Wednesday, July 25, 2007

IDR - Whither Malaysia-Singapore Relations?

Datuk Rejal Arbee

Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo has been quoted as saying the Iskandar Development Region “will be good for Johor. It will be good for Singapore. Both sides will benefit. The pie will grow faster and there will be plenty to be shared.”

But he qualified that this would only be on the basis of no borders between the two countries likening it to water flow which will find its own level whereby a lot of the economic growth in Singapore will spill over into the IDR, which will lower Singapore’s own costs.

The reality is there is a border and to Yeo because there is this fence “the water doesn’t flow completely and there is a certain pressure difference, but to the extent that there is connectivity and ferocity, that is good for both sides.”

He likened the benefits arising from the IDR as water flow. But we in Malaysia can only hope that it will not be just a one way flow like a river which always flows downstream.

But knowing the calculative Singaporeans they will surely do the arithmetics and will only commit if the sums favour them more. Thus in so far as Singapore’s investment in the IDR is concerned it is not just a river flow downstream to Johore but more like the tide which flows in and out. So with every investment it makes, there is the concomitant flow back to Singapore in terms of profit repatriation and other kind of outflows from the IDR to the island republic.

Even with this Yeo has qualified his statement that there would be ‘some practical problems’ which needed to be tackled at the first joint ministerial meeting in Johor Bahru. So what message is Singapore trying to make prior to the ministerial meeting? They want a free flow of Singaporeans into the IDR?

This was something which Johoreans had objected to resulting in the shelving of the proposal to allow Singaporeans freely into the IDR without the need for travel papers. Is Yeo now hinting at reinstating the proposal? But what is the reciprocity from Singapore?

So the flow that Yeo is talking about doesn’t seem to brush off onto other areas of relationship between Malaysia and the republic despite what he described as the better climate of relationship between the two nations now. "I believe with the present spirit of co-operation and goodwill, we should be able to do something to promote easier flow between the two sides, which would be good for the IDR," so said Yeo as reported by Channel News Asia which was picked up by Bernama.

However which ever way one looks at it, the flow is mostly one sided. The goodwill always comes from Malaysia with Singapore at times not reciprocating at all. Thus Malaysia continues to allow the free flow of Singapore cars into Johor despite the Cabinet deciding to impose a token levy which was not enforced. Malaysians driving into the republic have to pay to drive there.

Thus the republic won’t even allow Malaysians from the peninsula who had stopped working in Singapore to withdraw their money from the Central Provident Fund. It would not have cost the republic anything (the money is not even theirs) but would gain goodwill from the affected Malaysians. But of course in this case the flow would be towards Malaysia and the republic cannot be seen to give way to Malaysia lest we be ‘embolden’ to ask them for more as often charged by Lee Kuan Yew and company. Its simply unthinkable for them to be seen to give way to Malaysia.

So whither Malaysia-Singapore relations?

1 comment:

Tracker said...

You want Singapore's money for investment, and you want hard money on your own terms ???