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

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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.

During a panelist discussion from Thursday’s investor forum, one of the participants who was representing a Singapore company expressed concern that the policies of the JS-SEZ could alter if there is a change in Malaysia’s “government of the day”, in reference to the country’s political instability. 

In response, director for Malaysian Investment Development Authority Vinothan Tulisnathzan said: “Don’t worry, irregardless of whoever is the government of the day in Singapore and Malaysia, they will be pro-business.”