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Friday, 5 May 2017

(The Edge) The elements needed for Iskandar Malaysia’s success

JOHOR BAHRU: Infrastructure, connectivity, branding, economic activity and educational facilities are essential elements of Iskandar Malaysia’s success, according to stakeholders of the economic zone in Johor who shared their views at the second Marketplace Series of Forums organised by the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute and the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship on May 2.

Among them was Johor Petroleum Development Corp (JPDC) chief operating officer Izhar Hifnei Ismail, who said JPDC has been taking proactive action to upgrade the infrastructure and connectivity in the Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC) to ensure that the 20,000-acre mega project is ready to support the growth of Johor.

“About 30% of the land in PIPC has been taken up and there are some 12,000 acres of land available for downstream oil and gas developments, so we are actively seeking investors.

“But many of them are still taking a wait-and-see approach because of the relatively soft oil prices.

However, we cannot wait for the oil prices to recover because the state-of-readiness of PIPC must be in top condition for us to market the location, receive new investments and be able to support the growth of the state,” he said.

He added that JPDC is building and upgrading roads in Pengerang to improve connectivity and accessibility, including road-widening works on Jalan Kota Tinggi — Pengerang from two to four lanes, which will be completed by this year end.

The company has also been training local youths to prepare them for jobs in the PIPC.

“We have been training about 2,000 youths from Johor to help them acquire new skills in downstream oil and gas activities, plus giving them the impetus to secure entrepreneurship or business opportunities within the new economic centre,” he said.

Themed “Building Cities, Enriching Communities”, the forum aims to encourage sharing and deliberate on effective ways to create holistic lifestyles in developing and developed cities, using Iskandar Malaysia as the point of reference. TheEdgeProperty.com was the event’s media partner.

Izhar was also a panellist in one of the discussions at the forum entitled “The Untold Story: Insights on Developments and New Opportunities in Johor”. The session, which was moderated by KGV International Property Consultants executive director Samuel Tan, saw three other panellists, namely Iskandar Investment Bhd’s president/CEO Khairil Anwar Ahmad, Sunway Bhd property development division (Malaysia and Singapore) deputy managing director Tan Wee Bee, as well as Medini Iskandar Malaysia Sdn Bhd (MIM) chief marketing officer Gerard Kho.

Wee Bee noted that MIM has been doing a great job in putting in excellent infrastructure to support the growth of Iskandar Malaysia, but now it is time to bring in the “software” — people and businesses.

“When the Coastal Highway Southern Link (CHSL) is completed in July this year, it will only take less than 10 minutes to drive from here to Singapore, so Singaporeans are able to come and see what Iskandar Malaysia offers, instead of just looking on the map,” he said.

CHSL is a 5.2km extension of the Iskandar Coastal Highway that links Medini to the Port of Tanjung Pelepas Highway interchange of the Second Link Expressway.

Kho admitted that the biggest challenge is to get people and businesses in. However, he believes that as the commercial projects and spaces begin to be filled, the area will gradually be transformed and be more vibrant. He cited Medini as an example. “There will be 1.5 million to 1.8 million sq ft of commercial space ready in Medini by the end of next year, not including the adjacent areas in Puteri Harbour. The commercial space should be enough to drive about 18,000 people into the city itself.”

Meanwhile, to attract businesses into Iskandar Malaysia, Iskandar Investment Bhd is funding co-working spaces in the economic zone to encourage young entrepreneurs to set up business here.

It also plans to organise more promotional events for Iskandar Puteri as well as help the education institutions in EduCity attract more students, said Khairil.

“One of the things that we want to do is to undertake more destination branding for Iskandar Puteri.

“In EduCity, we hope to continue to support the partners to nurture their operations and attract more students to create a spillover effect,” Khairil said, adding that the 300-acre education hub is targeting a student population of 15,000 in the future.

Formerly known as Nusajaya, Iskandar Puteri is the administrative capital of Johor. It spans 22,000 acres and comprises EduCity, Legoland, Pinewood Studios, Southern Industrial and Logistics Clusters, Puteri Harbour, and developments such as East Ledang by UEM Sunrise Bhd and Medini.

EduCity is a fully integrated education hub and among the institutions located there are Raffles University Iskandar, University of Southampton, Netherlands Maritime Institute of Technology, Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia and Management Development Institute of Singapore.