The East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) is expecting private investments to reach RM110 billion in the East Coast Economic Region (ECER) this year, a target actually set for 2020.
Realising the target sooner-than-expected has been no mean feat but thanks to catalyst like high-impact infrastructure projects, improved connectivity, readily available resources and the support of a pool of skilled manpower, attracting investments from both domestic and foreign investors has been very possible.
Chief Executive Officer Jebasingam Issace John said infrastructure-ready industrial parks in the ECER and investor-friendly incentives were also major pull factors for investors as they could start their operations immediately while enjoy many perks including a 10-years tax holiday.
Among the industrial parks in the region are the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, Pekan Automative Park and Kuantan Integrated Industrial Park in Pahang; Kerteh Biopolymer Park in Terengganu and Pasir Mas Halal Park in Kelantan with the main sectors comprising manufacturing, bio-economy, oil and gas, tourism, logistics and transportation.
ECERDC is a statutory body that spearheads the execution and implementation of ECER’s master plan covering Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and the district of Mersing in Johor, which was home for 51 per cent of Peninsula Malaysia’s population.
Issace said since ECER’s inception in 2008, private investments totalled over RM102 billion, which was a 14-fold return on the government’s investment of RM7.2 billion, to date.
He said the government also continued to provide an allocation of about RM1 billion, annually, to implement strategic infrastructure projects and continue ECERDC’s human capital and entrepreneur development programmes.
“Two things to keep in mind when investors come to this region, firstly the cost of doing business must be competitive and secondly, investors must have access to domestic, regional and international markets.
“Besides industrial parks, another significant infrastructure in the ECER is the Kuantan Port which is undergoing expansion to become a deep water port by mid-2018 for the berthing of vessels of up to 200,000 deadweight tonnage (DWT),” he told Bernama.
Issace said the Kuantan Port would be the gateway to ASEAN and other Asia Pacific countries namely China, Japan, South Korea and Australia.
“Asia Pacific itself is a US$7 trillion market and the Kuantan Port will be the pull factor for the people to come and invest in ECER Malaysia,” said Issace.
He said the deep water port is being developed by the Kuantan Port Consortium with an investment worth RM3 billion while the government’s investment in terms of infrastructure and support is worth RM1.3 billion.
On road and transportation infrastructure, Issace said East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), which would connect Port Klang to Kuantan and Kuantan to Tumpat, would be another major game changer in accelerating economic growth in ECER.
He said the ECRL would commence construction in July and was expected to be completed by 2022.
“Besides, the road infrastructure is fairly good and progressing well. We have the East Coast Expressway or the Lebuhraya Pantai Timur (LPT) which stretches up to Terengganu.
“Currently, the route from Terengganu to Kota Bharu is under advanced planning and the western side of LPT, which is from Gua Musang right up to Raub and Lipis, is now under construction and will be completed by 2019,” he said.
Issace said while private investments continued to pour in, ECERDC was also engaging with the public, constructing them, especially the bottom 40 (B40) group, single mothers, unemployed youth and the disabled, to meet industry’s demand by providing training skills and developing entrepreneurs in the region.
To date, more than 655,000 people have derived benefits from all its projects and programmes including the “entrepreneur ECER” and “empower ECER” which benefitted 97 per cent of the B40 group.
He said the two-pronged purpose of accelerating private investments and developing the socio-economic status of the people in ECER were the core objective of ECERDC which was then translated into three goals namely job creation, entrepreneurship opportunities and better household income.
Up to the first quarter of this year, over 140,000 job opportunities and 24,000 new entrepreneurs have been created in the ECER.
“ECERDC was made a special purpose vehicle under the Ninth Malaysia Plan to address concerns regarding regional imbalance which were lagging in terms of social and economic development.
“Our goal is to see a sustainable and inclusive development for the people in the region by 2020. Looking at the current pace of growth, I think we are in the right trajectory to correct the regional imbalance by 2025 and be on par with the rest of the states in this country,” said Issace.
He also praised the commitment given by the Menteri Besar of each state, noting that each of them were the board members of ECERDC and also headed the coordination and implementation committee at the state level, helping to fast track each development project.
“With the excellent collaboration and support that we get from the private sector and state governments, the people in ECER, especially in the rural areas, have access to our programmes as we have officers placed in 27 locations within the region.
“Our officers work closely with the district officers and the Village Development and Security Committee to ensure the people benefitted from our programmes which have shown a 0.5 cent Gross Domestic Product growth in ECER.
“We are also hoping that investors realise that it is time for them to invest in ECER, given the potential and prospects in this region in the coming years,” Issace added.
The government’s socio-economic transformation agenda for ECER, implemented through ECERDC, has garnered international recognition when it won the Global Good Governance Award for Best Economic Transformation Programme 2017 in Dubai, recently. – Bernama