MALAYSIA AND SINGAPORE STRENGTHEN BILATERAL COOPERATION AND REAFFIRM COMMITMENT TOWARDS ISKANDAR MALAYSIA’S DEVELOPMENT

14th Meeting of the Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia Looks Forward to Strengthening Bilateral Cooperation Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

 The Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM) held its fourteenth meeting on 21 December 2021, with Singapore hosting the meeting via Video Conference. The meeting was co-chaired by YB Dato’ Sri Mustapa bin Mohamed, Malaysia’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) and Mr Desmond Lee, Singapore’s Minister for National Development. Also present were the Menteri Besar Johor, YAB Dato’ Haji Hasni bin Mohammad, and Singapore’s Minister for Transport, Mr S Iswaran. Senior officials from both countries were also present.

The meeting convened after a 4-year hiatus with the last one being held in July 2017. This meeting built on the positive momentum from the discussions between Singapore Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian Prime Minister YAB Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, during Prime Minister Ismail Sabri’s recent official visit to Singapore on 29 November 2021.

At the meeting, Malaysia and Singapore reaffirmed the progress of Iskandar Malaysia and reiterated their commitment to its continued development amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The JMCIM noted the progress made by the various workgroups.

The Industrial Cooperation Work Group (ICWG) continues to work closely on strengthening the manufacturing ecosystem in Iskandar Malaysia to enable investors to leverage the comparative advantages of both Singapore and Iskandar Malaysia as part of an integrated regional strategy for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The JMCIM noted from the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA)’s statistics that investments from Singapore-based companies have continued to flow into Iskandar Malaysia despite the challenges of the pandemic. There were 52 approved manufacturing projects amounting to USD371 million in 2019, and another 52 approved manufacturing projects amounting to USD476 million in 2020, in key sectors such as Electrical & Electronics, Fabricated Metal Products, and Machinery and Equipment. For 1H 2021, 20 manufacturing projects from Singapore with a total value of USD112 million were approved in Iskandar Malaysia. In this regard, Nusajaya Tech Park, jointly developed by CapitaLand and UEM Sunrise Bhd., has been successful in attracting a good mix of companies from Singapore and Malaysia, as well as multinational corporations. As the global economic landscape evolves and the region emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the JMCIM noted that the ICWG will look to refresh its joint agenda in the coming year and explore new areas to collaborate, particularly in the focus areas of Advanced Materials Engineering (AME), Electronics, Food and Talent Development.

The Immigration Work Group (IWG) continues to make progress to facilitate cross-border movement of people and goods in a safe and secure manner, despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The JMCIM noted the success of the Vaccinated Travel Lane (Land) via Bangunan Sultan Iskandar (BSI) and Woodlands Checkpoint that was launched on 29 November 2021, and hopes that it will pave the way for the future opening of more categories of travellers under the scheme, taking into account the evolving public health situation. It was also noted that more than 693,988 applications have been approved for the Malaysia Automated Clearance System (MACS) as of 30 November 2021. The Malaysia Citizen Motorcyclist (M-BIKE) system, which similarly allows registered motorcyclists and their registered pillion passengers to clear immigration concurrently at dedicated M-BIKE lanes, has been implemented at all 100 lanes in Bangunan Sultan Iskandar (Causeway) and 50 lanes in Kompleks Sultan Abu Bakar (Second Link). As at 18 March 2020, 187,984 users have registered with M-BIKE. Since July 2021, the Singapore Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) has completed the deployment of the Multi-Modal Biometrics System (MMBS) to the Biometrics Identification of Motorbikes System (BIKES) II, which allows automated self-immigration clearance of both motorcyclists and pillion riders, with the use of fingerprints, iris and facial biometrics. The touch-free nature of the technology offers motorcyclists a hygienic and safe way of clearance.

The Transportation Links Work Group (TLWG) continues to work towards strengthening transport connectivity between Malaysia and Singapore. On the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link, the JMCIM welcomed the good progress of commercial, technical and regulatory discussions since the project was resumed on 30 July 2020, and looked forward to the commencement of passenger service by end-2026.

However due to the pandemic and the construction of Electrified Double Track Gemas-Johor Bahru, KTMB is not able to continue the Tebrau Shuttle service. The services will resume once the said work is completed. On the Cross-Border Bus Services, we will also be looking at possible ways to improve the existing arrangements to allow for wider coverage, and more efficient and comfortable services not only for the passengers, but also to the operators. Moving forward, the TLWG will support any efforts to expand the existing VTL-Land scheme to support economic reopening of both countries when the COVID-19 situation stabilises. On top of that, the TLWG shall also study and share ways to encourage the use of EVs within and across both countries. The government and private sector investments will be encouraged to achieve the widespread electrification of transport, as both countries committed to cut / reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and work towards becoming low carbon cities.

The JMCIM also noted that the Environment Work Group (EWG) has continued to promote knowledge sharing through joint capacity building workshops in the areas of air quality management, waste and resource management, environmental education, environmental monitoring, and water demand management. Participants from both countries were able to exchange technical expertise and share experiences on these issues of mutual interest. The EWG will continue to collaborate through capacity building programmes in technologies for enforcement and surveillance, management of food waste, low carbon cities, and environmental education in schools. The EWG will further look into other areas of collaboration that benefits both countries.

The JMCIM welcomed the successful completion of the Passport2Nature Programme, which was conducted from October 2018 to June 2019 to educate visitors on the conservational efforts of both Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Singapore and Pulau Kukup in Johor, Malaysia. The programme was also designed to encourage more people to visit the two parks as part of twinning activities. The Tourism Work Group (TWG) will continue to work closely to explore other joint tourism promotions and activities, and collaborate in capability development initiatives in preparation for general travel resumption.

The JMCIM also welcomed the successful completion of the Afiniti Medini and Avira Medini (Phase 1) developments. Overseen by the Iconic Project Work Group (IPWG) since 2010, the collaboration has enhanced economic engagement and fostered business partnerships on both sides. Temasek and Khazanah will continue to develop the projects on a commercial basis.

The JMCIM agreed to review and refresh the Terms of Reference (TORs) for the six Work Groups to address current and future developments, and to explore new areas of collaboration such as sustainability and digital economy. The JMCIM also agreed to study Malaysia’s proposal to set up a Work Group on food security as a possible area of bilateral collaboration.

The JMCIM looked forward to meeting again in mid-2022 to sustain the positive momentum of bilateral collaboration and in view of the fast changing local, regional and global scenarios.

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