Another letter from Moaz, the public transport activist on the fact that everything 'public transport' is in effect in the Prime Minister's hands.
Most Malaysians are now aware of the poor state of our public transport. Even if they do not experience the congestion, delays and overcrowding on a daily basis, they are probably familiar with the situation and they can probably talk for hours on the causes and the effects.
Some might blame it on the division of responsibilities among 13 different government agencies. Others might focus on the competition between companies. Still others may call for LRT extensions or other solutions. But everyone wonders who is supposed to be taking responsibility for fixing the problems in our public transport.
The answer is as interesting as it is surprising; when it comes to public transport in Malaysia, it is our Prime Minister Dato' Seri Najib who is firmly in the 'driver's seat.' He also bought the bus, planned the routes, and is working to get all parties talking to each other to improve public transport.
Most Malaysians may not be aware that Dato' Seri Najib was appointed as Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Public Transport back in 2007. The Cabinet Committee was the first government organization that was really tasked to improve public transport from the low 16% usage to a higher 40% usage. And while the Cabinet Committee does not meet that often, they are the most important public transport body in the country for the moment.
As Finance Minister, Dato' Seri Najib is responsible for the Ministry of Finance, the owner of infrastructure company Prasarana (which owns the assets of the RapidKL LRT lines, KL monorail line, RapidKL buses, and even the Langkawi Cable Car). Dato' Seri Najib is responsible for ensuring that Prasarana is buying the best-quality buses, and that RapidKL is planning the best routes and operating in the most efficient, service-oriented and cost-effective way.
Anyone who has read the Auditor General's recent report would know that Prasarana has done a poor job with procurement in the past, and there is general agreement that RapidKL is not doing what they promised - so we expect that Prime Minister Dato' Seri Najib will have to shake things up a little bit.
As Prime Minister, Dato'Seri Najib was responsible for introducing a Key Result Area for Public Transport, with specific goals to improve public transport to 25% usage in urban areas (down from the earlier 40% goal). And while we may be disappointed that the goal was reduced, we are happy to see that significant attention is being given to improving public transport, with the Performance Management and Delivery Unit engaged in a lab to find solutions for the KTM Krisis, and the Minister of Transport chairing the Urban Public Transport panel.
Lastly, it appears that Prime Minister Dato' Seri Najib has taken it upon himself to become the Chair of the Land Transport Commission when it is formed in 2010. TRANSIT suggested that the Prime Minister be the person in charge of the Land Transport Commission in a paper written for the Finance Ministry back in 2008.
What this means is that Prime Minister Dato' Seri Najib will be responsible for unraveling the complicated relationships between the 13 different agencies and pushing forward with a positive agenda for public transport in Malaysia. It will not be easy for him because he will be taking on 4 different and significant roles.
Dato' Seri Najib will have to guide the Land Transport Commission into existence, navigate a treacherous political minefield to bring 13 different agencies in line, dissolve the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board, improve the public consultation process, win back the support of a jaded public, and make sure that the bus operators and taxi drivers behave.
On top of all of that, he will have to find the money to build public transport networks that serve all Malaysians, not just the residents of KL, and ensure that the money is partitioned out fairly and reasonably and not overspent or wasted or lost to corruption.
It is certainly not going to be an easy task. But hopefully, the people will give Dato' Seri Najib all the support and feedback and suggestions that he needs, through:
letters to the Malaysian media; and
comments on his blog: 1malaysia.com.my
Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
on behalf of TRANSIT