Media Statement by Johor DAP Publicity Secretary and Senai State Assemblyman Wong Shu Qi on 18 December 2015 (Friday):
It is all about political will on resolving Causeway congestion that gets worse lately
It is very disheartening to see that more than a thousand Malaysians were trapped in Causeway congestion lately. This is not a new issue and many voices including myself have raised criticism as well as proposals on resolving the matter. Both the Malaysian and Singaporean governments should not pass the buck to each other on the issue anymore. It is time to sit down and find a solution or face the ugly outcome.
In the World Bank Economic Report on Malaysia this year, it was estimated that the Kuala Lumpur congestion alone cost up to 2.2% of our GDP in 2014. The congestion between Johor Bahru and Singapore was not significant then. However, with the increasingly congested Causeway, the cost would definitely increase and jeopardise all stakeholders’ interest.
There are several causes contributed to the latest congestion, namely, school holidays, stringent immigration check at Singapore customs and fewer counters. Besides all these factors, the lack of public transport infrastructure has always been the key problem.
We do not have problem with Singapore’s stringent security check, as it is their right to defend their citizens. However, the mechanism for control can be improved to ensure smoother traffic. Does creating a traffic bottleneck at the Causeway an effective way of border control? Ordinary people, especially residents of Johor and Singapore, suffer due to such indiscriminatory control measure. By reducing the number of immigration counters and increasing the difficulties for citizens of both countries to commute, financial and social costs were raised against communities on both sides of the Strait. The Singapore government might as well shut off their borders for this period of time.
We have to provide better public transport options for daily commuters; otherwise, the problem will only get worse. In 2013, there was about 200,000 Malaysians who commute daily; we can only estimate that the number has increased to at least 250,000 today. The increase is demonstrated by the worsening congestion commuters faced daily.
Ultimately, however, it is all about political will when it comes to resolving the Causeway congestion which is getting worse by the day. There is no reason why the government cannot expand the Causeway to accommodate a proper sheltered pedestrian pathway. This is especially when we are already planning to spend even more to build a third bridge. I was told in the last Johor state assembly sitting that there is no more space to build a proper sheltered walkway, yet, the government is planning to build much fancier project linking two countries at a substantially higher cost.
Today, the Causeway is the shortest link which allows many daily commuters to walk with ease given the distance. Hence, allowing commuters to have the option of walking should be part of the overall solutions. The government must explore all possibilities and not just plan to spend more and more money. The key to resolving congestion is not just money but once again, ultimately, it is about the political will of the policy makers.
Wong Shu Qi