KUALA LUMPUR, 26 AUGUST 2013: The East Coast Economic Region (ECER), which is celebrating the 5th anniversary of its establishment this year, is well on track to achieve developed region status by 2020, said Chief Executive Officer of the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC), YBhg. Dato’ Jebasingam Issace John.

Speaking at a special media briefing here today in conjunction with ECER’s fifth anniversary celebration, Dato’ Issace said the optimism was based on the Region’s impressive track record, whereby it has already attracted over RM50 billion worth of investments since its establishment to date, that have created nearly 40,000 job opportunities for the rakyat.

“For this year alone, ECER has attracted some RM25 bilion investments to date, thus surpassing our investment target of RM15 billion for 2013,” said Dato’ Issace.

“This is unprecedented in the history of the East Coast region. ECER’s positioning as a distinctive, dynamic and competitive investment destination has also been proven with the presence of well-known investors such as Kaneka Group of Japan, CJ Cheildang of Korea, Arkema of France, BASF PETRONAS and Volkswagen, among others,” he noted.

The ECER Special Economic Zone, a concentrated zone of high-impact projects which acts as the catalyst of economic growth for the entire ECER, is now home to several mature industrial parks such as Gebeng Integrated Petrochemical Complex, Kertih Integrated Petrochemical Complex, and Pekan Automotive Industrial Park. More recently, it also saw the development of Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, Kertih Biopolymer Park, Kuantan Integrated Biopark, Gambang Halal Park and Kemaman Heavy Industrial Park.

“With the continued implementation of projects and programmes in ECER that will make the Region more investor-friendly, we are confident that ECER will continue to be a destination of choice among the investment community, both local and international,” he added.

Under the 9th and 10th Malaysia Plans, a total of 111 projects were approved by the Federal Government for implementation in ECER, at a total cost or RM6.6 billion. They include key strategic projects that aim to create a physical environment that is conducive for investors, as well as social development programmes that aim to improve the socio-economic status of ECER residents.

One of the key projects in ECER which will play a significant role in the Region’s transformation is the Kuantan Port Expansion, which will be officially launched by the Prime Minister of September 7. Kuantan Port will be transformed into a deepwater port which is capable of catering to bigger, more modern ships, thus enabling it to serve as a world class multi-purpose port for regional trade in ASEAN, Asia Pacific and the Far East. The newly expanded Kuantan Port will further accelerate the transformation of ECER and elevate the positioning of ECER SEZ as the Investment Gateway to ASEAN and Asia Pacific.

Dato’ Issace said ECERDC’s social development programmes have also performed remarkably well in transforming the lives of the poor and disadvantaged community in ECER. The programmes, such as empower ECER, ECER Entrepreneurship Development Programme (EEDP) and Agropolitan projects, among others, were designed to ensure that the rakyat are able to seize new opportunities created by the Region’s transforming economy.

“Our goal is to ensure that no one is left out of the transformational economy of ECER. We are pleased with the progress achieved so far,” he noted.

In 2009, ECERDC launched the Pekan Agropolitan Project, followed by the South Kelantan Agropolitan in 2012. The Besut Setiu Agropolitan in Terengganu is already operational and will be officially launched in September 2013.

The Agropolitan project uses the agriculture platform to poverty eradication. Selected participants and their families were relocated into new homes built by ECERDC, complete with community facilities, and are provided employment in agriculture-related projects such as Dorper sheep rearing and oil palm plantation. Participants are now earning an average monthly income of about RM1,100.

Agropolitan participants are also provided on-the-job training, as well as motivational and money management training to help them build a brighter future. The families also have the opportunity to earn additional income from secondary economic activities. Children of the Agropolitan community also took part in Sinar ECER academic programme and empower ECER, both of which are conducted by ECERDC.

empower ECER is a grassroots human capital development programme conducted in ECER. It consists of Academic Training Programme which involves remedial classes and motivational sessions for weak students from poor families, particularly those who are undergoing national examination, as well as Skills and Entrepreneurship Training Programme for single mothers, unemployed youths and disadvantaged segments of the rural community.

empower ECER was first launched in Bentong, Pahang in 2010 and it has since been expanded to Lipis, Temerloh, Raub, Cameron Highlands and Kuala Pahang in Pahang; Jeli and Bachok in Kelantan; Kemaman and Dungun in Terengganu, following the success of the pilot project. It will be launched in Mersing on 14 September 2013.

To date, a total of 22,262 participants, comprising 13,537 students and 8,725 adults had benefitted from empower ECER. empower ECER-assisted examination students have recorded a 100% pass rate, with several scoring straight A’s. For adults, it is estimated that up to 80% of participants will gain employment after completing their courses or have sufficient knowledge and practical experience to start their own business. In fact, some of the Skills and Entrepreneurship Training Programme participants are already earning up to RM5,000 per month, with some of them even earning up to RM20,000 monthly.

The ECER Enterpreneurship Development Programme (EEDP) was launched in 2012, and it targets SMEs and the Bumiputra Commercial and Investment Community (BCIC) to encourage their participations in ECER projects. Through collaborations with SIRIM and Agrobank, selected companies are provided marketing and product training, or soft loans/micro-credit financing to take their business to the next level. To date, 580 small businesses have benefitted from EEDP, consisting of 28 companies under the SIRIM handholding scheme and another 552 who were extended micro-credit financing and soft loans by Agrobank.

The National Talent Enhancement Program (NTEP) that was launched in 2012 aims to groom talent to meet the needs of the engineering sector. Under NTEP, fresh engineering graduates and technical sub-professionals are selected for training at well-established engineering-based companies for skills enhancement. In 2012, 100 new graduates attended the NTEP program conducted in collaboration with a DRB-HICOM plant in Pekan.

Teraju@ECER is a programme aimed at identifying and selecting Bumiputera companies in ECER for the Teras Facilitation Fund, under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Office. This is a “tipping point” fund that will enable selected companies to move up the value chain of business. To date, 18 ECER companies have qualified for the Teras facilitation fund.

Between 2010 and 2013, the Federal Government has also allocated nearly RM200 million to implement 448 infrastructure and socioeconomic projects in the former areas of Pahang Tenggara Development Authority (DARA) and Lembaga Kemajuan Wilayah Jengka (LKWJ) in ECER, including traditional villages, under the Special Fund initiative which have benefitted some 494,000 rakyat.

Dato’ Issace said to celebrate ECER’s fifth anniversary, ECERDC has adopted the theme “Accelerating Transformation, Empowering Rakyat” and the Council intends to share ECER’s success stories in terms of private investments, public projects and ECERDC initiatives with the people.

To commemorate this historical event, ECERDC will be organising several events which will kick off on 7 September in Pahang. It will begin with the launch of the Kuantan Port Expansion by Prime Minister, YAB Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Abdul Razak and the hand-over of Panching Water Treatment Plant to the Pahang State Government. The evening will culminate with ECER’S 5th Anniversary Dinner. On 8 September, ECERDC will host ECER’s Open Day with the Rakyat at Padang MPK 2 in Kuantan.

Later in September, HRH the Sultan of Terengganu will launch ECERDC’s Besut-Setiu Agropolitan project and ECERDC will also be hosting ECER’s Open Day with the Rakyat in Kuala Terengganu in October. Later in the year, ECERDC will host ECER’s Open Day with the Rakyat in Kota Bahru, Kelantan.