December 29, 2006 9:57am CST
Will the ambition to reinvent Xingshan into another version of Hong Kong or Shenzhen be successful? This was the question I ask wherever I go. I personally 'polled' the peoples around me, Singaporean included, and 'interviewed' some of them to gauge their confidence of the plan. Surprisingly, not one individuals are feeling confident and supportive of the idea thus far. All I met are pessimistic of the outcome. Perhaps, I posed the wrong question. To be as successful as Hong Kong or Shenzhen? Hardly. But this was the goal stated by our Prime Mini-star Bodolah. He wants to turn southern Johor into a prosperous metropolis SIMILAR to Hong Kong or Shenzhen. Although Xingshan to Singapore is akin to what Shenzhen is to Hong Kong, it is not very likely to achieve equivalent status as Hong Kong for a very long time. No wonder I get a unanimous "No". So I rephrased it. This time, I focus on how they feel about the proposed 'project'. And the responses are equally underwhelming. There were criticisms of the plan whether it would be efficiently implemented and fully completed as we have witnessed countless government projects being delayed and abandoned half-way. There's also concern of corruption intent. Clearly, a preponderance of the citizens are doubtful. One blogger, Aisehman, questions the imperative of spending huge amount of money to carry out the projects. I think he had raised a very relevant issue which implies the designs for graft. One thing that missed the general public is Singapore's participation in the grand development of south Johor. Officials from our island republic neighbour was here at the Pulai Spring Resort to meet our delegates to discuss the 'development plans' for SJER (South Johor Economic Region). The two-and-a-half-hour meeting touched on 'collaboration' between the two countries. This indicates that Singapore will play a significant role in Malaysia's mega project. As Genting (Yunding) had been chosen to build a casino resort project which will help generate around S$2.7 billion to Singapore's economy annually, surely, the latter would reciprocate and Malaysia would gladly welcome its investments to help lift our per capita income from US$14,790 (RM54,700) in 2005 to US$31,000 (RM115,000) in 2025. Singapore's involvement would greatly render the development project more credible. With this consideration in mind, will the people reassess their judgement? Come this January in 2007, when the development projects kick-starts, it might fill the air with optimisms.