KUALA LUMPUR – Nearly two-thirds of Malaysians are against a plan to build a 100-storey mega-tower that has become a headache for the country's prime minister, according to a survey released Friday.
The independent Merdeka Centre research firm said that 65 percent of 1,005 people surveyed disagreed with the controversial US$1.6b “Warisan Merdeka” or “Heritage of Independence” tower, to be built by 2020.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is poised to call a snap election, has defended the project, which has faced widespread criticism online and from ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad.
The new tower would eclipse Mahathir's brainchild, Kuala Lumpur's 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers.
Close to 280,000 people have signed a Facebook petition against the new skyscraper, saying that taxpayers' money would be better spent on education, healthcare and public transport.
“People feel there are more urgent things that the government should look into such as tackling the inflation, rising fuel prices and improving public transport,” Merdeka Centre research manager Tan Seng Keat told AFP.
“People feel there is potential for wastage and corruption. They fear this is going to be another white elephant,” he said, adding that if the government continues the project it will become an election issue among urban voters.
Political pundits expect Najib to seize on disarray within the opposition and his improved standing among voters to call snap elections early next year.
Najib has said the ambitious tower project, to be driven by state-run asset management company, Permodalan Nasional Berhad, must meet conditions including being commercially viable as well as providing more business opportunities.
The Merdeka Centre poll also found 69 percent of the people surveyed were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with Najib's performance as premier, down from the 72 percent satisfaction he enjoyed in May.
The firm said the drop was probably due to public reactions to the government cutting subsidies for fuel and sugar, resulting in higher prices for the two key commodities.
The government announced the cuts, the second set of reductions in five months, a few weeks ago in a bid to reduce its budget deficit.
Channel News Asia