By Ida Nadirah Ibrahim
ADMINISTERING the most urbanised state in Malaysia is no easy task. With a population of millions and a growing number of commitments that need to be met, local government officials face numerous challenges on a daily basis. From managing traffic congestion to providing the best service to the people, the demands on local governments are numerous and complex.
As a Local Government, Public Transport and New Village Development Committee chairman, Ng Sze Han has played a pivotal role in bringing about positive changes to the state through his portfolio.
For five years, he has worked tirelessly to ensure that the needs of the people are addressed and their grievances redressed. His achievements are many, and he has proven himself to be innovative and effective in drawing up new ideas and solutions.
Having spearheaded a number of significant initiatives that have impacted the lives of the people, Ng pinpointed several that stand out as noteworthy.
A record of ‘firsts’
Over the years, Ng has introduced several policies that are the first of their kind in the country.
One policy that he introduced is the requirement for all confinement centres in the state to have a licence to operate. In the past, such centres which provide care and support for mothers requiring postnatal care have traditionally been set up without conforming to any stipulated guidelines.
Ng said that the state government acknowledges the need to standardise and regulate these facilities to ensure that the mothers receive high-quality care in safe and secure environments.
“Because of the increase in population and being an urbanised community where parents need to go to work and the grandparents are mostly back in their kampung, many mothers are in need of this service.
“Previously, the centres operated without a licence because there was no place for them to go to obtain one. But two years ago, Selangor became the first state to introduce guidelines which would make it easier for the centre operators,” he said during an interview with Selangor Journal.
As Selangor is also becoming an ageing society, Ng said the state government is also in the process of drafting guidelines to cater to the future needs of senior citizens, such as providing more elderly-care homes.
Parking payment progress
Ng takes pride in having introduced one particular initiative to the state — the Smart Selangor Parking app, which is the first of its kind in the country.
Implemented in 2018, Ng said that the app is the parking app with the most downloads at 2.83 million. Being the first of its kind, it has revolutionised parking payment methods, making the process quicker, easier, and more convenient.
“The Smart Selangor Parking app is probably the only policy where we received about 99 per cent of good comments. Most people like it and welcome it.
“In creating it, we listened to the people, we heard them, so we implemented a system to go digital and create a smart lifestyle for Selangorians.
“Selangor is the first state in Malaysia to enforce the use of one common app for the payment of parking that is under the purview of the local councils in the state,” he said, beaming.
With just a few taps on their phones, users can locate in which council they are parked and pay for their parking bay electronically, which is far less tedious than the old method of using scratch-and-display coupons.
He said that more people are now paying for their parking due to the convenience.
“From our observation, we noticed that the number of people willing to pay the parking charges has increased by more than 50 per cent.
“It shows that if we can provide them with convenience, people are willing to pay (for parking). It also shows that the parking rate in Selangor is very reasonable.
Compassion in hard times
During the Covid-19 pandemic when movement restrictions were imposed, many small businesses were forced to close, leaving their owners and staff struggling to make ends meet.
Recognising the urgent need to support these traders, Ng introduced a temporary licence for traders to set up small businesses to tie them over the difficult period.
Ng said that the move helped many people survive financially.
“During the pandemic, we noticed that a lot of people lost their jobs and did temporary work to earn a living and sustain themselves. We also received a lot of requests for temporary licences to run as traders and hawkers.
“We then discussed with different agencies how we could help. So we decided to give the licence to almost everyone who applied, provided that the location is safe and does not obstruct traffic because it is important to ensure the safety of both the public and the hawkers,” he said.
In all, the state government issued more than 10,000 temporary licences for traders during the whole pandemic period.
A mindset shift
Waste management and waste segregation are among the most pressing issues facing local governments today. In many cities and towns, waste is piling up at an alarming rate, posing serious environmental and health risks.
Ng said that one of the key elements in addressing the issues is increasing awareness on waste management and segregation. He said public knowledge is needed on the importance of proper waste disposal and encouraged citizens to separate their waste.
Although he said Selangor does not subscribe to the Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007 (Act 672), the state does have a high recycling rate as compared to other states in the country.
“I believe Selangor has the highest recycling rate in the whole of Malaysia. However, the only problem we face now is that we do not have the proper data collection method to determine how much recycled waste has been collected.
“Even so, the Selangor government is in discussion with the Federal government to explore the possibility to subscribe to Act 672 because, with this act, we would be able to manage the illegal dumping issues better. At this moment we are relying on the local councils’ by-laws, which are not tough enough.”
Ng said that if he were to be given more time to oversee the portfolio, he would address the waste issue as it is an ongoing problem that has room for improvement.
“We would be able to do more if we have increased funds and a better awareness campaign for all stakeholders. It’s not just Selangor residents (who need to change). We need better awareness among the industries and commercial players because, for the two illegal dumpsites that we identified, the type of waste there included industrial, commercial and construction waste,” he said.
Not just a tagline
Despite the progress that has been made, Ng said that there is still much work to be done.
As the state continues to grow and face new challenges, it needs people with vision and dedication to ensure a sustainable future for all its citizens. Ng is ready to take them on.
“Because our direction is to make Selangor become a smart state, we need to go along that line,” he said.
“But ‘smart state’ is not just a tagline. We need to be able to make people experience it and bring the conveniences it offers to their daily lives. That is the whole purpose of a smart state.
“In the years to come, we need to have more systems and policies that can give the Selangor people a lifestyle that is better and ‘smarter’,” he added.
This article first appeared in the Selangor Journal monthly May 2023 edition, published on May 13, 2023.