JOHOR BARU, Sept 1 — The government will need to take fast action to boost Forest City here as a special financial zone so that it will not lose out to neighbouring countries that are aiming for the “same slice of the pie”.

SME Association of South Johor founding president Teh Kee Sin said Asean countries like Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand are actively looking for more foreign investments in their countries.

Therefore, Malaysia should act fast and offer incentives to lure these investments, especially high-net-worth individuals, he said.

“The Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) had mentioned giving incentives and seeing (redevelopment) of it (Forest City), so do it fast. It will stimulate development and have spillover effects, as well as provide opportunities for small and medium enterprises,” he told Bernama when contacted here recently.

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Teh said unfortunately previously, the development was politicised by outsiders, resulting in foreigners being afraid to invest due to what they considered a “flip-flop policy”.

Meanwhile, a lecturer at the Department of Business Management, Faculty of Technology and Business Management of Tun Hussein Onn University, Associate Prof Maimunah Ali said the announcement regarding the creation of the financial zone had taken into account the synergy between Singapore and Johor, especially the Iskandar region.

“It aims to increase foreign investment and boost economic development in the Forest City area which has been seen to be hit by negative perspective in recent years,” she said.

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She said the economic spillover from the incentives can be seen, first in terms of the cost of operating economic activities, it will be relatively cheaper compared to Singapore and other areas in Malaysia.

“With the reduction of operating costs, more economic sectors can be developed and there are more job opportunities, especially sectors that require high skills.

“Secondly, the 15 per cent tax incentive given to skilled workers will open new industrial sectors in the area such as new energy and data centres,” she said.

This aerial photo shows a general view of condominiums at Forest City, a development project launched under China's Belt and Road Initiative in Gelang Patah, Johor September 1, 2023. — AFP pic
This aerial photo shows a general view of condominiums at Forest City, a development project launched under China's Belt and Road Initiative in Gelang Patah, Johor September 1, 2023. — AFP pic

This, plus the infrastructure in Forest City has been completed to accommodate the increase in population and industrial development, said Maimunah.

“In addition, the government can give other incentives to Johor, such as policies to encourage new industries for example high technology and new energy as well as incentives for new innovation efforts,” she added.

She also said the tourism, real estate, education and health sectors are expected to be the biggest beneficiaries of the incentive announcement.

Meanwhile, the developer Country Garden Group, in a previous statement, said the announcement of the incentives proved the government’s confidence in the Forest City project in playing a role with the federal and state governments in stimulating the national economy.

“Forest City is now in phase two, according to the development action plan. Our focus at this stage is to explore more investment opportunities. The Prime Minister’s announcement is believed to benefit the economy of Johor and the region as a whole,” Forest City vice-president Syarul Izam Sarifudin said in the statement.

The Forest City project, which involves a development area of over 2,832.79 hectares, started in 2015.

Within seven years, a total of 28,000 residential units had been completed with the main development focused on the first artificial island of 566.55 hectares.

In addition to residences, Forest City has two hotels, two international golf courses, the largest Industrial Building System (IBS) prefabricated factory in Malaysia, as well as Shattuck St Mary Forest City International School and a water park that is a destination for nearby residents.

On August 25, Anwar announced that a special financial zone would be created in Forest City as well as several incentives as part of the government’s efforts to boost economic activity in Johor and the surrounding areas. — Bernama