Media statements issued never do get media coverage, and if it does it often does not report all that is stated. Given the fact, there seem to be no real documentation of all these civil society voices, this Blog has been started hoping to capture and preserve the voices of civil society for all. Appreciate it if you could forward me ( statements that have not been picked up by this Blog.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Coalition for Good Governance, Penang :- Open letter to the Chief Minister of Penang: PICC and its unanswered questions

*Open letter to the Chief Minister of Penang: PICC and its unansweredquestions*

16 July 2010

Dear Chief Minister of Penang, YAB Lim Guan Eng:

Penang based NGOs and individuals are concerned about the recent media report that the Penang state government is pushing for building of the Penang International Convention Centre (PICC) at the PISA ground in Relau.Many questions and concerns have been raised on the feasibility of building the PICC there, yet these questions remain substantially unanswered.

To reiterate some of the many pressing questions about PICC (pertinent and critical points highlighted):
   - What is the actual demand for conventions/exhibitions in Penang in view   of the *oversupply of convention and exhibition spaces in Kuala Lumpur   and this region? *This needs to be projected over the next five years,   ten years and fifteen years.
   - *Is there a marketing strategy to promote Penang as a MICE destination   internationally* in view of the intense competition and oversupply of  convention centres in the region? Or is the Penang state government  dependent on the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board and the Malaysian  Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) which are both Federal bodies?
   - *What is the total projected development cost of PICC upon completion?   Is RM50 million still the right figure? How will the project be financed and  what is the cost per annum to MPPP over the term of the project’s financing?  
   - *What is the projected rate of return on capital for MPPP over the  initial five years, ten years and fifteen years of PICC’s operations?*This is critical if the project is to be tendered out using a build, manage   and transfer (BOT) model and MPPP being the ultimate owner of this project.
   - What are the projected maintenance costs to be incurred by MPPP for   keeping PICC up to international standard? Again, projected over at least a   fifteen year period, with explanation of assumptions.
   - *The PICC will be tendered out on a build, operate and transfer (BOT)   model. What are the terms and conditions under this model? Will any state or   public assets (eg. state land) be traded in to the private developer in lieu  of payment to build the PICC? If yes, what are the details of the exchange   and will it be made public?*
   - What are the answers to the critics that argue that PICC will be built  in a small adjacent plot of land next to PISA? In particular, what are the  plans for traffic, including access, dispersal and parking?
   - You recently said in a press conference that the private developer will  be responsible for traffic dispersal plans. *Why is a developer tasked  the responsibility of planning for traffic dispersal and not the MPPP’s   Engineering and Planning Divisions or the Public Transport Council? Will the   public and the affected neighbouring communities in Bayan Baru, Relau,   Sungai Ara and Bukit Jambul be consulted in the traffic and planning  studies?*
   - Several private developers have indicated their plans to build convention centres eg. in the Light Waterfront and Times Square projects.   These will be bigger, more strategically located and better supported by  transport links and 5-star hotels. *What are the projections as to what   will happen to the PICC when these new convention centres are completed?*
   - You were reported to have said that PISA is “fully occupied” which is  why there is an urgent need for a PICC. PISA is currently used for   exhibitions in only about one in three weekends (for 3 days). For the rest  of the time, PISA remains largely underutilized. *Is there data to show   the “full occupancy” of PISA? How many days/weekends in a year is it booked   for events?*
   - What has been the net profit (if any) MPPP has made out of PISA since  it began its operations? What are the projected profit figures over the next  fifteen years? How much does it cost MPPP annually to maintain PISA and what  is the projected maintenance cost over the next fifteen years? How much is   planned to be spent on the upgrading of the PISA so that it will be of   sufficient standard to complement PICC?

A thorough feasibility study to address all these questions needs to becarried out before a project of this magnitude and risk is to be undertaken. More so when RM50 million of ratepayers money is involved. Has such a study been done and if not, is there one planned? When will it be available in the public domain?

Many Penangites would argue that MPPP should concentrate on its core services of improving and maintaining basic services, transport and accessibility, public spaces, cleanliness, upgrading amenities of local
markets and seeing to low cost housing. How is it justified for MPPP to use its limited resources and a huge part of its budget to build and manage a convention centre? Wouldn’t it be more prudent for other agencies like the Penang Development Corporation (PDC) to undertake this project rather than MPPP?

Dear Mr. Chief Minister. You have been a consistent advocate of the Freedom of Information (FOI) and the Right to Information (RTI) both inside and outside Parliament. You have also actively promoted the state’s Competency, Accountability and Transparency (CAT) policy. We support you wholeheartedly in this, and therefore look forward to the publication of a full and comprehensive feasibility study on the PICC proposal. We believe it is through such public information and discussion that the best way forward can be found, not least for projects that involve millions of ringgit of public money and using limited MPPP resource.

We eagerly await your response to this letter.

Yours Sincerely,
Tan Seng Hai

for the Coalition for Good Governance, Penang.
*(Note: The Coalition for Good Governance, Penang (CGGP) is a working group of Penang NGOs, community groups and individuals working for good governance in Penang. It was formed recently, to take forward issues such as transparency, accountability, local democracy, participation and social equity. These sorts of issues formed the core discussion at Penang Forum 2.)

*Copies to:
-          MPPP President, Ar. Hajah Patahiyah
-          All State Exco
-          All MPPP councillors
-          All Penang Island Aduns
-          Media and Penang NGOs

Ong Jing Cheng
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
Penang Branch Coordinator,
63B-01-07, University Heights,
Jalan Sungai Dua,
11700 Penang.
Tel / Fax: +6 04-6582285
Mobile phone: +6 012 7583 779

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