Thursday, June 10, 2010

Public Transport: Back To Square One

Letter from TRANSIT on Malaysian Public Transport, by Moaz Ahmad:

I have been actively following public transport in Malaysia for more than 5 years. Some of my friends and those in the industry have been involved for decades and have shared detailed stories about where public transport was in the past and how far (in some but not most cases) it has moved forwards.

We cannot argue that there has been no change in public transport. In these short 5 years I have seen 4 announcements of LRT extensions, 3 Minister's of Transport, 2 Prime Ministers and of course, 1Malaysia.

To my eyes the biggest action with the potential for the greatest change comes from the creation of Malaysia's Land Public Transport Commission, SPAD, with Syed Hamid Albar as Chair and Prime Minister Najib Razak as Minister-in-Charge. Thankfully, the Prime Minister has taken the advice of the public and taken on the responsibility of SPAD for himself, showing the nation that he is clear in his goals to improve public transport in Malaysia.

The interesting this is that this week, while the Prime Minister was announcing the creation of SPAD and the assignment of Syed Hamid Albar as Chair, other people were making unsolicited proposals for an MRT network in the Klang Valley and reviving the proposal for a High Speed Rail link between KL and Singapore.

The proposals which have a collective value of RM30-50 billion are even more amazing because those who have provided these unsolicited proposals (MMC-Gamuda and an unnamed "BN component party with a power-base in Johor") will protect themselves and reap all the benefits while the government (and ultimately, the Rakyat) are expected to take on the risks.

Even more interesting is that these proposals are not new. Look in the archives of the Malaysian newspapers over the past 5 years and you will see dozens of announcements for mega public transport projects - in 2005 there was the 4 monorail lines. In 2006 there was to be LRT extensions worth RM10 billion. In 2007 there was to be a new LRT line from Kota Damansara to Cheras. In 2008 the money saved from the reduced petrol subsidy was promised to public transport. In 2009 we heard of the LRT extensions again, along with the new LRT line again. So in 5 years not much has really happened - just more announcements and projects that appear to be ready to start at any time - but overall, no real change to the industry.
In this time when it has become clear to us that subsidies are unsustainable and that many countries are now looking at cutting down on mega projects and debts, some people really want to see more massive investments without careful planning and economic study.

Unfortunately, few of these people are really interested in solving the institutional and regulatory problems that are plaguing the public transport industry. Nor are they interested in any kind of "people first" planning. Instead, they want to build more rail lines with the primary hope of making money and achieving economic benefits - for themselves first.

Frankly, before we can build more LRT lines or MRT lines, we have to solve existing problems in the industry - like the poor treatment of public transport workers (who do not receive regular salaries or benefits), the flouting of rules, the dismal safety record, and above all, the ineffective and costly "entrepreneurial" model for public transport that has done little for the industry beyond enriching permit owners.

I expect Najib Razak, Syed Hamid Albar, and SPAD CEO Mohd Nor Ismail Nor Kamal to take charge and resolve these problems first. Then, they can look at creating Local Public Transport Organizing Authorities to plan, organize and manage public transport in the 6 largest cities and economic regions of Malaysia - the Klang Valley, Johor Baru, Penang, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Ipoh.

Once the bus and taxi services have been stabilized by these local Organizing Authorities, the government can provide an investment of RM1billion for each region as an inducement to build a complete and cost-effective rapid transit network. This money would be an initial investment from the 10th Malaysia Plan.

Imagine that with only RM6 billion, some minor changes in regulation, and a lot of strong leadership, we would be able to see reliable, effective and complete public transport networks in the 6 largest cities in Malaysia!

RM6 billion may not seem like a lot of money but it can work wonders if it is spent in a careful, cost-effective way. On the other hand, RM30-50 billion spent carelessly can leave us worse than we were when we started.

If we really want to see public transport change over the next 5 years we need a real vision for service-based public transport that puts people first, and focuses on performance - not mega projects that put companies and profits first and end up performing below expectations.


Moaz Yusuf Ahmad
Petaling Jaya


humbleman said...

We have incredible ideas yet poor management of projects.

Please look at how Singapore build a people orientated land public transport system that benefited so many people.

Malaysia has a fuel dependent transport system and subsequently Malaysians will suffer from the fuel price raise (will be in the near future).

Looks like we need to make a serious change into this public transport system.

We (all Malaysians) can make the change ....

Ngan said...

people* first, performance** now!

*Umno elites
**No planning, just execute and be paid to amend the mistakes on later stage when the project fails.

Anonymous said...

Come on...6 Billion is a peanut money nowadays....How to make money...

50 or 60B will make a lot of people rich accept the rakyat will be poor

Anonymous said...

Those people will not do anything unless they get commission. So just topple them in the next GE and PAKATAN will do it if not change again for Mat Rempit to be the PM of Malaysia and Mat Candu be the Transport Minister.
Real Sick.....

najib manaukau said...

He lies, corrupts, promiscuous, swore in the mosque , killed woman using the C4 and everything that only a non Muslim is accused of.
What an example of a Muslim leader and is it any wonder why is it so hard if not almost impossible in spite of the many incentives offer for the non Muslims in Malaysia to be converted.
With such bad examples of Muslims leaders like shenanigan Mahathir ,the corrupted Umno leaders and the lazy and the corrupted civil servants of Malaysia. The non Muslims in Malaysia will never be converted to become Muslims.
No one wants to be associated with Muslims like these !
So now you know why the non Muslims are not becoming Muslims !
All religions teach their followers to be kind and be charitable and not like the above and with people like those mentioned above, I would be ashamed to be a Muslim?

Anonymous said...

I was involved in the LRT projects. The MRT proposal is a pie in the sky dream. It can't be paid for commercially. It boils down to whether govt want to subsidise UPFRONT, literally tens of billions. Otherwise it can't fly. These stuff are dreams of UMNOputras that become a nightmare for everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Dear Tony,

I believe you know the reason the BN govt have been dragging their feet on improvement of public transportation the past 20-30yrs (not even 5yrs as mentioned in this article), the main reason is based on making the mass of Malaysians hooked on private vehicles ie. cars. It is the BN govt and their cronnies rice bowl and not to mention a life line for Proton. Basically, sell more cars and Proton/Perodua/Naza and AP Holders make the bulk of the money, making the Rakyat poorer. Sadly not many people realise this and they have this craze about owning cars which do not benefit them at all. Next, petrol giants stand to make tonnes of money through this, petrol becomes the drug for car users who have already paid high duty tax for imported cars. Then you have the toll operators, better public transportation means less cars on the tolled roads and less profit for them. Then you have parking operators, go to KL/PJ/or any major cities and check out the parking fees charged. So if you improve the public transportation you kill all those industries dependant on more cars on the road. The BN Govt just wants everything in this country to be inefficient so that it generates more $$ for them. That is why, Pakatan should really concentrate what they can do better if they take over the govt in the next GE. It is no point continue to criticise the BN because everyone knows they do not show genuine concern to the majority of the Rakyat. They just know how to put on a show in election campaigns but then screw the poor rakyat time and time again. Majority of Malaysians are fed up with their arrogance. Mojority of Malaysians are fed up with all this announcements of better public transportation year after year when we know these announcements is just for the benefit of developers building sub-quality properties around those areas. End of the day, the rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer. Pakatan really needs to work hard to achieve all their goals. It starts with being united and coming up with a common goal. right now, the only common goal which pakatan have is Anti-BN. that's is not good enough, we want to know what pakatan can do better to improve the rakyats lives. it is that simple. next election make an agreement prior to being nominated so that you have zero frogs. there is still so much to improve. i know it is easier said than done but let's all work together towards the common goal of making Malaysia a better place to live in.

Donplaypuks® said...

Syed Hamid Albar has been put in charge of this Super Quango to see how to benefit UMNO/BN to the max in preparation for the GE 2013 battle.

So, if you believe that Albar will sort out any of our transportation woes, you will end up a bigger fool than him!!

Albar does not have the right age, qualifications or experience in seeing through Spud's aims. In fact he screwed up in every Ministers' post he held - Defence, Law, Home Office, you name it. Remember who lost us Pedra Blanca and had Teresa Kok and that Sin Chew reporter arrested "for their own safety"!!??

Our best bet is for a NEW Federal Govt to come in like tomorrow and then you can head this Transport portfolio to carry through your well thought out plans!!

In the meantime, please stop them from looting and sucking dry our Treasury and national reserves!!

we are all of 1 race, the Human Race

Jonas Lee said...


This is off the topic from the post above but the 10MP just came out and as an economist, I would like to share some of my first thoughts about it. Worth asking in Parliament:

The mystery puzzle of the 10th Malaysia Plan where the government assumes a nominal GDP growth of 11%(extrapolated from their own assumptions) and a real GDP growth of 6% p.a. is the implied GDP deflator of 5%, which is higher than the 2001-2009 average deflator of about 4%, suggesting that CPI INFLATION FOR THE NEXT 5 YEARS WILL BE 3% versus 2.3% in the last 9 years.

My question is whether an average 3% inflation is realistic with all the cuts in subsidies. The gov seems to think so with inflation (according to Idris Jala quoting Bank Negara study) bumped up briefly to 4% for 2011/2012 before going down to 3%.

My next question is at 3% inflation, why should operating expenditure be rising at 7% (2011-2015)when it is not productive spending for the economy? If subsidies are reduced, clearly operating expenditure should fall instead of rise and at a rate not exceeding inflation?

So to achieve a commendable 2.8% budget deficit target, the government should raise development expenditure and lower operating expenditure. This will have multiplier effects on the economy.

Anonymous said...

Dear sir,

I've been using public transport my whole life and to be honest, I've given up on expecting the government to improve the system. All talk, no substance, as usual.

danny said...

satu lagi pengumuman barisan nasional

Anonymous said...

The root of the problem is that transport is exclusively under the purview of the federal government, even though the problem is local. What should be done at the short term is for the Parliament to devolve the power to state governments to plan and execute local transport policy and at the same time deregulate and abolish federal government licensing requirements for local public transport. Let the state governments and local governments come up with their own solution. Funding could be obtained by joint ventures between state government and overseas companies.