WITH the country’s first economic growth corridor Iskandar Malaysia now in its ninth year, all its stakeholders are urged to work even harder for the place to stay attractive and relevant.
Although it has surpassed the investment target since its launch of Iskandar Malaysia, more efforts are needed to continue attracting investments to the region.
Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) chief executive officer Datuk Ismail Ibrahim says that in today’s competitive market, it is not easy to attract strong interest from domestic and foreign investors to Iskandar Malaysia.
“The last eight years have taught us (the stakeholders) that a strong collaboration between partners eventually produces results that we can be proud of,’’ he says.
Ismail reiterates that without cooperation from the Federal and Johor governments, the private sector and the community, Iskandar Malaysia would not have been able to move in the right direction as outlined in its Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP).
Under the CDP, Irda has been tasked to transform Iskandar Malaysia, covering 2,217sq km in the southernmost part of Johor, into an international metropolis by 2025.
Launched on Nov 4, 2006, Iskandar Malaysia is three times bigger than Singapore and twice the size of Hong Kong.
Initially, it was known as the South Johor Economic Region but was changed to Iskandar Malaysia in April 2008 after the late Johor Ruler Almarhum Sultan Iskandar Ibni Almarhum Sultan Ismail.
It is divided into five flagship development zones – JB City Centre, Nusajaya, Eastern Gate Development Zone, Western Gate Development Zone and Senai-Kulai.
“Well, if you recall, many parties were sceptical that Iskandar Malaysia would take off since day one but we have proven them wrong,’’ Ismail says.
The completion of some of the catalytic projects within six years of its inception is proof that Iskandar Malaysia is moving in the right direction and progressing well, he adds.
Among the notable projects are the Johor State New Administrative Centre in Kota Iskandar, Legoland Malaysia Theme Park, Puteri Harbour Indoor Theme Park, Johor Premium Outlets, Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia and Marlborough College.
From the end of 2006 to Dec 31, 2014, Iskandar Malaysia has received RM158.13bil cumulative committed investments in the various sectors, with RM77.07bil or 49% realised.
Of the total, 64% or RM101.14bil came from domestic investors, reflecting their confidence in Iskandar Malaysia, and 36% or RM56.99bil from foreign investors.
The top five countries with the highest investments in Iskandar Malaysia from January to September last year were Singapore, the United States, Spain, Japan and China.
Out of the RM158.13bil, the breakdown of the investments is as follows: manufacturing (RM50.09bil – 32%), logistics (RM4.81bil – 3%), health care (RM2.65bil – 2%), tourism (RM3.06bil – 2%), education (RM1.56bil – 1%), creative (RM0.56bil) and financial services (RM0.60bil).
“Iskandar Malaysia continues to do well despite the challenges facing the global economy on the back of the strength of the nine promoted sectors,’’ Ismail says.
The nine promoted economic sectors are electrical and electronics, petrochemical and oleo-chemical, food and agro-processing, logistics, tourism, health care, education, financial services and creative industries.
Ismail adds that these investments continue to benefit the rakyat of Johor and Malaysia as a whole with ample business opportunities for entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises, as well as the creation of more jobs.
Last year, a total of 651,536 jobs were created in Johor. Most of these jobs came from the various sectors in Iskandar Malaysia, including manufacturing, hospitality, food and beverage, and education.
“Iskandar Malaysia is well on track to realising its long-term goals and we remain optimistic that the region will continue to attract a stable inflow of investments,’’ he says.
Ismail adds that domestic investors had shown strong interest in the corridor in recent years and although they helped to cushion the drop in foreign investors, he reiterates that Irda does not segregate its investor strategies to foreign or domestic.
Instead, he says it targets value proposition strategies and incentives to attract investors and is able to spread its cake and avoid being dependent on just a selected few.
“We want quality and long-term investments to support the key economic sectors, not investors looking to make quick money and exit the scene early in the game,’’ adds Ismail.
He says this will be the final year of the second phase according to the CDP, and Irda will continue to attract investors from the domestic and foreign fronts to invest in the region.
Ismail says tourism, health care and education will continue to be the focus sectors.
However, Irda anticipates logistics and financial services sectors to also record steady growth.
With the launch of the enhanced CDPii by the second quarter of the year, Ismail says investors and stakeholders may also get insight into the outlook and opportunities in Iskandar Malaysia as it moves into its third phase towards maturity this year.
“The CDPii encompasses several aspects related to the environment, economy and social development strategies for Iskandar Malaysia.
“It is an inclusive plan that will benefit the communities in South Johor,’’ he says.