How is development in Iskandar and Singapore complementary to one another?
MARTIN: The idea of Singapore expanding into Johor has been around for many years. What is different now is the collaboration we are seeing between the two countries. It comes straight from the top but it is not just Prime Ministers shaking hands, showing the warming of relations between Singapore and Malaysia. We are seeing the Singapore investment firm Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited (Temasek) and its counterpart in Malaysia, Khazanah Nasional Berhad (Khazanah) forming joint venture development companies. They are developing prime real estate space in Singapore and two investments in Medini, including a Resort Wellness Retirement Village and an Urban Wellness development which will also provide corporate training facilities. This is a very good indication of demand on the street, from the investor to the observer, that this is a real relationship between Singapore and Malaysia.
What is the development plan for Medini?
MARTIN: In Medini, we have spent a lot of time ensuring that the master plan makes sense. This is very important for us. To be able to create a master plan that really works, we have spent a lot of our time looking at demand sources, understanding what generates demand, and respecting the timescale of that demand. A development such as Medini is a 5, 10, and 15-year development. The first 5 year phase is what we call the ‘NOW’ demand. The ‘NOW’ demand is generated by Singapore. Singapore has limited land, and it has become too expensive. There is a push factor for businesses and families to look for more affordable locations for business and living. We have also been very fortunate to have our own catalysts. The Malaysian government has been very successful at generating significant investments in the education sector. Khazanah, the Government of Malaysia’s strategic investment fund, has ensured that there is a development model which makes sense for universities. There are a group of British universities including Southampton, Newcastle, and Reading which have already set up and opened their doors to students. Marlborough College is an international school from the United Kingdom which is already educating children and attendance currently stands at more than 400. We have also been moving into healthcare with both the Gleneagles Medini and Columbia Asia hospitals. It is one thing to have a proper master plan and to understand demand; but for families to make the move to Medini, they must know there are provisions for education, healthcare, and affordable housing. The combination of the social and physical transportation infrastructures, along with the push factor from Singapore and the success of Malaysia’s economy, are all factors which are benefiting us right now.
What are the best opportunities for FDI in the Iskandar region?
MARTIN: We need to look at multinational companies for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). This is a key area and source of growth for us. Singapore is a great place for the headquarters of a bank, an institute, or a multinational company. However, that headquarters still needs support space and it needs to be more affordable. GCD Medini can offer Singapore an option for this, where a company’s headquarters can be located in downtown Singapore while their support space is based in Medini. Essentially, we provide a choice which assists Singapore’s growth story. GCD is already seeing recognition from Singaporean businesses and agencies. This ‘blended solution’ is also mutually beneficial for Malaysia and Singapore and a critical success factor for attracting FDI.
What types of investments have been made thus far?
MARTIN: We have made significant investments ourselves. GCD’s development model is to ensure that we have the proper master plan, Medini business friendly incentives, and provision of the necessary infrastructure to sustain new developments. We have created a space where new businesses and investors have confidence, by providing all of the road systems, underground utilities, infrastructure, parklands, and public spaces, thereby, allowing investors and operators to have a ‘plug and play’ environment for business and living. GCD has invested a considerable amount of money and it is there to be seen. The government has already announced that investments across the Iskandar region have reached a figure of approximately RM100 billion (US$32.7bn). We are dealing with quite considerable numbers here.
Have western crises changed your target geography?
MARTIN: GCD’s view is that when we come out of the current crises we are in now, we hope that everyone has learned from this lesson. The lesson that GCD has learnt is that fundamentals for investment and business expansion have to be solid and robust. When we move into a growth phase and out of these uncertainties, Medini and Iskandar will be able to offer a good landing that is affordable and strategically located. GCD Medini has a very robust story to offer investors and developers; and coming out of the financial uncertainties, we believe we are very well equipped to respond to the lessons learnt.
Singapore is a great place for the headquarters of a bank, an institute, or a multinational company. However, that headquarters still needs support space and it needs to be more affordable. GCD Medini can offer Singapore an option for this, where a company’s headquarters can be located in downtown Singapore while their support space is based in Medini.
What type of oversight is there in the planning of these developments to ensure development is done properly?
MARTIN: Looking at the master plans for Iskandar, we are comfortable with the five distinct flagship zones as they are referred to. Each of those zones across Iskandar has its own central catalyst and reason for existing. There is a western zone (Western Gate Development) which is a trans-shipment port. There is an eastern zone (Eastern Gate Development) which is focused on oil and gas and heavy industry. There is redevelopment of the city of Johor Bahru. There are logistical and industrial areas around the Senai airport area to the north (Senai-Skudai). There is Medini and Nusajaya, where the former is positioned to be the central business district and flagship development of the Iskandar region. The comfort factor for GCD Medini, in terms of a master plan, is that the five development zones have their core reasons for existing.