Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak launched three projects in Johor in a hectic one-day visit yesterday as he proclaimed the southern state as important both politically and economically for the country.
Datuk Seri Najib officiated at the grand opening ceremony of the Forest City development that is backed by the Sultan of Johor, and launched the southern state's economic masterplan in the morning.
In the afternoon, he officially opened a government services hub called the Johor Urban Transformation Centre.
The visit coincided with a tumultuous fortnight in his leadership of Umno, with Mr Najib suspending his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin. Tan Sri Muhyiddin last week joined forces with Mr Najib's fiercest critic, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in forming a new alliance with opposition and civil society leaders.
Mr Muhyiddin is from Johor and is its former menteri besar. Leaders in the state say they are worried the suspension would cause big ripples.
In his speech to launch the Johor Strategic Economic Growth plan, Mr Najib said: "I do not want you to support me because I am the Prime Minister, but because our planning has made a difference to the people."
At the Forest City launch, Mr Najib noted that the development and three other mega projects will fuel Johor's growth in the coming years.
"I believe that Johor's future economy is in good hands with these projects, which will certainly change the state into a new economy powerhouse," he said.
The other projects are the planned Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail that will have stops in Johor, the Gemas- Johor Baru double railway tracking and the Pengerang oil and gas hub.
Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar officially launched the Forest City project with Mr Najib. Also present was Mr Yang Guoqiang, founder and chairman of China's giant property player Country Garden, a 60 per cent partner of project developer Country Garden PacificView.
Country Garden's head of business strategy Yu Runze told The Straits Times yesterday that the first phase comprises 482 condo units and 132 serviced apartments.
The project has nearly sold out its first phase, Mr Yu added.
The units will be ready in two years.
Average prices are RM1,200 (S$406) per sq ft - from about RM500,000 for a 517 sq ft studio to RM3.54 million for a 1,862 sq ft four-bedroom unit - comparable to prices in Iskandar Puteri, the new name for the township of Nusajaya just after the Second Link.
Singapore officials have expressed their concern that southern Johor developers are building too many residential units.
Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who is a board member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, told Parliament last May that the nearly 336,000 new private residential units coming up in Johor over the next 30 years would exceed the total number of private homes in Singapore.