JOHOR BARU, March 8 — Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the Johor state government should focus on reducing business spending instead of taking over the Legoland Malaysia theme park.
He said the Pakatan Harapan (PH) state government should lead Johor’s economic revival through cooperation with the private sector.
“Can the Johor state government manage Legoland Malaysia better than Khazanah Nasional Bhd?” questioned Khaled in reference to the country’s national sovereign wealth fund that are the main stakeholders of the Johor-based theme park.
His comments came following news reports yesterday that quoted Johor International Trade, Investment and Utilities Committee chairman Jimmy Puah Wee Tse as saying that the state government intends to take over Legoland Malaysia.
Prior to that, a Bloomberg report had claimed that the world-class theme park was possibly up for sale at RM1 billion including its debt.
Khaled said if the state government was serious about the proposal, then it needs to see its own financial performance and at the same time, be transparent on Legoland Malaysia’s market value analysis.
He also questioned what financial instruments that the state government has in mind to make the purchase, adding that the state administration needs to make enough money for the purchase without burdening its coffers.
“The state government should consider all possibilities in the decision to buy Legoland, either in the value-added sense of the economy, as part of society and also the working sector,” he said.
Mohamad said in the 10 months of administering Johor, the PH state government had no effective economic policies.
“The state government should focus on developing a new economic initiative for Johor, and not on immature, unproductive and nonsensical attempts to buy Legoland Malaysia,” he said.
In April last year, Khaled himself announced that Johor will have three major entertainment parks worth almost RM8 billion in the near future.
Khaled, who was then the caretaker Johor mentri besar, said the state intended to be the new economic power house in the region and make the state a competitor to all including neighbouring Singapore.
However, the plans did not materialise as the new PH state and federal government had made reviews on mega projects shortly after coming to power and displacing the former BN ruling coalition.
Meanwhile in a response, Puah said he was merely saying that any parties can acquire the theme park, that is owned by the Khazanah Nasional Bhd.
“I am referring to news reports that quoted me as saying, that the Johor government is interested in acquiring Legoland Malaysia.
“I wish to clarify that I had never said that. I merely said that anyone can buy Legoland Malaysia.
“(But) inside the article, I was quoted as saying that I didn’t rule out the possibility (of Johor government buying the theme park), despite no specific question directed towards me asking whether the government is looking to buy Legoland. I think that the news headline is misleading,” said the Bukit Batu assemblyman in his Facebook posting late yesterday.
Legoland Malaysia, located in the southern part of Johor in Iskandar Puteri, is the first Lego-themed park in Asia, covering an area equivalent to over 50 football fields, with more than 15,000 Lego models made from over 60 million bricks.