JOHOR BAHRU (Sept 22): As the special economic zone (SEZ) between Johor and Singapore takes shape, along with the development of a special financial zone in Forest City, Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar (pictured) envisions a bright future for Johor, one where the state’s presence is further established on the global stage.

In sharing his vision to position Johor prominently on the global map, the Johor ruler emphasised the importance of attracting more investments, especially from high-technology companies.

“Of course, we want foreign investors. But, if you look at the world, who invests more in this country? So, let’s look into high technology. We are in a position to choose our industries,” His Majesty told Bernama in an exclusive interview at his private residence here recently.

Also present at the interview were Bernama chairman Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai and editor-in-chief Jamaluddin Muhammad.

Sultan Ibrahim said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had announced the establishment of the trade zone and financial hub, and that during the sultan’s recent visit to Singapore, Ho Ching, the wife of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, expressed interest in collaborating with Johor.

This, the sultan said, indicated that Singapore likes the idea for there to be trade, with a free trade and financial hub.

Ho was the chief executive officer of Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek from 2004 to 2021.

The Malaysia-Singapore Leaders Retreat, scheduled for next month in the republic, is expected to see further discussions on the SEZ, including the finalising of the terms of reference for the proposed zone.

Johor Menteri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi said recently that with the SEZ becoming a reality, Johor could become the next Shenzhen, a global centre in technology, research, manufacturing, business and economics, finance, tourism and transportation in China.

Sultan Ibrahim also highlighted Johor’s potential to become a significant solar energy producer, given the state’s abundance of land.

He said Johor had thousands of hectares of unused land that could be used for solar energy production.

“[In the future], we can supply solar [energy] to Singapore,” he said, pointing out that there is already interest in the endeavour.

His Majesty identified Pengerang and Pontian as the ideal locations for the solar industry.

On water resources, Sultan Ibrahim said Johor would have adequate water supply as long as the resource is managed efficiently.

Nevertheless, he said, Johor is exploring water recycling, including the use of river water, for industrial purposes.

His Majesty said all the factories are currently using refined water, drawing it directly from the hydrants.

“The factories are using refined water; they should get industrial water. [However,] the housing estates next to the factories have no water,” he said.

“So, now, we are looking at recycling industrial water, and using river water for industrial use. Several companies have come up with proposals, but the [state] government and I will look into it, and assess how the government can benefit from this,” he said.

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