Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng fields the 10 questions posed to him by our readers.

Saturday January 2, 2010 | The Star Biz
Your 10 questions

1. Administering the state must be a steep learning curve. How has the journey been so far and what is the biggest challenge? – Johnny Wong, Kepong

Administering an entire government with nearly 10,000 personnel, including both local government councils, definitely has been a steep learning curve. But as long as we are clear on our vision, mission and the governing strategy, we can fulfil the yearning for change and reforms. Our vision is to transform Penang into an international city that is a location of choice for investors, a destination of choice for tourists, and a habitat of choice for those who desire sustainable living. Our mission is establishing a people-centric government that does the three Es – enables the people with education and knowledge, empowers them with rights, freedoms and opportunities, and enriches them with a share in the economic fruits of success. Our governing strategy is to realise both our vision and mission through governance based on CAT (competency, accountability and transparency). An efficient, clean and world-class civil service is a prerequisite to transforming Penang into a high-income economy.

The biggest challenge is changing the mindset in the civil service to accept CAT as our core governing strategy, which emphasises education over propaganda, competency over political background, and excellence over indoctrination. We have to prove that a clean government can perform better than a corrupt one. Everyone is evaluated not on his skin colour, religion, gender or political background, but on performance. The public must be served fairly and treated equally.

2. How do you juggle your many roles in government, party and family? – Sarah Ibrahim, Muar

Multi-tasking works when there is teamwork with congruent goals, excellent back-up from my colleagues and staff, problem resolution gleaned from experience and trust, as well as good time management. But I must admit that I do not spend enough quantity and quality time with my growing children.

3. The Penang government is fighting hard for financial autonomy. How does that limit your aspirations for the state? – Angie, Malacca

Penang never had financial autonomy. From 2001 to 2008, Penang paid to the Federal Government RM25.67bil in the form of taxes and customs duties, but only received RM794mil in federal grants. In other words, Penang got back only 3% of what it contributed between 2001 and 2008.

We have no choice but to go back to basics. Penang’s past successes was grounded in developing our human resources and talents, relying on the private sector and private investments to drive economic growth and development, and providing good governance. That is why we have set up a 200-acre Education Hub in Balik Pulau, supported the expansion of an incubator doing R&D in Penang Skills & Development Corp, and focused on CAT governance. I have tremendous faith in the energy, expertise and entrepreneurship of Penangites.

4. Penang is still filthy due to lack of stringent monitoring and enforcement by local councils. Can Penang sustain its tourism industry given the polluted sea water and indiscriminate land clearing along Batu Ferringhi? – Josephine, Penang

We are continuing the efforts to clean up Penang, and these have gained the recognition of a Minister, who commented that Penang is now cleaner. But it is not easy to clean up the excesses or change the mindset of the past 51 years in a single stroke. Such efforts are complicated by past approvals for hillside development. Understanding the concerns of the local community, my government has not given a single approval for hillside development at Batu Ferringhi despite pressure from developers.

5. Do you feel it’s fair that Khazanah Nasional Bhd is managing the funds allocated by the Federal Government to conserve Penang’s heritage sites? – Oh, Malacca

This has been a sore point as George Town and Malacca were jointly listed as Unesco World Heritage Sites and should be accorded fair and equal treatment as promised by the previous prime minister. But what we have seen is the Heritage Department getting RM30mil for Malacca whereas Khazanah gets RM20mil for Penang, despite George Town being 50% larger and having 250% more heritage shophouses. Khazanah’s RM20mil has nothing to do with heritage and was submitted before the conferment of World Heritage status. We should not discriminate against George Town and must take cognisance that a World Heritage status is an honour that must be preserved, protected and promoted.

6. The Indian community was disappointed with your handling of the Lorong Buah Pala issue and there are concerns that you washed your hands off before exhausting all legal avenues to help the residents. As it was the last traditional Indian village in Penang, are there plans to set up an “Indian heritage village” as some Penangites have suggested? – Jimmei Morinae, Prai

The Penang government has never washed its hands off the issue. That is why Lorong Buah Pala will remain on the same piece of land when the 24 double-storey terrace houses for the affected residents are completed. Unfortunately, there are several residents who have placed their trust in people who are offering a RM75,000 apartment instead of my government’s RM600,000 double-storey house. We are willing to consider all proposals, provided they comply with the law and Federal Court rulings.

7. You have adopted CAT in running the state. Do you agree that the monitoring should start from procurement of contracts through open tender system and evaluating the qualified bidders with proven track records? To what extent is this being done? – Sheng, Batu Pahat

Penang is the first government to implement not only an electronic open tender system but also a two-week objection period to allow a review if there are valid complaints from competitors. To further reduce financial temptations, we have cut out the “middle men” by disbursing the money into the accounts.

Previously, one may need “political cables” to win contracts. Now all we need is a simple computer cable.

To protect and encourage whistleblowers, an Integrity Award of RM10,000 was introduced for civil servants.

We have reaped benefits from our reforms by having surplus budgets for 2008 and 2009 despite projected deficits of RM35mil and RM39mil respectively. For 2008, we recorded a surplus of RM88mil.

8. The number of Malaysians migrating in 2008 has more than doubled from that in 2007. Do you think this will get worst, and why? What ought to be done? – Karen Yeoh, Kuala Lumpur

The brain drain is our country’s most acute problem and it must be resolved if we are to transit ourselves into a high-income economy. The brain drain will only worsen if the country continues to treat our best and brightest with indifference bordering on disdain. To arrest the decline, we have to focus on merit and higher productivity.

Then only should Malaysia offer higher pay to not only retain but also attract human talent. By imposing glass ceilings unrelated to performance, we are inflicting damage to ourselves and serving as a recruiting pool for neighbouring countries such as Singapore. There must also be greater diversity of views as a source of strength and sustainable development.

9. Apart from your family members, who stood by you in the most difficult times of your political career? – Yap Koon Roy, Malacca

My family members, especially my wife and parents, have been as solid as a rock in terms of emotional support. But I have also being sustained by my fervent belief in justice, freedom and truth, and nourished by my faith in God. When we walk the talk, we never walk alone because God is always there. Suffering is unfortunately at times a necessary path to understanding the pearls of wisdom that allows us to treasure the “free” air we breathe and the simple joys of being with our loved ones that we take for granted.

10. Your administration aims to transform Penang into an international city. How are you going to achieve that when the officers in your administration don’t have the “international city mindset”? – Penangite & ex-Singapore civil servant

Training a world-class civil service cannot be achieved overnight. To inculcate a culture of excellence will not be easy after 18 years of mediocrity and inertia. I have faith in the capabilities of my civil service if it is allowed to realise its potential. To succeed, government leaders must lead by example through prudent budgeting, integrity in leadership, and a thirst for learning and mastering English and new knowledge. Everyone realises that not only do we have to be the best, but that those who perform will rise speedily through the ranks.

The Penang government will commit to promotions based not on skin colour, gender or political affiliation, but on performance and integrity. Let the word go forth that Penang has not only the best Malay, Chinese and Indian male and female professionals, but also welcomes our best Iban and Kadazan brothers and sisters.

  1. #1 by boh-liao on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 9:05 am

    It will take >10 years 2 change d tidak apa n bullying attitude of civil servants
    Even if PR win d federal gomen in d next GE
    Chaos, such as deleted files n info, will initially be experienced in d civil service
    As expected, d flip-flop show begins
    Prime Minister’s department to appeal against ‘Allah’ ruling
    Federal Court judge Datuk Seri S. Augustine Paul died yesterday
    One key actor of d 1998 high-profile sodomy n corruption case down n out
    When will d other two high fliers, d fox n d bag, follow their buddy 2 d west

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 9:30 am

    In the end, the biggest issue facing LGE is funding – for the state as well as for the party. There is just so much he can do as far as state funding is concern in the short run. He is actually already very successful and continue to be successful in relative terms. He need so much more to fund programs especially for the social programs for Malays and Indians in his state to be an examples that can be shown to the heartland and natives of Sabah and Sarawak.

    The more realistic approach to think of funding DAP by raising funds from Penangites abroad. Penang has one of the biggest and wealthiest diaspora – a big percentage in overseas in Singapore, Australia and elsewhere. Its time to tap that diaspora for DAP own social programs. This is what Sun Yat Sen did for China and what LGE can do for Penang. It should be worthwhile for Penang diaspora to do because the example will win political support all the way into the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. Remember Sabah have an Australian minister. Its time to tap that.

  3. #3 by william62 on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 10:27 am

    My daughter is lucky enough to become one of the participants for the National service for this year. She is now in Paya Indah Camp Selangor. Today is the second day for her to be in the camp, but I was informed that she is sad. She is not allowed to eat using spoon and fork but was shouted and ordered to eat by hand, which is to her very difficult. Why don’t the officers in the camp try to learn to respect the others’ culture? To live in a multiracial society like Malaysia. this is the most simple thing that we need to practice! It is even stated in the secondary school and primary school moral text book : “kita sebagai rakyat Malaysia yang hidup dalam masyarakat majmuk mestilah menghormati budaya kaum lain….” kalau perkara semudah ini pun tidak dapat diamalkan, apa gunanya jadi jurulatih atau pegawai di National Service Camp? YB LIM, please help Malaysians to change this “penyelewengan di Kem National Service di Paya Indah, Selangor”
    From a concerned Malaysian Chinese parent

  4. #4 by ktteokt on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 10:40 am

    Can Penang revert back to what it was 4 decades ago – be a FREE PORT again? If this can be done, I don’t see why Penang should worry about lack of funds!

  5. #5 by HJ Angus on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 10:59 am

    I think 2 very good suggestions have been made:
    1.Appeal to Malaysians who have moved abroad to help the governments in say Penang, Selangor and Perak to help keep these states under PR rule if the BN cannot be overcome in the next GE.
    2.Work out the economics of the “free port” status for Penang and if viable, the next PR government can declare that status again. I am sure most Malaysians will welcome that as the success of Penang to transform Malaysia with a new freedom is a vital for our future.

    It is not easy to lead a state when the federal government tries hard to make life difficult . See even Obama finds that the President cannot achieve everything in quick time.

  6. #6 by katdog on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 11:21 am

    He he good idea on appealing to Penangites overseas for raising funds. In fact, personally the funds raised should not be via DAP, but should be via the respective state governments.

    In fact, i am in Malaysia, but i am happy to donate a bit to the state government if nothing more than just a show of support. All i am asking for is transparency in how the money is used and making the donation tax deductible (so that i can avoid ‘feeding’ the corrupt Najib government) :)

  7. #7 by yhsiew on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 11:31 am

    Hope Guan Eng will endeavor to make Penang the FIRST high income state for other states to emulate.

  8. #8 by cintanegara on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 12:37 pm

    Would your son be Penang CM if he were not your son? In the future, you might have difficulty explaining what nepotism, merit or family relationship

  9. #9 by k1980 on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 1:10 pm

    cintanegara, regarding nepotism, can you please explain why the late Tun Razak’s son is now the PM?
    (Same case as Kim Il Sung’s son was appointed North Korean paramount leader after his father’s passing)

    Even Mao’s son/relatives was not appointed leader of China when the Chairman passed away in 1976.

  10. #10 by cintanegara on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 1:34 pm

    I have highlighted this numerous times….DS Najib, DS Hisham and DS Mukriz got the positions after their fathers no longer held significant positions in the cabinet/government….Got it?

  11. #11 by storm62 on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 2:19 pm

    ha ha ha…i love answer #6….thumbs up for those indians who make a hoo haa at high chaperal with mic and hindraf….ha ha ha.

    “The Penang government has never washed its hands off the issue. That is why Lorong Buah Pala will remain on the same piece of land when the 24 double-storey terrace houses for the affected residents are completed. Unfortunately, there are several residents who have placed their trust in people who are offering a RM75,000 apartment instead of my government’s RM600,000 double-storey house.” – LGE

    theseindians are so quite now, why don’t they go after KTK’s a$$ now….ha ha ha.

  12. #12 by Onlooker Politics on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 2:57 pm

    Congratulations YAB Guan Eng on having achieved a government surplus of RM88 million in 2008 despite a general lean year!

    Have you announced so far the annual bonus payable to 10,000 employees of Penang State Government and local governments? Please don’t forget to show to the public that the Penang Governments under your administration are the generous employers who will not hesitate to give away performance-related rewards to the loyal employees who worked hard and worked smart to bring about the profitability for the employers. Performance appraisal and reward giving are major components for the successful implementation of meritocracy in the long run!

  13. #13 by k1980 on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 3:51 pm

    When the 24 Kg Buah Pala double-storey terrace houses are completed, please videotape the affected residents moving into their new homes, burn the footage into DVDs and send them to those idiots who rejected the offer. I bet some of them would leap down in regret from the summit of Bukit Bendera.

  14. #14 by Winston on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 4:04 pm

    Whether someone is someone’s son or not, isn’t important!
    What’s very, very important is that he can DO THE JOB WELL!!!
    Also, don’t forget that you have to be elected by the people!
    LGE has done a very good job in the short period of time that he had taken over from the BN.
    Otherwise, Penang will still be rotting away and those who criticise him now will be rotting together with the BN government!
    Finally, I would like to ask everyone what has the UMNO/BN government done over the past five over decades that makes them even eligible for anyone’s vote?
    So, folks kindly use your brain before putting fingers to keyboard!!

  15. #15 by AhPek on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 4:42 pm

    Now that you are back tell me why haven’t you been defending your Ministry of Defence’s inability of keeping their jets not only well maintained but more importantly keeping all the parts making up the jet planes intact,that is to say not finding jet engines (such prominent elephants) or parts missing from jet planes when the topic was under hot discussion not so long ago.You have indeed very cleverly make yourself scarce under such situation.Is it because shame has finally made its way into your psche to make see that you cannot defend the indefensible?

  16. #16 by Onlooker Politics on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 5:20 pm

    “In the future, you might have difficulty explaining what nepotism, merit or family relationship.” (cintanegara)

    Nepotism does not simply mean that a father has committed it by his sheer act of handing over or delegating an important job of public interest to his son. Nepotism actually means that a father has unreasonably and unprudently handed over or delegated an important job of public interest to his prodigal son or idiot son.

    Lim Guan Eng is a clever, smart, efficient, effective, competent, academically qualified person of high integrity who does not fall into the category of “prodigal or idiot son”. Therefore, nepotism does not apply here between Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng.

  17. #17 by AhPek on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 5:46 pm

    In the learned evaluation of cintanegara,I would suppose he would say Lee Hsien Loong’s position heading the little red dot
    is also the result of nepotism!
    But of course even if it is ‘nepotism’ they are
    worthy of occupying these seats.They haven’t got the reputation of being perceived as being involved in murders or being recipients of commissions of huge projects!In fact they have carried their public duties honestly and admirably

  18. #18 by frankyapp on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 5:49 pm

    I think under the present Federal system of governance,take for instant the previous PBS’s state government of Sabah,it was under the mercy of TDM/Cental government for funds to improve and develop the state.TDM/Federal governmant had given Sabah state nothing but anger and regression.Similarly I think CM LGE is facing pretty tough situation,a kind of conditions which is similar to Sabahans have felt.The difference is then was TDM,now is NR. We have yet to know who is the meaner of the two. .Frankly,I think LGE (despite pretty limited resources) has done some pretty good jobs such as the city is cleaner and greener,the beaches and the public toilets are much better managed.And if there’s a grading for LGE and NR,I’ll give LGE a B and NR a F.

  19. #19 by katdog on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 6:02 pm

    cintanegara :
    I have highlighted this numerous times….DS Najib, DS Hisham and DS Mukriz got the positions after their fathers no longer held significant positions in the cabinet/government….Got it?

    I could possibly agree with you on DS Najib and DS Hisham (although i can’t be certain as i don’t exactly know their political history).

    But DS Mukhriz? Please don’t joke. Everyone knows that Mukhriz got his position because of his daddy’s influence. This fellar couldn’t even win the UMNO youth elections but got a position in an important ministry?

    On the other hand, do a poll among Penangites whether they feel that LGE is doing a good job as CM. And many will grudgingly agree that while he is not perfect, he is definitely doing a lot better than Koh Tsu Khoon or Teng Hock Nam (who would have been the successor to KTK).

  20. #20 by boh-liao on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 6:56 pm

    There is oredi a super corridor comprising Selangor, Penang, Kedah n Kelantan
    Will d 4 states work together n perform better than d other states
    Judgment day, d next GE, will b here soon
    LGE n PR politicians shld do what they hv 2 do now
    Don’t wait till d Judgment day baru realise dat they shld hv done many things yesterday
    There r good ppl outside M’sia n many r willing 2 help
    Can LGE n PR politicians reach n mobilise them

  21. #21 by waterfrontcoolie on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 8:50 pm

    would you all please ignore the cinta guy? it is not worth the 2 min. you have to interact with him. i don’t think he’s anything positive to talk about. Pure blind allegiance! And we all know that he can never think ‘straight’; his agenda is fixed: dig, dig and dig till kingdom comes.

  22. #22 by katdog on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 9:12 pm

    waterfrontcoolie :
    would you all please ignore the cinta guy? it is not worth the 2 min. you have to interact with him. i don’t think he’s anything positive to talk about. Pure blind allegiance! And we all know that he can never think ’straight’; his agenda is fixed: dig, dig and dig till kingdom comes.

    Ha! ha! Yes, most of us know his secret agenda in making baseless accusations here. Ignore him if we must. But i believe that we should at least refute his baseless accusations (but not with just pure name calling).

    We hope that one day, people like him will realize the error of their ways and embrace reform for the greater good of the nation.

  23. #23 by Brats195 on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 10:31 pm

    Guan Eng is singing SOLO in Penang. While he is trying very hard to advocate CAT, but his TIKUS lacks the commitment and skill set to work for RAKYAT. Transparency and Capability remains TALK only. DAP government is a TIKUS and is as good as the spoken with NO substance at ALL.

    My above comment is my more than one(1) experience dealing with a few individuals in DAP government. I have names and facts to support my comments. Write to me and I release a FULL DETAIL report of my very unpleasant encounter with DAP government.

    Write to me and read my detail report. DAP government is as good as the SPOKEN words with NO substance at ALL.

    I hoe to see a righteous leaders who will be able to stand TALL for the benefit of RAKYAT.

    Today, it is all spoken words ONLY…….

    [email protected]

  24. #24 by tanjong8 on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 10:49 pm

    Learn from Singapore.

    You had been to Singapore at least 2 times and should know what ticks.

    Nevermind about the Umnoputra’s central government. Pursue the policies that work

  25. #25 by tanjong8 on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 10:51 pm

    Penang shall be the beacon of hope for the rest of Malaysia.

    It shall be the standard with which the other states are benchmarked.

    As the old saying goes, Penang leads

  26. #26 by ekans on Sunday, 3 January 2010 - 11:25 pm

    If there is anyone who disagrees with the contents of the above-mentioned Q&A that was published in the Star newspaper, he/she should follow the same trend which those two MACC officers have started, that is making a police report based on what was published in a newspaper. Given the recent events, it’s expected that PDRM will not mind such a report being lodged…

  27. #27 by superstar48 on Monday, 4 January 2010 - 3:22 am

    Cintanegara,why are you fond of bad mouthing and finally screwed up at your back for nothing.How much are you paid to talk like that?I am just a month old around,i have never ever seen you say something positive.When you cannot give good answers don’t bodohkan yourself.I know your are a good critisizer but have no substance in your output.Come out man,contribute what you think is right,you need not kowtow to any donkey around.Your children must feel proud about your writings if you have any.All the best.

  28. #28 by undergrad2 on Monday, 4 January 2010 - 7:59 am

    Why is the Chief Minister of Penang referring to His Majesty’s Government as “my government” when the privilege should be that of the Governor (or the Sultan as the case may be) of the state? Only the Governor (or the Sultan as the case may be) could refer to the state government as “my” and ‘my Chief Minister”.

  29. #29 by HJ Angus on Monday, 4 January 2010 - 9:13 am

    Yes – Malaysian leaders can learn a lot from Singapore but you don’t need to advertise that here.
    Just take the MRT and bus and look around the HDB flats – you will realise that a lot of effort is necessary to make things work.
    Supervisors supervise there whereas in Malaysia most people responsible for doing the necessary supervision like keeping public places clean and drains unclogged rarely do their jobs properly and that is why we have flash floods on a regular basis.

  30. #30 by taiking on Monday, 4 January 2010 - 11:08 am

    Cintanegara is at it again. Yes splurting nonsense of the purest type, as usual.

    Najib took the elevator his father built. He did not use the stairs. In fact, he was not required to so. He would have fallen along the way. In which event one would not know whether he would be able to get up and keep going. Same for kerismudin bin lembudin and the son of mamak.

    Guan Eng used the stairs. And he fell, didnt he? Quite badly, actually. He was in fact jailed. But he recovered and he ploughed on.

    Using the elevator is typical umnoputra mentality. Shortcut to success is always available, as far as they are concerned. Hand-delivered goodies would be so much the better. And they actually had it good for 3-4 (maybe 4-5) disgusting decades and kept on demanding for more. Anyway it is good to know that 87% of umno members actually dislike people like cintanegara.

  31. #31 by cemerlang on Monday, 4 January 2010 - 10:16 pm

    When it comes to open tender, there are incidences whereby the project is given to people less qualified. Even with an open tender, corruption can still happen because of strings pulled so that certain parties can have access to the projects. The public complains about corruption. But they are still giving tea money. For too long the public knows more bad things about the civil service rather than the good things. Even the public servants themselves have not much regard for the service. When they come into the service, it takes them a second to be one of the bad workers. Why ? Because they see others doing it. If others can, how come they cannot. If others are not punished, why are they the only ones to be punished ? So many standards. If you need to change, you will have to get rid of those senior staff who are such bad role models. Then give chance to those who try to be good workers. Quickly take in new staff and make sure they don’t do the bad things like their super seniors. By right, if you call this your country, you should develop it. If you don’t , then it shows that you don’t love this country. When the private steps in, they want a share too. The risk is they begin to form their own groups. So what is the difference when compared to some triad groups many moons back ? Between Penang and Singapore, Penang should be better than Singapore. And it might be better if it stands on its’ own. But it cannot. Penang island is bigger. There are more beaches. There are more islands surrounding. It is nearer to bigger countries. Singapore is not what it used to be. Now there are going to be two casinos. She would be something like Macau, a gambling city and gambling is morally wrong. No doubt, worldly wise, it will bring in money. But never forget the big guy up there. There was a time when Mr Lee Kuan Yew was in power and the conditions were good with good morals and good ethics. These are slowly fading away. The younger generation think that he is too strict. So they say it is okay to have classy exclusive gambling dens. They say it is okay to have red light hotels. They say it is okay to have Formula 1 booming up and down the city. Can you see the change ? When you change to become good, there is a danger that when you become good, you will change to become bad. We are envious of Singapore because she has all these high class futuristic nice looking great architecture buildings standing so tall and so proud. But we should be proud that we still have the nature to show off to. It is a good comparison. Singapore is a good role model. But may be one day, we will be a role model to her instead.

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