If the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) were a pole-vaulting competition, Samalaju would be the one pushing the benchmark ever higher. In three short years, the coastal industrial complex that has come to epitomise speedy development has continued to charm major international investors, promising the creation of thousands of new jobs.
But what is the next logical step to consider? For those who begin migrating, like myself, to that thought, just imagine what this many people would look like living within the parameters of Samalaju, and then you might get the hint.
Full-fledged industrial parks are the ‘toys’ that economic development planners wish for during gatherings at their respective holidays.
However, who really finds the idea of residing within the reach heavy industry comforting? And another question – How appealing is the address of ‘Industrial Zone [XYZ]’ stamped on the back of outgoing postcards?
To undo this negative postcard image and steam towards the beatification of Samalaju, officially known as Samalaju Industrial Park (SIP), Cahya Mata Sarawak (CMS), the Bintulu Development Authority (BDA) and NAIM Holdings Bhd have signed onto a state-led project to development a green township. What’s on the drawing board looks impressive.
At this moment, green buffer zones are being sketched out across blueprints of SIP, slide in alongside buildings with solar panels and efficient wastewater management systems, practices that have been carefully gleaned out of the most successful industrial parks in Australia, the Middle East and elsewhere.
But, in the meantime, while the visionary architectural artwork remains on the board, companies that have already entered are to be offered other options for accommodation, an issue that has come up with the construction of Tokuyama’s polycrystalline silicon production plants, which requires the Japanese company to ferry hundreds of construction workers down a single-lane access road daily.
“For the interim period, accommodation will be made available for industries that are already set up in the area. For any worker or manager who doesn’t want to be in Bintulu, upgraded worker, supervisor or manager level accommodations will be provided in Samalaju,” CMS Group managing director Datuk Richard Curtis disclosed to Inside Investor.
Moreover, a set of beachfront accommodation is being planned to appeal to incoming CEOs, as well as new entrants setting up SMEs, for which 133 hectares have been specially allocated within SIP.
“To widen the accommodation choices, a resort-style residential complex in Samalaju will be constructed on the beach just next to the commercial center that will support factories and house the Bintulu Development Authority visitor’s centre,” Curtis added.
Does this all seem a bit too fanciful for an industrial park? Well, maybe not.
SIP has gathered interest from nine more investors hailing from South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, India and the Middle East as of November 2012. To date, some RM29 billion in total investments have been soaked up by the 8,000-hectare complex, which could create 17,000 new jobs, Datuk Amar Wilson Baya Dandot, chief executive officer of the Regional Corridor Development Authority (Recoda), recently told Inside Investor.
Out of the 16 companies already committed to SIP, five have started their projects: Tokuyama, which produces polycrystalline silicon; OM Holdings (fero manganese); Press Metal Bhd of Malaysia (aluminium ingots and billets); and Asia Advanced Materials of South Korea (metallic silicon); and Pertama Asia (silicon manganese), which has committed RM11.32 billion in total investments and will employ 4,460 operational staff.
Zooming out to the state level, Sarawak raked about US$1 billion in investment during the first two months of 2013, the highest among the states in Malaysia, Minister of Industrial Development Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hassan recently said.
“According to Malaysian Investment Development Authority, the investment flowing into Sarawak in January and February 2013 was the highest, followed by Perak (US$123 million), Selangor (US$120 million) and Penang (US$115 million),” Tengah said at the opening of a programme on opportunities in commerce and industry at the civic centre in Kuching on May 1.
Like SCORE, the vast majority of investments being made in Sarawak are coming from abroad. This continued traction seen within the state certainly bodes well for SCORE’s own investment darling. It will continue to be exciting to see what the speedy node can churn out.
Justin Calderon is a research analyst at www.investvine.com, a news portal owned by Inside Investor focusing on Southeast Asian economic topics, as well as trade and investment relations between Asean and the GCC. The
views expressed are his own.