Cyberjaya and Putrajaya: the New Trend of Urban Development in Malaysia


After Malaysia gained its independence on 31 August 1957, the government had established many policies as an effort to improve the living standard of its nation that composed of multi-ethnic society. The action taken was carefully designed to suit the aspiration of the nation according to the political and social structure of the country. The pre world war society in Malaysia was mostly categorized as an agricultural society. Urbanization process was too slow because the imperialist political system and ideology did not put full effort to upgrade the socio-economic status of the nation. However, after independence, eventually the urban policy has gone through various developmental changes mainly to reorganize the nation according to the social needs (rural and urban area) and fulfil the requirement of the future culture in the information age. This term paper will confine one of the recent urban development in Malaysia according to the newest concept of nation building by highlighting also the policy making process, the major actors with reference to their motives in order to realize the intended objectives.

Background: The Political Structure of the Government and the Society

Malaysian political system is based on Parliamentary Democracy and is ruled as a Constitutional Monarchy with his Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the King) as the Supreme Head of the country. Malaysia upholds federal constitution that divides authority into legislative, judicial and executive authorities. The doctrine of separation of power, check and balance are clearly construed in the Federal Constitution. Concept of federalism also becomes a basis feature for government administration between the state and the federal government. Such system is so effective to coordinate the public policy formulation and implementation processes with the assistance of the government machinery. Since independence, National Front Party (Barisan Nasional), which composed of United Malay National Organization, Malaysian Chinese Association, Malaysian Indian Congress and other affiliation parties, has become the only reigning party in the country and three major races represent it: the Malay, the Chinese and the Indian. Malaysia’s total population is estimated at 20.56 million (1996). Three major races are the Bumiputras (sons of the soils) including Malay (59% or 12.13 million), the Chinese (26% or 5.34 million) and the Indian (8% or 1.52 million). With such social cluster, any government program and project related to urban development nowadays has to promote the creation of a developed and informative nation for all races by giving emphasis also on manipulating the information technology either in rural or urban communities and this has become a new approach in Malaysian urban policy development.

Creation of Public Policy in Malaysia

In Malaysia, Public Policy in Malaysia can be created through political channel that means the policy is initiated through Cabinet orders or through the recommendation of several political parties. Second, through administrative processes at the ministerial level. Third, through the combination of both processes via integrated interaction. Policy matters are discussed either at the National Council or by setting up special committee on related issue. Since policy has implication on the administrative machinery; the drafted policy is discussed at several high-level of government meetings. Special Committees may be set up to study in-depth the policy before presenting it to the Cabinet. The policy process related to urban planning will also undergo these processes. In general, policy making process in Malaysia has to go through several stages such as identifying the arising problems, recommending suitable alternatives, implementing the suitable action policy, coordinating various events to suit the established policy and finally evaluating the effectiveness of such policy. Besides the policy process making, the roles played by certain groups are essential to provide a better input in the content of the policy. Generally three categories are identified: the politicians and government public administrators; the publics; and the related interest groups. The first group is the major players to be responsible in ensuring the success of the policy formulation and implementation and they can be refined as the Cabinet ministers, members of parliament, and high-level government officials. As for the publics, they can act individually or form interest groups to put forth their ideas and needs for government consideration. However, they do not automatically have the exact power to formulate a public policy or playing as a major actor. Still, their movement can sometimes get a kind of strong public support. Public Policy in Malaysia is effectively implemented through legal action, planning, program and project. The implementation of urban policy combines most of the factors mentioned above.

Vision 2020: The New Feature of Malaysian Urban Development

Vision 2020 was announced by Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, Malaysian Prime Minister on February 28, 1991 and it is actually a turning point for the Malaysian society to start a new way of lifestyle to become an informative and progressive society. Its aim is to make Malaysia a new developed nation according to the Malaysian outlook. Part of the visions implies that Malaysia has to create a progressive, fully developed, matured and knowledge-rich society by the year 2020 with emphasis upon accomplishing a highly scientific and technological achievement that requires not only quality human resources, quality service environment for public consumption but also quality urban environment. Therefore, the urban planning has to construe such philosophy in designing the new township that will meet the requirement of the future era. In meeting the challenges of the next decade, the government of Malaysia has taken various kinds of robust action to ensure that the country will be able to adopt a new kind of environment in the new information age.

On Mac 7, 1995 Dr. Kenichi Ohmae, Japanese multimedia expert presented his paper to Dr Mahathir Mohammed entitled "Making a Malaysian Miracle – A New National Strategy for Success in the Information Age". The idea was initially discussed at the National Information Technology Council chaired by the Prime Minister himself. This paper was a turning point for the country to get involved into hi-tech advanced multimedia project and suggesting "a big corridor" had to be invented namely Multimedia Super Corridor. His paper highlighted various important concepts for Malaysia to achieve Vision 2020. On Mac 8, 1995, The content of the paper was later being highlighted numerously in the Cabinet. Opinions of several experts (individual and interest groups) such as Professor Kisho Kurokawa, who had suggested an invention of eco-media city in line to the particular development, were also being taken into government consideration. On November 11, 1995 the Cabinet decided that Ministry Telecom, Energy and Post had to coordinate with the Economic Planning Unit; the Malaysian Administrative and Modernization and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU); the Malaysian Institute of Microelectronic System (MIMOS) - all under the Prime Minister Department; and other related agencies to reevaluate related matters for government consideration. On August 1, 1996, the Prime Minister at the Multimedia Asia ‘96 Conference in Kuala Lumpur formally announced MSC.

Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC)

After series of meetings, the Cabinet on Mac 20, 1996 agreed to set up Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC). Since this project involves the interest of federal and state government (Selangor), both parties agreed to set up a corporation named as MDC to coordinate every activity related to MSC project. It is a corporation that will be a one-stop agency whose mission is to create the best environment in the world for private sectors companies to pursue and facilitate their investment in the MSC. MDC will enjoy certain powers (statutory powers) to categorize interested company to get MSC status by defining the kind of acceptable multimedia industries that will gain government incentives to operate in the MSC region besides identifying strategic industry concerned. Those companies who get the MSC status are entitled to operate tax free for up to 10 years or receive 100% investment tax allowance besides other benefit and the Malaysian Government’s Bill of Guarantee will guarantee them. In addition, MDC will also responsible to shape MSC laws and policies by advising the government and set standard for the MSC’s information infrastructure and urban development. In general, this corporation will manage and market the MSC besides ensuring the success of the MSC project and the companies operating in it. The MSC will have an integrated environment with all the unique elements and attributes necessary to create the perfect global multimedia climate. This "Corridor" is 15 kilometers wide and 50 kilometers long. It starts from Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC) down to the south site of Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) which is a new airport that will be commissioned in the mid year of 1998. It will be equipped with advanced fiber-optic to suit telecommunication services, information and multimedia technology. With advanced infrastructure too, many services such as banking, commercial and business transaction can be done through computerization. In addition, multipurpose card or sometimes-called Smart Card will be introduced to facilitate certain activities. Within this particular area, the government on July 3, 1996 agreed to establish two new world-first intelligent cities namely Putrajaya and Cyberjaya.

Putrajaya and Cyberjaya

Putrajaya was initially proposed for the new Federal Government Administrative Center in 1993. In line to the MSC project, its development plan was altered and prepared by few consultants with coordination from Town and Country Planning Department and the Public Works Department to adopt the new features of MSC project and was finalized on February 22, 1995. Putrajaya will be functionalised as the new advanced administrative features with a new concept of electronic government. It will provide a balance urban environment for 250,000 people who will be served by the state of the art communication and transportation systems. It is meant to improve the urban environment and quality of life for the dwellers and to ensure further growth of vicinity area including Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding rural area. Electronic Government in Putrajaya is one of the seven-multimedia flagship applications (Telemedicine, Smart School, Multipurpose Card, Research and Development Clusters, Worldwide Manufacturing Web and Borderless Marketing Center). The main purpose of having Electronic Government is to improve in how government operates internally as well as how it delivers services to the people in Malaysia. It will focus on the essence to increase the quality of interaction, accessibility and convenience between citizen and businesses; simultaneously improve information flows and processes within government in ensuring the success of policy implementation, coordination and enforcement. It will function as a multimedia-networked paperless administration linking Putrajaya to all government centers throughout the country to facilitate inter-governmental collaboration and citizen access to governmental services. Electronic Government will later contribute to achieve the political and economic development goals as stated in Vision 2020. This application will enable the government to be more responsive to the needs of its citizens. At present, Electronic Government flagship application will focus on services such as Electronic Delivery of Driver and Vehicle Registration, Licensing and Summons Services, Utility Bill Payment, and Ministry of Health On-Line Information, Electronic Procurement, Prime Minister’s Office – Generic Office Environment, Human Resources Management Information System and Project Monitoring System. These priority projects have been thoroughly identified by the Electronic Government Steering Committee which comprises government officials led by MAMPU, representatives from MDC, leading private sector multimedia companies, IT companies and appointed consultants.

Cyberjaya, located to the west side of Putrajaya, will provide top quality business facilities, residential housing, leisure and recreational facilities, and state of the art supporting infrastructure. It will support a working population of 150,000 and a living population of over 100,000. It allocates a place for multimedia industries, research and development centers, Multimedia University and operational headquarters for multinationals to direct their worldwide manufacturing and trading activities using multimedia technology.

Process of Decision

To simplify, before reaching the government decision related to urban development for Putrajaya and Cyberjaya, certain committees and departments coordinated numerous related issues for consideration. Ministry of Telecom, Post and Energy (main coordinator) was responsible to propose a memorandum (recommendation paper) to the Cabinet based on the recommendation. However, the ministry had to get a feedback from certain central agencies and ministries concerned before presenting it to the Cabinet. In relation to the recommendation, several bills were proposed to ensure certain property is rightly preserved such as Cyberlaw to protect the multimedia intellectual property. After the Cabinet approved the drafted bill, it was then presented in the House of Representative and the Senate for debate and approval in both houses during the Parliament Session. The bill was passed by both houses (more 2/3 vote) and was submitted to His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for the Royal Assent. The bill became law after gazetted. Finally, the decision was conveyed administratively to related parties and through several high-level government meeting such as Meeting of the State Chief Minister, Meeting of Secretary-Generals of Ministries and Heads Of Services, Meeting of Heads of Federal Departments, Meeting of Chief Executives of Federal Statutory Bodies, Meeting of Liaison Committee Between Federal and State Government.


In sum, although MSC projects are highly cost but the success of its projects and its applications will lead to a new culture of urbanization not only to Malaysian society but it will also be a new paradigm for creating value in urban development especially in the information age throughout the world. As indicated in Vision 2020, MSC will be a catalyst to start a new way of lifestyle to become an informative and progressive society with super quality services and urban development for all nations as a whole. This project will be implemented effectively and successfully through a well-defined strategic policy that has structurally monitoring system under the government machinery.

Azman Mohd.Yusof

Japan Urban Development Policy

Graduate School of Policy Science, Saitama University

25 February 1998