Any Malaysian with a facebook account has probably come across this Facebook page with the same title.
Malaysia was once a young, new nation eager to prove its worth. Malaysia gains respect in the international arena in the 80's, buoyed by an economic boom, under its ambitious leader Dr. Mahathir. He urged Malaysians to "Look East" (post-war rise of Japan as an example to follow) and oppose western-style globalization. The leader embarks on mega projects-at first, infrastructure developments, then commercial developments. In the 90's, it became obvious some projects moved from ambitious to ridiculous. Many of these projects were handed over to companies owned by political cronies. But that's another story.
The 88-storey Petronas Twin Towers had supposedly "put Malaysia on the map" in the mid 90's, just before the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. Malaysia had the tallest building in the world- lasted all of a year before the next few buildings like Taipei 101 and Shanghai World Trade Centre took over.... etc- you get the picture.
Nations in economic boom tend to produce phallic symbols of their supremacy in the form of these skyscrapers. This is true for China and Dubai UAE, both nations which experienced huge amounts of growth in every sector in every financial quarter in the last few years.
Now, just as the Burj al Khalifa in Dubai has finished, Malaysia announces in a fit of kiasu-ness plans to commence building the 100 storey Merdeka Tower next year. Read more about it here and here.
This tower will cost RM $ 5 billion or roughly just over US $ 1.6 billion. Who ultimately pays for it? The problem is: Malaysia is NOT experiencing growth rates like that of China or the United Arab Emirates.
A popular hypothesis is that skyscrapers are often seen as economic indicators for a financial downturn-
"Of course economic booms tend to coincide with real estate booms, if not bubbles. I think that the moment project developers start planning a new "tallest skyscraper" the beginning of the end is at least not far. It means that hubris has become a factor again and that money has become too easy."Ivar Hagendoorn writes about the correlation between architecture and finance here.
And, looking at the price tag, it's enough to send Malaysia into recession.
The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel. (1563)