Monday, April 29, 2024

Is chief minister Chow Kon Yeow a political liability to Penang?

Is chief minister Chow Kon Yeow a political liability to Penang?

By Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy

IT LOOKS like despite the bad blood between Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and his predecessor Lim Guan Eng, the two might meet to discuss the setting up an integrated circuit (IC) park in Penang.

Earlier Lim had criticised the Padang Kota state assemblyman for losing out the IC Park to Selangor along with two notable investment companies.

The former finance minister argued that Chow could have utilised Penang’s reserves to prevent the IC Park from moving to other states especially Selangor.

Selangor might be a bigger state to Penang in terms of land but lacks the image of a frontline electronic industrial state like Penang.

The setting up of the IC Park will enable the production of microchips that are used in almost all electronic products ranging from smart phones to components used in satellites.

Chow certainly missed the opportunity to ensure that the IC Park remained in Penang. No amount of coming in of other foreign investments in technology and high-end production could compensate for the “colossal” loss of IC Park to Selangor.

It is not that foreign or local investors are not keen in investing in Penang especially in the electronics sector but it just the crucial and aggressive leadership was not with Chow.

Soft spot for civil servants

The 65-year-old fifth Penang CM since 2018 might portray the image of a nice and pleasant guy but his problem is the lack of intellectual or dynamic leadership to see things beyond the “Neanderthal” ossified civil servants.

I really wonder whether the civil servants given their mobility have the commitment to make Penang attractive.

Unfortunately, Chow seeks to please them rather than to rely on his well-meaning party or coalition comrades.

Beyond the reliance on civil servants, he has the tendency to depend on the officials of the Penang Development Corporation (PDC).

Penang Development Corporation (PDC)

PDC is an ossified organisation that has an enlarged bureaucracy that basically plays the of stifling innovative investments. It is just another land department in the state.

In fact, I have in recent times suggested that in the larger interest of Penang and its people, Chow and Lim should meet to discuss investment matters.

Apparently, from what was reported in the media, both have expressed willingness, maybe just for political reasons more than anything else.

Chow must also understand that he has ended up in alienating the Chinese business community represented in the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce (PCCC). Currently, there is a legal dispute between Chow and Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping who is the honorary life president of PCCC.

Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce (Image credit: Penang Heritage Trust)

Not seeing eye-to-eye

Chow has taken Tan to the court for making defamatory remarks in relation to the PDC’s unsuccessful land sale to Umech Land. I also understand that Tan has also filed a counter suit against Chow.

One of the reasons that DAP came to power in Penang in 2008 was the support thrown in by the PCCC and the pivotal role played by Tan.

Chow might have had differences with PCCC over the PDC’s land sale to Umech Land last year, but he was in no position to quarrel with the PCCC.

Chow has forgotten about the contributions of the PCCC towards the political stability of the state. I seriously doubt that Chow and Lim who is the National DAP chairman can patch up their differences political and personal differences.

Chow Kon Yeow (left) and Lim Guan Eng

Lim wants the DAP Penang state chairman to exit as the CM of the state. Whether Lim and the PCCC are together on wanting Chow to go remains to be seen.

All the PCCC wants is for Chow to consult them on the developments in Penang to ensure there is participation from the locals. Perhaps, Chow has not done this.

While I welcome the meeting between Chow and Lim on giving priority to the larger interest of Penang, I seriously doubt that Chow will be a changed man after the meeting.

In a more specific sense, I doubt whether Chow will emerge as an imaginative and creative leader to shed new light on the future of development in Penang.

It is such a waste of human resources if the natural advantage of Penang cannot be capitalised upon. – April 29, 2024

Former DAP stalwart and Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is chairman of the United Rights of Malaysian Party (Urimai) interim council.

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