An elaboration from articles below (and many more) :
Over the years, post 2008 especially, the effects of ‘over development’ in Penang is slowly being felt by Penangites. Since the change of government in the last general election, we see a drastic change in the landscape of Penang, some say for the good, but for me it’s slowly seems like for the worse. Development in principle is good, but only when it advances our understanding of human life while preserving the surrounding nature (we are part of nature). Materialism is just a small part of the development philosophy, when the material produced is for good use and not destructing.
But when the government are only concerned about the material development aspect, profits and losses, and any positive effects for the people are merely coincidence or a blessing in disguise, usually for political gains, we will see the problem that’s been slowly coming to the surface in the state of Penang. The government has an idea that by rapidly developing the state especially in the economic sector, the better the standard of living will be, and the economic return will be great for the community in the long run.
Let say when a government pump in 1 billion ringgits for development, you can’t expect the people to raise their work rate tenfold overnight to be in parallel with the development. Humans need to learn gradually, like a curve, so when they can’t cope (which in most cases are), the government will open up the economy to outsiders to fill in the gaps. They call it the Free Market, but in truth it’s just pure capitalism. What will happen is the locals will be squeezed out of business, or down scale to the extent of relocating to a lesser area, like what is happening to the massive migration of island folks to mainland Penang (Seberang Perai) and outsiders start taking over the economy because the development rate is too fast for the locals to cope with. It can be proven if you look close enough, and there’s where the problem lies.
Investors/ governments always looking for a quick return in their investment and by waiting for the locals to up their game aren’t as easy as getting a yearly salary raise. It calls for a paradigm shift in mentality and a complete change of lifestyle. Normally, people don’t want too much change or ‘development’ drastically (in reality it’s just money making scheme by the government and developers, nothing to do with the welfare of the people) except for basic needs such as proper road system, efficient public transportation and easy access to clean water. They don’t need high rise buildings and skyscraper to feel that they’ve achieved something, or water parks and other useless facilities for that matter. They just want to preserve their way of life, and live in complete peace.
But the government wants to make money and be seen as doing a job efficiently but they are looking at the wrong solution to the problem. They think by building more shopping complexes, reclaim more land and build new waterfronts, converting hills into massive million dollar bungalows, they have addressed the problem faced by the people. Look at how many shopping complexes has changed ownership over the years, businesses closing down, downgraded, look at who can really afford multi- million dollar penthouses in Gurney Drive, and who are profiting from land reclamation and its effect to the land owner. Most of this benefited the outsiders, big corporations and a small group of people ‘in the circle’. They are doing this just for profits and not for the community. That’s why you see when a development comes to a place, the social problems also comes with it. The most important people of all, the locals are hung to dry from outside elements against their wish. This is when people start calling names such as ‘pemalas’ (lazy ass), not because they are lazy to work, but the development rate has been too rapid that they can’t cope with it, adding to that most of the development schemes are against their wishes anyway.
If you’re a Penangite you should know what I’m talking about. Just take a time off and drive around the island to see what I mean. Batu Uban village which is more than a 100 years are almost gone, which I consider a heritage site. Batu Maung, a small fishing village is slowly losing its soul to expensive hillside residential areas, the beautiful forests of Balik Pulau are slowly being deforested and replaced by massive mansions and high rise apartments, sitting next to a small village house makes for an utter eye sore. More heritage buildings in the heart of Georgetown are being demolished to make way for ‘modern’ ones which in fact is just a flat concrete blocks and some fancy glass railings, and hilltops along Bukit Bendera being flattened for private luxurious gateway owned by a few.
It just doesn’t blend in well with the local community, it’s a destruction of culture by design. Penang is slowly losing her soul, a reason to live here. I’m not against any form of development as mentioned earlier, but the function of a government is to understand what the community is all about, what it needs, and how to make it better in regard to development. The government of Penang has so far failed in these 3 aspects. Most of the developments been done over the years are of low importance and downright irrelevant (anybody remember Batu Kawan Stadium?). I mean what’s the use of demolishing a pristine Gurney Drive’s shore and replaced it with artificial water park when the original place is already a beach?
I’m not going political with this because it isn’t, the way I see it, it’s just pure greed by a small group of money making machine to suck the wealth of the state dry, by building things we mostly don’t need and make us consume more, work more in the name of globalization, by ignoring the fact that Penangites have been living peacefully for hundreds of years without a decline in quality of life despite the lack of development. So why does this government think they need to overhaul the entire culture for the idea of improving our way of life?
Beautiful beaches in Teluk Kumbar, Teluk Bayu, Tanjung Asam, Gertak Sanggul, Pantai Pasir Panjang, Batu Ferringhi may have survived to this day, but if we don’t do something in the near future you can bet all this will be gone in 20 years’ time.
So the next sensible question would be, “What can we do about it?”
Ridhuan Abu Bakar