Sunday, November 05, 2006

Johor Dreaming

Malaysia will set aside two zones in Johor that visitors from Singapore can enter freely without passports as part of the grand plan to help the southern state gain from its close proximity to its rich neighbour.

According to Singapore's BT, one zone of about 40 hectares will stretch from the Causeway (pix) to Stulang Laut, while the other will run from Gelang Patah's Second Link to the Port of Tanjung Pelepas.

There will be no immigration and customs check for entry into these zones which will be guarded by surveillance systems and barriers. There would be no restriction on length of stay, with foreigners allowed to move freely between the zones and Singapore. According to other reports, visitors who want to travel outside the zones will need a passport.

In the pipeline are other projects such as a RM1 billion new state administrative centre; a RM1.8 billion industrial park of high-tech, logistics and agro-based industries; a RM1.5 billion waterfront city; and a RM2 billion education hub, an international resort covering almost 1,000 ha, anchored by two international theme parks, a water park, hotels and other amenities.

As usual, the blueprint sounds wonderful but implementation is always fraught with difficulties in Malaysia.

For a start, there are many issues that the state government and the federal government just could not agree, namely land issues. And all the big projects in the state have generally failed to materialise due to poor planning and other reasons.

Examples include the bridge project to replace the causeway linking the two countries, JB Waterfront City next to the causeway, Universal Studios, Disneyland, Agarta Universe (by former UN sec-gen Javier Perez de Cuellar and friends) and the mega project at Desaru in the 1980s.

Malaysia should get the basics right and overhaul Johor Baru first, starting with the bridge project to replace the ageing causeway. This means getting Singapore's blessing for a joint project. Earlier postings related to the issue -- Johor's woes, Malu Malaysia, Singapore's hinterland and Dinner talk.

Revamp the entire road network in the city, clean up all the dirty rivers flowing into the Straits of Johor, and prevent future flooding in the city.

In other words, Malaysia and Johor must work with Singapore to facilitate the massive cross-border movement of people.

Otherwise, the new free access zones in Johor will be no more than cheap areas for Singaporeans to drink duty-free beer.

No comments: