JOHOR BARU: It would be foolish for Malaysia's southern state of Johor not to prioritise Singapore for investments, given that the country is right next door, said the state's International Trade, Investment and Utilities Committee chairman Jimmy Puah Wee Tse.
"Dr Mahathir looks east. I look south. I went to Singapore," he said, referring to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's renowned Look East Policy during his previous tenure as prime minister.
"Why look so far when you have Singapore just next to us? I think we have a very special relationship with Singapore, and it would be foolish for us not to pursue this."
He told The Malaysian Insight that Singapore's high cost of living makes the Republic an ideal "first investment stop" for Malaysia.
"Singapore is a great place, but they are constrained by space. They want to build, but they can only build upwards or downwards. They cannot build horizontally."
With this in mind, he met Singaporeans and sold them the idea of investing in Malaysia.
He told them that perhaps, they have industries that need more space, and that the returns on investments are better in Malaysia.
Mr Puah, who is also Bukit Batu assemblyman, said Singaporean investors responded positively to his suggestion that their firms take advantage of the close proximity to Johor by moving operations to the state while maintaining their regional offices across the Causeway.
"Here, we have many international schools, we have good amenities and we are so close to Singapore. So, either you stay here and work in Singapore, or you work in Singapore and send your children (to school) here."
This will put to rest fears that the Pakatan Harapan government is "anti-Singapore", he added.
"The Johor government is very positive. We welcome (Singapore). In fact, we will be more friendly than the previous government."
Statistics from the Malaysian Investment Development Authority showed that last year, Singapore was the second-biggest investor in Malaysia's manufacturing sector, bringing in more than RM2.3 billion (S$766 million) for 100 approved projects.
In the same sector, in Johor, Singapore was the fourth-biggest investor last year.
Figures by the Statistics Department showed that in the same year, overall foreign direct investment from Singapore amounted to RM6.1 billion, making it the third-biggest investor in Malaysia. THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHTSource: Today