It’s hard to imagine government buildings being interesting but Malaysia’s administrative centre at Putrajaya about 30 minutes outside Kuala Lumpur certainly is proof to the contrary.
Putrajaya is a planned city and government shifted there in 1999 after downtown KL became too crowded. However Kuala Lumpur is still Malaysia’s capital. It is home to the King and Parliament, as well as being the country’s commercial and financial centre.
In Putrajaya every government agency makes a solid statement with its own building with its own style. No expense has been spared in this strenuous assertion of Malaysian prosperity and prestige as a nation. In Sanskrit, “putra” means “prince” or “male child”, and “jaya” means “success” or “victory”.
The architectural parallels with foreign capitals are unmistakeable.
The centrepiece is the seven kilometre boulevard leading to the palace like structure entirely devoted to the offices of the Prime Minister.
At the other end of the boulevard is the convention centre designed to look like a space ship where the government hosts large international delegations.
The grandeur of the architecture recalls Paris and Washington, with the broad sweeping tree lined boulevard suggesting the Champs Elysée.
The area is clean, planned, and orderly and not a shop or a hoarding in sight. This is about government. It is a statement that Malaysia is a regional power, economically if not militarily, confident, prosperous, and not to be taken for granted.
The city is within the ‘Cyberjaya’ the government’s Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC). The government plans to make Malaysia into a thoroughly modern state by 2020, partly through a knowledge based societal framework, and the multimedia super corridor is a vital component of that strategy.
The Australians journalists I was travelling with were impressed. Looking at the lake from the bridge along the boulevard, one commented that it certainly put Canberra in the shade.
Of course Wellington has nothing even remotely like this, plans for a lavish government centre around the Molesworth Street area having been shelved long ago.
Actually I was in KL as a guest of Malaysia Airlines who want to promote KL as a stopover from travellers from New Zealand and Australia going either to north Asia or Europe. A group of writers were shown through MAS’s operation where the satay makers work every day turning out thousands of Malaysia’s signature dish.
After the concerns over safety and security crew training is important and all crew do regular refreshers on resuscitation and other emergencies including evacuations down the big slides.
MAS is about to delist from the Malaysian Stock Exchange after the minority shareholders voted to accept a buyout offer from the government owned investment company.
Malaysian taxpayers have already put in a total of $7B into the company since 2001, and after the loss of two aircraft and the decline in traffic, the company is forecast to lose $1.2B – $1.8B this financial year. Without remedial action, MAS was scheduled to run out of cash entirely in 2015.
Under the 12 point recovery plan now being implemented there’ll be a further capital injection of $2.6B and jobs will also be reduced from 20 000 to 14 000. Service will be modernised, new aircraft may be purchased but little change is expected to routes. Already commentators in KL are talking of a return to profitability and a relisting of the company in three years’ time.
This post first appeared in Kiwiblog as a guest post on 26 November 2014