Good times rolling in for Pahang

10/26/2009 — The Star
Despite the global economic slowdown and a rather gloomy outlook, Pahang managed to secure an investment of RM1bil last year, maintaining the streak over the past four years.
The achievement is something to be proud of and credit must be given to Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob for providing a conducive environment to continuously entice investors.
Besides competing with other Asean countries, Pahang is up against its more developed neighbours namely Johor, Selangor and Perak, in addition to Unesco’s World Heritage Sites Penang and Malacca.
”I have no reason to complain as Pahang has been getting about RM1.5bil of investment annually for many years,” Adnan said when asked recently if Pahang recorded a reduction in investment due to the global economic crisis.
Last year, 23 manufacturing projects worth RM1.08bil were approved, which created 2,441 jobs for the locals.
Germany, Great Britain, the United States and Japan are among the top foreign investors in Pahang, which registered a US$2,157 income per capita. The income per capita for Malaysia is US$6,336.
Despite being the largest state in peninsular Malaysia with a land area of 3.6 million hectares, its population is only about 1.48 million people.
Much of Pahang is still forested, at 56.44% that includes 399,730ha of land in Jerantut gazetted as national park.
Another 53,000ha in Bera are protected as a Ramsar (Convention on Wetlands) site in Malaysia, as well as about 270,000ha that have also been gazetted as water catchment areas.
All these were carried out after Adnan became Mentri Besar in 1999. He was convinced of the need for balance between development and a sustainable environment. Before then, the total area gazetted was 44,000ha.
At one point, he had proposed for the Federal Government to pay Pahang some form of royalties – similar to oil royalty payments received by Terengganu – for preserving the forest.
However, the proposal was misconstrued and Adnan had clarified that Pahang was not putting up a demand but merely hinting at being given a token sum to further boost development in the state to be on par with its neighbours.
In June, Pahang was in the limelight and even caught the attention of Singapore’s minister mentor Lee Kuan Yew who came for a brief visit to Kuantan upon the appointment of Pekan MP Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as the country’s sixth Prime Minister.
As Najib put it during one of his homecoming events: “I foresee many people will be camping out in Pekan soon to greet the MP and shake hands with the locals just like how it was with the MP of Kepala Batas (Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) before me.”
True enough, things got moving in a matter of months and initiatives listed under the East Coast Economic Region (ECER) started to roll out one after another, to the delight of Adnan and the ever caring ruler Sultan Ahmad Shah.
One of the core thrusts of ECER is eradicating hardcore poverty by 2010.
Five clusters of economic development had been earmarked under ECER, namely tourism; oil, gas and petrochemical; manufacturing; agriculture and education.
A total of 189 projects with an estimated value of RM112bil will be carried out in stages up to 2020 over the 9th, 10th and 11th Malaysia Plans.
Pahang will be developed as ECER’s main industrial and logistics hub supported by manufacturing, agriculture and tourism sectors.
It will also be the automotive design, manufacturing, assembly and distribution hub, with support from its educational institutions.
Malaysia’s first open access fibre-to-home high speed broadband facility is set to take off in Kuantan soon, involving 2,000 homes and offices in the initial roll-out.
Jalur Lebar Nasional Sdn Bhd (Jalenas) is expected to invest up to RM10bil in infrastructure, with plans to connect up to 2.5 million urban homes and offices, making it the world’s largest open access deployment based on a single network operator. It will start with 30,000 homes and offices in Kuantan.
With its wealth of natural beauty, it is not surprising that Pahang will also become ECER’s centre for eco-tourism and coastal tourism destination.
Of the 43 projects under the 9th Malaysia Plan, 24 are exclusively for Pahang.
The launching of Malaysia’s first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) stretching from Kertih and Chukai in Terengganu, across Kuantan Port City and Gambang to Pekan is aimed at attracting investments of up to RM90bil by 2020 and boosting economic activities within that area.
Although the SEZ forms only six per cent of ECER’s land mass, the area has a significant impact as it creates 50% of all jobs and 80% of the latter’s economic output.
The food-based sector remains a high priority with at least 17 permanent food production parks spanning 5,691ha identified for fruit and vegetable farming, such as the one in Lanchang which houses 23 individual entrepreneurs and 27 corporations.
Two herbal parks have also been identified for development in Temerloh and Raub to contribute to the development of the local herbal industry and herb-based biotechnology products.
On the tourism front, 7,712,663 tourists visited Pahang last year, spending a total of RM5.1bil.
The bulk — 5.1 million — opted for Genting Highlands, followed by Kuantan (718,007), Cameron Highlands (692,746), Cherating (194,075), Tioman (191,929) Temerloh (122,942) and Rompin (114,875).
Malaysian tourists made up 65.4% of the visitors entering Pahang while foreigners were mostly from Singapore, China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Netherlands.
New attractions and upgrading of existing tourist facilities such as Pantai Sepat, Fraser’s Hill, Tanjung Agas Oil, Gas and Maritime Industrial Park, and Bukit Gambang Resort City, coupled with the commencement of direct flights from Singapore this year are expected to help Pahang in achieving its targeted 8.5 million visitors by the end of the year.
With Najib charting the course of the nation and development projects mushrooming in the state, blessed with an attentive ruler, Pahang is set to sprint ahead.