JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Johor's ruler, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, has expressed his wish to personally drive investments into the state as manufacturers worldwide prepare to step up production in a post-Covid-19 era.
Sultan Ibrahim said with mass immunisation being carried out now across the world, the economy will be restored and that Johor must brace itself for the coming changes.
"It is important for Johor to pick up where it has been left behind as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic."
The ruler said investments in the manufacturing sector in Johor had fallen from the end of 2020 because of the closure of international borders and had directly impacted severely the sector in the state.
He said it "pains me greatly" when he received reports and briefings of Johoreans losing jobs and how people who are earning daily wages are struggling with putting food on the table.
He said everyone has been affected by the pandemic but added that Johoreans must now get ready to face the post-Covid 19 period and to restore normalcy, including providing jobs for the people.
"Johoreans must understand that FDIs (foreign direct investments) are getting more competitive. We rely on foreign labourers, while some Asean countries are able to provide lower wages besides having their pool of workers.
"Johor cannot pick and choose, whine over the nationality of investors, " he said in an interview in conjunction with the Chinese New Year.
"It does not matter where these investors are from. Whether they are from the United States, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Taiwan, Timbuktu or China. As long as they invest here professionally, they are welcome."
He said Johor had traditionally encouraged investments in manufacturing but it would also encourage modern agriculture, food production and technology.
On Feb 2, The Star reported that despite the challenging business climate, Iskandar Malaysia is poised to attract about RM17 billion (S$5.58 billion) in foreign and local investments this year.
Since its inception 15 years ago, Iskandar Malaysia has recorded total cumulative investments of RM337.3 billion with over 60 per cent realised.
The top foreign countries are China (RM54.6 billion), Singapore (RM24.3 billion), the United States (RM8.39 billion), Japan (RM5.86 billion) and others.
"Johor wants the investors to feel welcome, comfortable, secure and appreciated in doing business in Johor.
He said for China and Singaporean investors, Johor is the most attractive choice because of its strategic position, the huge Chinese-speaking business links in the state as well as its proximity to Singapore.
Sultan Ibrahim said there are no states in Malaysia which can offer that kind of investment value.
He also said he understood that there have been concerns over the changes in policies, saying he wanted to give an assurance that there would be "no flip-flops."
"I will personally ensure that this would not happen. It helps that the Prime Minister is also from Johor. Relationships between the federal and state governments are good.
"It is important to note that every stake holder understands the importance of the state economy," he said.
Sultan Ibrahim said Johor did not just want investments from other countries but wanted their families to settle down in Johor Baru and Iskandar Puteri.
He said it is much cheaper for these expatriates to buy properties in Johor than Singapore and yet can travel to the island republic every day.
He said the fallout from the Covid-19 has delayed the construction of Forest City in the state but added the economy in China has started to recover.
Built at the southern tip of Johor, Forest City is a mix of residential, leisure, commercial, and industrial spaces, Forest City will also include its own Customs facility ,enabling residents who work in Singapore to commute back and forth on a daily basis.
In addition to Chinese, Singaporeans and Malaysians, Forest City hopes to attract buyers from Indonesia, Vietnam, Brunei, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
The South China Morning Post recently reported that China's economy roared back to pre-pandemic growth rates in the fourth quarter of last year as its industrial engines fired up to meet surging demand for exports, pushing the full-year expansion beyond estimates and propelling its global advance.
Gross domestic product climbed by 6.5 per cent in the final quarter from a year earlier, pushing growth to 2.3 per cent for the full year. That leaves the world's second-largest economy driving global growth and potentially surpassing the GDP of the US sooner than expected.
The recovery from the biggest slump on record was engineered by getting Covid-19 under control and deploying fiscal and monetary stimulus to boost investment.
Meanwhile, the prices of Brent crude have surpassed US$60 per barrel with demands expected ahead of the resumption in manufacturing worldwide.
Sultan Ibrahim said he wanted an update from the Tourism, Culture and Arts Ministry, which has now taken over the functions of the Malaysia My Second Home programme.
"Let's make it easy for the affluent businessmen to buy properties in Malaysia, especially in Johor, and to let their families be with them as they are putting in millions of ringgit here.
"In many countries, expatriates with value-added skills and resources are being encouraged to move there. The businessmen and residents who want to stay in Johor are no exception. They are not interested in politics or competing with locals for jobs.
"Their presence will in fact lead to the creation of jobs as part of the multiplying effect from property development."