JOHOR BARU: It will be a challenging time for the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) as the southern economic growth corridor enters its last phase of development.
Irda chief executive Datuk Ismail Ibrahim said due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, countries the world over are bracing themselves for slower economic growth.
“It is becoming more challenging to attract new investments, ’’ he told StarBiz in an interview.
Ismail said the situation required Irda to work even harder and it has been making extra efforts to continue attracting investors to Iskandar Malaysia.
He said although the country’s first economic growth corridor was making significant progress and moving in the right direction, Iskandar could not afford to rest on its laurels.
“We have experienced economic uncertainties throughout the course of our developments over the years but the pandemic (Covid-19) is the most challenging for us, ’’ said Ismail.
Launched on Nov 4,2006, Iskandar spans 2,217 sq km in the southern-most part of Johor. It is three times bigger than Singapore and two times the size of Hong Kong.
Iskandar is divided into five flagship development zones – JB City Centre, Iskandar Puteri, Eastern Gate Development Zone, Western Gate Development Zone and Senai-Kulai.
Irda is the regulatory authority mandated to plan, promote and facilitate the development of Iskandar into a strong and sustainable metropolis of international standing by 2025.
“The main challenge for us in Iskandar is to work within an economic situation which is interchangeable and to keep up with the subtle changes in the market trend worldwide in various sectors, ’’ he added.
Ismail said Irda has taken several steps to mitigate possible setbacks by diversifying the economic portfolios and having a good mix to reduce too much dependency on one economic segment post Covid-19.
Since its inception 14 years ago, Iskandar has recorded a total cumulative committed investment of RM316.09bil from various sectors as of December 2019.
Of the total, RM195.98bil or 62% are domestic investments while foreign investments stood at RM120.11bil or 38%.
Manufacturing sector recorded the highest investment figure from the nine promoted sectors at RM75.10bil, followed by logistics at RM11.06bil, tourism (RM8.59bil), healthcare (RM4.41bil), finance (RM3.45bil), education at RM3.29bil and creative RM1.45bil.
Other sectors were mixed development at RM101.53bil, residential properties at RM54.14bil, industrial properties at RM19.84bil, government spending on infrastructure at RM17.53bil, utilities at RM12.97bil and emerging technologies at RM2.74bil.
For the period under review, China, Singapore, the United States, Japan and the Netherlands were the top five countries with the highest investments in Iskandar.
“We are confident to capture the interest of the investors post-Covid-19 and that we will still manage to reach the RM383bil target in 2025 target.
We have properly assessed and evaluated our steps moving forward and the amount of RM70bil in the next four years is achievable despite the new norms and changes we had to address due to the Covid-19 pandemic, ’’ he said.
Ismail said it was essential in the current environment that Irda, in its efforts and direction, continuously remain as a catalytic platform to attract investors and continue to seek support from domestic and foreign investors to fuel Iskandar’s growth.
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