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Melaka Chief Minister Utama Sulaiman Mohammad Ali signs a certificate for one of the participating companies at the week-long ‘Melaka Week’ at the Business Lounge of the Malaysia Pavilion on Monday. Kamal Kassim / Gulf Today
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
Twenty government institutions and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) from the southwestern State of Melaka in Malaysia are on a week-long business-to-business exhibition at the Malaysia Pavilion in the Jubilee Area of the Expo 2020 Dubai from Monday.
Their “clear mission,” according to delegation head Melaka Chief Minister Utama Sulaiman Mohammad Ali, is to bring home at least $119 million (Dhs437,090,570.00) worth of investments from both the public and private individuals in the UAE, and other countries.
This will help further heighten the global importance of the once-coastal village that has become among the world’s “busiest sea lanes” since the 1500s when the Straits of Melaka, connecting the present-day Southeast Asian region to the rest of the world through the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, had been experienced by traders from India, the Middle East and Europe as a vital port.
Taking off from its rich maritime history, laced with cultural influences from the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonisers, the delegation is heavily promoting the one-year-old Melaka Watefront Economic Zone (M-WEZ), officially launched in the country’s capital of Kuala Lumpur in 2021.
According to the Sept. 22, 2021 Malay Mail portal that quoted Sulaiman, this 25,000 acres (10,117.14 hectares) of reclaimed sea area from Pantai Puteri to Umbai, and fashioned from its counterparts in Dubai, Hong Kong and Toronto (Canada) is a “game changer.” It is so as through both local and foreign direct investments, expected are 5,000 new jobs every year and an annual gross domestic product of “2 billion Malaysian Ringgits” ($477,612,200.00/Dhs1,754,317,371.82).
In his press briefing, Sulaiman traced how Melaka, since 2008, has been among the “World Heritage Sites” of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. He also said: “Our history as a maritime hub and a busy trading centre goes a long way back. The deep, sheltered harbor on the narrow channel which took our name, the Straits of Melaka, positioned us at the crossroads of the busiest sea lanes in the world.”
Sulaiman described M-WEZ as a “major economic contributor to the state.” He added: “We will encourage the development of a container and general cargo points, cruise and ferry terminals, free trade zones, logistics hubs, oil and gas terminals, ship repair yards, and ship-to-ship, or STS transfer facilities. There will be new areas dedicated to tourism products, duty free zones, shopping malls, offices, hotels, residences and IR 4.0 industries, among others.”
On the question raised by Gulf Today on the significance of their Expo 2020 Dubai participation, Sulaiman said: “Melaka is a historical city. So we came here to participate at Expo 2020 Dubai to market our products. We are here with 10 government agencies and 10 SMEs to introduce their expertise, their products and what they have done. We are here to encourage investors from the UAE and other countries to come and explore Melaka. We will help them.”
On how FDI-friendly as well as how safe, secured and peaceful Melaka – home to over 580,000 inhabitants is – Melaka Investments, Industry & Entrepreneurship Minister Ab Rauf Yusoh said: “We are here to promote Melaka as the future for industries and where investments (are worthwhile). We are now preparing to revise our service and some up with a one-stop-centre to encourage foreign direct investors (whereby they will enjoy) easy approvals from (all authorities concerned). Investors have chosen Melaka because we are in the middle of the peninsula of Malaysia. We are nearest to the major port in the south end and in the north end. The cost of investment in Melaka is very moderate compared to the other states.”
On other questions raised from the floor, Sulaiman and Yusoh pointed out that through the M-WEZ, ongoing are talks with the “Government of Indonesia” regarding the 47-kilometre underwater rail network through the Straits of Melaka to Sumatra, where 60 million live and a “growing middle class.” The two countries shall share the expenditures. Both said Melaka supports the Net Zero policy of Malaysia as it is actively partnering and collaborating with their counterparts from other federation states with regards to building up the socio-economic base of the country while they are “bound to policies of the federal government, the state government and the local government. There is a partnership and cooperation between and among states in Malaysia.”
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