The Malaysian government faced mounting opposition yesterday to a US$1.6 billion, 100-story skyscraper plan, with critics slamming the government-backed project as an unnecessary extravagance at a time of belt-tightening and rising prices.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says the project will boost business in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s largest city, but it could hamper his ruling coalition’s efforts to regain support from many who believe that public funds are regularly abused to help the government’s allies grow wealthy.
More than 30,000 people had joined a Facebook group -opposing the initiative by mid-afternoon yesterday, with the number growing by the hundreds every hour — only five days after Najib first mentioned it while announcing the government’s latest budget.
“This new tower is nothing more than hubris,” Sophia Chiu, a Kuala Lumpur resident, wrote on the Facebook page. Government leaders “should think things through and consider [the public] first, not their own egos.”
It is widely perceived to be a government project using taxpayers’ contributions, but Najib has said the tower will be part of a 5 billion ringgit (US$1.6 billion) urban development initiative -spearheaded by Permodalan Nasional Berhad, a government-backed fund management firm that handles private depositors’ money.
“This project is not a waste” of funds, Najib told a news conference late on Tuesday. “We want a [new] building that will become a symbol of a modern, developed country.”
Najib said that former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also faced resistance in the 1990s when he pushed for the 88-story Petronas Twin Towers, which were the world’s tallest buildings for several years and are now an iconic source of pride for many Malaysians.
Opponents of the planned tower’s construction — which is scheduled to start next year and be completed in 2015 — say there is already a glut of office space and that it would aggravate traffic jams.
Criticism has been particularly sharp amid other revelations about high government spending. Parliament was told this week that the cost for a new palace being constructed for Malaysia’s king was escalating to nearly 800 million ringgit, while the official travel expenses of Najib and his deputy had surged about 60 percent in the past year.
Opposition leaders say such expenditure is reckless when the government is cutting back on gasoline and sugar price subsidies for the public to rein in its budget deficit.
Mahathir’s obsession with large infrastructure projects is “back with a vengeance,” said Lim Kit Siang, a senior opposition leader.
“Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for Malaysia to achieve targets as being ranked among the [world’s] first 20 if not first 10 of the least corrupt nations?” Lim asked in a statement.
Complaints about alleged government corruption and financial mismanagement caused many voters to turn against the National Front ruling coalition in 2008 elections.
Najib took office last year and pledged wide-ranging reforms to help the Front regain a two-thirds parliamentary majority, which it enjoyed for most of its 53 years of uninterrupted rule, in the next elections in 2013.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies