JOHOR BARU: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will make a pitch for the Iskandar Malaysia project as a promising venture for Singaporeans to invest in when he meets Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today.
Having said that he will place cooperation in Iskandar high on his agenda, Datuk Seri Najib made a trip to the economic corridor in Johor yesterday, just before travelling overland to Singapore for his first visit as Prime Minister.
First, he surveyed the 2,200 sq km project by helicopter for a bird’s-eye view.
Then, he officially launched a cooling plant which uses an environmentally friendly, centralised network to cool all the buildings in Kota Iskandar, the new administrative centre of the Johor government.
Mr Najib said at the launch that the Johor project not only creates economic opportunities, but also offers a ‘sustainable and balanced’ environment for the next generation.
He later told reporters that his message in Singapore would be that Iskandar ‘is a very promising and exciting development for Singapore to consider’.
And that assessment applies ‘whether at the strategic level, for their participation at the equity and development level, or for individual Singaporeans to consider, like purchasing houses and properties’.
Launched in November 2006 by former Malaysian premier Abdullah Badawi, Iskandar is about three times the size of Singapore and is expected to be completed in 20 years.
A state administrative centre, a financial district, a medical hub and a waterfront city are among its key features.
Mr Najib said the Malaysian government would continue to support the development of Iskandar, which has attracted RM42.6 billion (S$17.6 billion) in investments so far.
He does not expect foreign direct investment to suffer, despite the global economic downturn.
‘Those people who have committed to their development here are not slowing down. In fact, they’re pursuing their development,’ he said.
Iskandar has attracted foreign property investors from the Middle East, as well as manufacturing companies from Japan, Spain and Singapore.
Ahead of Mr Najib’s visit to Singapore, there has been much speculation about the nature of the ‘iconic’, high-value joint projects under discussion by both sides.
Both prime ministers were said to have discussed this issue on the sidelines of the aborted Asean summit in Pattaya last month.
Mr Najib yesterday declined to say more about the possibility that one of these projects might be a bridge to replace the Causeway – a thorny issue that has strained ties in the past.
Questions on whether the alternative of a crooked bridge would be up for discussion similarly drew a blank.
‘Crooked or straight, I will discuss it only tomorrow. Crooked or underground or above ground, let us wait and see,’ he said.
Mr Najib’s two-day visit to Singapore is the first by a Malaysian premier since 2004.
He travelled by car from Johor via the Second Link, arriving in Tuas in the afternoon.
Accompanying him were his wife Rosmah Mansor and an official delegation which includes Johor Menteri Besar Abdul Ghani Othman, International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed, and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nor Mohamed Yakcop.
Yesterday, he had a game of golf with Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security S. Jayakumar at the Sentosa Golf Club, followed by a private dinner.
Today, Mr Najib will meet both President SR Nathan and PM Lee at the Istana. Mr Lee will also host Mr Najib at an official dinner.
Source : Straits Times