Dr M – Johoreans’ cash cow or nightmare?

Dr Mahathir has urged for the Johor Government and the Johoreans to speak up on the “morally wrong” water deal with Singapore.

He also said that Singapore as a “rich” country, should not be depending on the “poor”. This is despite the fact that Singapore has been supplying more water (16mgd) to Johor than what they are entitled to (5mgd).

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We’ve been thinking about it – isn’t it a bit hypocritical of Dr M to say this, since he has been making use of Johor for his own political gains?

To put it simply, beyond just using Singapore as the bogeyman, Dr M has also been dragging Johoreans through the mud as well – affecting their livelihoods in the meantime.

Let’s just look at some examples:

  1. Forest City

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The $100 billion Forest City development was expected to bring in foreign cash flow/ investments and businesses into Johor, which will benefit the Johoreans and local businesses.

But Dr M unilaterally declared that the Forest City development was off limits to foreigners, and they will not be granted visas to live in it.

Specifically, he said, “One thing is certain, that city that is going to be built cannot be sold to foreigners.”

Turns out that even the Johor Government was not informed of this beforehand, with Johor Housing and Rural Development Committee chairman Dzulkefly Ahmad saying that “We are still trying to make sense of this new move as we have yet to be informed… we already have in place a requirement that foreigner can only purchase properties worth RM1million and above.”

Shortly after, the PMO of Malaysia released a statement to clarify that “Malaysia welcomes all tourists… and the purchase of properties however, does not guarantee automatic residency in the country… the Government reiterates that it welcomes foreign direct investments…”

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[We see what you are doing there, backpedaling in progress]

The Chief Minister of Johor Osman Sapian then came out to say that foreigners are welcome to buy property in Forest City.

Given the uncertainties and confusion caused by what Dr M said, we would not think that investors will want to put their money in Forest City.

And in the long term, it will be harder for Johoreans to benefit economically from it.

  1. Iskandar Malaysia

The Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM) was set up in 2007 between Singapore and Malaysia to see how both countries can collaborate for the South Johor economic zone of Iskandar.

An initially scheduled JMCIM meeting in Jan this year was postponed after Johor MB Osman Sapian boarded a vessel in the disputed waters off Tuas. (Btw, Osman Sapian belonged to the coalition that brought Dr M to power.)

According to ST, this could be a significant blow to Iskandar, given that Singapore was the zone’s second largest foreign investor behind China, contributing nearly a quarter of the foreign investment in Iskandar as of November 2017, or RM22 billion (S$7.26 billion) of the RM95 billion it received. (Not sure if the rich country is depending on the poor country, or the other way around.)

While developers were ‘enthralled’ with Iskandar Malaysia when it was first announced, it was not all rainbows from then on.

Since the unprecedented change in Government, it has created uncertainty in investors, resulting in an oversupply of apartments in JB (coupled with the 1st case study above). Also, given the cooling relations between the two countries, China is likely to slow its investments in Malaysia.

  1. Postponement of the HSR

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This HSR ‘horse’ has been flogged to death, so we shall not belabor the points.

But essentially there are huge spillover benefits to Malaysia, such as generating 70,000 jobs for Malaysians, and boosting of local businesses in the Johor area (and other areas which the HSR will cover).

While it is postponed and pushed further down the road, it also means that the locals would lose their business opportunities now, and the convenience of travelling between the two countries.

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  1. Delay of the JB-SG RTS

Okay so some of you might say, well HSR is gone for now – but at least there’s the RTS.

Well, according to Minister Khaw who was asked about it in Parliament, the RTS was “behind schedule and not progressing well”.

This is as Malaysia has been delaying the decision on its joint venture partner and has unilaterally suspended bilateral discussion to appoint the RTS operator.

Which also means that the RTS which was meant to ease congestion will likely be delayed beyond the original target date of 31 Dec, 2024.

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  1. Export ban on fishes

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On 17 Dec last year, the Malaysian government has prohibited the exports of some types of fishes and shrimps from 1 Jan – 28 Feb 2019, stating that this was to meet the shortage in market during the monsoon and festive seasons.

Complaints from various business associations was later reported in Malaysia’s China Press – stating that the ban has caused a situation of oversupply. These business leaders also said that if these fishes were exported, they would sell for 3.5 times, as compared to the cost in Malaysia.

Okay, so more money down the drain then.

  1. Crooked Bridge

From a million years back, the crooked bridge feels like a ditched partner that does not want to leave.

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This idea was first mooted by Dr M in 1996, as a way to ease traffic congestion in JB and replace the Johor-Singapore Causeway. In 2003, despite protests from Singapore, Dr M went ahead to commence work for a crooked bridge. He insisted that Putrajaya did not require Singapore’s consent to construct the bridge.

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Dr M then said that this proposal “came from Johor” and that “the crooked bridge doesn’t involve Singapore at all. So we can build it at any time.”

This was later thrown out of the window by then Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2006.

And the Malaysian Government had to spend RM257.4 million (S$85.16 million) for compensation when it discontinued the crooked bridge.

Actually, if you add all these amounts up… you can fairly say that the ‘poor’ country is actually quite rich, don’t you think?

At the end of the day, the Government should do right by its people and make sure that the people can prosper with the nation.

But what we are seeing here is Malaysians’, especially Johoreans’, livelihoods being at stake here.

As much as Dr M likes to play his political games, we shouldn’t get involved in his petty arguments and political games and continue to remain friendly with each other. Like what some of these politicians like to say, we have a “symbiotic relationship” with each other.

In the meantime, let’s look forward to Malaysia developing its first flying car(Hopefully it won’t need any ILS, har har).