Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Pivotal Jewel In The Crown

Source : TODAY, Thursday, August 7, 2008

Even as much work remains, its ‘catalyst developments’ are nearing completion

TOUTED as the key driver of Malaysia’s Iskandar project, Nusajaya — a 23-minute-drive from Senai International Airport and 15 minutes from Singapore’s Jurong Port — is the pivotal jewel in the crown that foreign investors would be closely watching.

Which is why no amount of political drama will derail its development into a 24,000-acre regional city, assured Mr Zamry Ibrahim, general manager of strategic marketing for Nusajaya’s master developer UEM Land.

Said Mr Zamry: “The government, irrespective of the political leadership, will always be supportive of economic activities that will generate value and economic growth of the country and attract foreign investments.”

Since its launch in February last year by Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, sceptics have wondered whether Malaysia’s latest national project will be just a pipedream, especially at a time when Mr Abdullah’s political star has been on the wane amid political turmoil.

Yet Nusajaya’s progress so far provides the perfect riposte: Even as much work remains, its “catalyst developments” are nearing completion. By the end of the year, high-rollers on swanky yachts can sail into the Public Marina’s 75 berths and enjoy the harbourfront view at the Puteri Harbour Clubhouse and Promenade. By then, a clubhouse and 18-hole golf course exclusive will also be ready for residents of Horizon Hills, a high-end private residential village.

While Singapore’s big-name developers have yet to come onboard, Mr Zamry pointed to the heavyweights from the Middle East: The Mubadala consortium from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and Limitless LLC and DAMAC Properties of Dubai.

The Middle Eastern influence — and its “the grander the better” mantra — isapparent. Just check out the lavish230-acre, RM400 million ($167 million) Johor State New Administrative Centre.

Pointing out how Nusajaya’s land value continues to appreciate, Mr Zamry told Today: “Other foreign investors recognise the value and potential of Nusajaya and have invested ... the early investor would obviously see more upside potential.”

And worries over how the crime rates in Johor could put off buyers of residential properties appear to be overblown, at least going by the official take-up rate, with Singaporean buyers snapping up the upmarket villas and bungalows.

The average price for the semi-detached houses and bungalows has been between RM180 and RM230 per square foot.

Of some 2,000 units launched for sale so far, around 80 per cent have been taken up, of which more than half were sold to foreigners. Around 80 per cent of the foreign buyers are either Singaporeans, working in Singapore or Malaysians married to Singaporeans.

Further inland, about 10 per cent of Nusajaya’s 1,300-acre industrial park, the Southern Industrial and Logistics Clusters, SiLC, has been sold for around RM114.6 million in total.

Among the Singaporean firms investing there so far are advanced technology firms such as Yong Nam Holdings, HG Metal Manufacturing and Jurong Technologies.

Mr Zamry stressed that Nusajaya — which he described as a “new area of regional growth adjacent to Singapore” — will complement the Republic’s economic activities. Still, with developments including a mega tourist resort and an educity that will house the world’s leading universities — which are driven separately by Khazanah Nasional Bhd, the investment arm of the Malaysian government — a fully up-and-running Nusajaya will certainly give Singapore a run for its money.

And one wouldn’t bet his last dollar against it, going by the quiet determination — particularly discernable from the private sector — driving the project thus far.

“The rapid pace of development at Nusajaya would speak for itself and eventually build the confidence of sceptics,” said Mr Zamry.

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