Johor’s Iskandar wooing Singapore investors

Malaysia’s southern economic region Iskandar expects strong investment flow from neighbouring Singapore, despite an expected economic slowdown in the second half of the year.

In an interview with Channel NewsAsia, the CEO of Iskandar Investment, Arlida Ariff, said she hopes to ride on improved bilateral ties to woo Singapore investments.

Spanning over 2,200 square kilometres, the Iskandar economic region located in southern Johor is three times the size of Singapore.

Since its inception at the end of 2006, Iskandar has attracted more than 60 billion ringgit worth of investment from both local and foreign investors, surpassing its own target of 47 billion.

Singapore is currently the third largest investor in Iskandar, with 3.03 billion ringgit worth of investments committed so far.

They are mainly in electrical and electronics, manufacturing and education.

But according to the CEO of the economic region, Iskandar offers plenty of synergistic opportunities especially in leisure tourism.

CEO Arlida Ariff said: “This is an area Singaporeans as visitors have taken advantage of. But for businessmen (and) investors, this is certainly an area we see potential and opportunities… those are the areas we would like to invite interest from Singapore.”

To boost tourism, Iskandar is opening up two more hotels, a marina, retail malls, an indoor family theme park including Asia’s first Legoland in 2012.

It also plans to add another 5.5 million square feet of commercial and residential space later this year.

CEO Arlida Ariff said: “Very frankly, most long-haul visitors look for location that justifies a stay of 4-5 nights.

“I think, singly, Johor and Singapore do not provide the long-stay conditions. We don’t have enough attractions to justify a long stay.

“(But) working together in collaboration, we can develop packages. It’s a win-win situation, we actually create a bigger market.”

Malaysia expects its tourist arrivals to exceed 18 million this year while Singapore is forecasting 12 million.

Combined, analysts say, both countries stand to reap more from an increased number of tourists who stay longer and spend more.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 13 Jul 2010

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