Contents - Previous - Next
This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at http://unu.edu
Economic structural change and urbanization
The relationship between industrialization and urbanization
In the mid-1980s there was a gradual but obvious change in the nature of the Malaysian economy, as was examined earlier. In 1987, for instance, the agricultural sector share in GDP was exceeded by the share of the manufacturing sector. In 1990, the agricultural share was 19.4 per cent compared with 26.6 per cent for the manufacturing sector. Thus, there has been a change in the structure of the Malaysian economy from an agricultural base to a manufacturing base since 1987. This, indeed, marks a milestone in the country's transition towards an industrializing economy (Malaysia, 1991d).
It has often been argued that the process of urbanization and urban growth in the third world has taken place with the expansion of the industrial sector. That is true to a large extent in that, even without a substantial industrial base prior to 1957, Malaysia had experienced a large increase in its urban population, as shown earlier. However, with the growth of manufacturing since 1957, the impact on the process of urbanization and urban growth has been most tangible as the employment opportunities generated were located in the urban areas. This is certainly so after the mid-1970s when the accelerated urbanization was due largely to the rapid expansion of the industrial sector. McGee (1986) observed, for instance, that employment in the manufacturing sector increased steadily, especially in the 1970s, and its proportion of the Malay labour force grew dramatically from 20 per cent in 1970 to 54 per cent by 1980. He further pointed out that the five main urban centres of Kuala Lumpur/Klang, Ipoh/Taiping, Penang, Johore Bahru, and Malacca absorbed 55 per cent of the total increase in manufacturing employment in Peninsular Malaysia during the 1970s. In particular, Chi and Taylor (1986) discussed at length the role of the industrialized Klang Valley in the process of urbanization, especially in the 1970s. Young (1987) showed, for instance, that prior to 1970 the Malays were recruited largely into government and other public sector jobs and that dramatic structural changes in the occupations of the Malays and Chinese occurred only with the formation of Free Trade Zones and the consequent industrialization spearheaded by the electronics and textiles industries. In Inner Core Kuala Lumpur, for instance, out of the total population of 1.01 million in 1979, 42 per cent were lifetime in-migrants. The Malays comprised 38.5 per cent of the migrants, whereas the Chinese were 45.8 per cent and the Indians 13.7 per cent. However, this does not negate the fact that Malay urbanization has been the main contributor to current urbanization growth (Lee, 1980a). This is explained by the fact that Malay movements are not directed entirely to the Core Area. For instance, Malay in-migration on the periphery of the Core Area was higher than that in the inner areas (See, 1986). Looked at from another angle, out of the total Malay population 57 per cent were migrants, while 34 per cent of the Chinese were migrants. Further, the majority of the Malays arrived after 1970. The bulk of the migrants were from Selangor and Perak, representing 49 per cent of the total in-migrants, while the states of Negri Sembilan and Johore represented 20 per cent of the total. An interesting pattern of age-sex difference in migration patterns is that, after 1970, there were more female than males, and more than 57 per cent of the migrants were in the age group 20-45 years. Thus, the nature of the migrant population shows the necessity to provide more productive employment and more shelter.
In the 1980s, the greater zest in intensifying industrialization continued to be the prime mover in the process of urbanization. Under the Malaysian Industrial Master Plan (IMP) formulated in 1985, for instance, two broad groupings of industrial subsectors were identified. The first was resource-based industrialization (RBI), comprising rubber products, palm oil products, food processing, wood-based products, chemical including petrochemicals, non-ferrous metal, and non-metallic mineral products. The other, non-resource-based industries, included electronics and electrical, transport equipment including motor vehicles and shipbuilding, machinery and engineering, ferrous metal, and textile products (Malaysia, 1985b). Resource-based industrialization has recently become an important issue as a development strategy to restructure the Malaysian economy from a primary producing country to that of a newly industrialized economy by the year 2000 (Kamal Salih, 1988).
The relationship between industrialization and urban development in the 1980s can be seen in the pattern of location of approved industrial projects in 1990. The states of Selangor, Johore, and Penang, in which the main urban centres are found, continued to be favoured by investors for the location of their manufacturing projects (attracting 63.3 per cent of the total projects approved in 1990 alone). These states have lured a wide range of industries, particularly chemicals and chemical products, plastic products, basic metal products, fabricated metal products, electrical and electronic products, and transport equipment. Johore was a favoured location for textile projects, Selangor for rubber-based projects, and Perak for nonmetallic mineral products.
The effects of globalization on the urban system
In the 1990s, because industrialization is expected to provide the impetus for economic growth, it is inevitable that areas that have the initial comparative advantage in terms of infrastructure, labour, skilled manpower, and accessibility will attract industries. Although resource-rich states like Sarawak, Sabah, Trengganu, and Pahang will attract resource-based industries, on the whole industrialization, particularly the export-oriented sector, will concentrate in the western corridor of the Peninsular, with obvious implications for urban population growth. It should be noted that most of the industrial subsectors enumerated in the Industrial Master Plan are prone to clustering tendencies and hence will add to the agglomeration in and around large urban centres. It is expected, then, that the level of urbanization in Malaysia will reach 60 per cent by the year 2000, given the impetus of the international dimensions of economic activities.
While economic growth and development are and will be tending towards favoured sites and urban agglomeration, the pattern of globalization of the economic activities as outlined earlier will accentuate the present urbanization process. Essentially, globalized activities place a renewed and heightened emphasis on existing large urban centres that serve as export channels and possess developed infrastructural facilities. For instance, all the 11 Free Trade Zones and three-quarters of the industrial estates are located in the west coast states of Peninsular Malaysia in or near urban centres. Therefore, efforts to decentralize industries and other economic activities may not neutralize the locational bias towards Johore, Selangor, and Penang. Nodal urban regions of Johore Bahru/Pasir Gudang/Kulai, Klang Valley/Seremban, Seberang Perai/Bukit Mertajam/Kulim, etc. will become huge urban agglomerations that are shaped not just by national forces but, increasingly, by forces from the international arena. Elaboration of this point may be helpful.
A city region under global influence is shaped primarily by technological forces, particularly communications technology, and market forces that are normally beyond its control. These economic activities are performance based in the sense that industrial knowledge-based organizations must prove their viability by competing with organizations based in other places and countries. Thus, as communications improve, direct foreign investment into the country is facilitated. Physical, political, and psychological barriers no longer constrain industrialization opportunities from foreign sources. The globalization of economic activities would favour the city regions within a nation that have developed comparative advantage in terms of information flows with the rest of the world. It is a self-perpetuating momentum which will lead to greater urban agglomeration simply because the cities will focus their development on expanding their international activities as new opportunities are created and in order to make their places more supportive. It is, therefore, important to note that urban growth in the 1990s will be driven by these new forces as more direct foreign investment becomes available.
It is expected that the nature of industrialization and economic structural changes will lead to a disparity in urban types. On the one hand, rapid and voluminous investment in non-resource-based industries, financial, banking, insurance, and other service-related industries, will result in concentrations around existing urban regions (like Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Johore Bahru), which are in a better position to respond to the demands of the global economy and will continue to evolve with macrocephalic tendencies, and also especially along transport corridors (Hall, 1985). This accentuation of urban growth resulting from the structural change in the economy is congruent with the "western corridor" concept of industrial location as detailed in the IMP, whereby the nation's industrial activities will be spread along the western part of Peninsular Malaysia following existing highways, railroad systems, and port facilities in order to minimize infrastructural expenses (Malaysia, 1985b; Kamal Salih, 1989). However, as it is, the principal industrial corridors are already almost saturated owing to infrastructural constraints.
On the other hand, although RBI may be scattered to the northern and east coast states, Sabah and Sarawak, the impact will be diffuse and minimal and other towns that are away from the principal industrial corridor will "continue to operate in a reactive mode and remain tied to outmoded visions based on projections of past trends and on traditional regional and national relationships" (Knight and Gappert, 1989). The tendency is for these areas to be under the shadow of the sprawling urban giants, less vibrant, hardly vigorous, or even neglected (Lee, 1989,1990).
The impact of internationalism on the Kuala Lumpur Core Urban Region (KLCUR) - The leading mega-city
The mega-city of Kuala Lumpur defined
What has been very clear so far has been the disproportionate growth in the largest urban centres, especially with respect to the capital region of Kuala Lumpur, which may be dubbed the urban ' macrocephaly" of Malaysia. Literature references to Kuala Lumpur almost invariably allude to the political boundary of the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur. This may be far from satisfactory to represent the core urban region. Vining (1985) has defined the Kuala Lumpur Core Urban Region to include both the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and the state of Selangor, occupying an area of some 8,200 km2, that is, 6.2 per cent of the national territory. Figure 10.3 shows that this would include all the following districts: Sepang, Kuala Langat, Ulu Langat, Petaling, Federal Territory, Klang, Gombak, Kuala Selangor, Ulu Selangor, and Sabak Bernam. Based on this convenient definition, the population in 1980 was 2.4 million, or 21.4 per cent of the national population, giving a population density of 286 persons per km2. In 1990, this same area would have had about 3.6 million population with a density of 439 persons per km2. However, the present definition of the Kuala Lumpur Core Urban Region (KLCUR) includes only the immediate "umbra!" districts of Petaling, Klang, Kuala Langat, Sepang, Ulu Langat, and Gombak besides the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur (fig. 10.3). Based on this definition, the population of KLCUR was 1.4 million in 1970, 2.1 million in 1980, and 3.1 million in 1990. This Core Urban Region of 4,283.46 km2 may conveniently be divided into three distinct units:
Fig. 10.3 The Kuala Lumpur Core Urban Region in Selangor
(1) the Inner Core, comprising the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur;
(2) the Primary Diffusion Corridor from Port Klang to Kuala Lumpur, which is the hub of industrial concentration in the country, including the Royal capital of Klang and the new towns of Petaling Jaya, and Shah Alam; and
(3) an Outer Periphery, comprising such places as Rawang, Kuang, Batu Arang, Kapar, Banting, Telok Panglima Garang, Sepang, Salak, Dengkil, Ulu Langat, and Semenyih.
The growth of KLCUR and the impact of internationalism
The development of Kuala Lumpur and the Klang River basin began with the discovery of tin further inland in Kanching and Ampang. Early penetration of the interior was up the Sungai Klang to the confluence with Sungai Gombak where, in 1859, traders established the first three attap huts (Tsou, 1967). The trading post prospered and the population rose to 2,600 by 1879 (Gullick, 1955). Urban growth from then on was rapid because of the opening up of railway access, the expansion of mining operations, and the development of coffee and rubber cultivation. Commercial premises and residential brick houses were built on an increasing scale between 1905 and 1915 (Concannon, 1955). In the period immediately after World War II, there was an influx of some 100,000 persons, resulting in a disproportionate growth of squatter settlements and slums (Rudduck, 1956). This motivated the building of the first new town of Petaling Jaya and marked the development of a corridor nexus (Lee, 1987b). Subsequently, the objective of resettling squatters and slum dwellers was superseded by the growing demand for better-quality housing resulting from the emergence of a rapidly burgeoning middle class (McGee & McTaggart, 1967; Lee, 1976). Since then, Petaling Jaya's growth had been phenomenal. By 1980, Petaling Jaya had a population of 218,300 compared with 92,600 in 1970 and 16,600 in 1957. In fact, Petaling Jaya grew from being one of the least populated towns in the country at the time of Independence to become the fifth-largest town in Malaysia by 1980. However, partly because Petaling Jaya did not siphon off excess population from Kuala Lumpur, the problems in the Inner Core area began to reach enormous dimensions (Lee and Bahrin, 1985).
Table 10.11 Population growth in Inner Core Kuala Lumpur, 1901-1990
Source: Sen (1986).
Table 10.11 shows the population growth of Inner Core Kuala Lumpur from a small township of 3.1 km2 to the present status of the Federal Territory. In 1901, Kuala Lumpur had an estimated population of 32,380 persons. By 1921, the population had increased to 80,424, representing an increase of 72 per cent over the 10-year period since 1911. Immediately after the war, its population increased to 175,961 persons. By the time of Independence in 1957 the population had reached 316,230 while its land area increased to 13.9 km2. The focus of economic and development policies accelerated the urbanization process in Kuala Lumpur. From the mid-1960s, the supply of housing for the growing population took the form of urban scatter in extensive medium-density housing estates built by the private sector in and around the fringes of the city (Lee, 1974). Overspilling was such that, by 1970, these housing estates were accommodating more than 255,000 persons outside the gazetted area of Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia, 1971b).
By 1980, Kuala Lumpur had a population of 938,000, which represented an increase of 38 per cent since 1970. The population of the Federal Territory was about 1.55 million in 1990 (table 10.11). Although an earlier gradient analysis between 1957 and 1970 using Clark's (1951) negative exponential decline showed a tendency towards a less compact city (Lee, 1975), the intra-core gross densities increased 1.6 times between 1980 and 1990 from 46.9 persons per ha to 75 persons per ha (See, 1986). The population is largely composed of three major ethnic groups, namely, the Chinese (56 per cent), Malays (26 per cent), and Indians (14 per cent). Significantly, the Malays in the Kuala Lumpur Inner Core have shown a greater propensity for growth. For instance, in the period 1970-1980, the Malay population increased by 7 times compared with about 3 times for both the Chinese and Indians. These trends reflect the strategy of precluding the development of a monolithic city profile and of encouraging more Bumiputras to participate in the commercial and industrial sectors of the city economy. By the year 2000, the proportion of Malays is expected to be 35 per cent, the Chinese 51 per cent, and the Indians 14 per cent.
It was only a matter of time before plans were laid for two more new towns - Shah Alam in the mid-1960s and Bangi in the mid-1970s - to absorb as much of the Klang Valley expansion as possible. Shah Alam, which is located about 15 km to the west of Petaling Jaya, is centrally sited between the country's premier port of Port Klang and Kuala Lumpur. Its development served to expedite a formative urban corridor between Kuala Lumpur and Port Klang. The town covers 3,051 ha, including an industrial area of about 672.7 ha, which is today the fastest-growing industrial centre in the country (Malaysia, 1977; Lee, 1983a).
Good infrastructure continues to be a major factor for the development of the main nexus of corridor development in Klang Valley. Future development along this corridor, in the form of three new highways in addition to a proposed M$543 million (US$217.2 million) dual-track rail project and a M$170 million (US$68 million) monorail project, mostly scheduled for completion by 1997, will further perpetuate the direction of primary diffusion between Port Klang, Klang, Shah Alam, Petaling Jaya, and Kuala Lumpur, much along the lines suggested by Whebell (1969) of colonial corridors. These new transportation modes will improve accessibility and ease traffic flows between Kuala Lumpur and its suburbs and the areas to the west, and will therefore attract investors.
The Primary Diffusion Corridor has been perpetuated not only by the development of Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam but also by substantial private housing and industrial development in and around these areas and in Port Klang and Klang through to Shah Alam, Subang, Sungai Way, Ampang, Ulu Klang, and Ulu Langat. Subang Jaya, for instance, has housing for some 30,000 just adjoining Petaling Jaya. In Port Klang, an industrial area of some 1,215 ha is being developed. In retrospect, the development along the corridor is a logical extension from the dominant metropolitan Inner Core to form an elongated polycentric region.
To attract population away from the congested Inner Core and Primary Diffusion Corridor, a university town, Bangi, was planned in 1975 just 30 km south of Kuala Lumpur (Sulong and Katiman, 1984; Lee, 1987b). Demand for industrial land in Bangi is high because of its proximity to the Federal Highway linking Seremban to Kuala Lumpur and thence to Port Klang. The last few years have seen a greater provision of low-cost housing and facilities that have attracted a large number of people.
The Outer Periphery has also received some industrial spillover benefits in terms of industrial location and relocation plans. This `'penumbra" of industrial locations is found in Telok Panglima Garang, Salak Tinggi, Hong Kong Estate in Gombak, Rawang, Kundang, Selayang Pandang, Beranang, Sungai Chua, Pulau Lumut, Jalan Kapar, Bukit Kemuning, and Sungai Buluh. Some M$3 billion (US$1.2 billion) worth of investments will be made in these areas.
Table 10.12 shows the distribution of industrial projects and investments in the Corridor, Outer Periphery, and other parts of Selangor. Between 1981 and 1990, the Corridor received about two-thirds of all the approved industrial projects, employment opportunities, as well as total investments in the Klang Valley, while the periphery accounted for one-third, with only a minute portion going to other parts of the state of Selangor.
Table 10.12 The distribution of industrial projects, employment opportunities, and investment in Selangor, 1981-1990
|Projects approved||Employment opportunities||Total investment|
|Primary Diffusion Corridor||715||64.9||93,890||65.2||9,715.7||63.5|
|Other areas in Selangor||19||1.7||2,979||2.1||264.1||1.7|
Source: Unpublished data from Malaysian Industrial Development Authority, Malaysia.
The skewed trend of population agglomeration over the period 19601990, especially the specific bias towards the Kuala Lumpur Core Urban Region, has resulted in a marked inability in the recipient areas to cope with traffic congestion, housing, and environmental problems. In other words, the quality of the urban environment is deteriorating at a higher speed than either local population growth or local physical expansion. This, unless controlled, is bound to affect the quality of life in the region. The situation is compounded by the lack of precise urban development policies to contain population movements until lately (Lee, 1989). Urban development policies in the 1970s were linked to the exigencies of dealing effectively with, first, the disparities between the rural and urban sectors through better rural-urban linkages and making urban functions more accessible to the rural populations; and, secondly, disparities between regions and states by stimulating growth in lagging regions (Malaysia, 1971a). It was only in the mid-1980s that an attempt was made to develop a National Urbanization Policy (NUP) to guide urban development.
The relevant urban regional policies to counter migratory flows to big urban centres involve the movement of labour from resource-poor areas to areas with relatively high potential for growth. These strategies appear to have had some discernible results in terms of increased incomes and improved standards of living as well as a more equitable distribution of public utilities. For example, the annual percentage growth in per capita GDP between 1981 and 1985 in Kelantan was 3.2 per cent and in Trengganu 5 per cent. However, resource constraints from prolonged economic recession in the mid-1980s have limited the success and the targets achieved. Present efforts concentrate on consolidation to ensure greater efficiency of resource utilization, of productive capacities, as well as of inter- and intra-regional economic linkages.
Coupling regional development policies is the strategy to merge efforts to strengthen urban centres in less developed states and regions and the evolution of a network of urban systems within the respective regions. This is hoped to be achieved through the establishment of new townships in Regional Development Authority (RDA) areas, rural urbanization, and the development of six regional growth centres. The establishment of new township programmes in the RDA areas, which began in the 1970s, is part of an effort to spread urban development into the agricultural hinterlands (Lee, 1987b). The rural urbanization strategy of regrouping existing villages to form urban nuclei is to supplement the programmes of RDAs to provide urban services and amenities and to bring about the revitalization of the rural environment (Lee, 1983b). Currently, about 27 pilot projects have been identified in Johore, Malacca, Pahang, Perlis, and Penang.
The focus since 1980 has been on six regional growth centres of Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown, Johore Bahru, Kuantan, Kuching, and Kota Bahru to act as catalysts for the diffusion process of growth to the secondary urban centres within their respective regions or states. The current emphasis is on the concentration of industrial growth in selected secondary centres that will take advantage of scale and agglomeration economies to generate employment for the bulk of the rural-urban migrants. In the light of the current patterns of globalization of industrial development, especially with footloose, technology-based industries, secondary centres such as Alor Star, Kulim (earmarked as the "technology park" for industries dealing with sophisticated technology), Kluang, Kulai, and Sungai Petani have seen commendable growth and acted as counter-pulls for the migration streams. In the case of the Kuala Lumpur Core Urban Region, the concentration of commercial, administrative, industrial, and financial activities, as noted earlier, has boosted the development of Shah Alam, Bangi, and the area along the North-South Highway towards Seremban and Malacca.
The preceding discussion amplifies a two-pronged strategy involving, on the one hand, a top-down approach of growth centres and selective urbanization and, on the other hand, a bottom-up policy of rural urbanization and new townships. The bottom-up strategy has its limitations, especially in terms of resource constraints. In fact, the new township programmes have experienced limited growth. Less than one-third of the total population in the various regional development areas live in the new townships. The development of new townships has had little effect in upgrading the quality of life and generating employment opportunities for the hinterland population. In short, these townships have become almost closed or, more appropriately, unarticulated systems, which stop short of generating local growth mechanisms (Lee, 1987b; Bahrin, Lee, and Dorall, 1988). Diffuse urbanization strategies lack serious settlement linkages and a proper study of market forces (Lee, 1983b). In fact, a still inadequate integration of new townships and "bandesas" (diffuse urbanization villages) as integral parts of the national urban and settlement system results in a limited number of "willing" investors, industries, and skilled manpower having to be shared among a large number of such places. The paradox is that, because of the greater urban awareness that is aroused in the rural areas through these policies, all these efforts will probably hasten the flow of migrants to the cities instead of steadying or arresting it (Lee, 1987a).
The overall scenario needs to be reiterated here from another perspective. Urbanization in Malaysia occurred even without a strong industrial base immediately after World War II. Then the shift from an agricultural-based to an industrial-based society through the strategy of import-substituting industrialization hastened this urbanization process. Most of the actual urban forms today are the results of this shift. Now the shift is slowly from an industrial-based to a knowledge-based urban society with the concomitant accelerated and biased urbanization process adding to the globalization of economic activities in the country.
In the advanced countries, it is generally agreed that there has been a perceivable shift from agrarian to industrial and then to a knowledge-based society, thereby making the manifestations of urban growth at any stage more manageable. For example, Tokyo, Stockholm, Paris, and Los Angeles are rebuilding their cities and restructuring their respective regional developments in response to their new roles in the international circuit. In developing countries such as Malaysia, however, the transition is less clear because the industrial transformation is overlapped by the communications revolution, culminating in new dimensions of urban functions and growth that may be somewhat irrelevant to what is happening in the developed countries. In other words, there are few, if any, lessons from the advanced countries that can be applied to the problems of the less developed countries.
The portrayal of the disparity in terms of an overactive urban agglomeration on the one hand, and its stunted urban shadow on the other, should prompt a re-examination of the ethos of urban development policies in Malaysia (Lee, 1989, 1991). In order to reduce the disparity, it would be necessary to give due cognizance to the newly emerging urban forces and to understand why the "third industrial revolution" is not producing dispersion and de-urbanization (Glickman, 1987). More attention should be paid to the role of secondary cities, for instance, to take advantage of the changing and existing opportunities in the new global framework by increasing their 'hinge" functions, that is, to articulate local and regional life with the outside world (Lee, 1980b; Gottmann, 1989). The premise suggested is that globalization of the economy also provides an opportunity to develop a more oligarchical urban system because a technology-based economy need not be confined exclusively to a large population size (Chase-Dunn, 1984). Transnationals may no longer insist on conforming to the diffusionist policies of the 1950s to 1970s, that is, setting up foreign subsidiaries first in familiar places and then gradually moving to less familiar areas (Taylor and Thrift, 1982). The possibilities of a decentralized system of differentiated and pluralistic power centres may have to be examined (Glickman, 1987; Knight, 1989).
It is not suggested that, because of the unintended spatial biases of the changing economic structure in favour of the major urban nodes, spatial considerations of urban growth and development should prevail over and above policies to promote economic development. It is a question not of whether or not urban growth can be stopped but rather of what kinds of urban growth should be encouraged. On the one hand, policies that directly address the rectification of congestion and pollution would be appropriate in the urban agglomerations. On the other hand, regional policies should be implemented to bring about more balanced industrial distribution and investment. In fact, in late 1990, the government had called for a fair distribution of high-technology and high-value-added industries to other states besides Selangor, Penang, and Johore. This would mean the costly development of infrastructure in other states, such as Kedah, Pahang, and Trengganu, in order to be able to attract investors. Would it be possible to locate more industries in smaller urban centres and even rural areas so that villagers and smalltowners would themselves benefit from the industries, as has happened in South Korea and Taiwan? The question of political differences between states (Sabah and Kelantan) and the federal government hindering cooperation may have to be considered. For instance, although the IMP has indicated that downstream processing of forestry-related projects would be intensified in Sabah, the manufacturing sector continues to play only a minor role in the state's economy (4.6 per cent).
Besides ensuring a balanced distribution, it is also necessary to strengthen promising secondary centres through such actions as better investment and management policies for transport, industrial estates policies, and the systematic development of organized information networks between these urban centres and the capital region (banking networks, better administrative structure, etc.) (Renaud, 1987). The challenge for these urban centres is to integrate their activities into the evolving global structure and redefine their roles within the context of the national and global network. Planning for urban centres can no longer be confined to the political boundary. Holistic thinking on regional and global scales becomes essential to sustain development in urban centres where economic activities can be located to provide the stimuli for urban growth where desirable.
It is obvious that the development of the urban system has inclined towards the enlargement of major city-regions such as Johore Bahru/Kulai and especially the KLCUR, and that imbalances between the urban and rural areas will be further aggravated. This is also true as regards the smaller centres and the metropolises (Lee, 1991). Moreover, the problems of urban concentration will be compounded by an insecure niche in the global economy, that is, being an insecure partner in the constellation of world cities where survival is assured only by active participation in the world network. Furthermore, because the powerful forces that undergird internationalization are global in nature, their primary influence on urban growth and development may be beyond the ability and control of individual countries to respond correctly and quickly enough. This subjection to world vicissitudes has been amply illustrated by Kamal Salih and Young (1987), who showed that, while Malaysia had become the developing world's largest exporter of semi-conductors, and provided employment to thousands of urban workers, the global crisis in the semi-conductor industry of the mid-1970s resulted in thousands being retrenched. Further, labour absorption in the 1970s and 1980s was largely based on TNCs in export-processing zones, mostly manufacturing semiconductor devices and textiles and, according to Young (1987), consisted mostly of females, with limited jobs created for males. Whether TNCs will remain or be attracted to other parts of the world is also a big question.
It is quite clear that there is very little countries can do to shield urban centres from global forces when industrialization takes on a global nature. Cities will have to find ways to cushion themselves against economic vulnerability (financial crisis), functional vulnerability (exceeding their functional capacity), and structural vulnerability (abandonment, neglect, or conscious damage to stock or real property) (Gappert, 1989). In fact, Kuala Lumpur is reacting to the global needs of multinational capital, which has provoked the revitalization of high-level central business districts and gentrification of the inner areas, as is happening in American cities (Castells, 1985). Inner Kuala Lumpur will permit office construction only if it involves "high-tech" and "intelligent" office buildings that are equipped with ultra-modern features that will attract foreign investors (Malaysia, 1991e; Moult, 1991).
The net product of infinite population accretion in the urban space is the formation of gargantuan corridors (e.g. Johore-Kulai, Butterworth-Kulim) and macrocephaly. This brings to mind many other third world cities that have reached that stage and that are becoming unmanageable, such as Mexico City and Cairo. Will KLCUR reach that same predicament? One thing is quite certain - there will be a massive and dramatic intensification of urban investment in the outer fringes of existing urban conurbations as the dominant pattern of urban growth in the 1990s. The decision to locate the M$20 billion airport in the southern portion of the KLCUR in Sepang, complete with a train system and an expressway, is an indication of this trend. Corresponding with this so-called "sprawl" (with all its negative connotations) is the necessity for inter-urban management and planning policies that will cut across urban administrative boundaries as the scope of urban problems is enlarged.
A word of caution is not premature. Economic and technological forces have been termed "double-edged" (Knight, 1989). While giving wider geographical scope, they impose stresses on the traditional social and ecological structures. The indications are that the internal constraints of the Malaysian urban areas (which are determined to a large extent by colonial and historical factors) in terms of housing, intra-urban geographical mobility, etc., are already growing. For instance, another 478,000 housing units will be required in the Inner Core to cope with accommodation needs by the year 2000. Squatter communities continue to grow at the rate of 5.7 per cent per annum, occupying about 7.3 per cent of the total Inner Core area. The city's transportation system has not adequately expanded in capacity since the 1970s. There are an estimated 359,243 more vehicles clogging the roads of Kuala Lumpur today than in 1980, and these are projected to reach 1.4 million by the year 2000. It is clear that traffic volumes have reached saturation point and the journey to work is becoming increasingly time consuming and unpleasant. In addition, there are pollution and other environmental problems. The added pressure on land and land prices will lead to greater verticalization and heavier investment in equipment to maintain environmental quality.
Can urban growth resulting from this economic growth be contained? If not, then economic development can be viewed as counterproductive when rapid urbanization undermines the proper and orderly growth and development of cities. Again, the dysfunctionality of urban areas will be exacerbated by political and/or administrative constraints on action. Yet it is irrefutable that major surgery will be needed to redress problems, and to remove structures that are not in consonance with the functions of the global society. The urban restructuring in many US cities today can be seen as a response to the contemporary globalization process (Soja, 1987). This will prove to be the most serious challenge for Malaysia for the 1990s and beyond - how to decongest cities and realign the dynamics of metropolitan growth. In this respect, the problems of urban growth should not be seen myopically as propelled by national forces and policies in the traditional mode. Rather, the focus should be on a vista that has an outward-looking perspective and stretches beyond the national boundary- a vision that understands the nature of the forces, the principles, and the processes by which these forces are linked to or transformed into local spatial and urban congruities. In other words, what is involved is not just a traditional concern with the channelling of growth and the systematic provision of infrastructures but foreseeing the transformation of urban areas into a new and different set of relationships within a new paradigm of cities that is geared to the global economy.
Contents - Previous - Next