Penang BN says will battle Pakatan ‘policy to policy’
KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 — Penang Barisan Nasional’s (BN) new chief Teng Chang Yeow has pledged his focus on reclaiming the state in the next polls by fighting Pakatan Rakyat (PR) “policy to policy” instead of harping on the pact’s failures.
The Gerakan leader has drawn up a comprehensive alternative development plan for Penang that promises to boost the state’s economy and help improve its people’s socio-economic status, including closing the wide development gap between Penang island and the mainland.
He told The Malaysian Insider during a recent interview that his strategy was to extol BN’s abilities instead of focus on PR’s weaknesses as he is aware that this time, the cards may not be in favour of the ruling pact, particularly in the DAP-led Penang.
Teng (picture) admitted that the present government, under DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, has managed to run Penang well enough since 2008 and any attempt by BN to deny this to voters could likely backfire on them.
“They have been successful in giving the impression to the people that they are running a good government, that they are doing well with the economy, that they have been taking good care of the lower income group — this impression has been established in the minds of the masses,” Teng cautiously said during the interview.
But the Gerakan secretary-general was also quick to add that “Rome was not built overnight”, pointing out that much of PR’s successes in Penang today was also partly BN’s to celebrate after having laid an over 40-year foundation in the state.
Taking note the often-used adage that politics is a game of perception, Teng said voters were now in the stage of assessing BN and what it could offer to them that would be better than PR.
“People are now assessing us, how we are going to be better than the PR government, what more we could offer to them,” he said.
This, he said, was a good sign as it was a vast change from the state of voter confidence post-2008 when the electorate had literally “closed their minds to BN”.
One of the key reasons behind this change, he said, was Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
As much as voters may be pro-PR in Penang, he said, it was difficult to avoid appreciating the changes that Najib had brought since 2009, particularly his transformative programmes like the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP), Government Transformation Programme (GTP), Political Transformation Programme (PTP) and Rural Transformation Programme (RTP).
Najib, said Teng, had brought on a total revamp of the BN that was before, making voters rethink their anti-BN stand.
“Looking at Najib’s programmes, it shows that this is a sincere prime minister who us trying to help every lawyer of society. People know that he is trying his level best to move the country’s economy forward,” he said.
“So this is how we will fight this war — it is about what we (BN) have to offer, rather than insulting PR. We will fight policy to policy, ideals to ideals. After all, if we engage in name-calling, the retaliation will never stop.”
Teng explained that Penang needs to move away from its focus on its manufacturing sector, which he said had almost reached its peak or limit.
He said while the sector had helped build a strong foundation for Penang’s economy, largely in the 1960s and 1970s, the state was now running out of space and manpower to increase such labour-intensive industries.
“What we have put forth is that we want to turn Penang into an international tourism haven; we want to make Penang an International Financial District; we want to create an Innovation Dynamo Park for Penang; we want to enhance the development of coastal line fishery activities; and also, to create an aquaculture hub for Penang,” he said.
Teng also repeated his promise to restore Penang’s free port states should BN come to power, saying this would involve a comprehensive plan on how to develop proper infrastructure, increase business connectivities and other needs of the industry to back up the status.
He also pointed to relooking at the state’s transportation problems and formulating policies for affordable housing for Penangites, taking note of the rising cost of property prices in the state.
“In the past under the BN administration, when constructing RM25,000 low-cost homes became an issue because the developers refused to build them, we decided on a RM42,000 low to medium cost housing policy instead.
“Now, the prices have escalated up to RM72,000... but this does nor resolve the cost of housing. So it falls back on the planning and land issues — how could we derive premiums from land conversion, how we need to have an effective mechanism to subsidise low cost houses for social needs... and how to put in affordable housing for the people,” he said.
Teng pointed out that the government could not continuously rely on clearing more land space and opening new areas to develop more housing and could instead concentrate on “redeveloping” current, government-run housing schemes.
“Additionally, we also need to move more key activities into the mainland and make the island a place for living, as well as for tourism,” he said pointing to the wide development gap between Penang island and the mainland.
Penang fell to the hands of the loose opposition pact of DAP, PKR and PAS in Election 2008 when Gerakan, the party that had helmed the state for nearly 40 years since 1969, was completely wiped out without securing a seat.
Its BN partner Umno however secured 11 of the 15 seats it contested. The remaining seats were swept up by DAP (19), PKR (9) and PAS (1).
Despite Umno’s success with Penang’s Malay voters, the ruling party still needs a strong Gerakan and MCA to woo the Chinese electorate. Of the 40 state seats, 22 are said to be Chinese-majority.
In the coming polls, Umno will contest in 15 state seats, Gerakan in 13, MCA in 10 and MIC in two.