This year will be the tipping point for Iskandar Malaysia, says Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) chief executive officer Ismail Ibrahim (pic) in an email interview. From the time the project was launched by former premier Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to March this year, the growth corridor had a total cumulative committed investments of RM87.56bil versus the targeted amount of RM47bil needed for its first phase (2006-2010).
Of that total, 61% are from domestic investment (RM53.3bil) and 39% are foreign investment (RM34.21bil). A total of 43% has been spent on the ground for projects and infrastructure. Many catalytic development and infrastructure projects would be completed and operational. The focus will also be on the creative, tourism, oil and gas and education sectors.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
SBW: How has the eurozone problem affected Iskandar?
Ismail: We have not seen any drop in investment from eurozone countries, which include Spain, so far. Rather, we see the current eurozone crisis as an opportunity as the unstable situation there may spur companies to look at better places to invest.
How much of Spanish investments are already realised or invested here?
Total investments in the region of RM5bil.
In the course of trying to attract investments, what do foreign investors want?
Some of the areas of concern, in no particular ranking, are:
·Safety and security
·High standards of infrastructure and facilities
·Knowledge workers supply
·Good incentive for foreign/local professional workers – 15% tax rate scheme for knowledge workers in Iskandar Malaysia
·English speaking country – multilingual workforce
·One-stop business centre – ensuring business transactions are fast, seamless and convenient
I think the issue of crime in Johor is one of perception rather than fact, but that doesn’t mean that we can be idle. Irda is constantly working with the federal and state governments, the police and other stakeholders to improve security.
In fact, 10 of the 32 Quality Living Projects announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at the launch of the Corridor & City Labs Open Day a few months ago concerned security issues. This includes setting up an integrated CCTV surveillance system of 1,500 CCTVs and 190 community police posts to be set up by 2020.
The 9,000-strong police force in Johor would be augmented with a 900-strong battalion of auxiliary police.
We’ve also increased the number of patrol cars, mobile police stations and CCTVs, and we’ve set up a special task force and hotline for investors to report security issues to the authorities.
All of these have had a positive effect: the Johor 2011 crime index has fallen by 24% and street crime by 42% compared to 2010. There’s of course still a lot of work to be done but we’re determined to change perceptions over time.
What are your challenges?
The most challenging part was getting the buy-in from our various stakeholders. While this is a continuous process, I believe many already see for themselves that Iskandar Malaysia is truly taking shape.
With the looming economic uncertainty, we will remain competitive. Our strategies may vary depending on the dynamics of the current and future of the world economy but we are consistent in our marketing approach. We are blessed with recent interest from Singapore and efforts of attracting investments from Singapore especially in high value industries such as high-tech and aerospace industries looking for expansion opportunities will be intensified. One of the efforts currently pursued is setting up of a Singapore Industrial/SME Park in Iskandar Malaysia.
What does the future hold considering the global situation?
While investments to date have surpassed early targets, attracting further investments from a wider range of foreign and domestic investors, particularly in priority sectors, is necessary. We are seeing a shift from the West to the East and are thus broadening the investor base by targeting Asian sources such as Singapore, China, Japan, India and South Korea. The investors sought should have long-term investment horizon.
What is the latest development on transporation?
The land transport authorites of Singapore and Malaysia are studying a rapid transit system (RTS) link between Singapore and Johor Baru. The architecture and engineering consultancy consists of two phases. Phase one is expected to be completed by year-end.The Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar will decide on the option to be adopted in phase two. Taxi services between Johor Baru and Singapore are also being improved.
Effective June 1, commuters taking cross-border taxis will be able to board and alight anywhere on the domestic leg of the journey.
For example, a commuter that takes a Singapore cross-border taxi can board or alight anywhere in Singapore. Similarly, a passenger taking a Malaysia cross-border taxi can board or alight anywhere in Malaysia.
But commuters need to board and alight at the designated terminals when they are not on the domestic leg, i.e. a commuter that takes a Singapore cross-border taxi can only board and alight at PasarBakti terminal in Johor Baru and likewise, a Malaysia cross-border taxi can only pick up or drop off commuters at the Ban San Street terminal in Singapore.
By The Star