Abdullah hoped to kill two birds with one stone. Politically, it is a viable move to strengthen his own political base within UMNO. Doing something significant for Johor, a heartland of UMNO, will raise the profile of Abdullah within the party.
On the other hand, after scrapping the 'scenic bridge' project Abdullah hoped that the SJER will divert attention away from Dr M criticism that his action was detrimental to the economic and political position of Johor.
SJER, when ready, is expected to attract millions of investment across the straits. Will this happen?
On Tuesday, a Malaysiakini report showed that the level of investment from across the Causeway into the state was low compared to the previous year - standing at a mere RM208.9 million, a massive shortfall of the total amount of RM1.9 billion in 2005. However, when its reporter spoke to a senior manager from Johor State Investment Centre (JSIC) who was confident that investment from Singapore will start coming in the final quarter of the year.
Unfortunately, his confidence is not shared by several Singaporean investors who said the environment was not good enough to invest in Johor. They generally do not share the state government’s optimism that money will start pouring in soon.
What are their reasons?
- Increasing labour costs had driven the labour intensive industry to other countries which offer cheaper labour such as Indonesia and Vietnam.
- Availability of other destinations for high-technology investments
- Government agencies had shown no improvement in efficiency.
- Singaporeans were being discriminated in Malaysia.
- NEP detrimental to non-Malay SMEs and businesses
- Security and high crime rates in Johor Bahru
- Continuing spat between former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad with his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi caused fears of political instability in the country
One very important distinction is the different set of values practiced by both Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore, the government is very aggressive in promoting meritocracy but Malaysia is doing a reverse - the Abdullah government is talking about rights, special privileges, protection and the Malay Agenda. This is the biggest detrimental force which will ensure that SJER and Singapore will not create a similar synergy such as Shenzen and HK.
Malaysia must adopt the right culture to be successful. Cultivating a sense of entitlement within the biggest community in the country will not help members of the community to improve, to compete and to acquire knowledge.