March 30 2017
PERLIS is the smallest state in Malaysia. Its 821 sq km area is just slightly bigger than Singapore’s 719.1 sq km.
It is also perhaps the least visited state due to its location which is a bit out of the way of major traffic lanes.
Most outsiders, who have been there are likely those who chose to take the ferry to Langkawi via Kuala Perlis or on their way to southern Thailand via Padang Besar. Not without its attractions, the state of just over 200,000 people, however, is not exactly a top tourism draw.
There had been a sort of jump start on its basically paddy farming economy in the late 1990s when the administration led by former menteri besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim tried to make Perlis more economically exciting.
In the run-up to the 1999 general election, a slew of development project proposals were promised to the state.
Perlis, which only has Kangar, Arau and Padang Besar as its parliamentary constituencies is after all a Barisan Nasional’s stronghold.
Some of the projects did take off, such as the highway which connects Kuala Perlis to the North-South Expressway, as well as several institutes of higher learnings built in the state after the general election.
However, a huge industrial area, complete with an in-land port which was proposed to be set up near Padang Besar never materialised. Instead, in its place was just a small light industrial area.
Almost two decades from then, Perlis still looks and feels mostly the same – scenic paddy fields landscape and that languid relaxing atmosphere. There are a few new shoplot clusters and housing estates, and those are all about it.
The launching of Chuping Valley Industrial Area (CVIA) project by Raja Perlis Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin on Monday would probably change all that.
Due to be completed in 2025, Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azlan Man described the project as a key socio-economic catalyst to push the people of Perlis from their current agro-based economy to a modern one.
The CVIA cover 3,300 acres, has an inland port, a 500-acre logistics hub as well as an industrial area that focuses on renewable energy generation, green manufacturing and the halal industry.
In a departure from the stillborn industrial area project of the late 1990s, CVIA was said to have been carefully planned since 2014 and the Federal government has set an early allocation of RM873.5 million for its basic infrastructure.
With what appeared to be such a real commitment, it is hard to imagine that the project will suffer the same fate as the earlier aborted one.
The project is expected to create more than 12,500 jobs in the initial stage. This means the young people of Perlis who mostly now look for jobs outside the state may no longer have to do so if it really becomes a reality.
If everything goes well, the project is certainly bringing a brighter future for the people of Perlis.
In a larger scheme of things, perhaps what is even more significant about the project is that it provides a clear indication that the government is not just paying lip service to its promises of bringing real development to all Malaysians notwithstanding who and where they are in this country.