Public- Private- People- Partnerships

Seberang Perai City Council, Malaysia

SDG 5: Gender equalitySDG 6: Clean water and sanitationSDG 10: Reduced inequalitiesSDG 11: Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 16: Peace justice and strong institutionsSDG 17: Partnerships for the goals
In 2012, Penang city was the first local authority to practice and implement a gender responsive participatory budgeting in Malaysia. At the time, the mayor in the municipal council of Seberang Perai in Penang was Mrs Maimunah Mohd Sharif. To solve the municipality’s financial difficulties, she introduced the Public- Private-People- Partnerships (4P’s).

In 2012, Seberang Perai municipal council had a low municipal finance. The services offered by the city council and the ongoing project, were not meeting the demands or needs of the citizens or businesses active in the area. This led to a high level of unpaid property taxes and assessments, which in turn resulted in low finances for the municipality.

Good practices & solutions

To solve the financial troubles and regain the citizens’ trust, the municipality implemented two strategies; (1) gender responsible budgeting and (2) the“4 P ́s”. The process started with asking city dwellers to rate the city council and identify areas that needed improvement. In 2012, the city was graded and achieved a satisfactory score of 64%. It was clear that implemented policies and public space solutions were not suitable for everyone residing in the city and something needed to be done. A gender perspective in both the city budgeting and planning was implemented. However, the subject of gender was sensitive, so it was incorporated through the technical term universal design, meaning that the solutions were to benefit everyone. The thesis in practice meant that if it is good for a pregnant lady, it is good for everybody, or if it is good for an old woman, it is good for everybody. The city formed the Penang women development cooperation to look into gender perspectives of existing policies and in this way institutionalise a gender perspective in the governmental policies.

The second strategy the ”4 P’s”,– Public- Private- People-Partnerships. The city had a tremendous amount of public spaces, lighting systems, and streets to maintain and many public facilities to update but lacked the means for doing so. Trying to find a solution to this problem, the mayor turned to private communities in Penang for support. A majority of companies in the area usually focused their corporate social responsibility budget on the city’s community centres for the elderly or orphanages, making it hard for these centres to facilitate the amount of money. Instead the mayor proposed that the private sector take responsibility for one or some of the city’s public parks. The city council formulated a transparent strategy to deal with the cooperation, giving advertising rights to the company or private community but reserving the final say regarding both the advertisement and the design of the park.

All designs were submitted and approved by the full council and then the company or private community implemented them and took care of the public space on a five-year lease. Due to this many public spaces improved tremendously. However, it started without the involvement of the people, which inevitably resulted in many projects not meeting the actual needs of citizens. After reviewing the target projects, the city council added another P to the model, the people.

Outcome & opportunities

The main outcome of the initiatives was the regained confidence and trust in the government, making city actors willing to pay their assessments again. This was only possible through good governance; with competency, accountability, transparency, effectiveness and efficiency of doing things. The 4 P ́s create a balance between the different city stakeholders which strengthen all parties. The private sector started to help the city manage and maintain spaces that would not be prioritized otherwise. When preparing the 2018 city budget, after several years of gender responsive participatory budgeting, the city had reached a satisfactory level of 92%.

Lessons learned & recommendations

First of all, it is of primary importance to analyse the challenges vital to the own city. Then, it is time look for the best practices elsewhere. Learn from the best practices globally and then apply them to the local context. This approach creates an integrated, holistic, sustainable development plan of policy, which have the opportunity to address the source of the problem rather than creating solutions ad hoc.

This integrated, holistic, sustainable development plan of policy has to be translated to the local government and translated into an action plan. When creating the locally driven action plan, every sector has to be involved. The strength lies in a combination of a top down and bottom up approaches that creates a convergence of ideas. It is key to not only create a good plan or a good policy but an implementable policy.

Related SDG targets
  • 5.1 End all forms of discrimination against all women
  • 5.1.1 Whether or not legal frameworks are in place and girls everywhere
  • 5.c Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels
  • 6.2 By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
  • 8.3 Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium- sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.
  • 10.2 By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
  • 11.3 By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries
  • 11.b By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation…
  • 16.6 Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels 16.b Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development
  • 17.17 Encourage and promote effective public, public- private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships
Further reading

#Women4Cities interview – Maimunah Mohd Sharif



FacebookTwitterLinkedInCopy Link

Project: Urban Girls Movement