Reinventing ECER through strategic infrastructure projects, human capital development, and industry 4.0

By , in Nation on .

KUALA LUMPUR, 22 JANUARY 2021: Despite a challenging year in 2020 due to the COVID19 pandemic, the East Coast Economic Region Development Council (ECERDC) has managed to attract committed investments worth RM5.5 billion and realised investments totalling RM4.2 billion in the East Coast Economic Region (ECER).

The Federal Government’s extension of investment incentives for a further two years until 31 December 2022 for investors into the Region will be a key enabler to attract new investments and bring the Region’s momentum back on track. Among the incentives under the ECER Incentive Package are income tax exemption, investment tax allowance, deduction for agriculture investment and stamp duty exemption for promoted activities.

ECERDC will capitalise on the extension of incentives to aggressively promote ECER as an investment destination over the next two years to regain lost ground due to the pandemic. Barring further indications of a prolonged global economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, ECERDC is maintaining its target of securing a total of RM70 billion in private investments by 2025, as outlined in the ECER Master Plan 2.0 (EMP 2.0).

“COVID-19 is a setback but we are optimistic that we will regain our momentum with the extension of incentives. While we continue to promote investment into ECER, the high-impact projects and programmes earmarked in the EMP2.0 will continue to be implemented. In the nearer term, two main pillars driving the Region’s economic recovery will be the Agribusiness and Tourism sectors.

This will be underpinned by sustained human capital development, focusing particularly on Industry 4.0 (IR4.0) skills, which will be a key factor towards building the rakyat’s capacity and resilience in preparation for post COVID-19 challenges,” said Encik Baidzawi Che Mat, Chief Executive Officer of ECERDC, following the ECERDC Council meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

The meeting, which was held virtually at multiple locations were attended by Menteri Besar of Kelantan, YAB Ustaz Dato’ Bentara Kanan Haji Ahmad Yakob; Menteri Besar of Terengganu, YAB Dato’ Seri Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar; Menteri Besar of Pahang, YAB Dato’ Sri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail; and Menteri Besar of Johor, YAB Datuk Ir. Hasni Mohammad. Also present were YB Dato’ Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Senior Minister and Minister of International Trade and Industry and YBM Senator Tengku Dato’ Sri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, Minister of Finance.

AGRIBUSINESS

The current pandemic highlighted key concerns about food self-sufficiency and food security, and the establishment of the Cabinet Committee on National Food Security Policy underscores the importance of this issue.

ECERDC’s Agribusiness initiatives are on track towards achieving ECERDC’s targets and contribute towards improving Malaysia’s ranking on the Global Food Security Index (GFSI), where in 2019, Malaysia’s position has jumped from the 48th to the 28th spot.

In line with EMP2.0, ECERDC will continue with the key strategy of implementing the Anchor Company Model, building basic infrastructure to attract investors, maximising the use of land to increase agro-food production and providing customised incentives as additional attraction for investors. The Anchor Company Model has proven to be a highly successful public-private partnership initiative to further strengthen the domestic agro-food production with the use of modern technology.

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Among projects which are expected to contribute towards improving national food security are the Tok Bali Transformation Plan and Jemaluang Dairy Valley (JDV). The Tok Bali Transformation Plan will create a self-sustainable ecosystem for the fisheries industry and an integrated facility which will provide down streaming opportunities for the local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to produce high value fish products. The plan will also usher in modern fishing vessels that will see an increase in competent and local skilled workforce manning these vessels. JDV, an integrated development project envisioned to create a sustainable dairy activity encompassing both upstream and downstream activities involving agriculture, livestock and rural entrepreneurial activities is expected to boost national milk production by 11%.

Other key projects which will contribute towards food security are the Endau Mersing Fish Processing Park, Lembu Sado and coconut plantation. These projects will create multiple jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for the rakyat in the agriculture sector.

TOURISM

Even though the tourism industry has been significantly impacted by international travel restrictions and movement control orders due to the pandemic, the second half of year 2020 saw an increase in domestic tourism, with higher demands for beach and resort destinations. According to a post-MCO domestic tourism survey, over 72% of respondents chose islands and beaches as their preferred holiday destinations.

ECERDC has completed tourism projects which are now becoming iconic destinations for local tourists such as the Kuala Terengganu City Centre (KTCC) Drawbridge, Kuantan 188 Tower in Pahang, Tanjung Penyabong development in Mersing and is now undertaking the Kampung Laut redevelopment and Palekbang bridge in Kelantan.

Moving forward, with islands being among key places of interest for tourism, ECERDC is now focusing on enhancing infrastructure and facilities by taking into account the carrying capacity of ECER’s world-renowned island destinations to protect the natural assets. This will support sustainable tourism not only for domestic tourists but also in preparation for foreign arrivals when international tourism is viable again. Among the projects to be implemented are the upgrading of the solar hybrid system in Pulau Kapas, Terengganu and development of Pulau Suri in Kelantan.

“Islands have the potential of attracting more tourists, both domestic and international, and as a result, will face environmental challenges and threats to its marine biodiversity. Therefore, the enhancement of supporting infrastructures such as jetties, public amenities, sewage treatment plants and solid waste management, will help to preserve the islands’ natural assets and further catalyse the tourism industry. This is timely as there is an expected increase of tourists to these islands post-COVID-19,” said Encik Baidzawi.

HUMAN CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT

ECERDC’s human capital development programmes have been instrumental in improving the livelihood of the people in ECER, especially the B40 group. Under the EMP2.0, more than 48,000 people including the Orang Asli participated and benefited from initiatives under ECERDC’s human capital development programmes empower ECER Academic Training have benefited 24,696 students while empower ECER Skills and Entrepreneurship Training have created 6,218 entrepreneurs who recorded additional income of between RM1,000 to RM10,000. ECERDC has also developed 6,202 existing entrepreneurs under the entrepreneur ECER programme who recorded a 30% increase in their income. In total, entrepreneurs under both programmes created a total of 20,652 jobs for the local community.

With the introduction of a revised National Poverty Line Income (PLI) of RM2,208 in 2019, 122,766 households in ECER are categorised as living below the poverty line, consisting of both the poor and hardcore poor. The continuation of human capital development programmes will have a direct impact to the increase of the people’s income and standard of living.

In order to address the increased number of people living under the poverty line, ECERDC will continue to provide and enhance its human capital development programmes to equip the rakyat with e-commerce and digitalisation skills to enhance and future-proof their employability in the postCOVID-19 era to ensure that they will rise above the poverty line.

In response to the rising need to shift to digital platforms and e-commerce brought by COVID19, ECERDC has facilitated trainings in digital skills for active entrepreneurs in the Region. Through the empower ECER and entrepreneur ECER programmes, ECERDC has provided training to help them learn how to utilize e-commerce platforms such as Shopee, food delivery services such as Food Panda, Grab and OdaMakan as well as continue to encourage social media marketing via Facebook, in order to increase their income and sustain their businesses during the pandemic. So far, 8,325 entrepreneurs have benefited from the training.

ECERDC also ensured 4,588 of its micro-entrepreneur participants register their businesses with the Companies Commission Malaysia in 2020 to facilitate access to government aid. Formalising their business eased their application for the Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package (PRIHATIN) which allowed them to accelerate their business digitalization and enhance their income during the pandemic.

ECERDC is also one of the agencies implementing the Federal Government’s Pelan Jana Semula Ekonomi Negara (PENJANA) initiative. Under the PENJANA-ECERDC programme, which comprises of ETEP (Place and Train) and ETEP Enhanced (Train and Place), ECERDC targets to upskill and reskill a total of 5,500 participants under both programmes by early 2021. “To ensure that the PLI is addressed, we need to make sure such income gaps are closed.

Therefore our human capital development programmes is an important component in the ECER ecosystem that supports private investment through the provision of skilled manpower in ECER, creation of new entrepreneurs, as well as development of existing ones to take advantage of business opportunities resulting from investment activities,” said Encik Baidzawi.

TOWARDS THE POST-COVID-19 ERA

Developing IR4.0 skills will enable the Rakyat to benefit from future opportunities in the longer term. The Asia Centre of Excellence for Smart Technologies (ACES), a collaboration between ECERDC and Germany’s TUM International GmbH (TUMInt), a subsidiary of Germany’s top ranking university Technische Universität München (Technical University of Munich), will play a key role in the digital transformation of ECER. This collaboration will be incorporated through the formation of ACES Smart Solutions Sdn Bhd.

To prepare an Industry 4.0-ready workforce for the region, ACES is developing a dedicated web application to create awareness among students about Industry 4.0 applications and career opportunities. The app is a pioneering awareness programme in Malaysia, targeting the younger demographic group with the intention of inspiring students to pursue tertiary education in Industry 4.0-related studies or become an entrepreneur within the Industry 4.0 ecosystem.

It will be accessible on tablets provided to SPM students under ECERDC’s empower ECER (Academic) programme. Data collected from the app will be used to assess their aptitude for future ACES training programmes in preparation for a career in Industry 4.0.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented economic and market shock around the world and the ECER is not exempt from it. Nevertheless, ECERDC remains optimistic that calmer waters lie ahead and we will continue to deliver the needed high-impact projects and programmes to ensure a well-balanced development in ECER that will attract high-quality investors and facilitate economic recovery,” concluded Encik Baidzawi.

NMT

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