Thursday, January 24, 2008

ISKANDAR DEVELOPMENT REGION BLUEPRINT PDF Print E-mail

dipetik dari Malaysia Today
Posted by Raja Petra
Thursday, 24 January 2008

'It is now clear that the 'political concerns of the bureaucracy' in terms of removing the ethnic/racial quotas for the Malays and indeed all other unskilled workers is to be extended to the IRD. This is the decision of the Cabinet and will possibly be enforced in the context of all investments in the region and indeed also extended to the other 'Corridor' developments as well.

With the greatest of respect I submit herewith a 'Blueprint' that I believe Malaysia Today readers will be interested to read. It would be a matter of deep appreciation if I might receive the feedback of readers.

ISKANDAR DEVELOPMENT REGION: ‘BLUEPRINT’-PLAN PROPOSAL

1. PREAMBLE

It is important that the entire Iskandar Development Region (“IDR”) plan proposals be framed within a clear ‘theoretical perspective’ .This is because, fifty years after political independence, the Plan can be seen as a microcosm “taking stock” of past developments and offering the defining possibility of redressing some of the shortfalls in Malaysia’s Five year Development Plans. Central to this concern is the necessity of identifying some of the fundamental constraints to the achievement of the latter Development Plan proposals, as well as formulating and implementing the re-structuring of certain institutional structures causing these shortfalls.

Of prime importance is the need to prioritize some of the main concerns. Fundamental to this is that of the continuation and persistence of poverty levels. According to a Doctorate research proposal being submitted to the M.I.T(USA) for Malaysia in the year 2000 (to which I happen to be privy), 93.4% of total poor households are comprised of the Bumiputra/Malay community. Clearly, unless and until specific institutional safeguards are introduced, the IDR itself and indeed for that matter, the intended ‘developed’ status of Malaysia in 2020 might be achieved, but the Bumiputra/Malay community will NOT be involved in these achievements.

The IDR proposal therefore theoretically and conceptually offers a new and dynamic potential platform from which to address and redress the above-mentioned scenario through the revival and modernization of the strong and multiple ties that have existed between Johor and Singapore ever since the region came under the sway of British Imperialism in the late 19th century.

Indeed, it needs to be emphasized from the outset that the island of Singapore was in fact a territorial part of the state of Johor when Sir Stamford Raffles acquired the island for Britain. But its importance even at its inception, was recognized not just as being an island as such, but rather as the potential central point and focus for future trade and commerce for the entire region of the Malay States and even for the adjoining territories of Indonesia. Raffles’ foresight has therefore resulted in the exchange of countless official and personal relationships continuously over the past century between these territories so that such relationships today are now a matter of daily occurrence. These cumulative relationships are reflected at present in the pattern of trade and prosperity of Malaysia and Singapore on the basis of which the development of the IDR could move on to wider arenas and more sophisticated levels.

It may be useful to understand that the geopolitical perspective in the historical development in the relationship between Johor (as part of Malaysia) and Singapore has essentially been one of the “Satellite-Hinterland”. That is to say that while on the one hand Singapore as the “satellite” was dependent on the “hinterland” of Malaysia for much of its natural resources including water, Singapore’s rapid and dynamic rate and pace of development and modernization enabled it to function as a “magnet’ to draw and drain the economic and human resources of the hinterland towards its own development.

On this basis, it can be argued that the model of development under IDR needs to be carefully considered. While it is clear that as a growth area it should represent the best that both countries can offer in terms of value-added activities and human resource development activities for the people, it cannot be ‘conceived as a clone of Singapore or a Singaporean enclave in Johor”, either.

2. OBJECTIVE

Both the Johor and Singapore Governments are clear that the IDR offers a challenging opportunity for both counties to maximize the application of available up-to-date sophisticated high-tech resources for the development of the region. It is important however that this should happen within a social climate which also recognizes the specific needs of each country; and in particular, the need to identify and overcome constraints each may face towards achieving joint development goals. This calls for a special mutually-cooperative and supportive relationship that should not only enhance the effectiveness of the immediate objectives themselves, but more importantly, contribute towards overcoming some of the seemingly entrenched politico-economic and social issues and problems in the past, through better management and in the spirit of trust and confidence.

For this to be achieved, it seems imperative that the caliber of all personnel involved will require a high level of professionalism exceeding that of mere technical and bureaucratic competence. What will be required is a situation where, while recognizing that the interests of each country should be pursued with a clear understanding of the special relationship that exists between the two countries, attempts to seek solutions should also at all times be broad-based. Mediation through arbitration for instance should not only be seen as a last resort but indeed as the acceptance of failure on the part of the negotiating parties. Not only should those concerned have the capability, but also the pragmatic capacity, to see through the issues and problems in terms of contributing and precipitating factors, and to intervene before situations actually become problematic necessitating recourse to arbitration.

Given that the investment incentives will involve mostly the Singapore business community, in a situation where the investments will be made in a relatively undeveloped region, considerable care needs to be exercised in the involvement of policy “gurus” who offer package solutions based on their “successful” involvement, in what they claim to be similar plans and projects, especially in other countries (where the situations can be very different). Even more crucially, because private sector initiatives are anxiously sought, there may be a tendency to bypass the necessary stringent procedures and practices and to issue a “blank cheque” - failing to recognize that there is such a thing as failure due to “cheque-book” development where it is left up to investors “call the shots” and override expert opinion. Moreover, such private sector initiatives can also create other problems as well. “Private sector initiatives, especially as back channels in diplomacy, can backfire because relations between nations are more than the dictates of private and commercial interests” (Datuk Deva Ridzam; Nst 21/5/07)

3. SCOPE

One of the greatest defects in the concept of development planning in the Third World is the erroneous assumption that the planning can be done in a vacuum. Particularly in the proposed IDR project, where there is the existence of a relatively low level of land use, there will be the tendency to view the entire area as being devoid of any history of ‘development’ of any kind. Planners therefore see development in terms of a ‘top-bottom’ exercise and project design and implementation consequently will tend to over-emphasize starting from “scratch”. Indeed, judging from mass media reports, it is already clear that this perspective is being adopted for the IDR where investors and developers are being given the impression that they will have a free-hand to ‘pick and choose’ projects.

Such a planning perspective is on a serious fault line. In this connection, on the basis of my experience as the sole Malaysian Government Consultant (read Social Development Consultant and research Director) for the Johore Tenggara Regional Master Plan and subsequently the Pahang Tenggara Master Plan as well, I am glad to mention that our strategy adopted from the very beginning was essentially ‘bottom-top’.

Working on the assumption that the people living in the area must have had their own indigenous way of meeting their economic and social needs since time immemorial, we managed to convince the Managers of the Plan Consortiums of the need in the first place to undertake a full scale socio-economic institutional survey to assess the development potential and prepare a database around which the other plan proposals could be centered. The respective reports of the Managers will testify that the research and recommendations of our social development team were absolutely invaluable in submitting materials that to this day, are considered an outstanding contribution to a realistic Malaysian planning experience.

4. STRATEGY

On the basis of the experiences of the abovementioned two regional Master Plans, I can say with confidence that unless the planning process in the IDR adopts a holistic approach taking into consideration the involvement and participation of grassroots organizations and individuals, it will not bring any lasting benefits; especially to people within the poor households or indeed to the region as a whole. Therefore, any attempt by Planners to ‘go it alone’ will result in ‘corridor-type’ development encompassing mainly high-tech manufacturing that will exclude the domestic basic fundamentals of the economy and fail to generate innovative and entrepreneurial upstream and downstream activities to make a meaningful contribution to the GDP. What is needed instead is to focus in the first instance on the growth potential of the region and to contribute towards making it more economically viable.

In the Johore Master Plan for instance we identified Felda schemes where there was an absence of activities associated with manufacturing in rubber and oil palm and we cautioned the authorities that there would be a problem of job opportunities for the second-generation settlers unless the economic activities were diversified. The failure to diversify economic activities and to introduce consultative procedures for joint decision-making with the settler community by Management subsequently, has resulted in many social problems among settlers’ and their children among whom there is now a high rate of drug dependence and migration to join the ranks of the unemployed in the towns and cities. The Felda schemes within the IDR would be an obvious area in which private sector investments could focus on to build on what has already been established. The infrastructure is in place and all that will be required is to fine-tune the kind of activities that would generate profitable outcomes.

There is also the tremendous potential for growth and development in the area of SME’s. The potential for expansion and development has been neglected by Kuala Lumpur and IDR would present the possibility of expanding the local manufacturing sector without constraints. Importantly, this involves a racial factor as well because although some 70% of all manufacturing is undertaken by Chinese SME’s, they only contribute 10% to the GDP. A profile survey of SME’s will most certainly identify similar areas of other small scale businesses where the operators (including Bumiputras/Malays) are literally crying for help to expand.

5. HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT

This is the most important and challenging dimension underlying the entire plan and will invariably affect the extent to which the goals are successfully achieved. There are basically two main questions involved, the first being the participation of Bumiputra/Malays and second the institutional structure needed to enhance greater involvement and participation among the grassroots.

It would be too simplistic to deal with the first question of Bumiputra/Malay involvement at this point because it is far too complex a problem and requires a separate team looking into the intricacies of the issue. What is clear however is that without the Bumiputra/Malay involvement the plan can never fully succeed and therefore it cannot be dismissed on the grounds that the NEP is inimical to their effective participation and involvement in the IDR.

The point needs to be made absolutely clear at the outset that the problem lies with the lack of knowledge-based skills at almost all levels among Bumiputra/Malays in the ability to function in a highly competitive and demanding situation. Therefore, ways and means must be found to address and overcome this problem. Whatever steps are taken however must emphasize a cautious weaning process of making Bumiputra/Malay entrepreneurs less dependent on Government projects. One way is to facilitate these businesses competing among themselves in the first place before moving out into the ‘open” market to face the kind of competition for which they are ill-prepared. On the basis of my other experiences in this area working with grassroots groups both in Malaysia and in the US (Harlem) I have certain suggestions that must await an invitation by the planners to be presented.

But the most important and seldom emphasized strategy in the development of human resources is the democratization of social institutions involving the whole gambit of the economic and social activities from ‘bottom to top’ in the Plan. The recognition of the need for such a parallel development of the social infrastructure was realized by Tun Abdul Razak very early in the launching of the massive rural development program beginning with the Second Malaysia Plan. Institutions ranging from village level committees to manage the projects (JKKK) together with specific specialized agencies such as Farmers’ Associations, Fishermen’s Cooperatives, and other bodies involving women and youth organizations were created for this purpose. The main objective was not only to initiate the planning and oversee the implementation of projects but more importantly to give participants a stake in the decision-making process so that they would assume responsibility and accountability for the success of the projects. While I have first-hand knowledge of the tremendous initial success in the functioning of these institutions and organizations, it is at the same time an indictment on the political system that they soon failed to function because of the involvement and abuse of power by politicians and even the bureaucracy.

It is absolutely essential that all these institutions be revived and given the full opportunity to function as viable democratic entities, irrespective of ethnic or racial considerations at the earliest.

In fact, this should be a pre-requisite, to be stated in the Plan Proposals.

Dr Collin Abraham

Social Development Consultant

No comments: