🇲🇾 Penang is a Malaysian state located on the north-west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, by the Malacca Strait. It has two parts: Penang Island, where the capital city, George Town, is located, and Seberang Perai on the Malay Peninsula. They are connected by Malaysia's two longest road bridges, the Penang Bridge and the Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge; the latter is also, as of May 2019, the longest oversea bridge in Southeast Asia.
Penang is the 8th most populated state in Malaysia. Its population density is as high as 1,684/km² (4,360/sq mi). It has among the nation's highest population densities and is one of the country's most urbanised states. Seberang Perai is Malaysia's second-largest city by population. Its heterogeneous population is highly diverse in ethnicity, culture, language and religion. Aside from the three main races, the Malays, Chinese, and Indians, Penang is home to significant Eurasian, Siamese and expatriate communities. A resident of Penang is colloquially known as a Penangite or Penang Lang (Penang Hokkien: 庇能儂; Tâi-lô: Pī-néeng-lâng) in Penang Hokkien due to the significant Penangite Chinese population.
Penang's modern history began in 1786, upon the establishment of George Town by Francis Light. Penang formed part of the Straits Settlements in 1826, which became a British crown colony in 1867. Direct British rule was only briefly interrupted during World War II, when Japan occupied Penang; the British retook Penang in 1945. Penang was later merged with the Federation of Malaya (now Malaysia), which gained independence from the British in 1957.
Following the decline of its entrepôt trade towards the 1970s, Penang's economy was reoriented by the central government towards manufacturing. Today, it has become one of Malaysia's most vital economic powerhouses. Penang is the nation's third highest Human Development Index (HDI) state, after Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
Economy In spite of its tiny size, Penang, regarded as the Silicon Valley of the East, has one of the largest economies in Malaysia, contributing as much as RM7 billion of the country's tax income in 2015. Penang has the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita among Malaysian states. With a GDP per capita of RM49,873 as of 2017, Penang has also surpassed the World Bank's threshold to be considered a high-income economy, which was set at US$12,056 within the same year.
Furthermore, Penang consistently records one of the lowest unemployment rates within the nation - 2.1% as of 2017. The state has experienced one of the largest reductions in Gini coefficient within Malaysia as well, at 0.356 in 2016.
Penang is the top destination within Malaysia for foreign investors; the state held the largest share of Malaysia's foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2017, gaining nearly 2⁄5 of the nation's overall FDI. In addition, George Town was ranked Malaysia's most attractive destination for commercial property investment by Knight Frank in 2016, surpassing even Kuala Lumpur. The bulk of Penang's FDI as of 2017 originated from Switzerland, Germany, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Ireland and Singapore. It is an attractive destination for FDI as it continued to receive investment during the Coronavirus disease 2019, when it received the second highest level of investment in Q1 2020.
Penang's economic growth, particularly since 2008, was described by Bloomberg as Malaysia's "biggest economic success", despite the federal government's focus on other states such as Johor and Sarawak. Penang's economic performance also allowed the Penang state government to completely eradicate the state's public debt by 2016.
Manufacturing Since the 1970s, manufacturing has formed the backbone of Penang's economy, contributing 44.8% of the state's GDP as of 2017 and attracting as many as 3,000 firms to set up operations within the state. Machinery and transport equipment accounted for 71% of Penang's total exports during the first nine months of 2014.
The Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone, now regarded as the Silicon Valley of the East, is the main electronics manufacturing hub within Malaysia. Located at the south-eastern corner of Penang Island, the zone is home to several high-tech multinational firms, including Dell, Intel, AMD, Motorola, Agilent, Renesas, Osram, Bosch, Sony and Seagate and others.
Seberang Perai has witnessed massive industrialisation as well, with industrial estates and oil refineries being established in the late 20th century in areas like Mak Mandin and Perai. The major local firms currently operating in Perai, including Malayan Sugar, Malayawata Steel, Southern Steel, Harvik Rubber and Soon Soon Oilmills, have been joined by multinational companies, such as Mattel, Pensonic, Hitachi, Mitsuoka, Chevron and Honeywell Aerospace. In recent years, Batu Kawan has also been rapidly industrialised, with a number of international firms, such as Boston Scientific and Bose Corporation, setting up manufacturing plants in the town.
Aside from electronics and engineering manufacturing, Penang is Malaysia's main jewellery finishing hub, contributing 85% of the nation's gold and jewellery exports as of 2016. Penang's gold and jewellery industry is relatively well-established, dating back to the founding of the Penang Goldsmith Association in 1832. Jewellery from Penang is exported to over 20 foreign markets, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Canada and the United States.
Services The services sector has overtaken the manufacturing sector as the largest economic sector in Penang, with the former accounting for 49.3% of Penang's GDP as of 2017. In addition, almost 3⁄5 of Penang's workforce are employed in services-related industries, which include retail, accommodation, medical tourism, and food and beverages (F&B) sub-sectors. Medical tourism has emerged as an integral component of Penang's services sector. George Town, in particular, has become the centre of medical tourism within Malaysia, attracting approximately half of the nation's medical tourist arrivals in 2013 and generating about 70% of the country's medical tourism revenue.
Penang also has a vibrant retail sub-sector, which employs as many as 24% of Penang's workforce. As the main shopping destination in northern Malaysia, Penang is home to several shopping malls, such as Gurney Plaza, Gurney Paragon, 1st Avenue Mall, Straits Quay, Queensbay Mall and Design Village and other shopping centre in Mainland and Island (Penang). While shopping malls now dominate the retail scene, centuries-old shophouses are still operating alongside George Town's flea markets and wet markets, all of which cater more to local products, including spices, nutmegs and tau sar pneah, a famous Penang delicacy.
Due to the efforts of the Penang state government to promote the state as a shared services and outsourcing (SSO) hub, Penang has attracted the second largest share of investments for Global Business Services (GBS) within Malaysia, after Kuala Lumpur. Penang's SSO industry, which includes international corporations such as AirAsia, Citigroup, Jabil and Dell, has provided more than 8,000 high-income jobs and contributed RM12.79 billion of revenue in 2013.
In addition to these, a startup community has been growing within Penang, including the likes of Piktochart and DeliverEat. Attracted by the cheaper living costs and the presence of several multinational technology firms, Penang's startups are also being actively encouraged by the public and private sectors, with initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship and promote the Internet of Things (IoT).
Furthermore, George Town is Malaysia's second most popular centre for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE), after Kuala Lumpur. In 2017, Penang hosted 2,511 business events with an estimated economic impact of RM1.002 billion. Among the major MICE venues within Penang are the SPICE Arena, Straits Quay and Prangin Mall.
Commerce George Town was formerly the financial centre of British Malaya. The first international bank to open a branch in George Town (and by extension, Malaysia) was Standard Chartered in 1875. This was followed by HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1885 and 1888 respectively.
To this day, George Town still serves as the financial centre of northern Malaysia. The city contains various Malaysian and international banks, including Standard Chartered, HSBC, Citibank, UOB, OCBC, Bank of China and Bank Negara Malaysia. Most of the international banks still retain their offices at Beach Street, which also serves as the city's main Central Business District.
Since the 1990s, Northam Road, along with Gurney Drive, has also emerged as the George Town's second Central Business District. Northam Road, in particular, hosts an array of financial services, including the Malaysian Employees Provident Fund, as well as accounting, auditing and insurance offices.
Finance and its related activities, such as insurance, auditing and real estate transactions, accounted for more than 8% of Penang's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as of 2017.
Tourist Industry Penang has always been one of the most popular tourist destinations in Malaysia. Throughout history, the state welcomed some of the most influential personalities, including W. Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, Lee Kuan Yew, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles. Penang is known for its rich heritage and architecture, its vibrant multicultural society, a wide range of modern entertainment and retail choices, natural features such as beaches and hills, and the world-famous Penang cuisine.
Unlike other Malaysian states, Penang does not rely only on air transportation for tourist arrivals. Aside from the Penang International Airport, Swettenham Pier, conveniently located within the heart of George Town, has emerged as one of the major tourist entry points into the state. As of 2017, Penang attracted nearly 8.6 million tourists, with the airport posting a record 7.2 million passenger arrivals and the pier registering another 1.35 million tourist arrivals. Within the same year, Penang, which contributed close to RM3.9 million of tourism tax revenue, was Malaysia's third largest tourism tax contributor after Kuala Lumpur and Sabah.
In recent years, George Town has received numerous international accolades. The city has been listed by several publications, including the Lonely Planet, CNN, Forbes and Time, as one of Asia's top travel destinations. These are in addition to George Town's reputation as a gastronomic haven, with the CNN placing George Town as one of Asia's best street food cities.
Entrepôt trade and shipping Formerly a vital British entrepôt, Penang's maritime trade has greatly declined, due to the loss of George Town's free-port status in 1969 and the concurrent development of Port Klang near the federal capital Kuala Lumpur.
In spite of this, the Port of Penang remains the main harbour within northern Malaysia. The Port of Penang handled more than 1.52 million TEUs of cargo in 2017, making it the third busiest seaport by volume in the country. The Port's strategic location enabled it to service not just northern Malaysia, but also southern Thailand.
Education Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) is the premier public university within Penang. Established in 1969 as Malaysia's second university, it was originally named Universiti Pulau Pinang (University of Penang). The main campus is situated at Gelugor, while an engineering campus has been built in Nibong Tebal. As of 2018, it was ranked 207th in the QS World University Rankings, the fourth highest within the country.
RCSI & UCD Malaysia Campus is a medical university in George Town, with teaching hospitals in Penang and Perak. Founded as a private medical school in 1996, RUMC gained university status in 2018 and is the only Irish university branch campus in Malaysia. Graduates of RUMC are conferred degrees awarded and recognised by the National University of Ireland.
Other tertiary institutions within Penang include Wawasan Open University, Han Chiang University College of Communication, DISTED College, Sentral College, SEGi College, KDU College, INTI International College, Equator Academy of Arts, Penang Skills and Development Centre and Lam Wah Ee Nursing College. Aside from these institutions, RECSAM, a research and training facility aimed at the enhancement of the science and mathematics education in Southeast Asia, is sited within Penang as well.
The state also contains 107 libraries, including the Penang State Library and the Penang Digital Library. The latter, launched by the Penang state government in 2016, is the first digital library in Malaysia.
Penang is rated Gamma - by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) which evaluates and ranks the relationships between world cities in the context of globalisation. Gamma level cities are cities that link smaller economic regions into the world economy.
Penang was ranked #28 by the Nomad List which evaluates and ranks remote work hubs by cost, internet, fun and safety. The Penang State has a population of over 1,783,000 people. It is also a part of the larger Greater Penang area. For the location of Penang see: George Town.
Twin Towns - Sister Cities Penang has links with:🇦🇺 Adelaide, Australia 🇹🇭 Bangkok, Thailand 🇮🇩 Jakarta, Indonesia 🇲🇾 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 🏴 Liverpool, England 🇨🇳 Siming District, China 🇸🇬 Singapore, Singapore 🇨🇳 Xiamen, China
Locations Near: Penang 100.457,5.35392
Antipodal to: Penang -79.543,-5.354