Sunday, November 05, 2006

Mat Sallehs are "Vultures"

While attention will certainly be focused on the Sultan of Johor's caustic remarks on the Causeway, I am more shocked by the xenophobic nature of his comments.
[The Sultan] said the building of the Causeway was to deliberately prevent ships from passing local waters, resulting in the development of Keppel Port in Singapore instead. “The Causeway has to be removed to allow ships to pass,” the Sultan said before launching the multi-billion [South Johor Economic Region (SJER)].

In his address the Ruler, who was clad in a T-shirt, said he would not “give face” (bagi muka) to the foreigners (Mat Sallehs) and urged the people not to hold them in high regard. He also reminded locals and their children to be wary of them as they were “vultures”.
More than RM17bil is expected to be initially pumped into the 2,217sq km project, which is 2.5 times the size of Singapore and 48 times that of Putrajaya. The Federal Government had committed RM4.3bil under the 9MP to kickstart work on security, infrastructure, drainage, river management and traffic improvement. On top of that, Government-linked agencies are reported to be making another RM3.4b worth of investments.

No project that size can succeed without foreign investment. Even the Menteri Besar of Johor has admitted as much.
The South Johor Economic Region (SJER) development plan is likely to attract RM60bil in foreign direct investments (FDI) within the next 10 years.
He even boasted that the development in South Johor may even outstrip Singapore's within a couple of years. “The multi-billion-ringgit South Johor Economic Region (SJER) project may even surpass Singapore’s development in the next six or seven years.”

How are we ever going to attract that sort of investment quantum if we tell our citizens to regard Mat Sallehs as "vultures"? As it is, there are plenty of concern that the only companies likely to benefit from SJER are really the construction companies.
...compared to the orderly [Singapore], from which it is separated only by a narrow waterway, the shabby state capital Johor Bharu has struggled to shrug off a reputation for crime and disorder. Scores of ugly concrete pillars bristle from the seabed alongside the failed JB Waterfront Lot 1 shopping complex, which was part of a [RM6.3 billion] planned mega-development but now lies empty.

The eyesore acts as a warning to investors that despite the big talk, other new projects in the state could suffer a similar fate.
Thankfully, with all due respect, the Sultan of my home state is only a constitutional monarch. Otherwise, his comments might have just spelt the death knell for Pak Lah's first mega-project to spur economic growth in Malaysia.
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