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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

No logic in Penang undersea tunnel

Penang people want to build an undersea, and that reminds me of former Melaka CM's wish to build a bridge across to Indonesia's Dumai.

The cross-strait bridge to Indonesia made a major laughing stock when the proposal was first announced

People saw it as a joke not because it was technically unfeasible but because there was no such a need for the bridge at all. Imagine a bridge that crosses the Straits of Melaka should have been both miraculous and desolate. How much money do we need to pump in to build a bridge like that? What about the manpower involved? Will the input be proportionate to to the revenue?

Fortunately such a grand design has never been put into implementation and billions on feasibility studies were spared before the plan was denied by any commonsense logic.

But, what Melaka failed to do could become a reality way north in Penang.

Let's put aside the proposed undersea tunnel. I want to share my experience of using the Second Bridge during a visit to the island.

The traffic was unexpectedly scanty when my car pulled into the bridge in an afternoon, hardly ten vehicles coming into sight during my 20-minute journey, plus several motorcycles.

With the usage of the Second Bridge so pathetically low, they are now talking about another undersea tunnel. The island must have been excessively affluent to do so.

Moreover, the whole thing has been planned in such a casual way, and the three feasibility study reports alone would cost the state government a whopping RM305 million.

This could possibly set a new world record for a report, and the government appears to be so generous in forking out the money. I believe the same about of money should be enough to commission the NASA to prepare 30 feasibility reports on human migration to Mars.

Some have estimated that the state government's expenses on social welfare in the eight years it has assumed power are not even close to RM300 million.

Of course, RM305 million is just a beginning. Once the construction starts, it's going to be an astronomical RM6.34 billion.

The project will be handled by a company called CZBUCG, with links to the company commissioned to do the feasibility studies. Obviously there is some conflict of interests here.

The state government seems to be fully committed to bring this project to fruition. Nevertheless, this whole project is shrouded in a mysterious mist that even elected reps in the ruling team could not get a real picture of what is actually going on. PKR's request for a state PAC report has so far been ignored.

When asked why the undersea tunnel must be built, the Penang CM replied slyly the federal government would not accept the notion of a third bridge. The thing is, the CM has never even voiced up such a request!

And when confronted by the question why the state government was prepared to commission the construction to a company and collect the tolls for the next 30 years, he said collecting tolls was what the federal government was best at.

I'm afraid if a further question on the undersea tunnel were to be asked, the CM would simply reply that there is no swimming pool in the tunnel!

We want to know why such a tunnel must be built and why the three reports could fetch a heavy price of RM305 million (RM135 million of which has been effectuated with a swap of state land).

Those in power cannot run a state or nation with sheer imagination. Public resources must never be squandered or abused. All policies must meet the most fundamental requirements of commonsense and logic, as well as the needs of the public.

Such a logic is non-existent in the undersea tunnel project.

By Tay Tian Yan

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