The Greater Penang Conurbation is Malaysia's second largest metropolitan area after Greater Kuala Lumpur. An estimated 2.5 million people live within Greater Penang, which encompasses all of the State of Penang and the surrounding areas within the neighbouring Sultanate of Kedah[1][2].

Greater Penang is the second most important conurbation after Greater Kuala Lumpur, due to the active manufacturing sector in Penang and southern Kedah. The densely-populated State of Penang, also known as the 'Silicon Valley of the East'[3], is Malaysia's third largest economy and has one of the highest GDP per capita in the nation[4][5]. As the centre of Greater Penang, George Town serves as the financial, entertainment, retail and tourism hub for northern Malaysia[6][7][8][9]; the historic city centre is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site[10].

In addition, the State of Penang is the logistical gateway for northern Malaysia; the Penang International Airport and the Port of Penang are among the busiest in Malaysia[11][12][13], while extensive land and sea links connect Penang Island with the rest of Asia.


George Town, Penang-0

George Town, Penang

The Greater Penang Conurbation covers the whole State of Penang and the surrounding towns across the border with the Sultanate of Kedah.

Butterworth, Seberang Perai, Penang

Butterworth, Seberang Perai, Penang

Bukit Mertajam, Seberang Perai, Penang

Bukit Mertajam, Seberang Perai, Penang

Most of the State of Penang have been developed and urbanised, and the conurbation includes towns on the mainland portion of the state (Seberang Perai), such as :

  • Butterworth
  • Bukit Mertajam
  • Kepala Batas
  • Nibong Tebal
Sungai Petani, Kedah, Greater Penang

Sungai Petani, Kedah

Kulim, Kedah, Greater Penang

Kulim, Kedah

The major towns within the neighbouring Sultanate of Kedah that come under Greater Penang are as follows[2].

  • Sungai Petani
  • Kulim
  • Bandar Baharu

Some sources place the northern part of the neighbouring Sultanate of Perak as under Greater Penang. However, as northern Perak bordering Penang is relatively under-developed, the most generally accepted definition of the Greater Penang Conurbation covers the whole State of Penang and southern Kedah only.


Overall, five local councils come under the Greater Penang Conurbation.

Under the Local Government Act 1976, each state government in Malaysia has the power to appoint the councillors of all local councils within the state. Both the Penang Island City Council and the Seberang Perai Municipal Council are controlled by the Penang state government, which has been led by an alliance of opposition parties, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the People's Justice Party (PKR) since 2008.

In contrast, the Sultanate of Kedah has been ruled by the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, which also controls the Malaysian federal government. All local councils in Kedah are therefore run by the Barisan Nasional-led Kedah state government.


As of 2010, an estimated 2.23 million people live within the Greater Penang Conurbation, making it the second most populous metropolitan area in Malaysia after Greater Kuala Lumpur.

State Local Council Population
Penang Penang Island City Council 733,600[14]
Seberang Perai Municipal Council 860,100[14]
Kedah Sungai Petani Municipal Council 421,530[15]
Kulim Municipal Council 172,950[16]
Bandar Baharu District Council 42,340[17]
Greater Penang Conurbation 2,230,520


Greater Penang is Malaysia's most vital economic powerhouse after Greater Kuala Lumpur, driven mainly by manufacturing, services, retail, finance and tourism sectors.

Bayan lepas industrial zone

The Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone on Penang Island has spurred Penang's economic growth as the 'Silicon Valley of the East'.

Kulim Hi-Tech Park, Kedah, Greater Penang

The Kulim Hi-Tech Park in Kedah is just 40km away from Penang Island.

The State of Penang itself contributed as much as 13.2% of Malaysia's manufacturing output in 2014[18]. Apart from the 'Silicon Valley of the East', the heavy industries of Seberang Perai also contributed significantly to Penang's manufacturing output. Meanwhile, Sungai Petani and Kulim are also highly industrialised. Industries in Sungai Petani range from electronics to wood-based manufacturing[19], whereas Kulim has an active automotive industry and is home to the Kulim Hi-Tech Park, which includes bio-technological and medical firms. These industries have the benefit of being within easy reach of the Penang International Airport and the Port of Penang, the two most important logistical hubs in northern Malaysia.

Penang Adventist Hospital

The Penang Adventist Hospital is among the more popular hospitals for medical tourists.

The rapid growth of the services sector is largely driven by Penang Island's reputation as a major tourism destination in the region. Wholesale and retail trade, accommodation, food and beverages, as well as shared services and outsourcing (SSO) are among the thriving sub-sectors which fueled Penang's service industry. Indeed, almost two-thirds of Penang's workforce are employed in the services sector and it is expected to overtake the manufacturing industry as the highest GDP contributing sector in Penang's economy[20].

View from KOMTAR 59 Sixty Restaurant, George Town, Penang

George Town UNESCO World Heritage Site, as seen from KOMTAR Tower.

Beach Street, George Town, Penang

Beach Street, George Town is the historic commercial centre, with several banks set up along the street.

In addition, Penang Island is among the most popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia, attracting an estimated 6.84 million tourists in 2014[21]. Also, the private hospitals of George Town have contributed to a booming medical tourism industry; with at least half of medical tourist arrivals, George Town has been Malaysia's centre of medical tourism[22].

In the finance sector, George Town is home to several foreign banks, making the city a banking hub for northern Malaysia.


  2. 2.0 2.1
  14. 14.0 14.1
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