The sky’s the limit for Kedah

An artist’s impression of how Alor Setar will look like by the end of this year (except the proposed luxury hotel). Developed by the Belleview Group, Aman Central Mall will be open in the third quarter, while the Amansuri Residences will be completed in the last quarter.

EVERYONE knows that Kedah is the Jelapang Padi or “rice bowl” of Malaysia, but few are familiar with the state’s foray into technology-based activities.

With rolling plantations and padi fields stretching to the horizon, Kedah seems rustic and laid-back.

Nestled beneath the state’s expansive geography, however, is a series of potent economic development plans that could transform Kedah into an industrialised state.

The most recent plan is to increase the already successful Kulim Hi-Tech Park (KHTP) by a whopping 4,856ha over the next 20 years.

The UAE aerobatic team, Al-Fursan, showcasing a colourful smoke display at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition at the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre on March 21 this year

Set up in 1996, KHTP currently takes up 1,796ha and has seen RM34bil in investments poured into it.

Almost 40 corporations are based there, including multinationals such as Intel, Panasonic Energy, Fuji Electric, Hoya Electronics and Fujimi Micro Technology, as well as homegrown companies such as Wong Engineering Corporation, Kisco, KTPC Technologies and Axcelies Technologies.

Last year alone, KHTP managed to chalk up RM3.9bil in investments, contributing significantly to total investments achieved by the state.

Motivated by the park’s attraction to foreign investors, the state government’s 20-year plan for the park is expected to turn it into a place that integrates industries with research and development, training, teaching institutions and housing zones.

This expansion plan comes on the heels of six catalytic projects proposed for the state – Kulim International Airport (KIA), Aerospace City (next to KIA), Sungai Petani Inner Kedah Expressway, Rubber City, Kedah Science and Technology Park and Kedah Medical City.

All eyes are on KIA, with the state government having offered 600ha of rubber plantations to the Transport Ministry to build it.

The proposed airport is to have two runways, with enough land for another two for both cargo and passenger services that would benefit not just neighbouring states, but also southern Thailand.

Motocross riders in action during the Kedah Motocross Championship at Kampung Rasau in Pendang, Kedah, on April 25 this year. –Bernama

The development cost is expected to be approximately RM2bil, including land acquisition, basic airport infrastructure and two runways.

The area next to the proposed KIA has been earmarked as the future Aerospace City, which will accommodate aviation-related industries.

While these proposals are targeted at transforming Kedah into an industrial powerhouse, the state government has not forgotten the value of agriculture.

Over 400ha of land at Bukit Ketapang in the northeastern district of Padang Terap will be developed as Rubber City.

Designed to improve the livelihood of Kedah’s rubber tappers, Rubber City aims to woo multinationals to manufacture rubber-based products for export.

The state government aims to launch Rubber City by 2017, while it was reported in April that investors from Thailand and Indonesia have expressed keen interest to take part in it.

In mid-May, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir led a state-level trade and investment mission to China and Japan, where he witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Kedah State Development Corporation and Qingdao Lu Hai Feng Investment Co Ltd to develop the Kedah Integrated Fishery Terminal (KIFT).

The project will involve an investment of about RM1bil and is targeting fish landings of about one million tonnes annually.

KIFT is pitched as an international fisheries centre for tuna caught from the Indian Ocean, with the tuna to be processed in Kedah before being exported to China.

The Chinese company has obtained a fishing licence from the Agriculture and Agro Industries Ministry for 20 vessels costing about RM100mil each.

Mukhriz (right) inspecting a pile of frozen tuna during a visit to the factory of Qingdao Lu Hai Feng Investment Co Ltd (Lu Hai Feng) in Qingdao, China, on May 13 this year. Looking on is Lu Hai Feng managing chief Liu Jisheng (with dark glasses). –Bernama

KIFT will be in Temengau near Kuala Kedah, and the project would involve reclamation to build a jetty equipped to handle these large vessels to dock.

Other than landing tuna, the terminal will also benefit local fishermen and other companies interested in deep sea fishing.

In 2013, Kedah attracted investments worth more than RM2.5bil, a figure five times more than what flowed into the state in the previous year.

Last year, Kedah bagged another RM4.5bil in investments, mainly from the manufacturing sector, and all these investments are partly responsible for adding some buzz to the state’s capital city of Alor Setar.

Last November, the maiden Aeon Big store in Kedah opened in Jalan Gangsa.

Built on a 9,144sq m-plot of land, the building houses a hypermarket and a shopping area with 55 lots offering various products and services.

The grand dame of Alor Setar would be the currently under-construction Aman Central, which takes up 28,328sq m near the heart of town in a development that can rival Penang’s Queensbay Mall in size.

Touted as the largest lifestyle destination in the northern region, Aman Central has a total built-up area of 185,806sq m spread across six levels that houses 330 retail lots and more than 1,700 parking bays.

Another sign that more good things are in store for Kedah is Amansuri Residences, the first luxury condominium built in the state.

With its two towers rising to 23 and 24 storeys respectively, this condominium development is the clearest signal that Alor Setar is no longer the sleepy hollow that outsiders are led to believe.

Developed by the Belleview Group, the 277 homes in this prime development will be ready for occupation by the end of the year and is expected to set off a new wave of high-class living for Kedahans.

Some things about Kedah stay the same though.

It is still the place where half of Malaysia’s rice is grown. The temptation of converting plantation land for manufacturing and housing is growing strong, but it appears that the State government is mindful that it must not get out of hand.

In 2008, then Mentri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak said the conversion of padi fields into housing and industrial lots would no longer be allowed, but it is unsure whether the directive still stands today.

In any case, Kedah’s position as the top rice producing state is in no danger of being overtaken anytime soon, as other states also face the same pressure that modernisation puts on agriculture land.

For the time being, the future looks bright for Kedah Darul Aman, with its crown jewels of Langkawi and Gunung Jerai and many promising developments surrounding them.

The Star – 06 June 2015

The Star – 06 June 2015

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