Khalid Samad — a man with a mission

The Federal Territories minister shares his visions and views over the rapid growth of KL, its modes of transportation, the population growth and quality of life, as well as various corruption scandals passed on by his predecessor

by AFIQ AZIZ & SHAZNI ONG/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

AS AN experienced politician, Khalid Abdul Samad (picture) has won the last three general elections for the Shah Alam seat consecutively.

Shah Alam, which comprises around 70,000 Malays from the total 107,316 registered voters, is a rapidly growing urban area and the capital of Selangor, the country’s richest state. It is also about 40km away from the city centre, but that does not stop the Kelantan-born man from juggling his MP role with that of the Federal Territories minister.

A former Petroliam Nasional Bhd employee, Khalid took over the office with a handful of tasks, inheriting the position from Umno’s Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.

The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently sat down with Khalid, who shared his visions and views over the rapid growth of Kuala Lumpur (KL), its modes of transportation, the population growth and quality of life, as well as various corruption scandals passed on by his predecessor.

Q: As a senior politician, holding an important portfolio, how would you describe the next phase for the Pakatan Harapan administration, and what are the areas that could be improved?
The first year was a steep learning curve. We must acknowledge that it was something new for most of us, if not everyone. We had to take over jobs from the previous government and all its problems, including a civil service which was not necessarily supporting us.

But Alhamdulillah, in general, they took a very professional attitude that they must support the government of the day.

Nevertheless, trying to support the government while being sceptical of it is not easy. So, to address that, there was a lot of efforts to get to know and understand each other. We had to dispel any negative misconceptions and learned to respect one another.

In my ministry, I only managed to settle this, four months after I came in.

Traffic in the city centre. Khalid says by bringing more people to live in the city, we can reduce the number of cars coming in

Q: Recently, you told the Parliament about the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) giving the green light to 64 out of 97 dubious land transactions under the Barisan Nasional administration. Can you elaborate on that?
When they gave us the letter, what they were saying is that the investigation is ongoing, but even if the contracts are implemented and in progress, it will not affect the investigation.

Originally, 64 transactions were reported to MACC, but we had identified up to 97 suspicious deals. From the 97, 48 did not need any adjustment because basically, what we did was see the price of the land when it was sold. If it was below the market value, then we would have to restudy and renegotiate with the developers.

Of the 97, 49 needed to be studied. Some we renegotiated, while some we cancelled because the prices were found to be very low, and they were at the very initial phases, like the deposit stage.

If they were at the deposit level, we returned the deposit and cancelled the deal. From there, we saved a few hundred million ringgit. The total that we managed to save was almost RM500 million.

Q: Are there any plans for the 14 parcels of land which were returned to the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL)?
For the time being, we label those parcels as keep-in-view (KIV) as land is scarce in KL. We want to make sure that we do not exhaust our land banks. So, buying back those 14 parcels was very important to increase our land banks.

We want to engage consultants under DBKL to come up with a proposed development plan, says Khalid

Q: How would you address land scarcity in the KL 2020-2040 Plan, and what are the aspirations and key components that could be included?
The previous plan, the KL City Plan 2020, was gazetted in October last year. That was the first time we gazetted a master plan to ensure that the development in KL is controlled and managed better.

We plan to do the same thing this time, because when 2020 is over, we will have another plan for the next chapter. We want to engage consultants under DBKL to come up with a proposed development plan. In the plan, we will determine zones, for example, areas for commercial, industrial and residential.

Before we gazette it, we will present it to the public for feedback and readjust it accordingly. Once it is gazetted, the development of KL will follow the master plan. But of course, the master plan is not cast in stone. As time goes on, things may change.

2020 to 2040 is a long period, so the master plan may change, but it must go through a proper procedure. However, it is very important that we do the planning properly and correctly, as if that is going to be the only one that will guide us for the development of KL.

Q: How far has the planning progressed? What are the expectations?
Actually, it just started as the engagement with the public has begun. What we hope is that, by the end of the year, we will have one proposal which will be made public in early 2020 for debate and discussion. We aim to finalise it by 2020 as the plan is going to be used for 2021 onwards.

So, we have about one whole year to formulate it. The consultants have been appointed by DBKL. What we want to see in the 2020-2040 plan is bringing in more residents into the city.

Currently, many are living outside the city and we’d have bottlenecks when they go to work in the city every morning, and vice versa in the evening.

To have more city residents, we need to build more residential areas, as well as a good transportation system to connect them between home and work.

Currently, the residential population in KL is about 1.8 million, while the 2020 structural plan targeted the number to reach about 2.2 million.

Density is another issue. If you put too many in one small area, then, it becomes very congested. While we have some land for development, we do not want to put a lot of people in one small area.

We do not want the KL density to be too high like Hong Kong. Too high a density will affect the quality of life in an area.

We can bring people into the city, but at the same time, reduce the maximum density. We also have enough areas where we can increase the number of residential units.

At the same time, we are also expected to reduce the commercial unit development due to the glut in the marketplace. There are too many office spaces in KL, so we need to control that.

Masjid Jamek near the River of Life in KL

Q: Are you satisfied with KL’s public transport efficiency? What would be the ideal way to alleviate the issue of congestion in the city beside public transport?
By bringing more people to live in the city, we can reduce the number of cars coming in. Next, by improving public transport, that will again reduce the number of cars coming in.

We have the LRTs (Light Rail Transit), MRTs (Mass Rapid Transit), the monorail, buses and maybe, in the central business district (CBD) area itself, we’ll have the tram system.

When all of these are well-planned and targeted, people would not need to bring their cars in. However, if people insist on driving, then, you’ll have the congestion charge. There is also the suggestion of higher parking rates. We cannot deny people wanting to drive their cars, but they will have to pay for it.

Q: Your predecessor was charged for accepting RM2 million from Aset Kayamas Sdn Bhd. Do you have any plans to blacklist developers involved in bribes?
No. Sometimes developers are asked to pay the politician after getting the job. They complied, thinking that is the only way they can survive.

For us, we do not want to pass judgement but leave that role to the court and MACC. On our side, we just take every deal based on merit.

We have the LRTs, MRTs, the monorail, buses and maybe, in the CBD area itself, we’ll have the tram system, says Khalid

Q: On the Harapan Coin, how did you come up with the idea and are you interested to push it further as there are some positive developments on cryptocurrency in Malaysia?
Before the 14th General Election, I was approached by Malaysians working in Australia, saying that they had created a cryptocurrency called Harapan Coin. They proposed that we use it as crowdfunding. At that time, we needed money for the election. So, we highlighted that this coin was purely for donation purposes, not for the sake of trading.

But for the donors, the Harapan Coin that they got was merely a “receipt” which could not be traded. It had no value in the trading market.

We got the bitcoin that they used to purchase the Harapan Coin, we cashed it out and raised thousands of ringgit for our party campaign. However, after the election, I was advised not to deal with the cryptocurrency world anymore, so I left it.

Cryptocurrency trading is very transparent as we can see every transaction recorded.