overall rank: 9
The City at a Glance
Referring to Kuala Lumpur's penchant for outsized construction projects, management guru Peter Drucker once asserted that Malaysia was "committed to building the world's most disagreeable city. They're building megalomaniac skyscrapers, the biggest mosque, and the biggest traffic jams." Recession has put the brakes on KL's more ambitious projects, such as a riverine shopping/office complex that would have been the world's longest structure. But the home of the 88-story Petronas Towers - the world's tallest building - still manages to feed its edifice complex. In July, a sparkling new international airport opened south of the city. A 20-hectare park that includes $1 million worth of elaborate playground equipment also debuted next to the Towers. Such amenities can ameliorate but not eliminate complaints that air pollution and traffic congestion have eroded the quality of life in recent years. Adding to tension in 1998 is ongoing unrest over the economy and the arrest of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim. A Saturday shopping trip downtown in the past few months has sometimes meant running a gauntlet of demonstrators and police barricades.
After the protests end, residents will still have to cope with service shortcomings that belie the city's metropolitan veneer. Rapid growth and industrialization have produced sporadic water shortages. New treatment plants are on fast-track construction schedules, but a larger problem is neglected infrastructure - in Malaysia, some 40% of treated water is lost before reaching homes because of leaky pipes, broken mains and illegal diversion. The fouling of rivers that form the backbone of KL's supply is the primary culprit. "Until the public changes its perception of the river as a backyard rubbish dump, the problem . . . will always be there," says Rozali Ismail, chairman of the company in charge of the city's water supply. It could be a hard habit to break. After all, Kuala Lumpur means "muddy confluence." One proposal might do the trick. Ibrahim Saad, the minister for Kuala Lumpur, has called for polluting companies to be closed down.
- By Irene Liow
Snapshot: The City at a glance
|Average Income US$||14,368||8,763||10|
|State Educational Spending Per Cap/$||322.14||200.22||10|
|a Ratio of House Price to Income||6.5||24||8|
|Hospital Beds per 1,000||44||6||1|
|Vehicles per KM City Roads||97*||224.62||13|
|Criminal Cases per 10,000||188.8*||81||34|
|TV Sets per 1,000||255||241.69||14||
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