GELANG PATAH (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The mammoth Forest City project in Johor has attracted investments totalling RM10 billion (S$3.2 billion), and is propelling the economy and creating jobs, said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
"This project is generating the economy and creating jobs, including helping with tourism," Datuk Seri Najib told reporters on Tuesday (Dec 6) after a two-day visit to Johor to check on the progress of various projects in the state.
The development would also be a boon for the manufacturing, high tech, services and financial sectors, he said.
"This project has a huge potential," he said, adding that to date it had also sold 11,000 houses.
Forest City, a US$42 billion (S$60 billion) futuristic "eco-city" of high-rises and waterfront villas, will sit on four man-made islands on the Malaysian side of the Johor Strait just an hour from Singapore.
Offering 700,000 residential units as well as shopping malls, international schools, hotels, convention venues and medical facilities on 1,370ha of land, the city will even have its own immigration centre.
The massive project is attracting interest from investors with promises of luxury living, but there are questions over its future owing to China's economic woes and warnings of environmental catastrophe, Agence France-Presse reported.
The venture is being developed by Hong Kong-listed real estate giant Country Garden and a firm partly owned by Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar with an eye on cashed-up Chinese buyers.
Mr Najib on Tuesday witnessed a signing ceremony between Forest City and 36 other companies.
Country Garden Pacificview (CGPV) executive director, Datuk Md Othman Yusof, said the mixed development project was expected to contribute some RM66 billion in tax revenue to the country over the next 20 years.
He added that many industries were flocking to Forest City which was expected to contribute RM1.98 trillion to the country's GDP.
"Forest City is gaining momentum due to its local, regional and global positioning and with a total cumulative investment of US$100 billion will attract returns of sufficient proportion," Datuk Md Othman said during the signing of strategic initiatives ceremony and grand opening of a hotel.
The synergic partners are organisations from industries such as medical and healthcare, education and training, tourism, financial services, manufacturing, emerging technologies, smart city as well as green building.
The collaborations include seven companies listed under Fortune 500: Huawei, Cisco, Accenture, Midea, China Construction Steel Structure Corporation, Deutsche Bank (Asia Pacific) and Bank of China (Malaysia).
"This will cumulatively garner Forest City into becoming an economic hub complementing Iskandar Malaysia which will drive new business activities into the sustainable township," said Datuk Md Othman.
He also noted that the completion of the hotel spelt good news for locals, as there would be job opportunities in the service sector, besides spurring tourism.
The Tuesday event also marked Iskandar Malaysia’s 10th anniversary celebration.
Mr Najib praised his predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for his contributions to the Iskandar Malaysia economic corridor and his conduct after retiring.
Mr Najib said the Iskandar Malaysia development idea was hatched by Tun Abdullah, affectionately known as “Pak Lah”, who was then the prime minister.
“Where credit is due, credit should be given. I am continuing the idea that was sparked by Pak Lah," said Mr Najib.
“Today, we express our utmost appreciation to him, but above all, Pak Lah has shown how a former prime minister should behave.
“Thank you, Pak Lah. There is a hidden message there," added Mr Najib, who together with Pak Lah, cut a cake to mark the occasion
At the press conference later, Mr Najib said former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's allegation that 700,000 Chinese nationals in the Forest City project would be given citizenship was baseless and untrue.
“The Mentri Besar has responded to this issue. We should not scare people by making such allegations," he added.