Inside Iskandar: Insights from Iskandar's CEO

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In a recent interview, Iskandar Regional Development Authority chief executive Datuk Ismail Ibrahim gave his insights on the planning process behind Iskandar.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

  • What is Iskandar? Is it the next Singapore, the next Kuala Lumpur or something new altogether?

Iskandar Malaysia's mission statement is to be a strong and sustainable metropolis of international standing. It's not upon us to be better than or to be like anyone, but the fact that we want to be a city of international standing means that the ecosystem we aspire to must have all the necessary qualities.

  • What are these qualities?

When we formulated our plan for Iskandar, we sought the experience of other economic regions around the world. For example, Vancouver. It has always been cited as one of the most liveable cities in the world. We learnt from its experience and want to adopt certain qualities that would make Iskandar liveable too.

We also studied the relationship between Shenzhen and Hong Kong - how they collaborate, how they've improved connectivity and the challenges they face.

  • A common stereotype about Malaysia is that it has had many grand strategies which are not fully executed on the ground. How do you ensure that Iskandar will be developed as planned?

First, we have to create the right story for Iskandar and it has to be a believable one.

Second, this is an effort that requires collaboration by all stakeholders, so we have to get their buy-in.

Third, the implementation has to be done systematically in phases.

For example, you must have the infrastructure ready very early in this initiative. Investors would want to know - how do I get from A to B, how do I transport my goods and bring in raw materials?

  • What are the key targets for Iskandar?

When we reach maturity in 2025, we hope to have committed investments of RM383 billion (S$158 billion) and a population of 3 million.

We also want to see the nine economic sectors that we are promoting to reach a certain level of success, be it tourism, education or health care. This will be determined by the number of projects that have been launched and successfully operating by then.

We should, by then, also be able to say that we have the right connectivity within Iskandar, such as the high-speed rail.