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Monday, January 31, 2011

Challenging times ahead for Iskandar

JOHOR BARU: Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) chief executive officer Ismail Ibrahim says attracting new investments to Iskandar Malaysia is going to get tougher and more challenging.

He said although the country's first economic growth corridor was making significant progress and moving in the right direction, albeit uncertainties in the global economy, Iskandar could not afford to rest on its laurel.

“The intensity of the competition is becoming greater and we have to prove our sceptics wrong that Iskandar is indeed taking shape as planned,'' Ismail said in an interview with StarBiz.

He said the challenge was not only in attracting new investments to Iskandar, but also receiving financial support from the Government for infrastructure development projects.

Ismail Ibrahim … ‘We have to prove our sceptics wrong, that Iskandar is indeed taking shape as planned.’

Under the Comprehensive Development Plan 20062025, Iskandar is set to transform into a metropolis of international standing.

Iskandar, launched on Nov 4, 2006, is located in the southern most part of Johor and spans over 2,217 sq km. It is three times bigger than Singapore and has five flagship development zones JB City Centre, Nusajaya, Eastern Gate Development, Western Gate Development and Senai-Skudai.

The corridor has attracted investments totalling RM67.68bil up to November last year. A total of RM39.42bil, or 58%, of the total investment was from domestic investors and the balance from foreign investors.

Of the overall investment received, RM6.28bil was from the public sector; RM14.45bil went to tourism, utilities and others; RM20.25bil for properties; and RM26.38bil for the manufacturing sector.

During the same period, RM27.61bil or 40.8% of the total committed investments have been spent on development projects in the region.

Ismail said Irda would continue to work closely with government agencies like Malaysian Industrial Development Authority and Malaysia External Trade Development as well as foreign missions to promote Iskandar.

He said Irda also had a good working relationship with the Johor State Investment Centre (JSIC) although Irda's coverage was limited to Iskandar only, while JSIC covered the entire state.

Irda is the regulatory body mandated to plan, promote and facilitate the development of Iskandar. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman are the co-chairmen.

“We are mindful of the growing Asia-Pacific region and we are coming out with programes to attract more investments from China, India, Indonesia and Singapore,'' Ismail said.

He said besides these countries, Irda would continue to woo investors from Europe, the United States and the Middle East, and would likely to extend its reach to Brazil, Russia and South Africa.

Ismail said although the economies of Europe and the United States were still in the doldrums, Irda believed that they still offered good investment opportunities for Iskandar as not everyone there was affected by the downturn.

He said Iskandar was now in the second phase of its road map which focused mainly on attracting new investments and the completion of phase-one projects.

Ismail said Irda would have more outreach programmes this year with the private sector, which would not be limited to meeting them as groups in seminars or conferences, but would be on one-to-one basis.

“We want to engage them better and intensively so as to share our plans for the private sector in Iskandar and vice versa,'' he said.

Ismail said the private sector stakeholders included property developers, investors, chambers of commerce, small and medium-scale enterprises and land owners.

On why the Government decided to allocate an additional RM600mil for Iskandar in November from the RM339mil announced by Najib in Budget 2011, he said the Government must have its own reasons for that.

Ismail said the bulk of the allocation would be spent this year on ongoing projects like the New Coastal Highway, Iskandar Malaysia public housing project and river cleaning works.

“We believe (the extra allocation) has got to do with our timely delivery of our infrastructure projects and the commitment shown by us and the new projects already in the pipeline,'' he said.

By The Star

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