JOHOR BARU, May 10 — An independent, globalised and market-oriented economy is key to Johor's economic growth as well as development, said Umno leader Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.

The Umno vice-president said Johor must live with the reality of globalisation, interdependence and support for each other, especially with neighboring Singapore.

He said that after the country's international borders were reopened at the beginning of last month, various views were expressed on the trend of local workers who continue to work in the island republic.

“Some suggested a salary that is almost equivalent and some also put forward various strategies that may be challenging to realise,” said the former Johor mentri besar.

Mohamed Khaled, who also hails from Johor Baru, explained that the reality is that the southern state is in a unique position due to its high dependence on cross-border activities.

“The cross-border economy has been an important feature of Johor's economic progress and growth over the years.

“When the movement on the Johor-Singapore border stopped during the Covid-19 pandemic, we could see how difficult it was for the Johor economy to function,” he said in a statement issued here today.

His comments came about a week after several politicians commented on the state of Johor’s domestic economy shortly after borders opened.

Among them was Johor Opposition Leader Liew Chin Tong, who was reported as saying that the state needed higher-quality investments that can generate better-paying jobs for locals.

He said many Malaysians work in Singapore because wages in Johor and other parts of Malaysia are too low, made worse by the huge difference in currency exchange.

Mohamed Khaled pointed out that Johor's competitiveness was realistically highly dependent on Singapore's economic progress.

Therefore, he said the future of Johor must be based on globalisation and regional economic relations.

“Johor's economic planning must be strategy-oriented where the state and Singapore are geographical districts that are inclusive and connected with interdependence on each other,” he said.

Mohamed Khaled added that the strength of the Singapore currency will continue to be a major pull factor. 

“Those who receive wages in Singapore dollars are the ones who also buy houses in Johor, shop at various shopping malls in Johor Baru and also support various sectors of the state’s economy,” he said.

Mohamed Khaled said even those working in Singapore also have the opportunity to improve their skills, making them highly qualified and highly competent workers.

“Let the market determine the way the job market and potential for Johor workers to determine what is best for their future,” he said, adding that it could be by working in Singapore or even in Johor Baru.

In early 2020, Malaysia went through various stages of lockdowns and restrictions. This included border closure.

Starting April, however, the government announced it was lifting nearly all of the preventive measures including the reopening of its international borders.

The first to open was the Johor-Singapore land borders, that gradually saw a brighter hope for Johor Baru’s domestic economy.