Updated December 10, 2010 11:17:48
Kuala Lumpur’s landmark Petronas twin towers could soon be eclipsed by the Malaysian Government’s ambitious plan to build a 100-story skyscraper.
The project has stirred debate about the need for a building which will cost almost 1.6 billion US dollars. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed has spoken out against it, saying he’d like to see the Petronas Towers, his brainchild, remain the country’s national icon. The government says the project is the best way to boost Malaysia’s economy but as Sajithra Nithi reports others disagree.
Presenter: Sajithra Nithi
Speakers: Shamsul Iskandar Mohammed Akin, head of Malaysia’s Opposition PKR party’s Youth wing; Abdul Rahman Dahlan, MP ruling UMNO party
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NITHI: The Malaysian government is defending its plan to build a 100-floor ‘mega-tower’ to be named Warisan Merdeka, which means Heritage of Independence.
With construction due to begin early next year, the tower will surpass Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Petronas twin Towers, which both stand at 88 floors high.
The building is intended to house both offices and residential apartments.
The government says funding for it will be generated internally, and driven by the government’s asset-management company, Permodalan Nasional Berhad.
But many oppose the plan, including Malaysia’s Opposition party, which says the cost is unacceptable.
SHAMSUL: Five billion ringgits Malaysian is a totally unacceptable amount, it’s a huge amount of money, that for us, we think is being spent unnecessarily.
NITHI: That’s Shamsul Iskandar Mohammed Akin, head of the Opposition PKR party’s Youth wing, which is running a campaign against the tower project.
The party’s online petition which can be found on the social networking site Facebook has already been signed by more than 200,000 people.
A second petition is gathering support on the ground and is scheduled to be presented in parliament in January.
But it’s not just the building costs which has upset opponents.
Mr Shamsul says the building is unnecessary because there’s already a surplus of office space in the capital city.
And he says the money would be better spent on other areas in light of the government’s subsidy rationalisation program which drove up the cost of oil, gas and food.
SHAMSUL: We are of the view that this five billionn ringgit, they can channel the money to all these important sectors, which is in the top list of priorities compared to having a building. And they can also come with a special economic program too, to boost the economic growth, give some loans to the people who work in the small-medium industry so there can be a lot of business activity within the country.
NITHI: But the government insists that the Warisan Merdeka tower is needed.
Abdul Rahman Dahlan is an MP from the ruling UMNO party.
He says that massive infrastructure development is a quick way to boost the economy.
RAHMAN: Everybody knows that the construction business has a spillover effect, and if you build something, a whole range of other small industries benefit from it, not to mention employment, immediate employment and small contractors making money. So this is one way to kickstart the economy in a very quick way.
NITHI: And Mr Abdul says that while there is a property surplus now, this may not always be the case.
RAHMAN: You must understand that the whole complex will be built within, I think, in a span of ten years minimum, ten to fifteen years, so we may have a glut now but we may not have it in years to come. We need something big, huge, as we needed it in the mid-80’s, we needed a big infrastructure project to kickstart the economy .
NITHI: Construction on the Warisan Merdeka tower is to begin next year and be completed within ten to 15 years.