KL, S’pore to expand links in Iskandar

Straits Times: Fri, Jan 06

PUTRAJAYA: Singapore and Malaysia are poised to broaden the scope of their cooperation in Iskandar Malaysia with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s proposal to explore industrial cooperation.

Meeting here yesterday for a leaders’ retreat, PM Lee and Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak agreed that a new work group be set up under the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar.

The work group will promote the ‘twinning of economic activities’ between Singapore and Iskandar, a large development region in south Johor, the two countries said in a joint statement.

Building on the momentum of good ties, the two leaders also discussed ways to strengthen cooperation in a range of areas, such as transport links, immigration, tourism and the environment.

They expressed satisfaction with the progress of Temasek Holdings and Khazanah Nasional Bhd’s joint real estate developments in Singapore and Johor.

These are a $11 billion project to develop six parcels of land in Marina South and the Ophir-Rochor area, and a RM3 billion (S$1.23 billion) iconic wellness project in Iskandar.

The projects are linked to a landmark land swop deal involving former Malayan Railway land in Singapore. The broad outlines of that deal were first drawn up during Mr Lee and Datuk Seri Najib’s retreat in Singapore in May 2010.

Yesterday, at a joint press conference that followed the prime ministers’ four-eyes meeting and a delegation meeting involving some 20 Cabinet ministers from both sides, Mr Lee said: ‘We are happy with this progress because, first, it clears old agenda which has been outstanding for a long time; and second, it sets the basis for us to move forward and to develop our bilateral relationship.’

S’pore ‘open’ to buying electricity from KL

Mr Lee stressed that it is very much in Singapore’s interest that Iskandar Malaysia prospers. ‘Then we have a broad base of prosperity, vitality, activity and mutual interest,’ he said, one that is ‘self-sustaining and holds its own in a very competitive world’.

Mr Najib said the ‘synergistic development’ in Iskandar, with southern Johor serving as a hinterland for Singapore, has been shown to be ‘very workable’.

‘That concept has been given very strong support by the settlement of the POA as well as the commitment between the two governments that we should collaborate and work closely together so that we can push for mutually beneficial projects to be implemented on both sides of the Causeway,’ he said.

The Points of Agreement, or POA, was an agreement signed in 1990 on railway land which remained a bone of contention until its resolution recently.

On Singapore’s proposal for industrial cooperation in Iskandar Malaysia, Mr Lee explained that while manufacturing is an important part of Singapore’s economy, it faces constraints in space and manpower.

Both are in greater abundance in Iskandar Malaysia, Mr Lee observed.

If Iskandar can develop the infrastructure needed to take in part of the manufacturing projects which Singapore cannot fully accommodate, both countries can work together.

Johor will gain not just from the projects themselves but from the spin-offs in sectors such as logistics, in jobs created, in people moving to Iskandar and the schools, hospitals and other services that they will need.

In a joint statement, the two prime ministers also expressed satisfaction with the smooth handover of the waterworks under the 1961 Water Agreement by Singapore free of charge and in good working order to the Johor water authorities, following the expiry of the agreement last August. The statement noted that both countries affirmed the terms of the 1962 Water Agreement, under which Singapore is given the full and exclusive right to draw up to 250 million gallons of water per day from the Johor River until 2061.

Both leaders commended the water authorities on both sides for their excellent working relationship and took note of the importance of implementing the necessary measures to ensure reliable water supply, as provided for under the 1962 Water Agreement.

In their meeting, the two leaders also discussed the possibility of Singapore buying electricity from Malaysia, an idea that was raised by Mr Najib.

Mr Lee said Singapore is open to importing a share of its electricity, if the terms are right.

It is in the process of drawing up a proper framework for electricity deals. Once that is ready, Singapore welcomes Malaysian companies to participate in bids to supply electricity to the Republic, Mr Lee said.

He also noted that companies involved in such supply must meet environmental impact standards as the burning of fossil fuels can have cross-border implications.

After the morning’s meetings, the prime ministers and their delegations adjourned to Seri Perdana, Mr Najib’s residence in Putrajaya, for lunch.

The meal ended with a feast of Malaysian fruit that included, of course, durian.

lydia@sph.com.sg

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd

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