BBC: Why city life may be bad for you by Nick Triggle

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When it comes to getting people to be more active, much of the attention is focused on the improving sports facilities, encouraging people to join the gym or lambasting schools for not doing enough PE.

But could another crucial factor be the way neighbourhoods are designed?

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) thinks so.

The organisation has carried out an analysis of the nine major cities in England – Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield – to explore this.

Its researchers looked at housing density and the availability of green spaces.

‘Healthier cities’

The least active areas – deprived parts of Birmingham, Newcastle and London – had twice the housing density and 20% less green space than the most active places.

This is important.

Nearly 60% of people living in these cities do not do the recommended levels of activity.

But, crucially, three quarters said they would be happy to walk more and get outside in the fresh air if their local environment was more suitable, according to a poll cited by RIBA.

People cited safer streets and more attractive green spaces as two key factors.

RIBA has published the findings as it wants councils to take note.

Under the shake-up of the NHS last year, local government was given responsibility for public health.

So RIBA president Stephen Hodder said he wanted councils to ensure public health becomes an important part of the planning process.

“It’s vital that planners and developers take the lead and ensure healthier cities,” he added.

To be fair, this is already happening in many places.

Health impact assessments have become a crucial part of the process.

But as always – for councils which have seen their funding cut dramatically in recent years – it comes down to money.

One of the examples of good practice cited by RIBA in its report was the re-development of the Brownfield Estate, an inner-London housing estate.

It under-went a major £7m building programme with money invested from a variety of public and private sources.

The project saw the walk-ways between flats become “green grids” lined with grass and trees, while play areas were created across the site.

Another scheme highlighted was the creation of a natural play area with climbing frames, a water foundation and wetland on a disused field in the former mining town of Huthwaite in north Nottinghamshire.

Once empty, the area is now packed with children (when the weather permits).

But this project was only possible because the area was given over £200,000 of lottery money.

Source: BBC News

EPF is calling out tenders to the first out of eight parcels of land in Sungai Buloh

The first parcel up for grabs next month will be a 26ha town centre-transportation hub. Eight parcels will be tendered eventually with EPF projecting RM11bil in land sales revenue from 546ha, which works out to RM187 per sq ft [source].

Do you remember how much EPF bought the RRI land for? Let me refresh your memory.

Employees Provident Fund’s (EPF) wholly-owned subsidiary Kwasa Land Sdn Bhd acquired the 2,330 acres (943ha) of Rubber Research Institute (RRI) land in Sungai Buloh from the Malaysian Rubber Board for RM2.28bil or RM22.50 per sq ft. [source].

So EPF is projected to profit a cool 8.72 billion from the Sungai Buloh RRI land.

In a way, it is great that EPF is getting a lot of return of investment but on the other hand, it would mean the decimation of the last great piece of green lung in Klang Valley. NooOOoo!!!

 IMG_0119 rriIMG_0469 rri[source]

Pekeliling Flats are going to be demolished

NST reports that demolition work on Pekeliling Flats has begun last week and is expected to finish in two years. TWO FREAKING YEARS? WTF?

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I wonder, who’s paying for the demolition. Even though the mayor said that government-appointed developer Asie  is responsible for demolishing the structures, I am not too convinced. The chronology of events by The Star stated that the government via the FT Ministry instructed KL City Hall to demolish the last remaining blocks of flat. I just have this feeling that the demolition charge is being passed on to the people somehow (assessment rate hike, anyone?)


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Ahmad Phesal also said Asie had submitted its redevelopment plans for the iconic flats. Ugh… You can be sure it’s a mixed development project. More shopping complex, more office space and more condominiums which are boring, ugly and inaccessible to the common people.

University of Malaya Urban and Regional Planning department coordinator, Dr Faizah Ahmad calls for one or two blocks of the flats to be kept as our legacy should not be discarded. She also calls for the effort to conserve our legacy and that it should be properly planned.

“From a conservationist’s perspective, the Pekeliling Flats possess significant scientific and architectural value as the first prefabricated system applied in Malaysia, so they should be kept for teaching and learning for future generations. Keeping one or two blocks of the flats would be expensive but could be recovered by renting out the units to new users like young professionals. The refurbished units should not be sold “as we need to retain the units as public amenities.

“As our country progresses to developed nation status, old inner-city neighbourhoods will continue to be threatened with possible demolition and hence, the loss of the city fabric and the values attached to it. We should not discard our legacy but, by the same token, the effort to conserve our legacy should be properly planned and considered from the preliminary stage of the redevelopment projects.” said [source].

Jalan Cochrane Government Quarters is set to become IKEA Cochrane (and more condominiums)

After learning the completion of tunnel boring work from the Cochrane to Pasar Rakyat station of the MRT Sungai Buloh-Kajang Line [source], I decided to compile information on Jalan Cochrane.

Jalan Cochrane used to be a quiet, leafy, close knit neighbourhood filled with rows and rows of quaint pre-war government quarters but sadly, the quarters were unfairly demolished at the end of 2011.

The road was named after Charles Walter Hamilton Cochrane who was the British Resident of Perak from 1929 to 1930 and later the chief secretary of the Federated Malay States from 1930 to 1932 [source].

It’s sad that the civil servants and their families were given a short 14-day notice to move when most of them have been living there their whole lives. Check out this blog post by one of the long term residents of Jalan Cochrane.

Even The Star (quoted below) was shocked to know that the civil servants were given (only) RM2,000 compensation from the Government. [Writer’s comment: the word ‘only’ inside the parenthesis/bracket has been erased from the The Star article but I swore it was there last January. I would’ve put emphasis mine beside the sentence if I added the bracketed word. Note to self: ALWAYS screen cap]

Bernama reported that the occupants had agreed to move to the People’s Housing Project (PPR) in Seri Alam in Sungai Besi and the PPR Kampung Muhibbah in Jalan Klang Lama.

The families were given given a 14-day time frame to move and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) helped the families to move by providing the transportation.

Each family received (only) RM2,000 compensation from the Government. [source]

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The MRT website has already advertised the upcoming IKEA furniture store.cochrane

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IEN Consultants in its website claimed that IKEA Cochrane will be completed in 2014.

Besides IKEA Cochrane, LTAT is planning to build 6 blocks of condominium comprising of 4 blocks of high rise condos (38 and 39-storey) and 2 blocks of low rise condos (7-storey). They proposed to increase the population density of the area from 60 people to 400 people per acre which is almost 7 times the current population!! As if KL is not jam packed already.

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mutiara rini picMutiara 482 Cochrane [source]

The whole land deal is very confusing and super dodgy. The Edge wrote:

Boustead property unit, Mutiara Rini Sdn Bhd (MRSB), is acquiring three parcels of land totalling 12.84 acres from Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) for RM106.7 million, or about RM190 per sq ft. The land was owned by the government and used for quarters for civil servants. It was later disposed of to LTAT.

LTAT is the single largest shareholder of Boustead, holding a 59.7% stake in the company.

According to Patchay, 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB), the land owner of the government quarters in Jalan Cochrane has awarded Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) to build apartments for government servants in the said area.

But if you go to Boustead website, it is quite clear that the freehold condominiums above are meant to be sold to the public, not for government servants.

So our government transferred RM2 billion worth of government land to 1MDB, who later awarded the land to LTAT, who later sold part of the land to Boustead (whose parent company is LTAT) on the cheap? What kind of fuckery is this?

Hwang DBS Vickers noted that LTAT sold the land to Boustead below the market price at RM191 per sq ft (psf). They added that the land should be priced at least RM300 psf, taking into account stronger pricing power once the MRT station is completed. They believed that the land will be sold to the public at RM900 per sq ft average sales price (possibly higher with MRT) and eight times plot ratio.

This is how cronies make money — buy a land under the market price (or acquire it through land swap), hike the land price by forcing the government to build/redirect an MRT station on the piece of land and finally, sell it to the public at an inflated price.

Hwang DBS Vickers also believed that there will be subsequent land sales from LTAT to Boustead for this piece of land, taking into consideration that LTAT has sold land to Swedish home furnishings retailer Ikea, which will also have a 50:50 joint venture with Boustead in the 1.2 million sq ft mall.

By the way, The Edge claimed that one particular parcel in Jalan Cochrane was privatised to a company called Cochrane Indah Sdn Bhd based on a list released by the government in 1998. The principal shareholders of the company were Jen (Rtd) Tan Sri Yaacob Mohd Zain, the late Tun Ghafar Baba and Asnida Tun Daim, the daughter of former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin.

So yeah, more underhanded land transfer from the government to its cronies in the name of re-development.

Why the monarchy isn’t any better than democratically elected leaders (when it comes to selling off public land for their own benefit)

It seems that Sultan Johor has sold off 116 acres of prime land on the Johor Bahru waterfront (where the old Customs, Immigration and Quarantine was sited) to a China-based developer. So there you go, public land being sold off not just to any developer, but to a foreign-based developer.

johor landRead the full article at The Star Online 

Malaysians used to joke that Johor was being annexed by Singapore, turns out even China is getting in on the act. Pretty soon, there won’t be any land in Johor belonging to a Malaysian.

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I wonder why the Sultan managed to sell the land so much higher than the government could – RM890 per sq vs Iskandar Waterfront Holdings who only managed to sell RM363 per sq. It is even more remarkable when supposedly there is a softening in asset prices at the time when the Sultan sold off the land. Good for him that he has super negotiation skills, but it doesn’t benefit the people of Johor one bit.

the edgeRead the full article at The Edge 

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Read the full article in The Star Online 

The Sultan of Johor has also acquired 20% stake in Berjaya Times Square Sdn Bhd for 250 million cash. CASH!! How many people have one million ringgit cash, let alone 250 million ringgit cash?! Gah…

So Sultan Johor dipped his dirty hands in dirty Berjaya in order to develop casino and resorts on the Johor Bahru waterfront, supposedly one that would rival Marina Bay Sands, Singapore (hahahaha). Hmmm.. so tell me again why Sultans are the head of religion? 

Acknowledgment

I don’t know who you are but thank you for sharing the link to my post regarding land swap deals in KL. You guys rock! To tell you the truth, I only posted the link to that article once in Facebook so clearly there are some influential people in my friends’ list.

I was thinking of abandoning this website but since it’s still being viewed on a daily basis once in a while, I would try to keep it going because I was told that sharing knowledge is the only way to achieve immortality. Probably not, but it’s worth trying.

The New York Times: Inequality Is a Choice By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ

The Great Divide | October 13, 2013, 9:06 pm

It’s well known by now that income and wealth inequality in most rich countries, especially the United States, have soared in recent decades and, tragically, worsened even more since the Great Recession. But what about the rest of the world? Is the gap between countries narrowing, as rising economic powers like China and India have lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty? And within poor and middle-income countries, is inequality getting worse or better? Are we moving toward a more fair world, or a more unjust one?

These are complex questions, and new research by a World Bank economist named Branko Milanovic, along with other scholars, points the way to some answers.

Starting in the 18th century, the industrial revolution produced giant wealth for Europe and North America. Of course, inequality within these countries was appalling — think of the textile mills of Liverpool and Manchester, England, in the 1820s, and the tenements of the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the South Side of Chicago in the 1890s — but the gap between the rich and the rest, as a global phenomenon, widened even more, right up through about World War II. To this day, inequality between countries is far greater than inequality within countries.

But starting around the fall of Communism in the late 1980s, economic globalization accelerated and the gap between nations began to shrink. The period from 1988 to 2008 “might have witnessed the first decline in global inequality between world citizens since the Industrial Revolution,” Mr. Milanovic, who was born in the former Yugoslavia and is the author of “The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality,” wrote in a paper published last November. While the gap between some regions has markedly narrowed — namely, between Asia and the advanced economies of the West — huge gaps remain. Average global incomes, by country, have moved closer together over the last several decades, particularly on the strength of the growth of China and India. But overall equality across humanity, considered as individuals, has improved very little. (The Gini coefficient, a measurement of inequality, improved by just 1.4 points from 2002 to 2008.)

So while nations in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, as a whole, might be catching up with the West, the poor everywhere are left behind, even in places like China where they’ve benefited somewhat from rising living standards.

From 1988 to 2008, Mr. Milanovic found, people in the world’s top 1 percent saw their incomes increase by 60 percent, while those in the bottom 5 percent had no change in their income. And while median incomes have greatly improved in recent decades, there are still enormous imbalances: 8 percent of humanity takes home 50 percent of global income; the top 1 percent alone takes home 15 percent. Income gains have been greatest among the global elite — financial and corporate executives in rich countries — and the great “emerging middle classes” of China, India, Indonesia and Brazil. Who lost out? Africans, some Latin Americans, and people in post-Communist Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, Mr. Milanovic found.

The United States provides a particularly grim example for the world. And because, in so many ways, America often “leads the world,” if others follow America’s example, it does not portend well for the future.

On the one hand, widening income and wealth inequality in America is part of a trend seen across the Western world. A 2011 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that income inequality first started to rise in the late ’70s and early ’80s in America and Britain (and also in Israel). The trend became more widespread starting in the late ’80s. Within the last decade, income inequality grew even in traditionally egalitarian countries like Germany, Sweden and Denmark. With a few exceptions — France, Japan, Spain — the top 10 percent of earners in most advanced economies raced ahead, while the bottom 10 percent fell further behind.

But the trend was not universal, or inevitable. Over these same years, countries like Chile, Mexico, Greece, Turkey and Hungary managed to reduce (in some cases very high) income inequality significantly, suggesting that inequality is a product of political and not merely macroeconomic forces. It is not true that inequality is an inevitable byproduct of globalization, the free movement of labor, capital, goods and services, and technological change that favors better-skilled and better-educated employees.

Of the advanced economies, America has some of the worst disparities in incomes and opportunities, with devastating macroeconomic consequences. The gross domestic product of the United States has more than quadrupled in the last 40 years and nearly doubled in the last 25, but as is now well known, the benefits have gone to the top — and increasingly to the very, very top.

Last year, the top 1 percent of Americans took home 22 percent of the nation’s income; the top 0.1 percent, 11 percent. Ninety-five percent of all income gains since 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent. Recently released census figures show that median income in America hasn’t budged in almost a quarter-century. The typical American man makes less than he did 45 years ago (after adjusting for inflation); men who graduated from high school but don’t have four-year college degrees make almost 40 percent less than they did four decades ago.

American inequality began its upswing 30 years ago, along with tax decreases for the rich and the easing of regulations on the financial sector. That’s no coincidence. It has worsened as we have under-invested in our infrastructure, education and health care systems, and social safety nets. Rising inequality reinforces itself by corroding our political system and our democratic governance.

And Europe seems all too eager to follow America’s bad example. The embrace of austerity, from Britain to Germany, is leading to high unemployment, falling wages and increasing inequality. Officials like Angela Merkel, the newly re-elected German chancellor, and Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, argue that Europe’s problems are a result of a bloated welfare spending. But that line of thinking has only taken Europe into recession (and even depression). That things may have bottomed out — that the recession may be “officially” over — is little comfort to the 27 million out of a job in the E.U. On both sides of the Atlantic, the austerity fanatics say, march on: these are the bitter pills that we need to take to achieve prosperity. But prosperity for whom?

Excessive financialization — which helps explain Britain’s dubious status as the second-most-unequal country, after the United States, among the world’s most advanced economies — also helps explain the soaring inequality. In many countries, weak corporate governance and eroding social cohesion have led to increasing gaps between the pay of chief executives and that of ordinary workers — not yet approaching the 500-to-1 level for America’s biggest companies (as estimated by the International Labor Organization) but still greater than pre-recession levels. (Japan, which has curbed executive pay, is a notable exception.) American innovations in rent-seeking — enriching oneself not by making the size of the economic pie bigger but by manipulating the system to seize a larger slice — have gone global.

Asymmetric globalization has also exerted its toll around the globe. Mobile capital has demanded that workers make wage concessions and governments make tax concessions. The result is a race to the bottom. Wages and working conditions are being threatened. Pioneering firms like Apple, whose work relies on enormous advances in science and technology, many of them financed by government, have also shown great dexterity in avoiding taxes. They are willing to take, but not to give back.

Inequality and poverty among children are a special moral disgrace. They flout right-wing suggestions that poverty is a result of laziness and poor choices; children can’t choose their parents. In America, nearly one in four children lives in poverty; in Spain and Greece, about one in six; in Australia, Britain and Canada, more than one in 10. None of this is inevitable. Some countries have made the choice to create more equitable economies: South Korea, where a half-century ago just one in 10 people attained a college degree, today has one of the world’s highest university completion rates.

For these reasons, I see us entering a world divided not just between the haves and have-nots, but also between those countries that do nothing about it, and those that do. Some countries will be successful in creating shared prosperity — the only kind of prosperity that I believe is truly sustainable. Others will let inequality run amok. In these divided societies, the rich will hunker in gated communities, almost completely separated from the poor, whose lives will be almost unfathomable to them, and vice versa. I’ve visited societies that seem to have chosen this path. They are not places in which most of us would want to live, whether in their cloistered enclaves or their desperate shantytowns.

Source: The New York Times