Abdullah’s baby, a super corridor in south Johor
By Ravi Nambiar (From New Straits Times Online of July 31, 2006)
JOHOR BARU: The Prime Minister arrived here in a take-charge mood yesterday and made the biggest announcement the country has heard from him this year since the Ninth Malaysia Plan: Johor is the new growth engine for Malaysia. It will create a million new jobs over the next two decades.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi picked the southern State to lead the way as the first of four new power-corridors in the country, including Sabah and Sarawak.
They are aimed at magnetising billions of ringgit of global investment to sprout jobs and growth for the nation.
To kickstart this new engine, he said that foreigners were ready to invest RM15 billion in the new initiative, dubbed the South Johor Corridor (SJC). It will be a priority development by the Federal Government under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.
His announcement, made in an off-the-cuff speech at Senai Airport to a crushing crowd of 5,000 supporters, was greeted with thunderous applause.
"This is for the people of Johor. Let them hear it first from me. I want Johor to develop and prosper just like in the old days under rulers like Sultan Abu Bakar, who is the founder of modern Johor," declared Abdullah.
He said when fully developed, the super corridor could surpass Klang Valley as the nation’s number one growth destination and even give neighbouring Singapore a run for its money.
The Prime Minister will take personal charge of the project as the joint-chief of a new body expected to be created specially by Parliament, called the South Johor Authority. The other chairman of the authority will be Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman.
The proposed authority is aimed at giving focus and direction to the separate plans of private investors, which sources told the New Straits Times involves billions of dollars to be pumped into prime land stretching over 10,000 hectares, more than twice the size of Singapore.
Sources told the NST that Middle East investors are poised, together with Malaysian companies and private investors, to invest billions of US dollars in a wide range of breakthrough projects.
These include an education hub with state-of-the-art facilities supported by world-class brand name universities. Also on the cards is a medical centre of excellence, with top-end private hospitals and research facilities.
Tourism, already a big earner for Johor, is to get a bigger push with higher-end hotels to draw big-spending visitors.
In pushing for faster growth in Johor, Abdullah, who is also the Finance Minister, said the new super corridor would be developed the same way as Hong Kong and Shenzhen in China were, to emerge as special economic zones and the focus of investors.
The SJC’s sprawling physical presence will stretch from the Causeway to Gelang Patah, embracing Senai Airport and Johor’s two biggest ports.
Abdullah is confident the SJC can compete for business and investments from around the world with its strategic location and built-in advantages.
"Let me stress that this is my idea. It did not come from anyone else. It is my own vision and plan to create this super corridor in south Johor to make it the nation’s premier growth centre," he said.
The South Johor Corridor will include:
• Nusajaya: The Johor Government’s new administrative capital, which is now under construction and is due for completion by August 2007.
Spread over 130ha and costing RM400 million, it will have a new legislative assembly complex and State Secretariat and enclaves for State and Federal Government offices;
• Danga Bay: An integrated waterfront city covering 809ha, which is being developed in phases over 15 years.
• Cybercity: This will be Johor’s version of the Multimedia Super Corridor with the creation of a Cyberport at the 30-storey Menara Sarawak here. A cybercity will be built in Kulai;
• Logistic hub: The port of Tanjung Pelepas, Senai Airport and Johor port in Pasir Gudang will be synergised to provide air, sea and land/rail links to woo multinational corporations; and,
• Senai-Desaru Highway: This project will open up Johor’s southeast coast and spur development in Desaru, where Korean investors will spend RM2 billion building a resort.