KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 — Efforts for sustainable development that meet global standards are often hindered by politics and an adversarial work culture among civil servants of all levels, planners said today.
Political and personal friction between federal, state and local authorities have prompted officials to ignore guidelines, create division and block efforts to address entrenched problems, the National Planners Congress here was told.
“We actually have good plans for every level and we try to incorporate the NUA (New Urban Agenda) in each of the plans,” Ihsan Zainal Mokhtar, president of the Malaysian Institute of Planners, said.
“But the implementation at the federal, state and local level seemed not to gel well because of politics and differences,” he added.
The NUA is the paper outcome of the Habitat III cities conference in Quito, Ecuador, October last year, a document meant to guide efforts around urban and sustainable development.
The conference outlined eight key commitments for the guideline: the provision of basic services to all citizens, equal access to opportunities, measures for cleaner and resilient cities, addressing climate change, promoting connectivity; and safe, accessible and green public spaces.
Most local planners share the visions of the NUA, and have incorporated the guidelines outlined in the document into existing federal development plans, according to Rokibah Abdul Latif, director-general of the Department of Urban and Rural Planning for peninsular Malaysia.
But these ideas often fail to reach those at the executive level, creating a gap between policy and implementation, she said.
“When we asked the local councillors if they know the NUA, they said they’re not aware of it even after much publicity,” Rokibah told the congress.
“Maybe they weren’t aware because usually only the mayors attend the briefings,” she added.
Ihsan said the gap stemmed from an entrenched work culture that discourages teamwork and celebrates competition between agencies. This has led to poor execution and haphazard development, the MIP president said.
“We tend to work in silos… instead of working together as a team we compete with each other so each agency will only solve their own problems”.
There are three existing federal development plans at the moment: the National Physical Development Plan, the National Development Plan 2 and the National Rural Physical Development Plan 2030.
The three plans cover every aspect of urban, town and rural development. As Malaysia becomes more urbanised, these plans will become important to ensure all development programmes are sustainable, Ihsan said.
Malaysia is expected to reach 80 per cent urbanisation by 2030 with Kuala Lumpur’s population estimated to exceed 10 million, Martin Prosperity Institute said in its report released earlier this year.