Malaysia on Saturday officially launched the South Johor Economic Region (SJER), hoping to develop it into a strong, sustainable metropolis of international standing.
"The SJER is one of the most important and ambitious initiatives not only in the ninth Malaysia Plan (2006-2010) but also in the history of our nation's development," Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said at the launching ceremony here in the southernmost state of Johor.
Encompassing 2,217 square km of land in southern Johor, the SJER, stretching from the causeway, covers the logistic triangle of Senai Airport to the north, Port of Tanjung Pelepas to the southwest and Johor Port in Pasir Gudang to the southeast. It has been picked by the federal government as the leading new economic growth corridor.
Under the development plan, the SJER will strengthen the region's role as a logistic hub, develop new service-based industries, upgrade human capital development through building a new education city and provide housing as well as entertainment amenities for its population, the prime minister said.
The federal government has allocated 4.3 billion ringgit (1.16 billion U.S. dollars) for the SJER under the 9th national plan to kick start work on security, infrastructure and traffic improvement, Badawi added.
Government-linked entities will make at least another 3.4 billion ringgit (918.92 million U.S. dollars) worth of initial investment in various strategic projects, Badawi said, adding that private sector investments, both local and foreign, have expressed interest in setting up at the SJER.
"Taken in total, we are expecting about 10 billion ringgit (2.7billion dollars) of investment into SJER in the early phrase of development," the Malaysian leader said.
To coordinate these efforts, a statutory body, called "South Johor Authority", will be formed to function as a one-stop center to enable efficient processing of plans and proposals, he said.
"Our vision is to make South Johor the new international address for business, investment, leisure and culture," said Badawi when winding up his speech.
Named after Johor Sultan Iskandar who attended the launching ceremony, the SJER is also called "Iskandar Development Region", or "Iskandar" for short.
In conjunction with the ceremony, Malaysia also unveiled the Comprehensive Development Plan for the SJER (2006 to 2025), outlining development policies and measures on how to turn the big vision into a reality.
The SJER has a population of 1.35 million, representing 43 percent of Johor state's population. Its current per capita GDP is about 14,790 U.S. dollars, higher than Johor's per capita GDP of 10,757 U.S. dollars.