Avoiding pitfalls of earlier projects

Negeri Sembilan has always missed out on the rapid economic development that has powered Selangor and the Kuala Lumpur region in the north and Malacca in the south.

 But that is about to change with Malaysia Vision Valley, a major initiative that the state and federal governments hope will boost growth, provide employment and transform the state's low-tech manufacturing sector into a high-tech one.

 The government has targeted more than 153,000ha that encompass the towns of Seremban, Labu and the shabby seaside town of Port Dickson to become the next major economic heartbeat for Malaysia.

The plan is to draw investments into designated economic clusters that include high-technology industries, universities, medical hubs and a wellness enclave, plans seen by The Straits Times show.

 The project's planners intend to avoid the pitfalls of earlier ambitious economic initiatives, such as Iskandar, which was touted as Singapore's hinterland when it was launched just over a decade ago.

Malaysia spent billions of ringgit developing the infrastructure for Iskandar hoping multinational companies would relocate their high-tech manufacturing plants, new tourist attractions would be created and large housing projects would be built.

But hopes for a major take-off have not yet materialised. That is largely because of the slowdown in regional economies and the slump in commodity prices, particularly in the oil and gas sector that was to feature as a major driver of investments in Iskandar.

Another problem has been the rivalry between the state and federal governments over development plans, say property consultants.

Land matters are the purview of the state. But the federal government set up the Iskandar Regional Development Authority to regulate the special economic zone, a move that has not gone down well with the Johor state administration and left private investors caught in turf disputes over development approvals.

Leslie Lopez

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2016, with the headline 'Avoiding pitfalls of earlier projects'. Print Edition | Subscribe