PETALING JAYA: A former deputy minister has suggested the establishment of a Johor-Singapore Chamber of Commerce to oversee the interests of Singaporean companies in the state.
In a statement, former deputy international, trade and industry minister Ong Kian Ming said in light of the special economic zone (SEZ) with Singapore, the chamber could help bring together Singaporean companies which have investments in Johor.
“This is not just for the benefit of the SEZ, but (also serves) as a confidence-building measure or prelude to the creation of a Singapore-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce in Malaysia to represent the interest of Singaporean businesses in Malaysia and vice versa,” he said.
Ong said this could be one of the proposals Putrajaya can consider when signing the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for Johor’s special economic zone (SEZ) with Singapore.
In July, Malaysia and Singapore agreed to create a special task force to study the establishment of a Johor-Singapore SEZ.
Malaysia and Singapore were expected to have finalised the terms of reference (ToR) on the proposed SEZ after discussions between Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and his Singapore counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, during a leaders’ retreat in Singapore in October.
Another proposal Ong made was to improve the physical connectivity between Johor and Singapore, as raised by the current investment, trade and industry deputy minister Liew Chin Tong on his vision for a Greater Johor Bahru.
He reiterated Liew’s proposal for ferry connections between different locations in Johor and Singapore, such as Forest City in Johor and Raffles Marina near Tuas, in the west of the island republic as well as Pasir Gudang and Changi in the east.
“(These) will not only improve connectivity between the two countries but have the potential of creating new development hubs for manufacturing, logistics and other related services,” Ong said, adding that detailed masterplans for the areas should also be considered.
The former Bangi MP also urged serious consideration of a third bridge between Malaysia and Singapore in anticipation of increased economic activity resulting from successfully implementing the SEZ.
Ong also hoped that even if these proposals are not included in the SEZ MoU, they will be considered for the 2024 leaders’ retreat which has been poised to be the last for Lee before he retires as leader of the People’s Action Party (PAP).
“This will be a good legacy to leave behind (for Lee) after 20 years at the helm as prime minister of Singapore in terms of bilateral relations and a good start in terms of bilateral relations of the premiership of Anwar,” he said.