Keeping a positive outlook

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  • Thursday, 30 Aug 2012

Vast development: Johor’s close proximity with Singapore (behind) is an added advantage for Iskandar Regional Development Authority to attract more Singaporean investors to invest in Iskandar Malaysia.

ISKANDAR Malaysia (IM) will be celebrating its sixth anniversary on Nov 4, this year. Its chief executive officer Datuk Ismail Ibrahim spoke to ZAZALI MUSA on a wide range of subjects related to IM.

Q: The economic outlook in the Eurozone and the US is still not promising as of to date and likely to impact growth in other parts of the world. How do you see this will affect investment flows into IM?

A: The journey ahead for IM will not always smooth sailing as it will be full with obstacles and challenges.

Despite receiving RM95.45bil cumulative committed investments from 2006 until June this year, we (all stakeholders) have to put in more efforts to continue attracting new investments.

The unpromising economic outlook in Eurozone and the US will definitely have an adverse impact on foreign direct investment flows (FDI) into IM but we believe every dark cloud there is silver lining.

The good news is that economic growth in Asia is still positive including Malaysia and this is reflected with the strong domestic investment in IM at 62% as of June.

We do not discriminate between domestic and foreign investors as long as they (investments) will create wealth and economic opportunities for IM.

By taking this approach, we will be able to spread the cake and avoid being dependent on a few which is proven to be more risky.

We are looking at investment averaging between RM15 and RM20il yearly from 2011 to 2015, up from RM10 to RM15bil targeted from 2006 to 2010 and from RM20 to RM25bil from 2020 to 2025.

However, we will continue reviewing the figures from time to time in view of the ever-changing global investment climate and competition from other economic corridors the world over.

But, the RM383bil investments must be achieved by 2025, in order for IM to succeed as outlined in its Comprehensive Development Plan.

Q: How to ensure that IM will remain attractive as an investment destination as other countries in the region are also aggressively attracting FDI into their shores and not forgetting the other economic growth corridors in Malaysia?

A: We must continue to demonstrate how attractive we are and IM must remain as a preferred investment destination regardless of what the global economic situation is.

We’ll continue to measure/benchmark our propositions against other investment destinations while carry on with best practice of providing One Stop advisory and facilitating process to investors.

At the same time, we’ll also continue to offer customised incentives to investors that invest in high value added projects in IM.

IM has always been enjoying a lower cost of doing business all these years, why not we capitalise on that.

Whilst other regions are becoming unattractive because the cost of doing business has been already at premium, what we (at IM) can offer is a combination of both.

We’ll continue to offer competitive cost of doing business but at the same time, we have all the right ingredients for investments.

IM itself must be able to posses or to be equipped with all the necessary soft and hard infrastructures whether in telecommunications, roads, ability to combat crime and high level of safety and security and a ready pool of skilled and talented workforce.

These are all the ingredients that will make IM attractive to potential investors and this is definitely not an easy thing to do in an ever-changing global economy.

That is why we need to be diligent and very careful in the way we lay down our strategies to be translated into programmes and actions.

As the agency that is responsible in promoting IM and as an enabler, we must also be constantly in touch with the changes in global economy and to work/collaborate with other agencies to promote not only Malaysia but in particular IM as the destination of choice.

Q: Do you see the second phase of IM development (2011-2016) is more challenging than the first phase (2006-2010)?

A: The challenge will always be there but it will come in different form.

We went through the first phase of our delivery mainly through planning and foundation building.

The challenge that time was more into setting and having the right plan in order for the plan to enable sustainability, and we have passed that stage.

The second stage is all about growth and expanding and delivering more ensuring the deliverable will be able to create the right impact.

That is why we always talking about the tipping point — the completion of the major projects in IM which will create more economic opportunities for all.

The challenge will be more and we must able to anticipate and forecast to certain level of certainties.

Q: What have you learnt in promoting and marketing IM in the last five years?

A: One thing that taught us all the while is the changing of the external economic climate and required us to take effort to try our level best to focus and anticipate.

But no one can really tell the outcome and the impact of those changes will have on an economic region such as IM.

For example, economic crisis is still outstanding in Eurozone and the US will continue to be the matter that concerns us.

There’ll be definitely a review on part of the potential investors coming to this part of the world, hence in IM.

That is why in order to address the issue, we’ll continue to emphasise on expanding our portfolios in order to avoid being dependent on the few, so we are able to spread the level of investment.

But, more importantly as I’ve mentioned earlier is to ensure that IM will continue to be an attractive destination of choice for investment regardless of what would be the global economic situation.

Immediately, the next move is to attract more domestic and foreign investors through a more systemic approach and strategy of engaging with them.

One of which is to target specific companies that will be able to support the delivery of key economic sectors we are promoting in IM.

In the past what we have done was targeting countries or regions, but starting from this year apart from countries and regions, we are also going to target specific companies.

We believe some of these companies prefer on one-to-one engagement basis rather than being taken on a collective basis and that is something that we’ll be doing.

There are still a lot of works to be done in promoting IM, we need to be more aware and knowledgeable on how we can realise our resources in bringing that awareness to the very people that we want to attract.

The strategies got to be enhance from time to time.

Q: How important is Singapore to IM?

A: There is now a ready realisation that when we look at economies around the world, one cannot grow in prosperity towards isolation of your neighbours.

The growth of IM is the good case in point where nations shared the way forward for their economic growth, Hong Kong and Shenzhen is one example — two separate entities has made into a single economic region.

We are looking at IM as a single economic growth, and definitely the improvement in bilateral relationship between Malaysia and Singapore will have positive impact on IM.

IM’s or rather Johor’s close proximity with Singapore is an added advantage to attract more Singaporean investors to IM.

To-date, Singapore is the largest foreign investors in IM with RM4.5bil investments as t December last year.

Singapore companies are keen to invest in the manufacturing sector and service sectors like education and healthcare.

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