2nd December 2023 – (Kuala Lumpur) The newly opened Exchange TRX Mall in Malaysia’s capital aims to showcase the country on the global stage, attracting prestigious international brands and drawing shoppers with its ultramodern amenities. But teething troubles like power outages and construction defects marred its grand opening, emblematic of deeper concerns over white elephant infrastructure projects.
Eager crowds flocked to the mega-mall during its long-awaited launch on November 29th, lured by the promise of luxury shopping and dining. With over 500 stores spanning 10 acres, Exchange TRX aspires to be Malaysia’s premier lifestyle destination. Its rooftop city park also provides green public space in congested Kuala Lumpur.
Yet the very next day, the glitzy mall suffered a power outage blamed on electrical short circuits, disrupting shopping and parking access. Visitors also noted unfinished areas with cracked tiles, dusty escalators, exposed wiring and non-functional restrooms. Further dampening opening week was an air conditioning breakdown that left parts uncomfortably warm.
Inside the mall, it was evident that the establishment was recovering from a recent power outage, as lights were being restored and parking attendants expressed their relief.
However, when it came to finding a parking space, the overhead indicators that typically display available spots were not functioning properly. Despite external counters indicating ample availability, the parking lot itself was nearly full.
As local reporters from The Rakyat Post made our way from B2 Welcome Hall A to B1, we noticed the presence of large puddles of dried paint or plaster, escalators and walls covered in dust, broken tiles, and incomplete ceilings.
Several escalators were out of order, and even some of the lifts appeared to be non-functional, as the buttons failed to illuminate when pressed.
Exposed wiring near certain lifts and beneath escalators caught our attention, hanging from the ceiling. Although we hope and trust that none of the wires were live, their presence was unsightly.
While some flaws reflect normal hiccups for new complexes, the embarrassing lapses marred first impressions of the high-profile project meant to showcase Malaysian development. It also revived concerns over white elephants – lavish infrastructure initiatives plagued by cost overruns, inefficiencies and defects from poor oversight.
Other audacious projects like the new administrative capital Putrajaya and Petronas Towers suffered similar criticism overblown budgets and execution issues. Mega-developments like Melaka Gateway and Forest City in Johor also struggled, saddled with financing troubles and shifting political priorities.
Exchange TRX has already faced controversy since its inception, with original backer 1MDB forced to sell the site after becoming embroiled in corruption probes. Such debacles underscore concerns over flawed governance and undisciplined spending on grandiose but ultimately wasteful projects.
With national finances tight, analysts argue Malaysia must emphasise judicious infrastructure investing that boosts public welfare over prestige alone. Otherwise white elephants risk becoming a financial millstone rather than economic catalyst. Exchange TRX’s bumpy opening will hopefully provide lessons on exercising prudence in future development.
The success of any mega-project ultimately rests on competent oversight and delivering tangible benefits, not just impressive structures and statistics. With disciplined administration, Malaysia can ensure the Exchange TRX becomes a source of national pride rather than painful embarrassment. But averting future white elephants requires putting public interests before personal or political motives.