Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Greater ‘Greater KL’? No thanks!

The Government of Malaysia has just announced the Economic Transformation Program, or ETP. The ETP identifies twelve National Key Economic Areas (NKEA), one of which is Greater Kuala Lumpur.

The vision for Greater KL is to turn the nation’s capital into one of the global top-20 most livable cities, as well as having a top-20 ranking in city economic growth by 2020. The GNI (Gross National Income) share of Greater KL will be increased from approximately 30 percent of the nation’s GNI to approximately 40 percent. Total employment in this region will also increase from 2.5 million this year to 4.2 million by 2020. Total population will increase to 10 million, up from the current 6.4 million.

That is, the population of this region will increase by more than 50% within a decade!

Isn’t KL crowded enough? Don’t we complain about getting stuck in traffic gridlock everyday? Isn’t the property price already prohibitively high? I can imagine that a person who works in KL proper will have to live in Tanjung Malim, simply because he/she cannot afford a house anywhere nearer to the workplace. And the government is talking about ‘livability’!??

On the other hand, Perak, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan will be littered with ghost towns, as these states continue to lose their people to Greater KL.

There are people who think that a ‘mega city’ is essential to stimulate the economy. A property analyst, for example, is reported to say, “Cities generally generate a huge proportion of a country’s wealth. Paris produces 30% of France’s wealth, Tokyo 20% to 25% of Japan’s, and the Klang Valley 30%.” (Making Greater KL the nation’s heartbeat, The Star, September 25, 2010)

But why don’t we look at American model instead? In the US, New York is the financial capital, while Los Angeles in the entertainment capital; Silicon Valley hosts the headquarters of Intel, Apple and Google, while Detroit is the home for auto industry; of course, Washington DC is the national capital. Economic activities do not revolve around any single mega city, but rather distributed across the nation.

OK, maybe America is too big compared to Malaysia. But even the state of California has four major centers instead of just one. These centers are – from North to South – San Francisco (Bay Area), San Jose (Silicon Valley), Los Angeles and San Diego. The state capital is the little-known Sacramento.

In Malaysia, the Federal Government decides where the money and people should go. American cities, on the other hand, compete with each other for investment, funding and talents. Which is why any city can thrive – subject to factors beyond their control such as geographic location and climate.

I am not in favor of the Greater KL plan. The government should instead shift focus to less-developed regions of the country.


  1. Harr.....KL is so not liveable anymore. So crowded. Why can't the government develop other places? Duh!

  2. Good point, and well written.

  3. Then there should be a lesser KL. I feel the roads in KL are too narrow.

  4. In time to come and with better public transportation, Greater KL may be a reality just like Tokyo where people commute miles to get to and from work. Development is inevitable. KL would be more congested then. Scary thought though. Great post, KS.

  5. I like your analysis of America's success, especially on cities competing on finances.

    Maybe engulf KL's suburban area to make it a greater KL, before getting the people in?

  6. At least Malaysia never import foreigners to grow... For Silcon valley, Penang is something like that too.

  7. In Asia, like in France, the capital is always the center of everything. For instance, in Canada each city has a big local newspaper. In France, major newspapers only talk about Paris, that's it. The centralized model is strong.

    The world population is becoming more and more urban... and cities more and more crowded.

  8. well, this is a mission, and many people still are quite reserved about how successful it can be..

  9. still remember the 2020 Vision?? we are now just 10 years behind, and have you seen anything?? i guess it's dumped and replaced by 1-Malaysia already..

  10. not to say that i'm not confident or not supportive about the Greater KL mission.. infact i like the idea and love to see this come true, but the fact is.. you know~~

  11. unless there's really a revolution that happen, to the people and to the country and to the "management", else this won't be a successful one..

  12. I can buy an affordable house in the countryside and perhaps take the bullet train to work. It will only take a short time for the train to reach my workplace if it travels at 300km/hr. When can we have the bullet train?

  13. tekkaus
    Melaka is less crowded, but also with fewer jobs...


    Roads in KL are narrow? Hmm...

    The problem is not development, but unbalanced development.

  14. shingo
    The definition of Greater KL already includes its surrounding area.

    Penang thrived in the 70s, but has since gone downhill.

    Yeah, most countries have centralized model.

    I am also not optimistic with the plan to solve KL's traffic woes.

    Bullet train fare won't be cheap.

  15. Not sure if Greater KL is a good idea. It might be, or might not. But definitely the roads and transportation have to be upgraded otherwise it will be congested as hell! Even Guilin, a small city in China has wider roads than KL!