MERSING, JOHOR, 2 MARCH 2020: The East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) and the Johor State Government are focusing on implementing strategic development projects in Mersing, particularly in the tourism and agriculture sectors to revitalise the economy and alleviate poverty.
“ECERDC’s priority in Mersing is to revitalise the local economy by setting the foundations for continued socio-economic development. We are leveraging on the district’s natural endowments to bring in new opportunities in tourism and agribusiness to improve the livelihood of the local communities,” said Encik Baidzawi Che Mat, Chief Executive Officer of ECERDC after the ECER Implementation and Coordination (ICC) Johor meeting today. The ICC meeting was chaired by Johor Menteri Besar, YAB Datuk Ir. Hj. Hasni Mohammad.
INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS TO BOOST TOURISM
The Tourism sector in ECER has been significantly affected by the pandemic. To revitalise the industry, ECERDC continues to roll out strategic infrastructure projects under its Rainforest to Reef (R2R) strategy as per the ECER Master Plan 2.0 (EMP 2.0).
Among the ongoing projects is the Sultan Iskandar Marine Park Information Centre in Pulau Besar (PIPTLSI) which is expected to be ready by end of June this year. PIPTLSI will be a one-stop information centre for tourists to the Mersing group of islands and will act as a ‘Rural Transformation Center’ to serve the needs of the local residents.
Another exciting project is Kampungstay at Air Papan, Mersing. This community based homestay project involves the construction of chalets with resort theme to transform the traditional homestay concept. This project, which is expected to be ready by March 2022, will enable the local community to earn income through the co-operative established to manage and provide the Kampungstay experience and facilities to tourists as well as from the creation of tourism-related jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.
ECERDC is also upgrading tourism facilities and constructing a Rainforest Discovery Centre in Peta, Johor, within the Endau-Rompin Johor National Park (TNJER). This project is expected to commence in June 2021 and will become a new tourist attraction that will benefit local entrepreneurs and Orang Asli.
Also in the pipeline is plans to upgrade the entrance road to TNJER. The construction of Jalan Kahang to Kampung Sungai Emas will complete the road linkage to Peta, benefiting local residents and significantly reduce travel time for tourists.
SPEARHEADING COMMERCIAL SCALE AGRIBUSINESS PROJECTS
ECERDC plans to actively promote agricultural activities as an attractive and lucrative business venture in Mersing. This is in line with the government’s goals to ensure the nation’s continuous food security. Growth in the agriculture sector will also create ripple effects which will benefit the locals.
Key agricultural projects in Mersing include the Jemaluang Dairy Valley (JDV) project which focuses on dairy cattle farming and the Endau-Mersing Fish Processing Centre. Construction of the JDV is scheduled for mid-2021 and it is expected to be fully operational by 2023. The integrated development project which will include barns, a milking area, a milk processing centre and a fodder station for cattle feed will create a sustainable dairy activity encompassing both upstream and downstream activities. It is expected to increase national milk production by 11%. The holistic development of the dairy production value chain at JDV will have direct socio-economic benefits for the locals, creating multiple jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities including as satellite farmers agropreneurs.
Meanwhile, the Endau-Mersing Fish Processing Park (EMFPP) which covers 2.85 acres of land, is currently under construction and will include a central cold room, fish and seafood product processing facilities, as well as factory facilities. The EMFPP is envisioned to be a catalyst for developing local Small and Medium size entrepreneurs (SMEs) involved in producing high-quality value-added fish-based products in the district, especially for export markets. The complex, which is expected to be completed in March 2022 have already attracted interest from several local companies.
“ECERDC expects these two projects will significantly transform the agribusiness landscape and become key drivers of the local economy, creating new job opportunities for locals. This year, ECERDC targets to attract RM100 million in committed investment in tourism and agribusiness, in line with the focus of Rancangan Tempatan Daerah Mersing 2030 which focuses on the same sectors.”
“As such, we are working closely with the State of Johor through EXCO for Tourism, Youth and Sports Committee, EXCO for Agriculture, Agro-based Industry and Rural Development Committee, Johor State Economic Planning Division (BPEN), as well as the Mersing district office. At the Federal level, we are cooperating with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Malaysian Investment Development Authority, Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture as well as Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industries via Johor Investment Promotion and Coordination Committee meeting,” said En. Baidzawi.
POVERTY ERADICATION VIA HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT
Human capital development (HCD) is a primary priority for ECERDC in Mersing to help the rakyat adapt and survive the new economic reality brought about by the pandemic. Mersing recorded the highest poverty rate in Johor at 7.1%. The recent revision of the state’s Poverty Line Income (PLI) from RM923 to RM2,505 for Johor in 2019 is expected to increase the number of households living in poverty from 210 to 1,215. Mersing also recorded the lowest labour force participation at 61% compared to other districts in Johor.
ECERDC is also developing entrepreneurs through the empower ECER programme. A total of 164 new entrepreneurs were developed and trained in skills such as bookkeeping and digitalization and all of them are utilising digital platforms to increase sales. ECERDC also helped the participants formalise their business. Under the entrepreneur ECER programme, 97 entrepreneurs have been facilitated to scale up their business by improving production quality, packaging, branding and certification. These entrepreneurs have created about 200 jobs for locals in their community.
“We are committed in ensuring the successful roll out of the poverty eradication programmes. To achieve this, emphasis is placed on training programmes that anticipate future needs such as digitalisation and IR4.0 skills to enhance the employability of the rakyat,” concluded Encik Baidzawi.