Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar has much admiration of how Singapore has done well in both its education system as well as in its water management program. Both the Sultan and his son– the Johor prince hopes that the students can learn English from Singapore. Sultan Ibrahim has suggested that Johor should make English an important subject in its schools.
Singapore has an excellent working relationship with Johor and ties are very cordial, with our ministers’ crossing over the causeway enjoying the Hari Raya celebrations with their leaders every year. Our government readily steps forward to give a helping hand when Johor needs assistance; and this was recently demonstrated when our neighbour experienced water shortage.
It is encouraging that the joint project in the Iskandar project will see the economy on both sides grow. With the MRT being planned to link Singapore and Johor, tourism on both sides will get a big boost. Given the expertise in attracting tourists worldwide, it would be good if the Singapore Tourism Board has regular marketing and sales training programs to support its neighbor.
Another area where Singapore and Johor can build sound relations is to organize sporting events between MediaCorp and the Johor broadcasting network. Or such games could be organized between civil servants of Johor and Singapore. This will sure to take friendship to a much higher level. When we are friends, we tend to me more giving, and will not want to nit-pick on this and that.
But as security is an issue in Johor, it will be useful if more vigilance on the part of the police in Johor is stepped up. There have been so many cases of armed robberies and assaults on Singaporeans going across the causeway for shopping. Many of the robbers travel on motorbikes to make a quick get-away. Singaporeans for their part must be cautious and be mindful that by wearing expensive jewelry, they will become prime targets of crimes.
Although the merger between Singapore and Malaysia did not succeed, I am of the view that a Johor-Singapore merger will be beneficial to both states in the long run.
While Singapore has been fiercely independent for 50 long years, times have changed and we need partners to succeed in the next 50 years for various reasons.
Firstly, in land-scarce Singapore coupled with an ageing population, more affordable nursing homes will be needed to support our silver-haired citizens.
Next, the tourist industry for Singapore and Johor can bring in more revenue in this area. With Singaporeans enjoying shopping sprees in their neighbouring state, not only with revenue go up for Johor, but the relationship between our citizens and that of Johor will be raised to a much higher level.
With Singaporean affluent in speaking and writing good English, there will be job opportunities for our citizens.
There is also scope for retirement homes to be built in Johor and such joint ventures will be beneficial to our people and that of the Johor citizens.
Raymond Anthony Fernando
* Footnote: Even if the merger is not possible for political, historical or other reasons, both countries can deeper collaborations. With the MRT lines linking Johor and Singapore in a few years’ times, both countries should seize the opportunity to grow the economy.