January 12, 2024
SINGAPORE – A passport-free QR code system is being explored to speed up immigration clearance for land travel between Singapore and Malaysia, as part of plans for the Johor-Singapore Special Economic Zone (JSSEZ).
Other collaborative initiatives being looked at include making it easier for Singapore businesses to set up shop in Johor through a one-stop business and investment service centre in the Malaysian state to facilitate applications for approvals and licences.
Also being explored are digitised processes for cargo clearance at land checkpoints.
As both countries work towards the JSSEZ, an investors’ forum may be co-organised to gather feedback from businesses about the special zone.
In a joint press statement on Jan 11, Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and Malaysia’s Ministry of Economy said these early initiatives demonstrate the collaborative spirit between both sides and mutual interest in the JSSEZ to drive economic growth.
They complement a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that both countries inked on the special economic zone on Jan 11 to strengthen economic connectivity between Johor and Singapore.
The MOU was signed by Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong and Malaysian Minister of Economy Mohd Rafizi Ramli, and witnessed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.
The MOU comes two months after the 10th Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat in October 2023. At the retreat, PM Lee told reporters that there was an ongoing feasibility study to determine investor interest and market demand.
Singapore was Johor’s second-largest foreign investor from January to June 2022, and contributed about 70 per cent of its total foreign direct investment in the manufacturing sector.
Under the MOU, the creation of the special economic zone will enhance cross-border connectivity in goods to promote more seamless and expedited flow between Johor and Singapore.
It will also enable freer movement for people such as professionals, managers, executives and technicians, to support investments and business operations.
To facilitate investment growth and create good jobs, the business ecosystem within the JSSEZ will be strengthened. This will be done through talent and vocational training initiatives and economic support for companies.
A framework for the special economic zone will be developed to determine economic sectors of mutual interest for cooperation, as well as which geographical areas the JSSEZ will cover.
Developing such a framework will lay the groundwork for a legally binding agreement in the future, said MTI.
Mr Gan said: “The JSSEZ underscores what Singapore and Malaysia can achieve when our governments and business communities work closely together.”
“It will serve as a bridge for both sides to tap on each other’s complementary strengths and seize opportunities to grow together.”
Mr Rafizi noted that the special economic zone presents an “unprecedented opportunity” to enhance the cross-border flow of goods and people, bolster the business ecosystem, and elevate the economic attractiveness of both Johor and Singapore.
He said: “I have full confidence that this initiative will herald the commencement of a transformative chapter in our bilateral economic relations, fostering unparalleled connectivity and prosperity for both our great nations.”
The implementation of the MOU will be overseen by a JSSEZ Joint Committee that will be co-led by Singapore’s MTI and Malaysia’s Ministry of Economy.
The committee will report to the Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia, which is co-chaired by National Development Minister Desmond Lee and Mr Rafizi.
MTI and Malaysia’s Ministry of Economy said in their statement that both countries agreed to work towards a full-fledged agreement on the JSSEZ, and an update will be given at the 11th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat.
The JSSEZ rides on the strong growth of Johor and significant investments in the region by Singapore, said both ministries.
The southernmost Malaysian state saw RM70.6 billion (S$20.2 billion) worth of investments in 2022 alone, across various sectors including electrical and electronics, medical equipment, food manufacturing and data centres.
Singapore and Malaysia are each other’s second-largest trading partners, with bilateral trade growing 18.9 per cent year on year to $153 billion in 2022.
The Republic was also Malaysia’s top source of foreign direct investment, contributing 20.5 per cent in 2022.
Prior to the MOU signing, PM Lee and Datuk Seri Anwar, who is also Malaysia’s Finance Minister, attended the commemoration ceremony for the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link.
The ceremony marked the completion of the connecting concrete span between the Singapore and Malaysian sections of the link’s viaduct. Two-thirds of the civil infrastructure on Singapore’s side have been completed.