Zakaria Abdul Wahab
Singapore investors have shown keen interest in the development of Iskandar Malaysia but are still taking the “wait and see” attitude before going all out to invest there.
Iskandar Investment President and Chief Executive Officer Arlida Ariff said Singaporeans, like any typical investors elsewhere, wanted some assurances first from the government before they would want to commit their businesses in the country’s southern economic corridor.
Arlida was commenting on the outcome of the Iskandar Malaysia Forum it hosted with Singapore’s Institute of South East Asian Studies that was attended by about 300 local participants here Tuesday.
Speaking at a media conference after the forum, Arlida said the participants still raised the same issues on Iskandar Malaysia as in previous meetings such as bare and poor basic infrastructures and half-completed projects that might have discouraged them from putting their money in the development area.
To date, investment into Iskandar Malaysia has nearly reached RM60 billion, but Singapore’s private sector investment holding is worth only RM2.64 billion, mainly in the region’s manufacturing sector.
During the dialogue session, the participants touched on several matters such as the much-hyped Iskandar Malaysia but nothing much had really took off the ground, the “flip-flopping” government mentality, the impact on its investment policies following the change in the country’s top leadership and the sustainability of the economic corridor.
Arlida told the participants that since taking over the country’s helm last year from Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who mooted the idea and introduced the economic corridors in Malaysia, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had given a 110 per cent support to Iskandar Malaysia.
She said Najib had kept Iskandar Malaysia more in focus and funds still keep coming from Kuala Lumpur and the development area now had made a lot of progress and was just waiting for the Singapore investors to come in.
Arlida also said Najib even had a hand in bringing two Middle Eastern partners, the Mubadala Group and Aldar properties in developing Iskandar Malaysia.
Saying that Iskandar Malaysia’s proximity complemented rather than competed with Singapore, she said the southern economic corridor was more sustainable as it had the good support of both the federal and state leaders, and even from the Johor royal house in the new Sultan Tunku Ibrahim Ismail.
She said the Johor Sultan, who was recently briefed on Iskandar Malaysia’s development, had even volunteered himself to become the mediator if it faced any obstacles in developing the state for the benefit of his subjects.
Arlida said Iskandar Investment was also propped up by none other than the government’s investment arm, Khazanah Nasional Berhad, which holds 60 per cent stake in the company, the Employees Provident Fund (20 per cent) and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor Sdn Bhd (20 per cent).
By 2012, Iskandar Investment would have completed the first phase of development in three key sectors — leisure and tourism, education and infrastructure works.
Other speakers at the forum were Datuk Mohd Sidik Shaik Osman from Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Singaporean economist Song Seng Wun, Andrew Harley of CLSA Singapore and Dr Gan See Khem of Health Management International Singapore.