Will Johor Baru become Malaysia’s second biggest city?
The Sultan of Johor certainly seems to think so.
The current Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, celebrated his official 58th birthday and first anniversary of his coronation as the Sultan on March 23, 2016 and said in an interview that Johor Baru was poised to become the second biggest city in Malaysia after the Klang Valley because of its swift transformation and strategic location next to Singapore. He also pointed out that in many successful and thriving countries, there were always two competing cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, New York and Los Angeles, Melbourne and Sydney, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, just to name a few.
But wait a minute. Hasn’t Johor Baru been the second biggest city (economically as well as geographically) in Malaysia for as long as most of us can remember? Some may argue that Penang is a strong contender for second place, but Johor has always had the advantage of its proximity to Singapore driving foreign investment and business onto its shores. Yes, but in this case, the target of becoming Malaysia’s ‘second biggest city’ is to be regarded as a financial hub on the same level as the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
“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,” said the Johor ruler.
Key catalytic projects that are set to push Johor Baru into second city status include the Ibrahim International Business District (IIBD), the KL-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR), the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS Link) and Coronation Square. That is in addition to the still-growing Iskandar Malaysia economic region, which includes family-friendly theme parks like Legoland and Sanrio Hello Kitty Town, and also contains huge Eco World and Medini townships, plus of course, the multi-billion ringgit mixed development project Forest City.
With the HSR completed, Johor Baru would only be a 90-minute trip from Kuala Lumpur. Throw in the fact that Johor Baru is located next to one of the most advanced and developing metropolises in the world, Singapore, and Johor definitely has the opportunity to succeed if it emulates its internationally-recognised neighbour. “If JB wants to be regarded as an international city, then it has to act and think like an international player.” In fact, with careful and proper planning (and good marketing too), Johor could well attract its fair share of investors who want to get a slice of Singaporean pie but are deterred by the higher costs incurred within the city state. Singapore was recently ranked the most expensive city in the world, after all.
It’s not only for the foreigners, though. With the HSR in operation, people from the Klang Valley and Singapore can, and will, head to JB to enjoy the many upcoming facilities, from the aforementioned theme parks to premium outlets, international exhibitions and world-class art performances.
Still not convinced? 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 RM30 billion as at September 2015 involving 104 projects. Johor has also grown by 17.7% between 2012 and 2014, making it one of the fastest growing states in Malaysia.
Feeling a little overwhelmed by the possibilities? Feel free to head over to the gigantic Forest City project in Iskandar Malaysia, where you can relax on one of the best man-made beaches open to the public. Sprawled over 1,386.05ha, Forest City comprises four man-made islands with apartments, villas, schools, hospitals, an exhibition centre and a financial special administrative region – along with a highly-coveted duty free zone.
In other news…
Despite some bad press during his younger days, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail of Johor has managed to win the hearts of Johor citizens, as well as those from around Malaysia, thanks to his forward-thinking plans for the state and frank criticism of national issues. In fact, some Johoreans really do love their Sultan. Businessman M. Kandapan said he used a total of 3,000 state and district flags to decorate his Perodua Myvi, Proton Exora and his house and about 10 neighbour houses to liven up Sultan Ibrahim’s birthday celebrations. He and seven family members plan to distribute about 1,000 state flags to children at Dataran Bandaraya Johor Baru.
Now that’s some major patriotism right there! 😉