Clusters of sustainable development

11/26/2010 — New Straits Times
The Eastern Coast Economic Region ECER has been designated by the government as a ‘promoted’ area meaning investors in the region enjoy additional tax allowance incentives This focus on the region is to give it a boost in development and help bring it on par with the rest of the nation.
The areas of development in the region have been narrowed down to economic clusters that will advance its growth: tourism; oil, gas and petrochemical; manufacturing; agriculture; and education.
These economic clusters have been identified and chosen for their capability to capitalise on the richness of the ECER s readily available resources — its beaches, highlands and unique culture and heritage, the vast tracts of fertile land, its oil and gas reserves, the abundant raw materials, and the presence of reputable institutions of higher learning.
Selected in tandem with the ECER’s master plan of creating a balance in the economic development of the eastern region with the rest of the nation the growth of the clusters will also be in adherence to the ECER Development Council’s (ECERDC) framework of sustainable development.
A number of the projects within the clusters are also in line with the New Economic Model (NEM), including Entry Point Projects (EPPs) which emphasise private investment-led projects that will contribute to the Gross National Income. The Pekan Agropolitan project is one example; this project is helping to raise the earning capacity of the hardcore poor, boosting living standards at the same time, ultimately reducing the poverty level in the region.
Besides having to be viable, feasible and sustainable, each project in the various economic clusters has to have a positive effect on the local employment rate as well as create entrepreneurial opportunities.
One of the fastest growing industries in Malaysia the east coast has always drawn visitors from within and outside the country The ECER boasts an incredible natural and cultural heritage that makes tourism one of the key industries in the region.
An important economic cluster, tourism in the region is expected to grow exponentially. The number of foreign tourists alone is projected to reach 7.4 million by 2020. With luxurious holiday destinations available almost at their doorsteps the number of local tourists, currently at 12.6 million, is estimated to be 2.4 million by that year.
To facilitate the growth, six different segments of tourism have been selected for focus: coastal tourism, sustainable island tourism, ecotourism, culture and heritage tourism, urban tourism and cross-border tourism. The tourism projects in the region will concentrate on these sectors. Some examplas are the Pantai Sepat Mainland Coastal Tourism, Cherating Mainland Coastal Tourism and Pekan Heritage Tourism project in Pahang, as well as the Teluk Bidara Mainland Coastal Tourism project and the development of Kuala Terengganu City Centre (KTCC) and Dungun Town in Terengganu.
The ECERDC is also taking ecotourism seriously, having been entrusted by the federal government to helm the conservation and preservation programme of Tasik Chini in Pahang, Malaysia s first Biosphere Reserve.
The ECER is encouraging high value added manufacturing activities in the region, bringing in small, medium and large industries that are attracted by the competitive costs that the readily available raw materials and resources offer.
Key projects in the manufacturing cluster such as the Pekan Automotive Industrial Park (Pekan AIP the Gambang Halal Park and the Palm Oil Industrial Cluster in Pahang, and the Pasir Mas Halal Park in Kelantan, are expected to create far reaching opportunities for the locals, especially in terms of job creation.
The Pekan AIP, for example, has already attracted manufacturers such as DRB Hicom Mercedes Benz and Suzuki. The Park, which is located in the ECER Special Economic Zone, is estimated to generate more than RM4 billion in investments through its three stages of development and is slated to become the region’s assembly and manufacturing hub, creating about 10,580 jobs.
Oil Gas Petrochemicals
Known for its rich concentrations of onshore oil and gas, the ECER is concentrating on downstream and manufacturing expansion of the region’s oil, gas and petrochemical cluster. This focus will add value to existing output and downstream activities while creating a spillover effect on the local population in terms of entrepreneurial activities job creation and technology transfer.
Key projects in this economic cluster include the Kertih Polymer Park and Petronas Petroleum Industry Complex in Terengganu, and the Gebeng Integrated Petrochemical Complex and Tanjung Agas Oil & Gas and Maritime Industrial Park in Pahang.
One of the ECER’s prime movers the Tanjung Agas Oil & Gas and Maritime Industrial Park will act as a one-stop service centre and offshore base, supporting the region’s upstream and downstream oil and gas exploration and production activities.
Traditionally an agrarian society, the region’s growth in this cluster will come from improving productivity through integrated farming techniques on a large scale basis new ventures and building a global market network The ECER’s focus here is on livestock, crops and fisheries.
The development of these sectors is certainly closely linked to the social development of the region’s communities. The Agropolitan projects, which include the resettlement of hard core poor families and their involvement in livestock and crop farming, are part of the ECERDC s efforts to kick-start the region’s growth by elevating the economic status of its people.
A comprehensive plan has been set in place to make this happen. Each state in the ECER will focus on a specific commodity; cattle in Pahang, goats in Terengganu and poultry in Kelantan. Agricultural projects in the region include the Kuala Berang Goat Research and Breeding Centre in Terengganu, the Muadzam Shah Cattle Research and Innovation Centre in Pahang and the Fully Integrated Poultry Production Park in Kelantan.
These special sub clusters will carry out upstream activities such as production of animal feed and the improvement of breeder stocks, and downstream activities comprising of meat and dairy production and processing.
The agriculture cluster is very large; more than l,000ha of state land in Terengganu has been set aside for goat breeding and improvement, and numerous projects have been put in place for cattle breeding, dairy production and research and development.
In Pahang the Rompin Integrated Pineapple Plantation project will take place on 2,042ha of land while the Muadzam Shah Cattle Research Innovation Centre will be developed on an area measuring 240ha.
The development of ECER’s Herbal and Biotechnology Parks in Chegar Perah in Pahang and Pasir Raja in Terengganu will leverage on the region’s rich biodiversity to meet the increasing domestic and overseas demand for pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products.
Identified as one of the ECER’s key economic drivers, the focus on education is as a means to enable the region to move up the value chain. To this end, various programmes have been set up to encourage more collaboration between the public and private sectors.
The ECERDC has accelerated human capital development within the region, leading to the establishment of 12 Centres of Excellence in seven universities in the region. Under this initiative local industries will work with the universities’ research and development centres. They will carry out research projects that are linked to and supportive of the region’s five economic clusters and run parallel with the ECERDC’s agenda of poverty eradication and human development activities.
Another human capital development initiative introduced by ECERDC is empower Bentong, under which more than 1,000 residents of Bentong in Pahang are currently undergoing academic and skills training courses.
Although world-recognition and foreign collaborations come with excellent tertiary education, the ECERDC is also focusing on the basic education of the locals Projects at the primary school level have already been getting good results. The best example is perhaps that of the young Orang Asli student in Runchang, Pahang, who recently scored 5 As for her UPSR, the first in her school and her village to ever do so. She was part of the SINAR ECER programme, a branch of the Agropolitan project that focuses on the children of hard core poor families, getting them to change their mindsets and give priority to education.