The Terengganu Investment Authority (TIA) was well-covered by the weekend press, including the Star and the Edge Weekly. “Well-covered” in the sense of plenty of news pages being devoted to this RM11bn fund, which, by the way, is equivalent to ladening RM11,000 of debt on every single one of the 1million Terengganu folk!
Not surprisingly, hard, penetrating questions were rare. Like, “How exactly will the average Terengganu citizen benefit from all this?”
Based on the reported comments by CEO Sharol Azral Ibrahim Halmi and executive director of business development Casey Tan, TIA will be yet another launch pad for huge construction mega-projects that will benefit a few cronies, a few hundred Class-F contractors (want to bet they’ll mainly be UMNO-related?) and a few thousand, mainly foreign, construction workers.
Consider just two examples:
1) CEO Sharol said TIA is “taking a masterplan approach to build a resort with private villas and other amenities as well as retirement homes”. TIA will invest US$1.8bn and expects a foreign investor to match this sum. That works out to nearly RM13bn, which coincidentally is about the same sum reportedly frittered away in the Port Klang Free Zone debacle;
2) An even worse idea comes from Tang: “It will be a tourism play. The land will be acquired from the state and sold at a higher price to the master developer.” Hello? Land-flipping was a major issue at PKFZ. Influential private parties acquired land cheaply from the state and subsequently resold it at far higher prices. What the private party gains, the state loses – why can’t the state sell it at the higher price in the first place, and use the proceeds to fund state development. Why is TIA, a sovereign fund which aspires to best-practices, even considering this approach?
Coming full circle to my original question, after the land is bought and sold, after the spanking new buildings are constructed … how will the average Terengganu resident be better off?
More to come …