Friday, November 20, 2009

Iskandar Malaysia - Please do not fail us!

A mammoth project like Iskandar Malaysia (IM) is likely to face more and bigger challenges than ever with the global economy is still in crisis. It is something to be expected as the project seems very slow to take off as well as with increasing doubts by not only the investors (or would-be-investors) but also us, the people whose money has been used/abused to fund this dream project of 'Satu lagi projek kerajaan Barisan Nasional'.

I applaud such an initiative especially we need a new growth centre after the failures of MSC, PKFZ, Cyberjaya, to name a few and other projects under the 'Satu lagi projek kerajaan Barisan Nasional' which had wasted billions of our money and fund for the future generations. Those failures are not in the annual Auditor General's report on the wastage and perhaps our MPs can voice our concerns in the parliament.

I do not how much has been spent to date in getting IM on the ground. How much more to be spent to move and complete the project. The planners must have adequate study on the cost of such project and the return of investment for the benefits of people (not only those Umno cronies who may have been the biggest benefactors).

Being personally involved with several mammoth projects in Dubai, from the initial planning to execution and delivery, I would say, those people who had been chosen to lead and manage IM must be capable, competent, experienced and forward thinking in executing the plan. I am very much impressed with IM and have a very high regards as well as hopes.

It is not uncommon in Malaysia for projects like IM there would be more opportunists from all levels, especially politicians and cronies to gain and abuse the available opportunities for their own advantages. Money talks and walks (they call it money politics, don't they?) in corridors of power.

Yes, there are now rumblings over the slow pace of progress from Middle East investors. Do not blame these investors, some have their own troubles back home after the global financial crisis. Good planning must have taken into accounts on the setbacks. However, do we really take care of these investors and fulfill their requirements?

Somehow, professionals (whether they are cronies of Khazanah gangs or not) have to bear with politicians' (either professional politicians or amateur ones or office/corporate politicians) attitude, antics, unethical approaches in running a project. When the politics is above everything else, we are in the same situation all over again.

Whatever their objectives, we have to learn from the past & present mistakes (even from Dubai's mistakes) in realising the vision and mission of Iskandar Malaysia. Managers can be replaced and changed, however, most politicians will remain without accountability, responsibility and sensibility.

Iskandar Malaysia, especially the leaders, politicians, managers, workers, PLEASE DO NOT FAIL US....enough of Malaysia Boleh and the billions that wasted.

Trouble in Iskandar

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — All is not well in Iskandar Malaysia, the country's showpiece economic corridor project.

Two chief executive officers of the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) have not lasted two years on the job and there are now rumblings over the slow pace of progress from Middle East investors.

Apart from that, the relationship between some of the main players — the Johor Civil Service (JCS), Khazanah Nasional, Iskandar Investment Board (IIB) — leaves much to be desired.

Unwilling for the situation to unravel further, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman is signalling his intention to Putrajaya for the state government to take more control of the mammoth project billed as Malaysia's Shenzen to the developed Singapore across the Johor Straits.

He wants IRDA to come directly under the purview of the state government, and rely less on instructions from Khazanah Nasional, the federal sovereign wealth fund tasked with developing the economic zone named after the state Ruler.

The IRDA board is now jointly chaired by the Prime Minister and the MB but The Malaysian Insider understands that the Johor MB could be assigned full chairmanship, giving him control of the regional authority.

Ghani has already started exerting his authority, much to the chagrin of the top brass in Khazanah Nasional. Late last month, he demanded the resignation of the incumbent CEO Harun Johari.

Officials at Khazanah Nasional wanted Harun to be given six more months on the job but last week, the IRDA board quickly accepted Harun's resignation. He will leave in January 2010 for IRDA to have another fresh start.

Harun, an ex-Shell stalwart, was hand-picked by Khazanah Nasional for the top position. He quickly brought in several of his former Shell colleagues to fill senior executive positions, and the organisation ballooned to over 150 staff under his charge.

His critics charged that he lacked charisma but his supporters argued that he is a process-driven individual who was effective behind the scenes. Harun replaced Datuk Ikmal Hijaz, the former Pos Malaysia CEO.

The latter was also hand-picked by Khazanah Nasional to drive IRDA and make it a world-class, one-stop centre for investors.

After being appointed, Ikmal also surrounded himself with several former colleagues from Pos Malaysia or the now defunct Renong Group, in which he oversaw the construction of the Gelang Patah crossing and massive land acquisition in Nusajaya.

The Malaysian Insider has learnt the new CEO of IRDA is Ismail Ibrahim. He is currently director of the National Physical Planning Division under the Urban and Rural Planning Department.

The Muar-born career public servant, who is a British-trained town planner, was among the pioneers assembled by Khazanah Nasional back in 2006 to draw up the Comprehensive Development Plan for the south Johor Economic Region (now known as Iskandar).

He later served as senior vice-president (Planning & Compliance) and became Johor's Federal Commissioner, but quit suddenly to return to the Housing and Local Government Ministry.

Ghani wants an overhaul of the top management of IRDA. — Bernama pic

Ghani has already told Ismail that he expects an overhaul of the top management of IRDA, wanting him to rid the authority of deadwood.

At least four senior personnel are expected to be removed.

The JCS — a body whose support is necessary if any project is to take off in the southern state — has welcomed the appointment of Ismail.

Relations between the JCS and Khazanah Nasional have been uneasy since the inception of the project in 2006, with Johor civil servants complaining of being sidelined from the decision-making process. They have resented the fact that important decisions regarding Iskandar were being made in Kuala Lumpur.

The shortcomings in IRDA, and to a lesser extend IIB, come at a time when several of the Middle East investors are exhibiting signs of restlessness at the pace of the project.

Government officials told The Malaysian Insider that Khazanah Nasional was forced to buy back some land in Node 1 of Iskandar which it sold to a consortium of Middle East investors. This happened after some disagreement over responsibilities and obligations.


rem said...

tuan fudzail,
let me tell u my worries about Iskandar. it wants to attract sporeans and those foreigners living in spore to invest - in homes, factories.
it needs sporeans and foreigners in spore to visit often as tourists.
or else the project will likely fail. or it will more likely become the walking dead like cyberjaya and putrajaya. not quite mati but not making money for the government (and taxpayers).
ie not a thriving place like any KL neighbourhood where droves of people and cars move around day or night and shops are open for long hours.

it needs sporeans simply because there aren't enough rich people in johor who could afford the houses there, or to visit the theme parks and malls (people may sneer and scold me, but yes, there is huge salary gap betw spore and johor).

u can bring in arab money but the arabs are not going to live there and buy many homes and visit often as tourists. u still need sporeans by the thousands.

i am a sporean who lived in malaysia for some 13 years (1994-2007). now back to work in spore.
so i would like to think that i understand how both sides of the causeway think and act on many issues - more so than people who have lived only on one side of the border.

i should think that many sporeans would love to buy a house in jb.
they would love to have a landed home where they could park their car/s right at the doorstep. i know the feeling cos i have lived thru it in kl.
most of us in spore live in tall flats in this small but proud island nation (87 pct of the 4mil sporeans live in hdb flats, another 8 pct perhaps live in condos, and some 5 pct only can afford landed properties - terrace, semi-dees, bungalows).
but every time people want to take out cheque books to buy in johor, there are the issues of:

1) malaysians in general, malays in particular, and esp johore malays it seems, not rolling out a welcoming mat.
they say sporean chinese want to take over johor and colonise the place. some of these harsh words come from former pm mahathir himself, as we all know. and blogger bigdog recently put a similar heart-breaking argument (heart-breaking to me, who would love to see real love betw the neighbours). it's his right to write but if that sentiment is widespread then sporeans will indeed give the place a miss, thank you very much.
in these days of low-cost flights, sporeans don't even need to go to jb for weekends anymore.
we could and do fly to phuket, bangkok, jakarta, medan, manila, subic bay, hong kong, macau on weekends with not much sweat.

so u want to welcome sporean malays only to johor, isit? hahaha.
if u become as racist as this even in your housing policy, then malays like me get turned off (racial politics is not an issue in spore, babe).
plus frankly, most malay sporeans do not have much, let's say, spare cash. kita kerja makan gaji.

2) crime. yes, it is being tackled. thank goodness. but there are worries.
until and u stop rampant street crime (snatch thefts) and rampant house break-ins (cos the sporean house buyers, if any, mostly could come to their johor landed homes over weekends only), then people will not want to buy houses there.
it is easy for politicians to say: No! johor crime is low, etc. but the headlines in your own papers tell a story.
and ask the johor officials and reporters off-the-record and u hear worrying tales also.

PART 2 coming....

rem said...

...PART 2

3) policies keep changing. in the last 15years, i tell u, the johor govt (sometimes with help from federal policies) keep changing policies on foreigners buying houses (condos and landed) there. for eg the minimum price that foreigners could buy.
at times the minimum is rm250,000, then suka-suka can rise to rm500,000, later drop back to rm200,000 (when there is big property overhang). and later go up again.
now there is talk of the minimum going up again.
so people with deals to strike get confused - because their applications (even backdated applications) can get stuck at the johor land office.
gee, forgive me for saying this, they want bribes to clear these deals or what? how can u backdate a new policy and ask the guys to pay the new property levies? rather than get caught in these, more sporeans, it seems, are buying in melaka and kl, and even penang instead.

if u are worried about being colonised, then draw up strict guidelines and stick to it - say, make that minimum rm500,000 for foreigners to buy property in johor, and then stick to it, babe.
and have no-go areas where foreigners cannot buy property.

so yes, i am worried about Iskandar failing.
i dearly, dearly hope i would be proven wrong. because khazanah and its units have worked so hard to make this a hongkong-shenzen model.
if only the politicians and their supporters could get off the 'race' horse on this issue.

Rocky's Bru said...

Muhd Fudzail, Rem;

Iskandar ni mulanya langkah kiri. The idea of a "southern" economic growth area sebenarnya idea semasa zaman Mahathir lagi, tapi ditukar oleh Pak Lah yang tak segansilu mengaku yang tu projek dia. Nama ditukar pada Iskandar sebab nak sejukkan hati Sultan.

The HongKong-Shenzen angle came later. Bab nak tarik Singaporeans yang bikin langkah kiri sebab sentimen. Zaman Pak Lah, kali-barut Spore ramai pulak tu (bukan Rem) dan mereka ni semua main bulldoze. Sampai Mahathir pun diorang ingat diorang boleh bulldoze. Itu lah ...

Sekarang ni, the right approach is to make it an international zone. Not for Singaporeans only. This is not Batam beb. And certainly not for Arabs saja. Proximity to Singapore is an advantage.

Najib made some announcements in the Budget, esp with regards to incentives for knowledge workers in Iskandar or something like that. Tapi tak cukup. We need Johor govt to go out and woo the investors. Including from Singapore. Kenapa nak discriminate? Kalau kita boleh welcome investors from Kuwait to Iskandar, surely kita boleh mesra dengan sepupu-sepapan kita dari seberang tambak tu..

Azhar Hafiz said...

Iskandar Malaysia ni akan gagal jikalau rakyat johor sendiri tidak mahu membangun bersamanya

it's always about the people.

Personally,aku ada campur budak-budak yang duduk kampung majidi sana...

what can I say?
they are not ready for Iskandar

kalau nak tarik pelabur dari Singapura boleh,kalau pun bukan bangsa asing [bukan orang kita] kenelah carik jalan bagaimana hendak melancarkan pergerakan trafik dari Singapura ke Iskandar

I won't mind residing in Iskandar and working in Singapore - even with the same exchange rate but to travel back and forth everyday plus the tols in Tuas... Yikes !

Malaysia suka membazir,tiada gunanya bangunan lawa-lawa tetapi orang-orangnya kwang3 macam Dubai...