In my last post on IDR, I argued that "The republic’s economic planning, since the last two decades, did not include Johor as its key overseas platforms. For the first eight months of 2006, Singapore’s investment in the state stood at a paltry RM209 million. In 2000, the republic cumulative investment in PRD was more than USD5 billion. Unless Singapore is consulted and involved in the planning of the IDR, it will be difficult to see a quantum jump in the investment from the republic."
I would like to commend both Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for agreeing to set up a special ministerial committee to discuss areas of cooperation in the IDR, including the use of smartcards for easier travel between IDR and Singapore and the promotion of tourism.
Similarly, policy makers and politicians from both sides of the causeway must provide similar support for the initiative. Foreign Ministry Parliamentary Secretary Ahmad Shabery rejected Senator Mohd Puad Zarkashi's assumption that the formation of such a committee would cause Malaysia to be dependent on Singapore to develop the IDR and giving the island republic a lot of avenue to raise several issues that would eventually put Malaysia in a difficult situation, such as on the development of a theme park in the IDR and the proposed Malaysia-Singapore bullet train service.
In the same article, I opined that "It means that IDR must find a complementary synergy and a win-win partnership with Singapore. It must be given the autonomy to dictate its own relationship with the republic without the unnecessary political interference which is often filled with racial nuances and blinded ethno-nationalism. It must repair its image amongst Singaporean investors and policy makers. A credible action must go beyond the usual rhetoric of cooperation and mutual dependence."
IDR is a project the current administration cannot afford to fail. In an interview with a German radio station yesterday, I told the host that Singapore is a pragmatic nation. It will support the IDR if the project benefits Singaporean investors. Its close proximity to the republic is an added advantage. Moreover, Singapore is very familiar with the business and investment environment in Malaysia. IDR is four times the size of Singapore and provides a natural production base to the republic.
Similarly, Malaysia must adopt a pragmatic approach when dealing with Singapore and must not let its race-based politics get in the way of cultivating a new era of Malaysia-Singapore economic cooperation.