In the last few months there was a bit of negative sentiment about Iskandar Malaysia, mainly because of the crazy traffic situation at the Second Link border between Malaysia and Singapore. When it took some people 45 minutes to go to work in Singapore’s CBD, it now took them sometimes 2 hours or even more. This put a strain on people’s family life.
Who’s fault is it? The unanimous verdict of commuters is that Malaysia beats Singapore 10:1 when it comes to border efficiency. Not only is Malaysia’s border better designed, it is also better staffed and the check is done quickly and efficiently. The Singapore side on the other hand suffers from long queues, bad design, slow handling of passport control. In addition there seems to be lack of staff and lots of counters are closed.
The loosers? Apart from people wanting to cross the border, the biggest looser is Singapore’s reputation for efficiency and good management. The country is well known for it’s pride in Changi Airport’s world class ranking. And everyone who has ever travelled through Changi has to be impressed. The airport looks spotless, relaxed, elegant and you never wait long, neither for your luggage nor at passport control. Why has the land border to be the pure opposite of this? Stressful, inefficient, slow. Maybe someone should start a border efficiency ranking and Singapore’s government would quickly make sure to reach the top ranking. Is it pure lack of accountability which lead to this situation in the last few months or is it something else? It seems to have started with two border breaches, where on two occasions people managed to somehow cross the border without proper control. This may explain the current overreaction but it does not justify it.
There is also bound to be a significant loss for Singapore’s economy which relies on Malaysian workers crossing the border every morning into Singapore.
Together with some infighting in Malaysia, where the Johor Sultans role in the Johor state administration and his own business dealings are being questioned, this has lead to a more negative sentiment towards Iskandar Malaysia.
Patience though is a virtue. There were bound to be rocks on the way and navigating around these is the task of the day. On the ground, the business people and (in Malaysia’s case at least the federal) government officials are going full steam ahead. Yesterday marked the ground breaking of Nusajaya Techpark, which has already a 40% commitment rate for the 200 factories under construction, mainly for precision engineering, clean manufacturing and logistics firms. At the opening ceremony Singapore’s Minister for Trade & Industry Lim Hng Kiang stated that Singapore has invested 23% of its foreign investment in Iskandar Malaysia.
Other positive news were that Huawei is opening data centres in Nusajaya in the next few weeks.
A mid to long view also helps to see through the current fog: the transport links can only improve. Knowing Singapore, the government will at one point realise that they need to stand up to their reputation. And in 2020 the High Speed Rail line between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore will apart from having only one border check, improve the travel time between Nusajaya and Singapore significantly: it will take only between 5 and 10 minutes depending on where the Singapore station will be (at the new (2016) Tuas West MRT or the Jurong East MRT). On Nusajaya’s side the most likely stations will be either Gerbang Nusajaya or Sunway Iskandar. Before this HSR link there will be in 2018 the RTS connection between Johor Bahru and Singapore’s new Thompson Line.
So apart from stronger transport links there is plenty development within Malaysia. This justifies a strong believe in a growing local economy, a great return for investors and good job opportunities for citizen and residents.