Our Hopes for 2011


By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

Over seventy per cent of the council’s revenue comes from assessment rates but collection is being hampered by a high percentage of defaulters…

Mayor Roshidi’s promise to turn “vision into reality” during a New Year address at the city council’s full-board meeting on Thursday, December 31, 2009 still reverberates in my mind. Details of this year-end meeting were summarised in the 89th issue of Ipoh Echo. The part that really caught my imagination was his acknowledgment that “Ipohites today are more demanding and savvy.”

Roshidi did not mince his words when he admitted, rather succinctly, that “amenities such as parks, green lungs, bicycle lanes, shaded pavements, public transport, libraries and a viable rubbish disposal strategy are integral to an efficient city council; one that does not compromise on quality.”

So where do we stand vis-à-vis the mayor’s pledge made at the closing stages of 2009? Some noteworthy progress is noted but is that enough? What happened to parks and green lungs? Polo Ground is as intractable as ever. The festering hawker problem does not seem to diminish in spite of promises. Bicycle lanes and shaded pavements? I don’t see any. Public transport? The same old buses are plying the same old routes. Although attempts at introducing newer buses are in place, the attitude of drivers and conductors does not match.

What about libraries? The condition of the two existing libraries, one managed by the state and the other by MBI, have not changed much. The same problems seem to beset both the libraries although there seems to be some effort at improving by the state-own library.

Rubbish disposal strategy? The same old tired system is still in use. Rubbish gets collected as per schedule but overall cleanliness is still unsatisfactory. Attitude of Ipohites is largely to be blamed for this blot. Efforts by the council to reduce the number of illegal dumpsites are commendable. However, there is little the council can do unless residents change their mindset.

The single most important attribute of a well-managed city council is finance. Hence, without financial clout no council, however “clean”, can operate effectively. Ipoh City Council is no exception. It works on a tight budget. The council’s operational expenses escalate annually, but most of the money goes towards paying its huge workforce – 2,600 personnel. Thus, money for infrastructure development and maintenance have to be requisitioned from the state or the federal government instead.

Over seventy per cent of the council’s revenue comes from assessment rates but collection is being hampered by a high percentage of defaulters. The problem will continue to haunt the council notwithstanding measures taken to counter the growing trend. In the spirit of openness, I sincerely hope the mayor will be more transparent with his numbers. Often, the figures quoted at full-board meetings do not add up.

The council has taken action to fine tune collection procedures by employing user-friendly methods like mobile counters and extending collection hours. The drive-in counter, adjacent to the council’s building, is now open to the public. These measures will come to nought if property owners continue to flout the law by defaulting on their payments.

The opening up of shopping complexes and malls in the city accentuates the parking problem. Residents’ hopes for a solution are being stymied by the council’s lack of viable action, one which will stand the test of time. The on-going dispute between MBI and the residents of Ipoh Garden over indiscriminate parking at de Garden is a case in point.

Haphazard planning results in uneven development in certain areas within the city. This is the primary cause of traffic congestion and the clogging of arterial roads. Concerted efforts are being taken by the council to address the problem, but are they visible enough?

Will 2011 be any different? I don’t wish to make a prediction. Roshidi is doing his best to realise his vision before he retires in 2013. “I hope to turn Ipoh into a vibrant city based on the concept of Bersih, Hijau dan Membangun (Clean, Green and Progressive),” he told news bureau chiefs during breakfast at a leading hotel recently. I wish him luck.

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