Incentivising Private Investments, Pursuing Strategic Projects and Maintaining Focus on Human Capital Development Programmes Vital for ECER’s Continued Growth
KUANTAN, PAHANG, 28 JANUARY 2022: The East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) has successfully drawn in RM13.4 billion worth of committed investments for the East Coast Economic Region (ECER). Exceeding its initial 2021 target of RM12 billion, the new investment figure has set the record as highest yearly achievement under the ECER Master Plan 2.0 (EMP2.0) since 2018. This would mean it has the potential to create more than 11,000 new jobs and over 680 entrepreneurial opportunities for the people – fulfilling aspirations of Keluarga Malaysia. The realised investment in ECER for 2021 was RM4.7 billion.
“I am pleased to note that ECERDC has achieved quite a great deal, in terms of attracting new investments, implementation of projects as well as creation of jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. The results demonstrated that government support in strategic infrastructure projects and extension of tax incentives are effective in increasing the region’s competitiveness as an investment destination of choice,” said Prime Minister YAB Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri Yaakob when chairing the ECERDC Council meeting held at the Kuantan City Council complex today.
Present at the meeting were YAB Ustaz Dato’ Bentara Kanan Haji Ahmad Yakob, Menteri Besar of Kelantan; YAB Dato’ Seri Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar, Menteri Besar of Terengganu; and YAB Dato’ Sri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail, Menteri Besar of Pahang. The meeting also included YBM Senator Tengku Dato’ Sri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, Minister of Finance; YB Dato’ Sri Mustapa Bin Mohamed, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (Economy) and YBhg. Tan Sri Mohd Zuki Bin Ali, Chief Secretary to the Government.
“ECERDC has been capitalising on the extension of special tax incentives till end of 2022 to aggressively promote ECER as an investment destination to regain momentum in growth. Under the EMP 2.0, we have targeted securing RM70 billion of private investments by 2025. We have achieved RM27.7 billion thus far. We are hopeful that our target can be reached in the next three years, especially with ongoing infrastructure projects to improve the Region’s connectivity such as the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and the Central Spine Road (CSR),” said YH Dato’ Baidzawi Che Mat, Chief Executive Officer of ECERDC.
He added that running projects, coupled with completed projects such as the Kuantan deep-water port, existing thematic business parks as well as the recently approved special tax incentives to attract investments to Kelantan, will expedite ECERDC’s economic recovery efforts.
Following the meeting, the ECER Council members visited Menara Kuantan 188, one of ECERDC’s iconic tourism projects in the heart of Kuantan. A total of 23,600 guests have visited Menara Kuantan 188 since its official opening on 15 December 2021 – recording an average of 500 visitors daily. At Menara Kuantan 188, YAB Prime Minister and the delegation were briefed on ECERDC’s latest tourism project attraction, which is the RV (recreational vehicle) tourism at the tower’s entrance where an RV vehicle was put on display. After Friday prayers, the ECER Council members visited the Muadzam Shah Cattle Research and Innovation Centre (MSCRIC), one of ECERDC’s most successful agribusiness projects, implemented using the Anchor Company Model in close collaboration with Farm Fresh Sdn. Bhd.
Leading ECER Into the New Reality
On top of attracting new investments, ECERDC will continuously implement high-impact projects, especially in agribusiness and tourism, as well as strengthen human capital development programmes in collaboration with Yayasan PETRONAS and MyKasih in a bid to build the rakyat’s capability and reduce poverty.
“The past two years have changed the way we do things and forced us to think more creatively to achieve our targets. As such, ECERDC will continue to pursue new projects which have been necessitated by the pandemic to contribute towards improving national food security such as agrofood@ECER and projects such as RV Tourism, to keep up with changes in global tourism trend,” said Dato’ Baidzawi.
In line with shifting trends towards travel freedom and growth in the number of digital nomads, RV tourism’s popularity is expanding as it provides an open tourism concept along with outdoor and personalised activities.
“The RV tourism industry is experiencing encouraging growth in countries such as Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and New Zealand, and is becoming an important component of their economies. This has opened up opportunities for Malaysia in general and ECER specifically to capitalise on this trend to create a new tourism growth opportunity in ECER and explore the potential of developing the RV industry in the Region,” added Dato’ Baidzawi.
Human Capital Development
The core focus areas of ECERDC’s Human Capital Development Programmes are poverty eradication, improving living standards of Keluarga Malaysia and creating a skilled work force to support private investments in the Region.
The empower ECER Academic programme focuses on improving academic achievement of weak students from poor families in rural areas, including the Orang Asli. Between 2018 and 2021, 24,695 students have benefited from this programme, with 96% of participants passing their SPM 2020 and 91% placing in higher learning and technical institutions.
In line with the Keluarga Malaysia concept of inclusive development, making education mainstream and strengthening Orang Asli’s economy are also a key focus of ECERDC. Between 2018 and 2021, 4,670 Orang Asli students participated in the empower ECER Academic programme, with 89% passing their SPM 2020. Currently, 100 Orang Asli are participating in skills training programmes to improve their ability to generate income, including in chilli fertigation, stingless bees (kelulut) farming and homestay.
Meanwhile, the empower ECER Skills Training and Entrepreneurship programme aims to develop locals, especially the B40 group, into skilled workers or micro-entrepreneurs. Between 2018 and 2021, 10,965 participants were trained, 6,294 new entrepreneurs were successfully created. Additionally, the PENJANA-ECERDC upskilling and reskilling programme saw 6,642 participants successfully completed training. Of that figure, 85% or 5,667 participants managed to secure employment in 2021.
The entrepreneur ECER programme focuses on developing existing entrepreneurs in the region, especially SMEs to grow their businesses in close collaboration with Agrobank and Maybank who provided loans with 50% of the interest rate funded by ECERDC, and SIRIM to improve product quality in terms of branding, packaging, as well as obtaining MeSTI and Halal certifications. This programme has benefited 9,082 entrepreneurs and created a total of 16,860 jobs for the local community.
ACES Paving the Way for Industry 4.0 (I4.0) Adoption in the Region
ECERDC is also committed to upskill the locals, enabling them to participate in new economic opportunities especially towards attracting high-technology and high-value investors involved in Industry 4.0 (I4.0). In this regard, the Asia Centre of Excellence in Smart Technologies (ACES) will pave the way forward by providing training and awareness to the rakyat around the Region.
In 2021, the ACES-ECER Jobs Train and Place Programme aided 706 unemployed graduates and job seekers in ECER to gain relevant skills and linked them with local industry players for employment in high skilled jobs within the ICT Sector. ACES will continue this initiative in 2022 for an additional 180 unemployed graduates and job seekers in ECER. Also in 2021, ACES had conducted a series of webinars on the correlation of I4.0 with prospective future jobs related to each industry, for participants from the PENJANA ECERDC upskilling and reskilling programme. The programme became an eye opener for the participants on how I4.0 might affect their future career paths.
ACES had also embarked on a journey to educate the country’s youth through its ACES Web App I4.0 Pilot Programme in 2021 for 3,110 SPM leavers from the ECER. The programme was designed to create awareness on I4.0 so that students will be able to contribute towards a healthy employment growth in the future. For 2022, the next phase of the programme will expand to include around 3,000 students in three Johor districts, namely Mersing, Segamat and Kota Tinggi. The programme could also be rolled out nationwide to benefit more students in the coming years.