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When to Build a Mega Tower?

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Another Mega Tower for KL is not an issue of whether it is a good idea but about the Malaysian government prioritizing the citizens’ needs.  After 13 years of prolonged budget deficit and the government running into huge domestic debts coupled with no new economic driver in sight; Malaysians would like the government to focus on urgent priorities that can add income growth for the Rakyat.

By Foong Wai Fong and Pat Lu, co-founders of Pahlawan Volunteers

Emperor Qin Shi Huang started building his mausoleum at the age of 18, that project continued for several decades. While some observer labeled that as one of the mega-ego project of all times, we tend to think that this could have started as an “economic stimulus” project.  The Qin Mausoleum eventually turned out to be perhaps the most mega project of all times — it covered an area of 50 km, it is an underground city complete with the emperors’ terracotta army and all the services and trappings of the royal household.

At that time, building the mausoleum seems like the most unproductive investment of resources. We suspect that there must be many silenced opposition as no one dared to defy the all mighty first emperor of China.  Today, 2500 years forth, Emperor Qin’s legacy had become one of the largest world heritage sites of all times. The city of Xian is benefiting from this heritage as a source of present day wealth creation. Xian and the Shanxi Province has the second highest tourists arrival in China; reaching some 50-60 million every year.

Nearer to our times, The Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum in Spain, The Xintindi Restoration Project in Shanghai, the Restoration of the Hangang River in Seoul, Taipei 101 Tower or Dubai Burj Khalifa Tower are all testimonies of how an Avant-garde building structure could inspire and rejuvenate a city; generating pride and hope for the local citizenry and put that particular location or city on the world map.

Many of these wonderful buildings or urban renewal/renaissance projects have all proven their worth in stimulating confidence through a city’s make over; and many of them have become symbols of a particular historical era for a particular cultural group.

There are of course many less successful projects which the promoters did not find a sustainable business model to make good the investment, and the structures fail  to generate the “Bilbao Effect” of generating high GDP multiples for the city; resulting in good returns to the overall economy.

Menara Warisan

Building an ethnic style contemporary structure to symbolize the modernity of Malaysia or its people is a fantastic idea. If we can put our mind and creativity to create a ground-breaking, awe-inspiring structure; plus good functional design and integration of the content in terms of the artifacts would certainly add another dimension to the ethnicity of Malaysia. It will add diversity to the Western or Chinese dominated feature of many of present-day city-scapes.

In fact, we would argue that this is symbolic enough to become a source of ethnic pride and identity for Malaysia, and such project should be encouraged and supported. The success of the structure should be one which has the blessings and support of its citizenry; and not be labeled as an icon of swollen ego of the promoters — even if it is built with private fund.

Another Mega Tower for KL at this point in time is not an issue of whether it is a good idea but about the Malaysian government prioritizing the citizens’ needs.  After 13 years of prolonged budget deficit and the government running into huge domestic debts coupled with no new economic driver in sight; Malaysians would like the government to focus on urgent priorities that can add income growth for the Rakyat. The central issue facing businesses and the Rakyat is income growth or the prospect of income growth.

Hardship on the Ground

The figures on our economy have sounded alarm for a long time. Actual sentiments on the ground are getting near panic. The common man on the street is under tremendous financial stress. The average wage earner is finding it very difficult to make ends meet; business at the coffee shops have become unusually quiet; the SMI factories order book has not turned a new page for months; one mechanic contractor who supplies machinery and provide maintenance to the SMI sector has not seen a major contract in the last two years; he is selling off his assets in order to keep the operation going and to feed his family! The picture is rather grim and serious.

For the average Malaysian, the cost of living has risen and many people feared that it will continue to rise; the prospect of relief from income increases is dim. The quality and cost of everything; from education to road transport to health care to food need urgent redress. At a time of climate change; many are concerned with Malaysia’s rising food bill as this country has no food security of its own.

The international climate is not helping. The world has not come out of the great financial restructuring. While Time Magazine reports that 1 out of 3 Americans are thinking of walking away from their mortgage; the employment situation in many other advanced countries have not shown significant improvement. The global economy is in the process of transformation; each and every economy is trying to find its feet in a time of great technological and structural change.

When to build?

The idea of building Menara Warisan can be kept alive – to inspire and to unify the community. Invitation from local and international architects to join in a contest to design the structure can be issued; the whole nation should be engaged on a project that can inspire all.  Like the proposed nuclear plant, there is no need to rush; Malaysia can give herself time to create a truly defining structure.

The actual construction of the structure should wait until the following urgent priorities have been addressed and the economy has turned the corner:

1.    A World Class Public Transportation System. Without doubt the productivity and efficiency of any city comes from its public transportation system. The cry from the citizen on these urgent priorities has not subsided.  The government must address this without delay — there is nothing more urgent than that. A good public transportation system has the effect of saving the consumer at least 1/5 of his monthly income; and this money can be released for personal improvement or for other more productive and valuable consumption. A good public transportation system cuts stress, improve quality of life and reduces the health bill of the country.

In addition to a good domestic public transportation web in the key cities; Malaysia must get serious to building a high speed rail link from North to South to prevent the economy from being sidelined by the action in the North ( China) and the activities of the emerging South ( Singapore and Indonesia). Connectivity with key growth centers lifts the domestic boat with the rising tide from offshore waters.

2.    Improving Quality of Education through Privatization. Yes, the foundation of the economy is the skill and knowledge competence of its citizenry. The Malaysian education system needs a radical rethink; the sooner the authorities decide to let the private sector have a stronger hand; the better would it be for the country. Our education system is guilty of being trapped in bureaucratic irrelevance; it is over-burdened in terms of cost.

The world today is changing; and changing rather speedily. Unless we give a free hand to allow the private sector to participate; it is hard to imagine how we can keep our citizenry’s knowledge and competence up to date. Human resources are the core factor underlying investor confidence in a particular location.

3.    Restoring Public Confidence. Not only FDI (foreign direct Investment) to Malaysia has dried up; DDI (domestic direct Investment) is also shrinking. Thousands of high end and upper middle apartments cannot be rented out because there are not many foreigners left in Malaysia. With the daily political theater, both locals and foreigners are not amused.

While most can accept the fact that the New Economic Policy can continue; room created by the New Economic Model policy must be piloted on the development zones to make the transition. Malaysia needs to inspire confidence that it cares about the success of its business people and foreign investors. The government must do all it can to restore confidence; piloting a one country-two system policy to accommodate local needs and meeting international expectations must be executed wisely.

The government of the day would do well to focus its resources to generating a virtuous cycle and change the current depressed mood. Let the people and the world see that the government really gets it. It is not about one mega tower. Once the economy is put on a sustainable upward path, businessmen make profit and the people’s income is growing; we can build one mega tower in each of the 13 state capitals when everyone is happy!

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Written by PahlawanVolunteers

October 27, 2010 at 4:34 am

6 Responses

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  1. […] coupled with no new economic driver in sight; Malaysians would li … The rest is here: When to Build a Mega Tower Visitors browsed from this post and from one of our related posts, find all your workshop […]

    When to Build a Mega Tower

    October 27, 2010 at 6:19 am

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jochebed L., Gerard Lim. Gerard Lim said: MUST read.. >> When to Build a Mega Tower […]

  3. Well written. I really hope there is a day the government put Rakyat didahulukan, pencapaian diutamakan slogan in their mind… Really hope that day to come…


    October 28, 2010 at 2:33 pm

  4. Budget 2011: Do Malaysians Need Short-Term Popularity?

    Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak appeared to reach for the out-dated 100 story tower mega-project plan, do you think this is to lift the economy towards high-income status? His 2011 Budget confirmed the return of big Malaysia, with a row of announcements headlined in local dailies starting with the construction af a tower in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

    The budget totally disappointing various stratum of Malaysians especially medium class and low class citizen like you and me, we are hoping for more fundamental reforms in terms of upgrading the nation’s productivity and economy. Among large construction projects that will kick off besides the infamous RM5 billion 100-storey Warisan Merdeka tower are the RM43 billion new KL MRT project, RM26 billion KL International Financial district, RM3 billion integrated eco-resort in Karambunai, Sabah, construction of multiple new highways, and the development of the 1,084-ha Malaysian Rubber Board land in Sungai Buloh.

    Under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the country also saw the construction of the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, which, when completed, was the tallest buildings in the world. But the 100 story Warisan Merdeka tower could not stand as tall as 162-story Burj Khalifa Tower in United Arab Emirates. So do we have any cause to proud of? Government must stop mega projects and start stressing on economic growth and should boost investor’s confidence to spend in our nation. In fact, such project never improves our standard of living.

    According to the 2011 budget, a total of RM163 billion going to be spent for operational expenditure, so this means civil servants consuming almost 75% of the budget, I do not see how this Budget is rational with the prime minister’s intention to let the private sector lead the economy. This fact indirectly proves that our economy status will further plunge to the rubbish, Mega projects that draw popularity for Najib’s administration only heading for short-term interest.

    We are not dreamers! Our success is not mere coincidence but the result of clear and careful planning as well as firm implementation of the government. If our government failed to plan for us and definitely we are heading towards a failed nation. Of all the tall skyscrapers, and dreams, where are the implementation of education? Our government plan to remove PMR examination that will further affect our students. May be this is to cut the cost on the papers, who knows? In fact, its not right to waste taxpayer’s money on such project.

    Mega projects by PM Najib never going to create a high income economy. Is there an absolute need to have the 100 storey tower? Can he explain to the people why we build this tower? Is there a specific need? A wastage with 100 story building that cost RM5 billion, this amount of money can be better use in other sectors. “1 Malaysia” rhetoric spewing out his mouth frequently, but the people never experience the actual ‘transformation’ that he is meaning about! Definitely the poor Malaysians need long-term interest rather that short-term popularity in the 2011 budget!


    October 28, 2010 at 6:53 pm

  5. […] No need for BN to spend money to get votes. Listen to the people. Don’t build the 100-storey mega tower yet. Be it PNB’s or our tax payers money, we’d like to see the money put to better use for now. Read When to Build a Mega Tower? […]

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