KUALA LUMPUR – February 9, 2018: When it matures in 2025, the population of Johor’s Iskandar Malaysia (Iskandar Malaysia) development region is expected to increase to three million.
Against such a backdrop, there are concerns that the influx of new residents will cause the gentrification of its current 1.9 million residents.
The sidelining of locals is after all a common experience in rapidly developing metropolises around the globe.
New York’s Harlem, for example, has in recent years experienced an influx of deep-pocketed white Americans, driving out the neighbourhood’s poor and working-class black Americans.
In an interview with The Mole recently, Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) Datuk Ismail Ibrahim acknowledged the logic of such concerns, but nonetheless assured the locals that their interests are well taken care of and that no one will be left behind.
“We are working with other stakeholders to make sure that when jobs are created, locals are given the first opportunity.
“We also help local businesses (to grow) by providing the necessary tools, skills, and funding to make sure they can have a good start,” said Ismail.
In its 10-years progress report, Irda, which is the regulatory agency of Iskandar Malaysia, stated that it has allocated RM1 million in aid each to 87 villages and 17 sub-districts in the region so that they may develop their own socio-economic development programmes.
“Johor also enjoyed an increase of average household monthly income, from RM4,658 in 2012 to RM5,652 in 2016. This reflects how Iskandar Malaysia has benefited Johoreans.
“Whilst its population grow, the locals shall continue to be protected. They will be able to survive and prosper from the benefits gained out of Iskandar Malaysia’s development,” promised Ismail.
Iskandar Malaysia’s 12-year journey.
When asked to describe Iskandar Malaysia and Irda’s journey since their inception in 2006, Ismail described it as both challenging and satisfying.
“Challenging for the fact that Iskandar Malaysia has always wanted to position itself as a region that is competitive, not only from the economic perspective but to ensure we are socially inclusive.
“Satisfying in the sense that we have been able to achieve based on what we planned way back in 2006, way back when we started Iskandar Malaysia,” he said.
Ismail pointed out that Iskandar Malaysia has so far generated committed investments of RM252 billion, 62 per cent of which are domestic investments. Of the RM252 billion, 55 per cent have been realised.
In terms of foreign investment, Iskandar Malaysia’s biggest investors are from China (RM20 billion) and Singapore (RM18 billion).
There are also investors from Japan, South Korea, Europe, North America and the Middle-East.
“They invest because Iskandar Malaysia offers the best location as the centre point for traders of the east and west,” he said.
Ismail stressed that Iskandar Malaysia’s airport, seaports and ample space to set up factories are its key selling points.
Since its inception Iskandar Malaysia has created more than 700,000 jobs with 31 per cent of those being skilled and semi-skilled while 15 per cent are of the highly-skilled and professional categories.
More than just a modern metropolis
Not wanting Iskandar Malaysia to end up being another typical state-of-the-art metropolis, Ismail said Irda has been pulling out all the stops to ensure that the development of Iskandar Malaysia blends hand in hand with its culture and history.
“Some of these metropolises, they may be successful from economic perspective but they don’t have a soul, simply put.
“In Iskandar Malaysia, while we are experiencing growth from a physical perspective, we are also introducing contents, by having events, community and youth-related programmes,” said Ismail.