Over 9 in 10 Singapore firms keen to invest in proposed SEZ in Johor, but concerns remain: SBF report

by Admin
Over 9 in 10 Singapore firms keen to invest in proposed SEZ in Johor, but concerns remain: SBF report

Yet, the businesses also suggested other improvements including the development of enhanced border crossing hubs with automated clearance using biometrics, and investing in efficient multi-modal connectivity. 

Additionally, the report emphasised renewed interests within Malaysia to develop the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur High Speed Rail (HSR) project and to enhance last-mile connectivity within the SEZ. 

The 350km-long HSR project, which can travel up to a speed of 350km/h, was first proposed in 2013 and led to a binding agreement inked in Dec 2016 with an aim to have the line operational by 2026.

But it was initially discontinued after multiple postponements at Malaysia’s request and an eventual lapsing of an agreement in December 2020.

Malaysia paid more than S$102 million (US$76.46 million) in compensation to Singapore for the terminated project.

Talk of a resurrection of the project gained strength after Malaysia Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim took power following the general elections in 2022 and his visit to Singapore early last year where he met with Singapore leaders.

On Aug 3 last year, then-Acting Transport Minister Chee Hong Tat said in parliament that Singapore was willing to discuss any new proposal from Malaysia for the KL-SG HSR project in good faith, “starting from a clean slate”.

Meanwhile, Singapore Prime Minister Lawrence Wong in June said that the Republic is open to new ideas – including proposals on the HSR project – at the upcoming 11th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat later this year. 


The findings revealed that 55 per cent of businesses cited difficulties in handling tax issues, and 48 per cent of businesses indicated that more expedient cargo clearance would be crucial to enabling the efficient flow of goods.  

Based on these insights, SBWG recommended implementing streamlined customs and border clearance procedures, harmonising tax and tariff policies, developing integrated transport networks and logistics infrastructure as well as enhancing digitalisation and e-commerce enablement. 

The report also outlined that the current investment facilitation landscape between Singapore and Johor was fragmented and complex, with businesses reporting obstacles in obtaining necessary permits and licences. 

According to the findings, 58 per cent of businesses expressed a desire for a joint investment promotion agency to market the zone and facilitate investor engagement, and 33 per cent desired a platform to facilitate collaboration and networking opportunities amongst each other for self-help and support.  

SBWG recommended streamlining investment approvals and offering attractive tax incentives, developing robust legal and regulatory frameworks, providing comprehensive business facilitation services and enhancing the interoperability of financial systems.

Meanwhile, the Malaysia-Singapore Business Council (MSBC) on Thursday expressed its support for the proposed JS-SEZ.

At its joint meeting at the SBF Center in Singapore on Thursday, MSBC said that the group held discussions that were centred on advancing the mutual interests and exploring new opportunities through the development of the JS-SEZ in Johor as well as addressing challenges in the global economy.

Dr Robert Yap, executive chairman of YCH Group and a co-chair of the joint meeting, said that the proposed JS-SEZ will strengthen collaboration and drive sustainable growth between the two countries.

“We are confident that this initiative will boost regional competitiveness, create high-quality jobs, and enhance innovation.

“By leveraging our combined strengths and fostering cross-border synergies, we will build a resilient economic landscape benefiting businesses and communities, paving the way for a prosperous and interconnected future,” said Dr Yap.

His co-chair, Dr Nik Norzrul Thani, added: “The MSBC reiterates its strong support of the JS-SEZ as a driver of economic development and regional cooperation. We believe in the transformative impact of this initiative and are dedicated to fostering strong economic collaboration between Malaysia and Singapore.”

Established in 2004 to promote business and investment activities between the two countries, the MSBC said that it continues to be a “collaboration platform” for the business communities of both Singapore and Malaysia “to initiate mutually beneficial projects and explore joint opportunities”.

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