RM41 million spent on ‘white elephant’ projects

Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong has slammed the government for spending too much money on two “white elephant” projects in Putrajaya.

“(Astaka Morocco and Monumen Alaf Baru) serve no function and were built to serve the fantasies of (former prime minister) Dr Mahathir (Mohamad),” he told reporters in the Parliament lobby.

“The figures … show that about 20 people visit the Astaka Morocco daily, which is far too little when one considers the amount spent on it.”

Replying to Liew in the House earlier, Deputy Federal Territories Minister M Saravanan said the Astaka Morocco had cost RM20 million to build and RM250,000 per year to maintain.

This includes “special cleaning” of the pool and the khat (carving of Arabic text) on the walls and door. Last year, 8,500 people had visited the attraction.

He also said the Monumen Alaf Baru (Millennium Monument), opened in 2003, had cost RM21 million to build and RM93,000 per year to maintain.

However, the ministry does not know how many visitors the monument has attracted as it is an “open area”.

According to Saravanan, both monuments were built to attract tourists to Putrajaya, while the Monumen Alaf Baru also serves a historical purpose.

“Since the monuments have been built, let’s make them a place for the people. Make them into spaces for artists to perform, for example. Now they are kept almost empty,” he said.

‘Renegotiate rental’

Liew also told the government to renegotiate the agreement with Putrajaya Holdings, which sees the government paying RM1 billion a year for rental of premises.

“This is about 0.5 percent of our annual budget only for rental, not including maintenance, and it is something we are paying in excess because of someone’s fantasy,” he said.

Astaka Morocco, located in Taman Botany, is said to symbolise the strong diplomatic ties between Malaysia and Morocco, especially with its people and culture, according to a posting on VirtualMalaysia.com.

The Millennium Monument is a 68m tall, amber-coloured structure located in Precinct 2, Putrajaya.

Said to take its design from a hibiscus, it has etchings that mark important periods in the nation’s history from the time of the Malacca sultanate.

At night, it serves as a beacon that sweeps a light over the lake.

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