ad info

Main Page

And the Winner is...

Cover Story
Making Cities Work
What Makes Good Governance?

Asia's Best Cities
The Top Ten
The Complete Rankings

The Rankings Explained

Hong Kong vs. Singapore
The Competition Heats Up
A Comparison
Different Lifestyles

A devil of a job in the City of Angels

Kuala Lumpur
Growing Pains

overall rank: 9

country: Malaysia

population: 1,200,000

snapshot: 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

City AverageRank
Overall Score60529
Average Income US$14,3688,76310
State Educational Spending Per Cap/$322.14200.2210
a Ratio of House Price to Income6.5248
Hospital Beds per 1,0004461
Dust/Suspended Particles(ug/m3)120*240.7323
Vehicles per KM City Roads97*224.6213
Criminal Cases per 10,000188.8*8134
TV Sets per 1,000255241.6914

Back to the Rankings


a = Average house price divided by average annual income.
b = Household income.
c = Based on household income.
d = Officially, land cannot be bought or sold.
e = National figure.
f = U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Pollutants Standards Index.
g = Air Pollutant Index.
h = Per 100 families
i = Per 1,000 families
j = Per 75,000 people.
k = National figure, TV sets per 1,000 people.
m = % of households with TV sets.
n = Measured in Parts per Million (ppm).
Back to top

Asiaweek features | Asiaweek home