Alam Hijau Perak Berhad (KOHIJAU) Associate Professor Dr Richard Ng enthused, “My new year resolution is that the state government will provide more covered green walkways within Ipoh to encourage the people to walk and enjoy the beautiful city. I hope the new government will put emphasis on planting more trees, bring in more electric buses or trams and turn Perak into a low carbon emission state. ICW and KOHIJAU will continue to play a big role in promoting recycling by enhancing our Trash2Cash system reminding people of their responsibility towards achieving SDG Agenda 2030 of ‘Leaving No One Behind’.”
Sultan Abdul Kader, President of Perak Indian Chamber of Commerce (PICC) pointed out that the downturn of the economy is affecting the small businessmen and they are finding it difficult to pay minimum wage and have cash flow problems.
“SME’s contribute a lot to the economy and the government must make it easier for them to get loans. TEKUN (micro-financing) loans should also be made easier to get. The government should implement more small projects and award them to local contractors,” he elaborated.
“Meanwhile, the low prices of rubber and palm oil are affecting smallholders who find it difficult to survive. They should be given government aid. Plus, the purchasing power of our Ringgit is declining. This will benefit exporters, but majority of businessmen are not in export business. The government should try to increase the value of our currency,” he added.
Branch chairman of Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI), Dato’ Lim Si Boon remarked, “Businesses are cautious and still digesting the major changes in policy such as replacing GST with SST, the new minimum wages etc. The volatility of global markets adds to the uncertainty. Businesses thrive on certainty and stability, thus we look forward to global markets stabilising.”
Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) Perak chairman, Dato’ Gan Tack Kong told Ipoh Echo, “I hope that the city council will instal more CCTVs in Ipoh to enhance public safety similar to Penang. In the manufacturing sector, I look forward to more business-friendly and performance-oriented government departments and agencies. Do expand broadband facilities to support digital trade for industries and business to penetrate global markets.”
Dato’ Gan reiterated his hope that more SMEs make a paradigm shift by migrating to Industrial 4.0 in order to remain competitive and to improve productivity.
“I look forward to more foreign investments with the realisation of the Natural Gas Kinta Project scheduled for completion by end of 2019,” he highlighted.
Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Perak Chapter chairperson, Maggie Ong, said, “My expectations for 2019 are unity, political stability and a solid economy for everyone. MAH’s goals are for Ipoh, Perak to shine even brighter as the Northern Star of Tourism by focusing on domestic arrivals into our beloved state.”
“Sharpened Word has taken the initiative since the year 2016 to interact with the younger generation and also bring in top brains in the country who are willing to share their knowledge and wisdom to the Perak public. We shall strive to continue this effort in 2019,” the coordinator of Sharpened Word, Peter J. Bucher or fondly known as Pak Peter, shared.
Ipoh-born international author, artist and filmmaker, Jasemin Sibo’s biggest hope in 2019 is to see her artistic film ‘Exotic Pearls’ being made, which was written and inspired by real-life events in Ipoh. When asked for her thoughts on the Perak arts scene, she replied, “Hope to see quality work from local artisans and courage to venture out.”
Syed Hashim Wafa, a 60-year-old retired teacher suggested, “Ipoh must regain its lost glory. We must promote tourism. The government can build a cultural village like that in Kuching, introduce hop-on-off buses to the tourist spots, promote limestone caves and temples which are unique to Ipoh as tourism sites, upgrade the airport and get more airlines to fly to Ipoh. We can also promote medical tourism. We elected a new government for change, therefore, the government should come up with plans to develop the state.”
“Whenever the government comes up with new schemes for senior citizens, it is for the public sector pensioners. Private sector retirees are left out. Government schemes must benefit all senior citizens. When one-off payments are made to pensioners, it must be given to all senior citizens. Retirees and self-employed have no income and have to live on their savings, which do not last long. During our working days, we also contributed to nation-building and paid taxes mostly at higher rates and lesser deductions,” A. Jeyaraj, 79-year-old private sector retiree, highlighted.
He stressed that government hospitals and clinics should do annual medical check-ups as many seniors are diabetic and have high blood pressure and are not aware of it. The welfare of all senior citizens must be safeguarded so that they can lead a dignified life.
Victor Chew, 72-year-old pensioner also the acting chairman of Rukun Tetangga for Lim / Maxwell Garden hopes to see a more proactive yet leaner civil service, a complete overhaul of the education system and changes in the prosecution of corruption, whereby people involved will not only face jail sentences but have their property confiscated.
“I expect a more professional police force that will treat all cases fairly and a judiciary system that is independent of influence. I also expect citizens to be more responsible at the same time know their rights. They have to play a positive role and not expect the government to do everything for them. They need to be critical but willing to help correct things,” he stressed.
Shireen Ho, a 71-year-old retired teacher, shared, “The euphoria of the new government still lingers today, but impatience is creeping in for real change. After the rumble and tumble of new faces and new policies hastily announced, 2019 should be entering a settling process.”
She cited instances such as a safer and cleaner environment to arise from better waste management systems, stricter anti-smoke measures and traffic regulations as well as court justice to be accelerated in resolving the IMDB scandals that had affected our country’s economy.
“While expectations run high, the ultimate lies in efficient and well-sustained implementation by the relevant authorities, both at federal and state levels. Otherwise, expectations will remain as dreams, stuck and stagnant,” she sighed.
SeeFoon Chan-Koppen, Ipoh Echo’s own Food columnist, said, “My wish for 2019 for Ipoh is for all restaurants to take better care of their toilets. The toilets in most of the local restaurants and food courts are horrendous. As a food commentator I will go anywhere and everywhere to taste good food but when nature calls, the entire great food experience can turn into a nightmare as one approaches the facilities with trepidation, armed with a tissue doused in scent, holding one’s breath as best as one can and rush out as quickly as possible”.
Isaac David, a 17-year-old student in biological sciences, opined, “Ipoh is a very beautiful place but recently I feel that the traffic has increased and road conditions, at some places, are just really bad. I hope the government acts on this as soon as possible.”
“My expectation for 2019 is changed by being more authoritative with my decisions and actions. I want to start back the activities which I have paused ever since I started university. I would also want to contribute to society,” the Ipoh boy expressed.
Another millennial, 18-year-old Chong Shi Ian observed, “We witnessed a positive entry to 2019, with a smoking ban which improves air quality and breathability. This move, however, has a much in-depth purpose; to teach us, Malaysians in general, to be considerate (particularly to non-smokers), tolerant, respectful and to be more health-conscious.”
He identified the ever-occurring out-flux of youngsters from Ipoh as a major concern. Common push factors are the limited options for tertiary education, facilities for entertainment and leisure activities. Alternatively, the middle-aged population takes a hit every time the price of groceries, foods and local services hikes up.
“As such, locals need to be supportive of Ipoh’s charm. The concept of ‘think global, act local’ essentially applies when promoting Ipoh’s identity throughout the country and beyond. Having said that, Ipoh is always home,” he added.