After an earlier report in many newspapers about its total project size being reduced in size from 1600ha down to 450ha by the Department of Environment (DOE), we have a statement from the China developer Country Garden Holdings. Final decision is still pending. They also said that they are very confident because the detailed environmental impact assessment (DEIA) is on their side. If the DEIA is passed, it simply meant that the damage to the environment is controllable and is not as bad as what everyone is saying. The everyone here refers to both the Singapore government as well as locals which said that the huge reclamation work may severely damage the environment in the narrow waterway. Thus a DEIA was conducted. A final decision is still pending but would be announced very soon. The project is Forest City and it is a joint venture between Country Garden and the Johor state company Kumpulan Rakyat Prasarana Johor.
Without a final conclusion, everything has been halted. The reclamation work has been suspended since June 16. This meant that it had lost over 6 months of valuable reclamation time. Country Garden further said that all the assessment directives thus far are focussed on compliance to high standards and has not touched on limiting the project size or any other compromise. A dedicated online for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) would also go live by Jan 9. Nevertheless this limitation may not be that bad. According to CB Richard Ellis (M) Sdn Bhd group executive director Paul Khong, total time needed just for the reclamation would take one to two years. By then, the current negative sentiment should have improved. Landserve (Johor) Sdn Bhd executive director Wee Soon Chit added that, “There is no need to be so gung ho and reclaim everything now. Reclaiming everything at one go would also impact the company’s cash flow. It already has the existing project in Danga Bay, which should keep it busy for the time being.”
I have no access to DOE or Country Garden but I think the project is definitely going ahead. As for the size, even if the current approved size is reduced, it can still be reviewed in the future. Based on the current market situation, it may be more prudent to reclaim based on how the market reacts. I personally feel that there are advantages to both sides for the project to proceed. The more linkages between both sides the better it would be. Perhaps the missing link might be to rope in another strategic partner into the joint venture. A good company from the other side. A win-win situation is definitely easier for Iskandar-Singapore than Singapore-Batam. No, I do not mean politically. I meant the distance including the history, the current cordial relationship and even Singapore’s continuous growth plans. Happy investing or accumulating before jumping in.
written on 7 Jan 2015
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