The Dawn of a New Malaysia

YB Tuan Khalid Abdul Samad, Minister of Federal Territories

One can always gauge a person’s character by their gait, and judging from the confident stride of our new Minister Of Territories YB Tuan Khalid Abdul Samad as he walked into the interview room, we knew at an instance that this is a man with a purpose.

The impression was further reinforced as he started to speak; his answers precise and to the point, his tone clear and articulate. It was the voice of someone on a mission. After all, as the person entrusted with the administration of Malaysia’s three Federal Territories – the Federal Capital of Kuala Lumpur, the Federal Administrative Centre of Putrajaya and the international offshore financial centre of Labuan – Tuan Khalid has the responsibility of ensuring that these important centres realise their full potential in contributing to national growth. He reveals to International Business Review his plans for doing so.

Towards the KL of the Future

For Tuan Khalid, one of his main priorities as Minister of Territories is to gazette the long-overdue Kuala Lumpur 2020 City Plan. Conceptualised in 2008, the City Plan carefully demarcates the various areas of the capital city thus ensuring that there is a balance of housing and commercial areas as well as green lungs. Unfortunately, as the Plan was not gazetted, many of its provisions were ignored or by-passed, and this has resulted in the city becoming overdeveloped.

That is why, along with gazetting the Plan, Tuan Khalid also intends to add on a list of infringements as an addendum so that people will understand why the Plan cannot be executed fully.

With that, the goal of the Ministry of Territories is to move forward. As such, once the 2020 Plan is gazetted, which Tuan Khalid expects to take place by the end of the year, the next step is to work on the Kuala Lumpur 2040 City Plan, which will lay out the vision of our nation’s capital for the next two decades beyond the year 2020.

This vision, Tuan Khalid explained, will be the same one originally created for the city. Speaking enthusiastically about the project, the Minister wove a picture of a “people-friendly Kuala Lumpur which will be better planned in terms of utilities, traffic and public transport connectivity.”

It is a very exciting future in store for Kuala Lumpur. One which will see the city be in line with modern sustainable metropolises, where there are adequate green spaces, facilities are at easy reach, and – in a nod to the Digital Age – there will be WiFi for all. “We want Kuala Lumpur to be a city in which people will enjoy living and working,” Tuan Khalid emphasised.

The River of Life

While the vision for Kuala Lumpur might not deviate much, if at all, from international norms, the Ministry of Territories is also adding a unique touch to the plans by focusing on cleaning and enhancing Kuala Lumpur’s waterway. This is part of the River of Life project, which aims to upgrade the water quality of  the river that flows through the city and into the main Klang River.

There are several rationale for this project. On the symbolic front, the Klang River tributary which flows through Kuala Lumpur was a major factor in the development of the city and its surrounding areas. Of course, in the modern world, where there are highways and railways, rivers are no longer used to transport goods and people. Nevertheless its symbolic importance should not be forgotten.

At the same time, the cleaning up of the river also corresponds with the Minister’s vision to make Kuala Lumpur a liveable city.  And more than that, it also adds to the attractiveness of the city for tourists and for investors.

Righting Wrongs

While the vision for Kuala Lumpur is certainly an exciting one, which any right-minded person should and would get behind, Tuan Khalid is under no illusions that implementing it will not be a smooth process. This is because of the aforementioned deviations and infringements, and as such he warned drastic measures may have to be taken in order to right the wrongs.

And one suspected wrong which International Business Review raised during the interview was the sale of 64 parcels of land by Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL – KL City Hall) during the mandate of the previous administration. In fact, this was one of the first issues which Tuan Khalid looked into upon taking office.

“The sale of the land raised many questions because there were no open tenders and many of them were sold through direct negotiations. So we have already passed the details to the MACC (Malaysian Anti- Corruption Commission), and they are investigating it,” the Minister explained.

“However, I have also highlighted to the MACC and to the Prime Minister that the investigation must be done as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. Because there may be those who may not be guilty of any wrongdoing, so we are worried that we might be punishing innocent people because they cannot do anything with the land while the investigation is on-going. ” Tuan Khalid stated.

Realising Potential of Putrajaya and Labuan

Handling one territory – let alone the national capital – is quite the task. However, as the Minister of Territories, Tuan Khalid is also responsible for the administration of the other two Federal Territories of Putrajaya and Labuan. The former is, of course, our nation’s administrative centre while the latter was envisioned to be an offshore financial centre.

And both have yet to reach their full potential. This is where Tuan Khalid is stepping in. In the case of Putrajaya, he did not mince any words, saying “The problem with Putrajaya was that it was Tun Dr Mahathir’s project when he was Prime Minister for the first time. So when new Prime Ministers take over, they wanted to have a legacy of their own and put out their own pet project, so Putrajaya was ignored.”

Not anymore though, thanks to Tun Dr Mahathir’s re-emergence as Prime Minister. “Tun has asked me to ensure that the concept of Putrajaya as a tourist attraction is revived. So we have to think of ways to bring in tourists to Putrajaya and make it accessible for them,” the Minister revealed.

It is the same for Labuan, which has also been more or less ignored when it comes to maximising its potential. Tuan Khalid sees a lot of promise in Labuan though, noting that it being an island gives it great prospects as a tourism destination.

He is also aware that Labuan residents may have felt marginalised in the past as its distance from the Klang Valley meant that it became a case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind for decision makers in Putrajaya.

That is why, on his first visit to the island upon taking office, Tuan Khalid reassured the people there that Labuan will be given equal priority for development as the other Federal Territories. As such a team from the Ministry has gone there to look at possible avenues of development.

Presently, nearly 2 million people live in Malaysia’s three Federal Territories, producing a combined GDP of RM195 billion. Quite an impressive amount, but one which can be so much more. With Tuan Khalid’s plans for equitable and sustainable development, it definitely is possible.