Malaysia: Consider replacing the Causeway, says Sultan

The Star 23 Mar 16;

JOHOR BARU: The Sultan of Johor has urged the various stakeholders to mull the idea of replacing the Johor Causeway with a bridge.

Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar said he hoped Johoreans and Singaporeans could give their views on how the flow of traffic could be improved.

“I feel sorry for the thousands of Malaysians and Singaporeans who are stuck in traffic jams at the Causeway daily due to the congestion. It is worse during holidays and festive seasons.

“Also, many people are walking to Singapore daily due to the bad traffic jams,” he said.

Sultan Ibrahim said that if Singa­pore disagreed with a tunnel, then a swing bridge could be considered.

“I am sure if you work with Singapore, they will accept as it will be a win-win situation for both countries, but you will have to give a good reason to replace the Causeway,” he added.

Sultan Ibrahim pointed out that it would be meaningless if after the new connectivity, there were still jams.

“The water at the Causeway has stagnated for so many years. Both countries should put aside their differences and come up with solutions to improve mobility,” he said, adding that the projects should have been completed many years ago.

He also spoke about the need for the extension of the rapid transit system (RTS) from Singapore to Johor Baru to improve connectivity.

He also urged the Malaysian Immigration Department to keep all its booths open all the time, as there were a lot of complaints that many of the booths were not open during peak hours and holidays.

On Malaysian students travelling to Singapore for better education, Sultan Ibrahim urged more international schools to be opened in Johor to allow the students to study locally.

“These days, a child’s father speaks better English than their kids.

“This is worrying and alarming,” he said, adding that in many deve­loped countries, it was the other way around.

Sultan Ibrahim also said the state needed better infrastructure projects to cope with the rapid development taking place in the state, citing Pontian, where a new airport and seaport should be constructed.

He said Johor should capitalise on the rapid development taking place in the region to develop these infrastructure.

“Pontian is strategic as it is close to the Straits of Malacca, which is like a highway for vessels.

“We have to think of another airport in the future, as Senai International Airport will be congested once there is an influx of tourist arrivals,” he added.

Sultan Ibrahim said the planning of these projects needed to be done carefully and without those with political agendas.

(Johor presently has four seaports, which are Johor Port, Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Tanjung Langsat Port and Pengerang Deepwater Terminal.)

“All these projects are still in the planning stages, but I foresee that this can be done,” he added.

Sultan Ibrahim said that besides the infrastructure projects in Pontian, he hoped for more deve­lopment in the other districts, including Kulai, which has created a niche as a data centre hub, Kota Tinggi for oil and gas projects and Mersing with its eco-tourism pro­ducts.

He also stressed the need to run Johor like a business empire.

“You should also not wait for people to come to you. Go around and market Johor,” he said, adding that he planned to do that with his new “gold” Boeing 737 aircraft.

He said he wanted investors to come to Johor and have a listing of what they could invest in the state.

Sultan Ibrahim added that to bring in more development, the Government must be willing to be flexible, give incentives and have a consistent policy.

‘Make JB the second biggest city’

JOHOR BARU: The Sultan of Johor has set the target of making Johor Baru the second biggest city in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur.

Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar said the southern city was poised to make the grade because of its swift transformation and strategic location next to Singapore, which other states did not enjoy.

He said in many countries, there were always two competing cities, citing Beijing and Shanghai, Melbourne and Sydney, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and New York and Los Angeles.

“Johor stands in a season of transition. Being high-growth, socially progressive and strategic, the state is well-poised to assume greater significance in the overall journey of the nation.

“Johoreans too are ready to leve­rage on the momentum to position JB as the second city of Malaysia.

“JB is aware of this potential and we believe the Federal Government understands the need to push JB to a higher level,” he said in an interview on the occasion of his 58th birthday and first anniversary of his coronation as the Sultan.

The key catalytic projects inclu­ded the Ibrahim International Business District (IIBD), the High Speed Rail (HSR), the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS Link) and Coronation Square, which would push JB for the second city status.

He said the jewel of the upcoming business district will be a RM3bil complex called Coronation Square. It will come up on the site of the old bus and taxi terminal, just half a kilometre from the city’s transport hub and new immigration checkpoint at JB Sentral.

“All this is in line with my vision of making Johor Baru a financial hub,” he said.

The 2.6ha Coronation Square, so named to commemorate the coronation of Sultan Ibrahim this month, will contain serviced apartments, an office tower, a hotel, retail podium, a medical suite and a banking tower.

Unlike a hospital, the medical facilities will offer mainly outpatient services. It will have modern medical services along with traditional treatments such as ayurveda and acupuncture, and be marketed to international patients.

“JB is located next to one of the most advanced and developing metropolises in the world, Singapore.

“Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world and the flow will come to JB,” he said, adding that he had always pushed for the greater use of English because it was the main language in the island republic.

“If JB wants to be regarded as an international city, then it has to act and think like an international player.”

He said there was a need for an exhibition and convention hall in JB for the city to host big trade exhibitions, adding that he would push for a good concert venue suitable for quality acts and that even Kuala Lumpur faced the same problems.

His Royal Highness said once the HSR was in place, it would take only about 90 minutes to travel from KL to JB.

“We want people from the Klang Valley and Singapore to come to JB to enjoy the many facilities that we are building up now, from theme parks to premium outlets. Johor wants to make it easy for concert promoters to stage world-class acts here as we are a progressive state.

“JB has the advantage of learning from KL. We will improve on the strengths and pick up what’s missing in the federal capital and the Klang Valley,” he said.

Sultan Ibrahim said the latest investment figures by the Malaysia Investment Development Authority revealed that Johor captured the lion’s share of approved investment in Malaysia in 2015, adding that at 44% of total value, Johor totalled RM30bil as at September 2015 involving 104 projects.

“I want to make JB exciting and make all Johoreans feel proud and motivated. That is my birthday wish for the state,” he said.

His Royal Highness also said he was proud that the state had grown tremendously by 17.7% between 2012 and 2014, making it one of the fastest growing states.

He pointed out that a middle-class Johorean household earned an income of RM5,197 in 2014, up from RM3,650 in 2012.

Touching on the mammoth Forest City project in Iskandar Malaysia, Sultan Ibrahim said many doubted the project could be done, but it was now a reality with one of the best man-made beaches open to the public.

“There is no economic slowdown in Johor. Everything is still moving,” he said, adding that this project would create ample job opportunities for locals.

Sprawled over 1,386.05ha, Forest City comprises four man-made islands and is a joint development between Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd, a Hong Kong-listed property developer, together with Johor’s Esplanade Danga 88 Sdn Bhd.

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