A- A A+

Seminar on “Johor: An Oasis of Stability in a (Dis)Orderly World?”

MALAYSIA STUDIES PROGRAMME

Friday, 22 November 2019 – In the past decade Johor has witnessed substantial investments from Singaporean corporations and individuals. Johor experienced a change in state government for the first time in May 2018. The ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute invited Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin, the chief Economist of Johor Corporation (JCorp) to deliver a seminar on the investment climate in Johor since the Pakatan Harapan administration took over. Azrul Azwar obtained his Economics bachelor and master’s degree from Université d’Orléans, France, and has more than 20 years of experience as an analyst and economist. His former employers include the Selangor Mentri Besar’s Office, Institut Rakyat, Bank Islam, Sime Dary, and MIDF Berhad. Azrul Azwar’s presentation comprised of four sections: the global economic outlook; Malaysia’s economic outlook; salient aspects of the Johor state government budget; and the overall strategy of JCorp going forward.

Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin (right) elaborates on the state of Johor’s economy. Dr Francis Hutchinson (left) moderated the session. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

After reviewing salient statistics, the speaker argued that the global economy currently faces significant headwinds, with uncertainty over Brexit in Europe and trade war between United States and China. Global economic growth forecast for 2020 has been downgraded to 2.5-3%, from the initial 3-3.9% according to the International Monetary Fund. Malaysia has nonetheless maintained a commendable growth rate of 4.5% in the past year despite unfavourable international economic conditions, as well as its domestic political transition. The Malaysian economy is ranked within top 30 globally in terms of competitiveness, and clinches the 12 spot on ease of doing businesses.

Azrul Azwar subsequently set out and analyzed Johor’s key economic indicators, as well as the recently announced 2020 state budget. Even though Johor contributes less than 10% of Malaysia’s overall Gross Domestic Product, the state is ranked as the fourth highest (approved) FDI amongst all states in 2018. As announced in the recent budget, the state government will invest substantial sums to enhance agricultural production and move up the value chain. In particular the government will assist oil palm cultivators to grow alternative crops which command higher prices in the global market, as well as to further develop the agro-fisheries sector. Industrial parks and smart city initiatives are also in the pipeline.

Azrul Azwar also gave an introduction of JCorp, which acts the investment arm for the Johor state government. JCorp was established in 1968 and till this day remains as a State Economic Development Corporation (SEDC). Its current business portfolio includes Palm Oil, Specialist Healthcare, Hospitality and Property. The speaker compared the size and scope of JCorp with SEDCs of other Malaysian state governments, before setting out priority areas for attention and investment going forward.

The seminar drew 40 attendees from private corporations, academia, and the public.

Some of the participants at the seminar. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)