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How about "Badawi Development Region" for Penang?


Media Statement
by Ronnie Liu


(Kuala Lumpur, Sunday) : Iskandar Development Region (IDR) is seen as "Shenzhen for China" to many businessmen. It's in a way a special region for development with special incentives unavailable in other Malaysian economic centres. Some businessmen has described the IDR as "one nation,two systems". Because only investors in IDR enjoys the exemption of the usual 30% bumi quota.

Following the disclosure of some special incentives schemes by the prime minister, one of the advisors of IDR Tun Musa Hitam openly proposed to do away with the usual 30% racial quota. It was reported in the press that the PM has decided to accept the proposal but it was said that the exemption was meant for foreign investments. Another report said that the exemption was only meant for six selected sectors, i.e. creative industries, logistics, education, tourism, financial advisory and consulting and health care. It was not for all industries. The IRD Authority has not explained why only six selected industries were given the special exemption and why these six were selected.

It was also not clear at this point whether the exemption also covers domestic investments. We hope it does cover local investors for all fairness; if the answer is otherwise, the local investors may have to set up companies in Singapore and use them as their investment arms for the IDR. That will be the biggest joke of the day!

IDR, as a concept, should work for the southern region. It will certainly attract some if not many investors from Singapore and Indonesia. Those who believe the IDR is flood-proned would not come. Likewise with those who dislike the racial quota(Remembered? Only six industries were exempted according to Najib)

But how about the northen region of Peninsular Malaysia? Umno has been complaining day and night about Penang being left out as an economic centre and how the Malays were being marginalised in Penang. Why don't we set our eyes on Balik Pulau, which is said to be backward with no development?

Why don't Abdullah Ahmad Badawi kick start a similar plan for Balik Pulau? Call it Badawi Development Region and provide similar incentive schemes and exemption of racial quota like what they did with IDR. Such "Shenzhen-like" special development region should be attractive to investors from Thailand and India. after all, Penang is a natural port with a great potential nothing less than South Johore.No?

A businessman I know asked me a question which even AAB and Najib would not dare to answer - why don't we do away with the 30% bumi quota to promote economic development throughout Malaysia? It's a question only opposition leaders like Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Kit Siang can answer.


*  Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP CEC member and NGO bureau chief

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