JOHOR BARU • Investments from China into Johor are part of a global trend and it does not make sense to say that there will soon be 700,000 Chinese nationals living in the southern state, said Johor Menteri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin.
He made the remarks to rebut a claim by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad that housing projects in Johor such as Forest City township will result in an influx of Chinese nationals into the state.
Datuk Seri Khaled said China has become an economic powerhouse with a large middle class that has a strong appetite for property all over the globe, the Malay Mail Online news website quoted him as saying on Thursday.
And Dr Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years, should understand the importance of foreign investments as he had flown all over the world to ask investors to put money in the country.
"This is a global phenomenon and it behoves all parties, particularly the private sector, to attract investment from China and, specifically, to Johor. More so when Johor is just next to Singapore," Mr Khaled said in a statement.
"But it is wildly inaccurate to state that property... is only for the Chinese. What more when developers in Johor do not target only Chinese as their prospects."
Dr Mahathir, who now leads an opposition party, claimed in a speech late last month that a "gigantic city" being built in Johor would be peopled by Chinese nationals.
He further claimed that he had heard that they would be given Malaysian identity cards to vote for Prime Minister Najib Razak's ruling coalition.
"This is the frightening story I heard, that there is an attempt to issue ICs to foreigners to support Najib in the next general election," he said in a speech at an opposition rally last week, as quoted by the Malaysian Digest news site.
"Johoreans, Malays or even local Chinese and Indians can't fill up this gigantic city that can hold 700,000 people. Foreigners will be imported to fill these houses being funded by Chinese developers, to settle them into our community," Dr Mahathir said.
Rebutting the claim, Mr Khaled said the 1,386ha Forest City project, which is being built on four man-made islands, is a project lasting 30 years.
"Marketing for residential properties in Forest City is not concentrated only in China but also in Australia, Middle East and other countries, and it is only offering 10,000 units," he said, as quoted by Bernama news agency.
"After 30 years, maybe there will be 700,000 foreigners in Johor but it is unlikely all of them will be Chinese nationals."
He added: "We, in Johor, do not want to be the backyard of Singapore. We want to develop on our own efforts, our capability, strength and on the position of Johor itself."