Iskandar Development Region: Ventures to be finalised by year-end

PUTRAJAYA: Last week’s injection of investments worth RM4.1 billion from the Middle East into the Iskandar Development Region (Iskandar) in southern Johor is just a foretaste of more investments from that part of the world.

"I’m confident we will see more large investments from the Middle East to Iskandar within a month," Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman said.

He declined to elaborate as this is still at the discussion stage, as with the proposed investments from Japan and China.

"They are not yet in a form that can be surmised as finalised.

"Perhaps they will all be finalised before the year-end."

Ghani described the RM4.1 billion investment from four Middle East companies last week as the initial round of investments but still the largest amount so far in foreign direct investment since Iskandar was launched last November.

He said this reflected the confidence foreign investors had in Malaysia and believed that this momentum would prompt investments from other sources as well.

According to him, the RM4.1 billion investment is for land and infrastructure and will be spent in about six months.

"Locals are being contracted to undertake the infrastructure work.

"After this is completed in the next six months, this will be followed by investments in three clusters — lifestyle and leisure, cultural, and financial — which will consist of nine themed zones."

Last week, four agreements were signed between South Johor Investment Corporation Bhd, which co-ordinates the development of Iskandar, and consortiums from the Gulf Co-operation Council states.

The consortiums are led by Millennium Development International Company, which is the urban development management arm of Saraya Holdings, Mubadala Development Company and Kuwait Finance House.

Aldar Properties PJSC, a leading Abu Dhabi-based developer, is the master development manager of Iskandar’s first international integrated city development, known as Node I, which encompasses 892ha in Nusajaya, including Johor’s new administrative centre and the Second Link to Singapore.

Ghani said activities to be developed in the three clusters were a city centre, golf village, amusement bay, residential district, medical and wellness village, logistics village, creative park, heritage district and financial district.

He said the Middle East companies involved had been successful in real estate development throughout the world.

"They, in fact, chose Iskandar as their first investment destination in Southeast Asia."

He said what drew the Middle East investors were Iskandar’s central location in Southeast Asia, the confidence-instilling infrastructure, the government’s various attractive investment incentives, a welcoming environment, including rivers, lakes and natural resources, land size, and cost-competitiveness for investors.

"We have given an assurance that we will consider all their applications speedily, probably within a month with the setting up of a one-stop centre, so that they won’t be dragged down by exacting procedures."

Iskandar’s development comes under the Iskandar Regional Development Authority, a statutory body co-chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Ghani, which will ensure that the proposals are processed efficiently.

On tourism, Ghani believed that most of the tourists will come from within Southeast Asia as well as China and India.

"We hope the prime minister’s push for Iskandar to be the ideal planned development location will be realised."

Iskandar is three times the size of Singapore. It is an ambitious effort to best China’s Shenzen special economic zone, the success of which was largely attributed to its location as the hinterland to Hong Kong — as Iskandar is to Singapore.

The government wants Iskandar to be the region’s largest growth centre, and the government investment arm, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, is the primary driver of this vision.

Iskandar, originally conceptualised as the Southern Johor Economic Region, is expected to draw huge multinationals in the course of its 20-year development, served well by the Senai airport, Port of Tanjung Pelepas and Johor Port.