The Common Good in Penang's Progress


Our old concept of the public sector supplying basic amenities no longer holds, since the private sector now does a lot of what local authorities used to do. However, development that merely profits the developer and satisfies the consumer but does not contribute to the common good cannot really be called development.

Is development good or bad?

Private development, we are seeing with increased intensity in Penang, is actually a deal made between private business and its customers. Basically, it is a solicitor-client relationship – private profit for one side and the satiation of private consumption for the other.

But there has been much public outcry, because changes to the landscape can bring about environmental damage, traffic congestion, increased strain on the public delivery system and greater polarisation of the citizenry, isolating rich from poor. For these reasons, public appraisal of private development (presumably a role best played by the local authority) is necessary so that public costs and benefits are also given due consideration before private development can be given the go ahead.

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