Sun, Nov 05, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Malaysia unveils plans for huge development project

`SHOWCASE' The private sector and government are expected to invest US$13 billion on creating a regional economic hub

AP , JOHOR BAHRU, MALAYSIA

A visitor takes a look at a diorama of South Johor State during the launching of the South Johor Economic Region in Johor Bahru yesterday. Malaysia has launched an ambitious project aimed at transforming the idyllic southern state into a metropolis similar to Hong Kong or Shenzhen.

PHOTO: AFP

Malaysia yesterday launched a multibillion-dollar development plan to build business and leisure facilities and lure foreign investors to its southernmost state neighboring Singapore.

The project will be Malaysia's largest-ever of its kind, a government statement said.

Malaysia's government and private sector are expected to invest about 47 billion ringgit (US$13 billion) over the next five years in the South Johor Economic Region, an area of 2,217km2.

The development zone would be nearly three times the size of Singapore, with which Malaysia competes to be a regional economic and cultural hub.

"Our vision is to make South Johor the new international address for business, investment, leisure and culture," Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said while launching the plan in Johor state, a political stronghold of his ruling United Malays National Organization party.

The project is aimed at helping Johor's economy grow an average of 7 percent a year over the next 20 years, the government statement said. Officials have said the plan is also expected to create 800,000 jobs between now and 2025.

Government investment company Khazanah Nasional Bhd will drive development in the area, which officials have been trying to turn into an air, rail and sea logistical hub.

Johor has two seaports, including the Port of Tanjong Pelepas, which handles container ships and was built to rival similar facilities in Singapore. The state's Senai airport is also being developed with the goal of making it a major air cargo center.

Among new projects that Abdullah launched yesterday were a plan to build waterfront housing, sporting and yachting facilities in Danga Bay along South Johor's west coast, as well as a highway linking the state capital, Johor Bahru, to a new administrative center.

"Our vision is for [South Johor] to showcase all that Malaysia can be," Abdullah said.

Investors have been awaiting details of the plan on hopes that the projects will help Malaysia's crucial construction sector expand and draw foreign direct investment.

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