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Thread: Getting the Johor project off the ground

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    Default Getting the Johor project off the ground

    Published April 4, 2007


    Getting the Johor project off the ground

    The Malaysian state's chief minister faces many hurdles in clearing the way for foreign investments, but he's determined


    DANGA Bay in Johor Baru, across the water from Singapore and facing Serene Hill on which the royal palace stands, marks the beginnings of the Iskandar Development Region (IDR), an economic zone so special that it's the centrepiece of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's lofty ambitions for his administration.

    "I look at it positively. Like Shenzhen and Hong Kong, the IDR and Singapore will feed off each other, to our mutual prosperity.'
    - Ghani Othman,
    Johor Chief Minister

    Yet its slow progress shows what Kuala Lumpur will be up against. Danga Bay actually started four years ago but only began flashing on radar screens last year when it began drawing the public in droves.

    There has been some grumbling by Johor politicians and civil servants who say that the project's place name is too westernised, that it should have been called Teluk Danga to reflect the supremacy of the country's official Malay language.

    Although the objection by the language purists was muted and did not reach the newspapers, it came to the ears of Lim Kang Hoo, the project's promoter, and alarmed him sufficiently for him to lobby discreetly for a compromise. Mr Lim, who had already spent considerable sums to brand the project overseas, settled for signboards in the state carrying the words 'Teluk Danga' inconspicuously below its larger English translation.

    Meanwhile, the bay's initial development did not get the rapturous reception it might have, as a previous effort to develop the waterfront resulted in an abandoned eyesore when the Asian financial crisis rendered it non-bankable.

    There was resentment that Mr Lim, a Chinese Malaysian and an 'outsider' or non-Johorean, should benefit from what was seen as a prime project. The angst stemmed in part from the seemingly small Malay participation in the project despite the Johor state government's equity in it.

    Welcome to Johor, the birthplace of the country's dominant political party Umno, the United Malays National Organisation. The state is a place that understands power. And no one understands it better than Ghani Othman, the state's chief minister now in his third term of office.

    Chief minister's role

    Johor boasts the largest number of federal ministers - four - and an overachiever's supply of deputy ministers and parliamentary secretaries. What that means is that everyone is a leader and Mr Ghani has to canvass a lot of opinions to keep the peace.

    He has done just that, with an understated aplomb. Danga Bay's development was largely his effort, according to Johor construction industry officials. Mr Ghani cajoled the critics, compromised when he had to, even sought an audience with the state's Sultan to ensure that the monarch wasn't unhappy that the development was opposite his palace.

    Now Mr Ghani may be facing his sternest test yet, presiding over the largest development in Malaysian history, and one that is already attracting criticism. How he plays his cards may decide his future place in Umno and, indeed, in the corridors of power in Kuala Lumpur. Making a global development like the IDR work could give the 60-year-old leader a new lease of political life.

    The IDR is a big deal; a Singapore multiplied almost fourfold, and twice the size of Hong Kong. But the US$105 billion development can only succeed with huge dollops of foreign investment - which could be the rub.

    To get the foreign input, Mr Abdullah did the logical thing. He relaxed rules governing foreign investment including sacrificing affirmative action policies that favour Malaysia's majority Malays in five areas within the region. Over the years, the policies have become synonymous with the protection of the Malays, Malaysia's majority race and Umno's core constituency. Revoking the policies would therefore incur wrath, as happened when former deputy premier Musa Hitam was pilloried over the Internet after suggesting similar measures even before Mr Abdullah did.

    Even so, the suspension of affirmative action to boost business isn't new. Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad did it twice, most famously in the shape of his 1995 Multimedia Super-Corridor, an area much larger than Mr Abdullah's five IDR zones.

    But the IDR was always going to be different. Listen to Rejal Arbee, a former senior editor with the New Straits Times group, the country's largest publisher. 'It looks as if for the sake of the IDR, we are willing to forgo anything,' wrote Mr Rejal in an Internet posting. 'Not just compromising Malay interests but even to the extent of compromising our sovereignty in the region to the Singaporeans.'

    Former prime minister Dr Mahathir, at loggerheads with Mr Abdullah for over a year, was more specific. 'If we give more land to Singapore, one day we would lose South Johor just like we lost Singapore,' he told a gathering of academics and businessmen at a forum in University Malaya on Friday. Far fetched or not, the reasoning resonates among some segments of the Malay community not least because the IDR's success is, in large measure, dependent on its proximity to Singapore.

    'It's right next to a global centre,' said a senior government official, explaining why the IDR would work. 'We are betting on it. Singapore is what it is now because of foreigners, high-end, high-wage, high-skill fellows. There are going to be more, with Singapore projecting 6 million people going forward, with tourist arrivals slated to hit 17 million. All this will work in our favour.'

    Mr Ghani, who is thought of as being anti-Singapore by some on the island, seems surprised that he's thought of in such a way. He thinks the Singapore angle is overblown. 'All this Malay or Malaysian feeling of being inferior to them is just not on,' says the chief minister. 'Everything should be on equal terms, which is what it will be. As for me I have no complex whatsoever. I don't see any problem.'

    Selling this to the Malays on the ground and implementing whatever needs to be done in South Johor, however, will fall squarely in Mr Ghani's lap. The chief minister is, together with Mr Abdullah, the co-chairman of the Iskandar Regional Development Authority, the agency overseeing the development.

    So far he hasn't put a foot wrong, politically speaking. The enabling legislation for the IDR was delayed because Mr Ghani stubbornly fought what he saw as a surrender of the state's sovereignty to Kuala Lumpur. Indeed, according to a political insider in Kuala Lumpur, Mr Ghani stepped on so many toes that he was seen as an 'impediment' to Mr Abdullah's wishes by some of the premier's aides.

    Mr Ghani is something of a political paradox, a self-effacing, bookish personality in a party that often embraces showmanship. To some of the party faithful, Mr Ghani comes across as so much wasted potential: a genuinely clean politician in an organisation with a high tolerance for corruption; a former Colombo Plan scholar and top student at a time when affirmative action was yet to be introduced.

    A dean of economics at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Mr Ghani got drafted into Umno by Mr Musa, the former deputy premier and a fellow Johorean. By 1995, he was chief minister of Johor but bided his time until 1999 when he contested for one of Umno's three vice-presidential posts - the troika among whom any premier looks for his deputy. The current deputy premier, Najib Razak, for example, was the senior Umno vice-president when chosen for ascension by Mr Abdullah. Although tipped to win, Mr Ghani's candidacy flopped and he has never tried climbing the ranks since: in the last party election in 2004, he made the cut as one of the party's 25-man Supreme Council, but only just. 'He thinks he can never make it in an era of money politics,' said a businessman who knows him well. 'And he won't try.'

    Even so, even his closest aides would admit that Mr Ghani isn't charismatic. 'He's just a steady worker, he goes by the book,' said the businessman. 'There is no flash, no grandstanding.' The chief minister seems to think he doesn't need any. 'With the kind of support we will get from Kuala Lumpur, I can see this (the IDR) working,' says Mr Ghani. 'But we will do it in a planned, methodical fashion, nothing will be ad-hoc.'

    And how does he see Singapore fitting in? 'There's a relationship of complementarity between the two, of growth centre and hinterland, I accept that,' he muses. 'And as Singapore moves up the value chain, there will be significant spillover benefits on us. There will be an element of competitiveness as well particularly in services. I look at it positively. Like Shenzhen and Hong Kong, the IDR and Singapore will feed off each other, to our mutual prosperity.'

    And what of the Johor bureaucracy, what if they don't like what they are seeing? 'No way!' The chief minister shakes his head emphatically. 'I am going to make this work whether they like it or not.'

    This is the first of a three-part series on the Iskandar Development Region. Tomorrow: Johor's potential

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    Default Asean's Shenzhen takes shape

    Published April 5, 2007


    Asean's Shenzhen takes shape

    Singapore will be the key to unlocking Johor's economic potential through the Iskandar Development Region, and it's all systems go


    THERE is an obvious great potential in Malaysia's ambitious economic plans for the Iskandar Development Region or IDR, just across the Second Link from Singapore.

    The plan is to initially focus on the JB City waterfront, which along with the four other concentrated hubs of Nusajaya, Port of Tanjung Pelepas (above), Johor Port, and Senai/Skudai, form the five concentric circles of development.

    And the possibilities are recognised well beyond the borders of Singapore and Malaysia, as is demonstrated by an anecdote recounted by Manu Bhaskaran, the Singapore-based partner of US consultancy Centennial Group.

    Mr Bhaskaran tells of a meeting between a Singaporean banker and a senior Chinese official in Guangdong in 2003. The Chinese official told the banker that his colleagues had done their studies and had concluded that the only place that could challenge the Pearl Delta Region was the Singapore-Johor-Riau nexus. But 'fortunately for us', the official said, these guys can't get their act together . . .

    Given Johor's strategic location in the Indonesia-Malaysia-Singapore growth triangle, the proposed development region - an area encompassing 2,217 square kilometres, which is three times the size of Singapore - is long overdue, said the Johor branch chairman of the Malaysian Institute of Taxation, S Sivamoorthy.

    Although strategically situated at the confluence of one of the world's busiest shipping routes and across from bustling Singapore, Johor's GDP per capita in 2005 amounted to US$10,757, marginally higher than the Malaysian average of US$10,318 but only about a third of Singapore's US$29,937.

    Already one of Malaysia's top investors, Singapore would inevitably be the key to unlocking Johor's potential. Owing to its status as a global financial centre, Singapore would underpin the IDR's hoped-for success and transformation into an international metropolis and the gateway to a thriving regional economy.

    'The areas of competition aside, Malaysia is looking to complement Singapore where it can. When Singapore sets out to do something - even down to people planning - it does it. Singapore with the IDR can do better than Singapore in isolation, and we are betting on it,' said a senior Malaysian government official.

    But the estimated investment of US$105 billion needed over the next 20 years to bring about the IDR's transformation is not insignificant.

    Atkins, one of the UK's leading town planning consultants, has been commissioned to produce a detailed masterplan for the IDR.

    Based on the comprehensive development plan, Malaysia envisages a new city along the Johor Baru waterfront, and a total revamp of the old town. On a wider scale, the plan is to initially focus on the JB City waterfront, which, along with the four other concentrated hubs of Nusajaya, Port of Tanjung Pelepas on the east, Johor Port on the west and Senai/Skudai to the north, form the five concentric circles of development which Malaysia sees as nuclei expanding outward.

    Development focus

    Of the five, the JB waterfront is the obvious jewel. Sitting on prime but unrealised real estate, the waterfront between the Causeway and the Second Link or an area covering an estimated 1,000-plus acres is to be the main development focus of the South Johor Investment Corporation (SJIC), the super-developer for the IDR.

    The plan, the senior government official explained, is to follow the lead shown by developers of Malaysia's most expensive real estate, the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC).

    The iconic Kuala Lumpur Twin Towers was an important catalyst for development around the area, which over the years has flourished and appreciated in value after the prestigious towers were built. Similar landmarks could be built on the land occupied by the old customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) buildings in JB, to serve as a giant magnet for future developments to the surrounding area.

    Khazanah Nasional, which helms the SJIC, is the common owner of the waterfront projects both in the Danga Bay Integrated Waterfront City in JB as well as the Nusajaya waterfront project. As such, the state investment agency would be able to control prices, while its complete oversight of the plans would ensure little danger of duplication.

    Khazanah is said to be prepared to consider investment proposals, whether they involve developments in joint ventures or taking an equity stake in a project. According to studies commissioned by the agency, the state of Johor would average 5.5 per cent growth over the next 20 years without the IDR; with the IDR, the pace would be closer to 7 per cent. The population would be boosted from the present 1.35 million to some 3 million by 2025. More than 800,000 jobs would be created - up from the current 624,000. To get the ball rolling, the government and its agencies have committed US$10 billion in investments in the IDR.

    In the first package of incentives, the federal government threw in 10-year tax holidays and the freedom to source funds and foreign talent. Qualifying companies are also exempt from its Foreign Investment Committee rules, which accord a minimum 30 per cent equity and employment criteria for Malays in all spheres of economic activity.

    The exemption is only for six specific sectors within the IDR: healthcare, educational, financial advisory and consulting, creative industries, logistics, and tourism-related services. In the mid-1980s and later part of 1990, the country offered similar incentives for the manufacturing sector and its technology initiative, the Multimedia Super Corridor. Most analysts agree the incentives are sufficiently competitive.

    International interest

    In any event, the IDR promoters say they have been inundated by queries from international investors even before official marketing efforts begin.

    The city of Shenzhen, next to Hong Kong, offers a glimpse of the vast amounts of investment dollars that could flow into the IDR if it lives up to its potential. The Shenzhen special economic zone (SEZ) of China is 2,020 sq km, slightly smaller than the IDR, and it managed to attract over US$30 billion in the past two decades, helping create GDP of nearly 493 billion renminbi (S$97 billion) in 2005. Shenzhen was declared China's first SEZ in 1980, and the central government ensured the province was governed by special policies. Flexible measures aimed at securing foreign investment involved incentives and relaxed rules on international trade.

    Shenzhen has since amply demonstrated the advantages of being an SEZ, especially one integrated with Hong Kong's economy. It has been China's fastest growing city for nearly three decades and, from 2001 to 2005, saw an economic expansion that averaged 16 per cent. Its frenetic economic boom has drawn Chinese people from all over the interior - a point Malaysia wants to replicate with the IDR to divert congestion from its main commercial centre, the Klang Valley.

    Mohd Talhar Abdul Rahman, Johor branch chairman of the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said many in the international community at present view Johor as a hardship posting, owing to its security problems and lack of comforts.

    Attractive tax incentives are only one aspect in making the region a success. It is critical that the international community feels this is a place they want to be, he said.

    Cutting red tape

    Implementation and delivery will be crucial to the IDR's transformation, but it is also where the greatest doubts lie. Malaysia hopes to assure investors that the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA), the super regulator co-chaired by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Johor Chief Minister Ghani Othman, will truly function as a one-stop regulatory authority, cutting red tape and delivering on time.

    Analysts view having the SJIC as the super developer for the IDR as another positive. The SJIC, capitalised at RM3.4 billion (S$1.5 billion), is 60 per cent owned by Khazanah, 20 per cent by the Employees Provident Fund state pension outfit, and the rest by the Johor state government's Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor.

    Following a tour of the IDR, a CIMB analyst surmised the success of the IDR would hinge on Singapore investments, without which the project would enjoy only limited success at best. Hence, news is closely awaited of any tie-up between the government-linked companies of Malaysia and Singapore, as this would send the right signals to investors about the intentions of the two sides to work together. Many think it is only a matter of time.

    Ties with Singapore

    Malaysia's High Commissioner to Singapore, N Parameswaran, believes that ties between Malaysia and Singapore have never been stronger. Singapore's proposal to establish a consulate in Johor, as well as the expressions of support for the IDR by Singapore leaders, are seen as testament to this. Johor's chief minister, Mr Ghani, expects Singapore and Johor to compete but also to play complementary roles.

    'Ultimately, Singapore and South Johor will be part of one regional growth centre. Like Shenzhen and Hong Kong, the IDR and Singapore will feed off each other to our mutual prosperity,' he told BT.

    To be sure, the IDR is not without its share of sceptics. Many remember the grand plans for Nusajaya hatched by the former Renong group - with little to show 10 years on. Johoreans are some of the more sceptical, probably because of their daily exposure to the numerous failed projects that abound in the state.

    KGV-Lambert Smith Hampton executive director Samuel Tan concedes that people beyond Johor are more excited than the Johoreans, who are more cautious.

    'Maybe it's because they don't see it from a wider horizon,' the JB-based property consultant observed. Others wonder if Malaysia is committed to meeting competitive global business standards to draw in the foreign investments needed for the IDR. 'For us, so used to and comfortable with our slapdash approach to doing things, it will require a complete culture change, which in turn can come about only if there is an unequivocal commitment by the government to facilitate the necessary change management,' he said.

    Former president of Transparency International Malaysia Tunku Abdul Aziz wrote in a column for a local daily that 'nothing less than a thoroughgoing reform of our legal framework, rules and regulations will suffice'.

    He asked: 'While I have not the slightest doubt that we are more than up to pouring colossal amounts of cash and concrete into this project, do we have the capacity and inclination to see it through by continually seeking to meet the ever-changing global environment and business requirements?' Tunku Aziz's comments resonate with sceptics who fear the plan could degenerate into just another exercise in grandiose real estate development. But other analysts say that the prime minister's full backing and Khazanah's leadership in the development of the IDR gives the development region a fighting chance, analysts say.

    In the final analysis, they said, PM Abdullah holds the key. If he can demonstrate the will to implement the incentives and policies necessary to drive the plan through opposition, a good portion of the hopes surrounding the proposals should come about.

    One observer who thinks the chances of success are far greater now is Wan Abdullah Wan Ibrahim, managing director of UEM Land, which is a big player in Nusajaya. He observed: 'The political will is here. We are at a point of no return.'

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    Default Breathing life into Johor's waterfront

    Published April 6, 2007


    Breathing life into Johor's waterfront

    Danga Bay Waterfront City, together with greenfield developments in Nusajaya, has lifted hopes of a property revival in the state


    SELF-MADE entrepreneur Lim Kang Hoo knows a good thing when he sees it. On a helicopter ride around the Johor Straits, he saw the obvious. A developed Singapore shoreline and land prices more than 30 times Johor's. Instinctively, he knew what needed to be done and how he could add value to Johor's waterfront.

    Thus far, Mr Lim who helms publicly-listed Ekovest, and together with the Johor state government's Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ), owns Danga Bay Sdn Bhd and has overseen the reclamation of some 600 acres of land along Danga Bay, at a cost of RM200 million (S$87.7 million).

    Stretching some 1,000-plus acres along Danga Bay, the valuable piece of waterfront property is intended to adopt elements of Sydney's Darling Harbour and Toronto's Waterfront. Upon its completion, it will be transformed into a financial centre replete with iconic buildings, fishermen's wharf, international restaurants and top-notch retail outlets.

    The whole waterfront area in the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) is to be reclaimed in phases. Danga Bay Sdn Bhd holds 36.5 per cent of Kota Selat Tebrau, the special purpose vehicle for the Danga Bay Integrated Waterfront City project. The IDR's super developer, the South Johor Investment Corporation (SJIC), holds a controlling 51.2 per cent of Kota Selat Tebrau, with KPRJ holding the balance of 12.3 per cent.

    Jewel in the crown

    "While they (the international community) feel there are a lot of business opportunities, they see many unoccupied houses and abandoned buildings and this serves to dampen confidence as people then say it is not a manifestation of a successful economic community.' A transformation is on the cards. - Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce & Industry Johor branch chairman Mohd Talhar Abdul Rahman

    Already, Danga Bay Waterfront City is being touted as 'the jewel in the crown' of the IDR, and together with greenfield developments in Nusajaya, has lifted hopes of a property revival in the state. Since the launch of the IDR - Malaysia's regional metropolis-in-the making - secondary prices along the waterfront and in Nusajaya have soared.

    For example, the Danga View apartments on the waterfront are selling on the secondary market at some RM300 psf compared to RM180 psf when it was first launched in 2000. Values of the row of shop-houses on the waterfront have also appreciated by 50 per cent. A senior government official said international developers are in the thick of negotiations on all the parcels of land along the Danga Bay waterfront area - which is to be progressively built up over the next 10 years. 'All the land there is owned by us, so we will release them in a staggered, controlled manner. In that way, we control the pace and costs of development - not unlike what the Hong Kong government did,' he told BT. Owing to the recent incentives for the IDR and the decision to abolish tax on real property gains, some analysts predicted a property boom. Lim Beng Leong, research director at UOBKayHian Malaysia, believed that over the next two or three years, Malaysian real estate - now some of the cheapest in the region - could jump in value by 50 to 300 per cent.

    In the past two years, Johor has already seen an increase in interest in industrial land, said KGV-Lambert Smith Hampton Johor-based executive director Samuel Tan, who attributed rising interest to the growth in the Port of Tanjung Pelepas and Senai airport. German memory chip maker Qimonda's purchase in early March of 30 acres in Senai for a clean-room factory is one such example. Qimonda, which already has a backroom manufacturing facility in Malacca, said the new plant would be located close to its global distribution centre in Singapore 'to reduce inbound and outbound transit times and to achieve favourable lead times'.

    UEM Land, which owns 11,000 acres of land in Nusajaya, expects to attract more Singapore companies to its logistics cluster following HG Metal's acquisition of five industrial lots for RM24 million, or RM15 to RM16 psf. UEM Land managing director Wan Abdullah Wan Ibrahim said he is confident of selling the land at double the price by the end of 2008. 'It's very achievable,' he told BT. 'Once industrialists see the improvements we bring, they'll be willing to pay a better price.'

    In the past, developments in Johor have been somewhat haphazard, as evidenced by the many moribund projects. The failure of these developments has perplexed the international community, said Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce & Industry Johor branch chairman, Mohd Talhar Abdul Rahman. 'While they feel there are a lot of business opportunities, they see many unoccupied houses and abandoned buildings and this serves to dampen confidence as people then say it is not a manifestation of a successful economic community,' he observed. A transformation is on the cards. The city will be totally revamped once the state government offices are moved to the new state administrative centre in Nusajaya, with the old city 'regenerated' with iconic buildings, spacious parks, cultural centres and a Chinatown.

    Some RM12 billion for infrastructure works in the IDR has been allocated by the federal government under the Ninth Malaysia Plan. There are plans for traffic congestion to be eased by 424 km of new roads costing RM4.9 billion. There will be a six-lane coastal highway stretching from the new Customs, Immigration & Quarantine checkpoint at the Causeway to Nusajaya and the Second Link, as well as additional highways in the Eastern Dispersal Link and Middle Ring Road.

    Connection to MRT

    A three-line monorail system extending to a total length of nearly 38 km is planned, with one of the lines intended to run into Singapore where it will link up with either Kranji or Woodlands MRT stations. 'There will have to be an MRT connection, that is a given,' Johor chief minister Ghani Othman told BT.

    He also assured there would be 'sufficient connectivity between the two countries' - bridge or no bridge. Mr Ghani's comments will bring cheer to the chairman of Malaysian Chinese Association JB complaints bureau, John Cheah, who believed congestion at the border needs to be seriously addressed if two-way flows are to be enhanced.

    At JB Sentral, the city's future integrated multimodal transportation terminal, commuters would be able to choose between bus, light rail, water taxi or ferry - the latter going as far as Singapore and Indonesia. The current 14,000 squatters around the Skudai and Lunchoo rivers would be relocated to low-cost homes, funded by contributions to a special fund which would help with community projects.

    Given the persistent perception of Johor's high crime rate, tackling crime is top on the agenda, with the federal government allocating RM330 million which will go towards recruiting another 2,000 police officers, adding some 500 mobile patrol units and installing closed-circuit television cameras.

    Already, real estate prices in certain areas have shot up. Shares of property developers in the IDR have also run ahead, leading the more sceptical to describe the area as 'a big commercial play targeted at Singapore'. Johor's property glut is after all, massive and second only to Selangor's.

    Singaporeans have had mixed results investing in the state, and abandoned projects and vandalism of unoccupied properties have left more than a number of investors disillusioned. Steven Shum, the Johor branch chairman of Malaysia's Real Estate & Housing Developers' Association, believed the government should ensure abandoned projects are resuscitated before looking at the IDR as a lot of economic value has already been ploughed into these developments.

    'If we had capital growth and better rentals in the secondary market, demand would be better,' he said. According to him, Johor's massive property glut is a result of state policy requiring at least 40 per cent of all development projects be sold to bumiputeras, and the subsequent stamping of those titles as such.

    Unless the state gives its approval, a bumiputera wanting to dispose of his property can only sell it to a fellow bumiputera, and these secondary titles and conditions have depressed market demand, Mr Shum said. The current housing glut has not stopped local developers rushing to the IDR, triggering fears that some projects will invariably fail in what is already a very tough and competitive environment.

    'The IDR would be positive for property in the longer term, but the progress will likely be only seen over years,' cautioned Mr Tan who is of the view that industrial land and niche developments would do well in the IDR. But in most cases, the tipping point for individual projects is expected to come later than sooner. Still, land prices are bound to go up if the IDR succeeds as planned. Property researcher Ho Chin Soon said land prices have not gone up much over the past five years - but he did not think the current real estate buzz in the IDR has been overdone.

    'All investments carry some form of risk, (but) I do not rate the risks involved as high,' said Mr Ho, who specialises in property information in map form for the real estate industry.

    UEM Land, which owns 11,000 acres of land in Nusajaya and hopes to be the project management outfit and main infrastructure contractor for the seven signature developments there, is singing a similar tune - despite having little to show 10 years after it launched its Nusajaya aspirations. It was then known as Renong. It is the backing of the government and planned infrastructure that make Nusajaya and the IDR different, Mr Wan Abdullah said.

    Grand plans

    UEM Land's plans this time around are nothing if not grand. Besides a theme park, edu-city and medical hub - all three Khazanah-owned and driven - UEM Land's main developments include a logistics cluster, an international destination resort with an eco-based theme park, state administrative centre and a waterfront project at Puteri Harbour. There are other residential developments planned, such as its recent launch of Horizon Hills in a joint venture with Gamuda.

    Mr Wan Abdullah estimated the total gross development costs for UEM Land's projects to be in the region of RM55 billion. Most of the developments would be done in joint venture with foreign parties, he said, for greater value creation in terms of expertise, network and market.

    Mr Talhar, though, cautioned against too much emphasis on property. Mr Talhar, who is also group chairman of CH Williams, Talhar & Wong, said the real estate consultancy is generally bullish about the IDR, but it needs to be balanced. 'Real estate accommodates meaningful economic activities. Economic activities have to come first. Land per se doesn't produce economic activities,' he said.

    Khazanah has already received letters of intent for RM10 billion worth of projects. Two have been announced - one by Aman Resorts and another by Tune Hotels.

    One developer, who understandably did not want to be named, thought Malaysia is still sending mixed messages when it should be more consistent in its signals.

    The decision by the country's Foreign Investment Committee (FIC) to deny the sale of a building to Singapore's Great Eastern was only one example, he said. Great Eastern had proposed to acquire Wisma Denmark from bumiputera businessman Ibrahim Mohamed for RM150 million and believed it had the deal in the bag. But after months of waiting for FIC approval, the parties were finally informed the proposed acquisition was rejected, with no reasons given. Malaysia's Sunway City has now said it plans to acquire Wisma Denmark as well as several parcels of adjoining land for RM170 million.

    'From the feedback I receive, Singaporean businessmen would like to participate in the IDR but they also say approvals have been slow in the past, and policies inconsistent,' acknowledged Mr Cheah. Some developers were also unhappy with last year's freeze on land sales in the IDR to curb land speculation prior to the announcement of the development plans. The freeze has now been lifted.

    Mr Lim of the Danga Bay company has been asked by the state to help revive the Best World Mall. This will be relaunched in October as Danga City Mall.

    It is obvious that Mr Lim lives and breathes the waterfront project. 'A project of this size - you will need all kinds of investors,' he declared. 'We are open to the world's investors, especially Singaporeans who are just next door.'

    This is the concluding article of a three-part series on the Iskandar Development Region.

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    Default Iskandar plan 'boosts Johor property prices'

    April 6, 2007

    Iskandar plan 'boosts Johor property prices'

    Menteri Besar seeks to allay fears of an oversupply of units leading to low prices

    By Reme Ahmad, Malaysia Correspondent

    MEGA-PROJECT: A model of the Iskandar Development Region, a 2,217 sq km zone which will include residential and industrial areas as well as education and medical hubs. -- BERITA HARIAN

    IN JOHOR BARU - ALTHOUGH the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) is still largely a concept plan, actual property prices in Johor have already jumped due to bullish expectations.

    Menteri Besar Abdul Ghani Othman yesterday gave examples of the spike to show that the IDR plan has been well received by investors.

    He said he was listing out the data as there was some concern that the soft property market in south Johor could worsen with the addition of IDR real estate.

    'Your fears are unfounded. This is because the IDR is not another property development that is going to exacerbate anoversupply of residential and commercial units,' he said in a keynote address at an IDR conference.

    The IDR, a 2,217 sq km zone that stretches northwards from the Singapore-Johor border, is being touted as Malaysia's new growth area and the country's biggest ever megaproject.

    Plans include a new administrative centre for Johor, new industrial zones, education, medical and tourism hubs, a waterfront development and luxury residential areas.

    The Finance Ministry's Valuation and Property Services Department has said the Johor property market last year has an overhang of nearly 7,000 residential units worth RM1.5 billion (S$660 million).

    This is 31.2 per cent of all unsold residential units in Malaysia last year.

    Datuk Abdul Ghani said the IDR would promote business activities and spur demand for properties.

    The federal government's abolition of taxes on property gains also helped, he added.

    And he gave examples of the recovered property market.

    Among those already smiling widely from the keen interest in southern Johor is Mr Ho Chin Soon, a Malaysian digital map maker who lists government agencies and major property players as his clients.

    His maps of the IDR and an accompanying CD were selling like hot cakes at the conference yesterday despite the RM8,000 price tag.

    'The favourite questions that people ask me is where to buy and which areas are hottest,' Mr Ho said.

    A developer hopeful of brighter days for Johor is Datuk Tan Seng Leong, who is developing the Taman Pulai Utama project.

    Datuk Tan, the group managing director of KL-listed BCB Bhd, said the IDR should boost demand and hoped the government could give investors better assurances about the crime situation.

    Datuk Abdul Ghani said the police are beefing up their equipment and presence in the IDR with a fresh RM300 million government allocation.

    For Singaporean surveyors Francis Goh and Yip Wan Kee, the IDR represents renewed hope of their abandoned office space project at Metro Larkin.

    They have put in some S$200,000 in the project which has been abandoned for about a decade, while trying to get legal redress has been tough.

    'For Johor to really develop, you must look after the investors. We Singaporeans like to invest here because it is near but when there are problems we have difficulty in getting redress,' Mr Goh said.

    [email protected] JOHOR Menteri Besar Abdul Ghani Othman yesterday gave some examples of the increase in property prices in Johor:

    # A three-storey shophouse in Danga Bay was going for RM800,000 (S$351,000) last year. Last week, one such unit was sold to an Indonesian for RM1.3 million.

    # In Johor Baru, a standard three-storey shophouse can now fetch RM900,000, up 25 per cent from a year ago.

    # Bukit Indah commercial land recently sold at RM65 per square foot, compared to an average price of RM30 per square foot previously.

    # The price of Ledang Heights bungalow lots in Nusajaya have shot up to RM28 per square foot from RM15 to RM19 per square foot a year ago.

    # Some 75 per cent of Danga Bay's Casa Almyra houses were sold before the official launch; The majority of buyers were Malaysians.

    # A major Singapore manufacturer last month bought an industrial lot in the Iskandar Development Region for RM21 to RM27 per square foot, up 25 per cent from last year.

  5. #5
    mr funny is offline Any complaints please PM me
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Default Re: Getting the Johor project off the ground

    Singapore, Malaysia to cooperate on Johor projects

    By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 15 May 2007 1309 hrs

    LANGKAWI, Malaysia : Singapore and Malaysia will each set up a ministerial committee to oversee joint cooperation in the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) in the Malaysian state of Johor.

    Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong suggested this during his meeting in Langkawi with his Malaysian counterpart Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

    The idea has been accepted by Mr Abdullah.

    Mr Lee told a news conference he believes the consultative committees can work on areas such as smart card access to the IDR, tourism promotion and environmental cooperation.

    Ministers will be appointed on each side to be in charge and will focus on realising the ideas and proposals discussed at the retreat.

    Mr Lee said Singapore has made an assessment of the project and decided that it is fundamentally good for the country if the project took off and succeeded.

    The vibrancy and activities of interest created would be good for tourism, manufacturing investments, services and for the people of both countries.

    Mr Lee said the relations between Singapore and Malaysia have been very good.

    The substantive cooperation is also growing in the areas of investments, trade, tourism and the to-ing and fro-ing of people.

    Mr Lee said Singapore and Malaysia should build on this state of positive progress and atmosphere in order to take relations to a new level.

    So the purpose of his visit to Langkawi is a forward looking one to see what new areas the two countries can work together on.

    This is to achieve a win-win relationship in an Asia which is dramatically changing.

    The Prime Minister stressed that the cooperative interests of Malaysia and Singapore far outweigh the competitive concerns they have with one another.

    Mr Lee said outstanding bilateral issues would have to be resolved at some point.

    And he has told his Malaysian counterpart they are not easy matters.

    Therefore, they ought to be dealt with in a way which will be acceptable to both sides and which will not affect the rest of other bilateral ties.

    Citing the example of Malaysia's claims to Pedra Branca, Mr Lee noted that it is on the way to being resolved now.

    Both countries had agreed to put the matter to the International Court of Justice at the Hague and there would be hearing in November this year.

    Whatever the judgement, Singapore will accept it and so will Malaysia.

    And both countries will move on from there.

    Mr Lee said that is one possible model how both countries could deal with other issues as well.

    Mr Lee has invited Mr Abdullah to Singapore for another retreat meeting and the Malaysian leader has told him he hopes to be able to do so in due course. - CNA/ch

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2010


    Business Times - 07 Dec 2010

    Harry Potter and the firm from S'pore
    Pinewood picks Web Structures to help with its US$150m project in M'sia

    (SINGAPORE) The film studio that helped create the Harry Potter and James Bond blockbusters has appointed a Singapore-based firm of design engineers, Web Structures, to consult on a US$150 million state-of-the-art film and television production facility project in Malaysia.

    The 32-hectare Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios complex is being built in Iskandar Malaysia, a special economic development region in the south of the country.
    Cinema giant Pinewood Shepperton has partnered with Khazanah Nasional Bhd, the investment holding arm of the Malaysian government, to appoint Web Structures to the project.

    The Web Structures team is working to create the giant studio buildings, with 50 metre column-free spans.

    Web Structures's expertise is also being sought to ensure that the buildings are free of ground vibrations that could affect filming for the big screen or television by causing camera shake.

    'This is a high-profile project which promises to deliver so much for the economy of Malaysia,' said Web Structures group director Hossein Rezai-Jorabi.

    'We are currently involved in detailed design work, meeting the challenges of creating buildings designed to be the best possible for cinema and television filming.'

    That means creating large, column-free spaces and also ensuring that the buildings are not affected by ground movement, which could cause camera shake, he added.

    Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios is set to be opened by early 2013, creating 3,000 jobs as Pinewood Shepperton grows its global brand.

    The original iconic Pinewood Studios, west of London, houses film stages, post production theatres, large digital television studios, an underwater filming stage, and location filming as well as a studio village with a wealth of specialist media and production support companies.

    Copyright 2010 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

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