Legoland In Malaysia: Yet To Reach Public’s Pockets

It has been
three years since Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi first
announced the Iskandar Development Region to boost the economy in south Johor.

   Some 37
months and 11 days plus RM41 billion in investment pledges later, businesses in
the area are still waiting for this boost.

  
In fact,
they are finding themselves in the middle of an economic slump.

  
The
Malaysian Insider understands that this evening, yet another mega project in
what is now known as Iskandar Malaysia
will be announced in the form of an RM800 million Legoland theme park, Asia‘s first.

  
Abdullah
will witness the signing of a joint venture between Iskandar Investment, the
investment arm of Iskandar Malaysia,
and Merlin Entertainments Group, who represent the interests of Danish toy
building blocks manufacturer Lego.

  
Add to this
the RM40.25 billion claimed by Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman
already committed, and Johor should be looking forward to coasting through the
current economic slump.

  
But numbers
on paper do not seem to be translated into real business for small-medium
enterprises or the labour force here.

  
South Johor
SME association president Teh Kee Sin told The Malaysian Insider that local
entrepreneurs are yet to reap any trickle-down effect, as in fact, tangible and
physical evidence of investments are rare.

  
“We do
not feel the benefits as developments have been slow,” he said.

  
Most of
what has been put in place is merely infrastructure, but actual trade and
business have not yet mushroomed in Iskandar.

  
Speaking to
The Malaysian Insider, state opposition leader Dr Boo Cheng Hau (DAP-Skudai)
claimed that the RM460 million rail link between Tanjung Pelepas
Port
and Senai airport
has not been utilised and new factory lots were only seeing 10 per cent
occupancy.

  
Even these
infrastructural projects, according to Teh, have been awarded at federal level,
leaving local contractors high and dry.

  
Meanwhile,
SMEs are forced to do everything they can to control running costs. Keeping
inventories under strict control is perhaps simply about good management.

  
Despite
Abdul Ghani quoting statistics from the Malaysian Industrial Development
Authority, saying that at least 9,757 new jobs had been generated in Iskandar Malaysia with
the investments in the manufacturing sector, SMEs have been forced to reduce
wage bills.

  
Teh said
that they have freezed hiring, eliminated overtime, cut hours, implemented
three or four-day weeks and retrenched — in order of ascending desperation — as
order books have been hit by a 20 to 70 per cent reduction in sales.

  
With
today’s announcements to come after a high-level progress update meeting
between Abdullah, Abdul Ghani and top Iskandar executives, the questions that
need to be asked are not about how big the project is becoming but how much of
it is being delivered to the ground.

  
With another
two theme parks set to join the 200-hectare Legoland, which should be completed
by 2012, Johoreans may be able to look forward to some fun and games.

  
However,
all play and no work makes Johor a depressed economy.

 

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