SINGAPORE: A joint special economic zone between Singapore and the state of Johor (JS-SEZ) is in its planning stages, with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) eyed by the beginning of next year, on January 11, 2024.

The JS-SEZ is under the purview of the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM), which has Industrial Cooperation, Immigration, Transportation Links, Innovation, Tourism, and Environment Work Groups. A special task force had been established to study the JS-SEZ.

A progress update was provided by the task force at the 10th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat, which was held in Singapore on Oct 30. This was the first time for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Prime Minister Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim to attend the retreat with each other and the first retreat that Singapore and Malaysia held since the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“The JS-SEZ will tap into the complementary strengths of both countries to foster economic connectivity by improving cross-border flows of goods, investments, and people,” said both leaders in a statement issued after the retreat was held.

“The Leaders also commended the Industrial Cooperation Work Group and agencies from both countries for working together closely to facilitate high-profile investments into and creating jobs in Iskandar Malaysia,” they added in the statement, which also noted that Singapore is Iskandar Malaysia’s second-biggest investor, with S$9.5 billion (RM 33 billion) worth of investments committed between 2006 and June 2023.

Speaking on the JS-SEZ, PM Lee said it was a “substantial and promising project” and added that special tax arrangements and other initiatives might be part of the agreement to improve the flow of goods between the two nations. He also expressed hopes for easier and Bette arrangements for workers to cross borders.

As for the MOU, PM Lee acknowledged that it would take a lot of work, “We’re hoping to have that done by early next year, but it’s a lot of work (for the Ministry of Trade and Industry) and the Ministry of Economy on the Malaysian side. I think they will have to scramble, but we would like to see it done as soon as we can,” The Straits Times quotes him as saying.

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On his part, Mr Anwar said, “We’ve given a very short timeline to get them to agree on the parameters and sign the MOU by Jan 11… We look forward to having some sort of arrangement and agreement of understanding by mid-January.” /TISG