Media Statement by Johor DAP Publicity Secretary and Senai State Assemblyman Wong Shu Qi on 10th March 2016 (Thursday):
Is it still rational to focus on real estate and petroleum industry development in Johor?
The future painted in numerous government plans is always promising and beautiful. However, there are doubts on the rationality of the recently launched Johor Strategic Growth Plan and a few major projects, which are said to be the catalysts of Johor’s economy.
First, the growth plan of 10 districts is not a new idea but merely a rebranding from the old “one district one industry” strategy. It will be good if the “one district one industry” strategy can truly empower and enrich every district. However, we have yet to see any serious actions taken by the government to develop the central, eastern and northern districts. The districts in Iskandar Malaysia and Pengerang have always been the focus. The picture is painted beautifully for the non-Iskandar Malaysia zones, yet, it seems like it is more a rhetorical promise than executable plan for them.
As indicated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in his speech, it is clear that the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail Project, KTM Double-tracking Project, Forest City and Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex (PIPC) are the catalysts of Johor’s economy.
It is clear that the government will not stop the PIPC even if the global oil price is still relatively low. There is no way to opt out from the massive development plan of Pengerang. Instead of terminating the project; the government can only continue the development regardless if it is appropriate in our current economic situation.
On the other hand, the Forest City project is undoubtedly another real estate project in the Greater Johor Bahru region. The plan was not included initially in the Iskandar Malaysia plan at all. It must be noted that the supply of high-rise property is more than demand in the Johor Bahru area. Moreover, the real property boom in Asia Pacific region are now entering a cooling period after US Fed’s QE4 tapering in 2015. There is no reason for the government to focus on massive real property development at this moment unless they have other agendas.
For the High Speed Rail Project, Pakatan Harapan has proposed in the 2016 alternative budget that the project should be scrapped. Instead of building another expensive toy to benefit only Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, the money should be spent to construct a rail network from Kuching to Tawau.
The only project that will bring immediate benefit to Johoreans is the electrified double tracking project, the modernization of the KTM railway from Gemas to Johor Bahru. The long overdue project should have been completed in 2008, yet it is just about to start. Railway network was the catalyst of Johor’s economy in the early days and I believe it will play a major role in future.
When three out of four projects are not going to benefit Johor’s economy, I think the people have to ask “is it still rational to focus on real estate and petroleum industry development in Johor?”
Wong Shu Qi