Penang2030: A Vision to Guide and Inspire Projects

On August 29, 2018, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow hosted a special session attended by several hundred representatives of major institutions and sectors of Penang society.

After leading the state government for over three months, he decided that it was time to present his vision to the public. There are four themes that he provided to guide decision makers at all levels over the next decade – these are the four legs that bear the Vision “Penang2030: A Family-focused Green and Smart State that Inspires the Nation”.

These themes, listed in no special order, are the following:

(1) Increase Liveability to enhance quality of life

(2) Upgrade the Economy to raise household incomes

(3) Empower People to strengthen civic participation

(4) Invest in the Built Environment to improve [societal] resilience

At least three tenets underlie his stated approach to Penang’s development. First, he seeks to make policy thinking effectively people-centric. Instead of the government being considered the originator of all major projects, Chow wants his administration to facilitate and assist projects initiated by members of society as well.

Second, his strategy places Penang with in the context of the nation as a whole. Indeed, the state government has much to gain from engaging intimately with the federal government. At the same time, the state cannot follow the slow pace of national bureaucracy, and it remains Penang’s duty to keep its own tempo and lead in innovative governance and creative entrepreneurship.

Third, Chow is keen to see that projects are systemically coordinated and monitored for how they affect the common people. Keeping people informed seems to be one of his main objectives. If done properly and sincerely, such a policy will indeed encourage people to provide him and his administration with fruitful and serious feedback.

Each word in “Penang2030: A Family-focused Green and Smart State that Inspires the Nation” seems carefully chosen.

Family centrality is a core value for most Malaysians, so putting that first is something that will be well-appreciated. Focusing on the family as the basic unit of society will allow for policies and statistics to be generated, which will encourage the development of effective support systems for the needy in the medium and longer term. Gender issues, religious issues and even education for all ages will now hopefully be given the space they deserve.

It is no longer controversial today to postulate that a balanced development is necessary for any society. Working to attain environmental well-being and economic advancement at the same time is not an impossible task, but it needs conscious and concerted efforts by key stakeholders to be achievable. The highlighting of environmental concerns is therefore to be welcomed. As the population grows, pressure on Penang’s natural and cultural assets will also increase. So it is timely that the state government has decided to give prominence to the common wish to manage a cleaner and greener state.

Next, mentioning a “smart state” envisages development that covers Penang as a whole. Pulau Pinang and Seberang Perai together make up the smart state that Penang seeks to become over the next decade. Indeed, the Penang Strait should not continue to be a watery expanse that separates the two parts, but a vast space that unites the two sides. Seeing Penang as being centred around the Penang Strait is an important shift in perspective, which can indeed change how decision makers in the public and private sector plan their project proposals.

“Smart” denotes the fact that the digital revolution continues, and it brings many opportunities that a place like Penang can take advantage of. In many ways, Penangites are latecomers to applied digital technology, and time is running out for us to make better use of digital innovations in creating jobs suited to Industry 4.0.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, any political vision worth its salt has to have the ambition to inspire others.

In summary, Penang2030 is innovative in that it dares to call for the involvement of various levels of stakeholders in pushing, not only for economic and infrastructural development in Penang, but also for the cultural development of society as a whole.

Penang Institute has been tasked to help Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s administration to coordinate, monitor and communicate matters related to Penang2030. Feedback is welcome, and can be sent to

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