IN 2000, while announcing the City Day celebrations, the then mayor Tan Sri Kamaruzzaman Shariff expressed his wish to see Kuala Lumpur become a world-class city.
He envisioned a city with international business and commercial networking, excellent telecommunications and transport system, high quality of living and which was a tourism hotspot.
Ten years down the line, I don't think we are very far off the mark. We cannot beat our chests and declare KL to be a world-class business hub yet but, judging by the number of foreign brands based here today, our efforts have not been in vain.
We do have a good telecommunications system even though we are not entirely hooked up via high speed broadband. But we can boast of having enough access points to say we are globally connected at least. Even some of our hawker stalls offer free Wi-Fi, if we want proof that we are modern enough. And, as for being a tourist centre, any non-Malaysians reading this and cannot associate the Twin Towers with Kuala Lumpur is best advised to do something else.
In terms of transport we are spoilt for choice, although some of us prefer our own two- or four-wheelers. But the big cars you see choking the streets should give you an idea of how much the standard of living has improved. Now we only need to work on improving the quality.
Only a few small things stand in the way of our being truly world-class. If we can get rid of the litterbugs, it would be slightly easier to see the path to get there, for instance. Even the river looked cleaner last week. Maybe more of us have finally learned to love our river and not because the modern garbage booms are doing a better job upstream.
We can't do anything about the muddy look. Then again, if the water is crystal clear, our tour guides might have a tough time explaining to tourists how the city got its name. Flash floods are hovering like dark clouds over the horizon but we can rest assured that the Smart Tunnel will come to our rescue if there are major floods.
The expressways get us in and out of the city in a flash although we sometimes find the exits choked with traffic and wonder if there is a double meaning to the word "toll". But I guess peak-hour jams are unavoidable unless our traffic dispersal system can be made smarter and traffic policemen need not risk their life and limb daily. One wonders if imposing a premium on vehicular traffic entering the city might do the trick.
We can take pride in the greenery around us as long as they are trees and not moss on abandoned buildings.
And, as for the few recreational parks that we do have, it would help if we do not mess them up with noisy garden parties and haphazardly parked cars, or leave a trail of rubbish to mark our picnic spots or use the trees to hold billboards.
It would appear that we may take a while to be world-class but, fingers crossed, we just might get there. And faster too if we seriously consider turning this into a fine city like the one across the Causeway. Otherwise, the only "worldly" features we can talk about are the foreign labour colonies found in Kota Raya, Chow Kit, Batu Road and Petaling Street.