Penang is an expensive island; from real estate, to cab fare, to seafood,and even getting moving company to get out of the island is a costly affair. Money aside, after living in this island for almost three years, I wonder whether there'll be good wind of change for the long term macro economic development. Here's some of my experiences and thoughts that I'd like to share with you, my fellow readers.
Real estate value in the island is driven by the perception that land is scarce (of course it is) and thus, owning a landed piece of property for new entrants into the job market is almost impossible, while those double-income spouse are even finding it hard too to own their dream home with a beautiful garden with rabbits or kittens running around. Forget those landed property if you can't afford RM500,000 mortgage.
I am a big fan of public transport. While cab drivers in KL comply to the meter system, the state government or the municipality have always failed to enforce the meter system to the hundreds of taxi drivers ripping off passengers. A trip from Sungai Nibong Express bus terminal to the Free Trade Zone which is about 5 minute ride would cost you RM22!!!
In comparison my cab fare from Central Market to Kota Damansara only cost me RM14. So, if you are in the island for holiday or business trip, you have to keep this in mind. Where is the social responsibility of the state government to the middle class who trapped in between and its push for high volume of tourists? I have heard tourists complaining so many times when I talk to them on the bus trip to KL. Other than taxi, suffice to say that the bus system in Penang won't be a good experience for tourists or office commuters.
Now let's get to food. Some restaurants are exorbitantly charging outrageous business dinner. Try one of those over hyped northern Indian food joints and you'll get what I mean. Last night, I had 30-sticks of chicken satay with steamed bawal at the Bali Hai. The bill came to RM99!!! Nuts! I wouldn't mind paying that amount if the satay was as good as Satay Kajang or if the steamed bawal wasn't that bland.
The fact that I am making a move out of the island has made me amazed at price the movers service companies are quoting me. A good friend of mine paid RM1,500 for household items moving from KL to Penang - with packaging, wrapping, dismantling, unpacking, and reassembling service included. I have been calling some movers service here in the island and I'm couldn't believe my eyes when Request For Quotation replies in my e-mail stating that to move a single person household items to KL from Penang would cost me RM2,000 to RM3,500!!! Go figure!
It is hard survival for middle class here and I don't see any social development long term plan taking shape in the island. The lower income earners will be pushed to the bottom. That also leaves me wonder about how the island will attract more tourists to visit the island when the service is still at its mediocre level and definitely have plenty more to catch up with cities.
These days, tourists coming to Penang would make their ways to the Langkawi Island or the lake resort in Bukit Merah or perhaps the bird sanctuary in Seberang.
Looking at long term economic point of view I have this list of questions in my head:
- Where is Penang's theme park to attract year round visitors? Since we are on this theme park topic, a cab driver shared me his conversation he had with one of his rich Middle Eastern passengers who asked him whether the Jerejak Island is up for sale. He said that he'd buy the island if there's such an offer!
- What improvement are the tourism board bringing in to existing destinations such as Penang Hill?
- When will there be a solid beach cleaning program to take care those dirty beaches in Batu Ferringhi?
- When will the transport system be fixed for the good of the Penang folks?
- When would they upgrade their ferry services that has been there since the British days?
- What are the new growth industry that can attract new players pumping in new FDI dollars to the island besides E&E?
I bought the TIME magazine June 4th edition and it features Singapore's plan to upgrade its skyline, working hard to find its niche attraction, and paranoid about its long term competitiveness edge. In the end, it makes you wonder whether they are still going make another costly mistake to build two lanes on the second bridge connecting Batu Kawan to Batu Maung. Enough with the nasty jam on the existing bridge!
Let's hope for the best! I still love the island despite the issues I'm highlighting here and I would love to see the Pearl of the Orient once again shine! And I know I will miss some nice people I got to know since I moved here.