The Iskandar Develoment Region is a signature project of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. The project is expected to require an initial investment of RM70 billion in the initial 5 years. Initial projections showed that IDR is expected to attract a total of US$105bil (RM370bil) in 20 years. In the short term, it is supposed to attract some RM50bil in investments within five years.
Prime Minister Abdullah is correct to note that the IDR must be competitive if it hopes to compete with other global growth centres e.g. Pearl Delta Development Region, Nanning Development Region, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and India.
He added that we must take advantage of our low cost and ample space. Unfortunately, these both low cost and ample space will not propel us above the development zones mentioned. All of the zones are able to provide similar advantages.
In fact, it is advisable for the government to remove its discriminatory race-based NEP policy which was found to create unnecessary red-tape, breed corruption and other market distortions with a more inclusive and balanced socio-economic policy which encourages competitiveness, transparency, innovation, creativity and fairness.
To ensure the success of the IRD, which can become a successful regional growth centre, it is time for the government to reinvent its economy policy. A global success requires a world-class strategy and solution.
IRDA is the statutory body responsible for determining the direction, policies and strategies in relation to development within the IDR. It will be jointly headed by co-chairmen Abdullah and Johor Mentri Besar Abdul Ghani Othman, the IRDA consists of five other members.
The advisory council will include five of the state’s most prominent figures – Tan Sri Robert Kuok Hock Nien, Datuk Seri Andrew Sheng, Tun Musa Hitam, Tan Sri Samsudin Osman and Tan Sri Kishu Tirathrai. On the appointment of the five, Abdullah said that he was happy to get their frank views and did not impose any restrictions or barriers to what they could bring up.
I am happy to note the inclusion of a reclusive tycoon, Tan Sri Robert Kuok. At last the government has taken a right move to tap into his vast experience and connections all over the world, especially in Greater China. Kuok was voted as one of the most influential individuals in China by a regional magazine.
However, Abdul Ghani should exercise restraint with his gab. His previous statement on Bangsa Malaysia and the Malay supremacism was not well received. The prime minister rightly noted, “There is no way to expect sympathy from anybody". Definitely not the Singaporean investors that we have offended.