Friday January 28, 2011
Friday Reflections – By B.K. Sidhu
PERAK was, once upon a time, the world’s biggest tin producer.
It used to be the wealthiest state in the country and the number of expatriates in the country outnumbered that of other states until the collapse of the tin mining industry during the global recession of the late 1980s.
Ipoh remains the capital city but after the collapse, things have slowed down quite a bit and that is why Ipoh is sometimes referred to as a “sleepy hollow”. That also explains why some people call it a “laid back city” while others say it is only good as a “retirement place”.
Development there has been slow when compared with some of the faster moving states and getting foreign direct investments (FDI) to the state has been challenging.
But things are looking different in recent times. There has been progress, but not without a struggle.
Perak has in place a long term plan to whip it up into shape and is part of the Northern Corridor Economic Region initiative.
There are various projects planned such as the RM9bil-RM14bil iron ore project in Teluk Rubiah in Lumut, and ambitious plans to develop Sungai Perak akin to the famous Blue Danube River that links 10 European countries. There are also plans to become an animation hub.
Perak wants to revive the tin mining industry, beef up the agriculture, tourism, bio-technology, renewable energy, education and marine industries. All these, if executed well, will be good for the state and may attract some of the Perakians that had left the state for greener pastures to come back.
Also in the pipeline is a plan to build a new low cost air terminal (LCCT) in Perak.
For a long time the state has struggled to justify why an extension of the airport or a new terminal is critical. There is the current Sultan Azlan Shah airport in Ipoh. It was originally a small Fokker airfield designed during World War 1. Then it served as a pit-stop for flights from KL to Penang and Hatyai. If you ask the experts they will say Perak does not need a terminal because it has good connectivity via highways, it is too close to Penang and Kuala Lumpur and there is no catchment for traffic.
A site between Taiping and Parit Buntar has been identified but experts believe that is not ideal; they prefer something closer to Ipoh.
The LCCT is likely to be a private initiative and perhaps Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes should be coaxed to take on the task. He had once dreamt of running and owning an airport but failed with the Nilai LCCT; perhaps he could be luckier with the Perak LCCT.
This time around the lobbyist at work for the LCCT are high powered people. If Perak wants to attract FDIs, it needs an air connectivity point that can cater for large aircraft. So should the prospects of Perak becoming a satellite hub for Kuala Lumpur and Penang be killed before it can sprout?
The LCCT can be an excellent gateway to the world for Perak and for consideration are the Singapore-Ipoh, Kota-Kinabalu-Ipoh, Ipoh-Ho Chi Minh, Ipoh-Miri, Ipoh-Canton, Ipoh-Tirichi routes and so many more.
Airport or no airport, Perak still needs to review a few things if it does not want to be labelled a laggard. It is time for it to shine again and to do that it needs to review the way it markets its tourism and investment opportunities.
Its IT infrastructure needs a lift. And for all the wonderful tourist destinations, be it the kampungs, the limestone caves, the waterfalls, the parks, the forest, the hills, the orchards, the historic sites, etc, it needs to be marketed more effectively and cohesively.
Polishing the gem to get it to shine will take time, guts, money and a lot of effort. Critical to all that is execution.
The power to execute lies with Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir. The one thing he has to avoid at all costs is focusing all economic activities in urban centres, and neglecting rural areas.
That would be grossly unfair. Over to you, En. Zambry.
Deputy news editor B.K. Sidhu has vested interest to see Perak flourish. What continues to bother her is the fact that her hometown Malim Nawar is no longer a rail stop and the town is halved because of a high speed train that does not even stop there anymore.
This article is a verbatim copy of the original article from The Star.