The Eastern Corridor Economic Region (ECER) will cost RM112bil of which 40% will be spent to build roads to spur development, said Petronas president Tan Sri Hassan Merican.
“Enhancement of transportation connectivity and economic linkages with the Western Corridor, the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) and the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) are key factors needed for the ECER to succeed,” he said.
Hassan, who is also Petronas chief executive officer, explained that one of the major problems faced by the three east coast states of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang was the lack of proper roads to connect them to the rest of the country where most of the economic activities were being carried out.
Petronas was asked by the Government to draw up the masterplan for the ECER, which comprises 66,736 sq km of land or 51% of Peninsular Malaysia covering the three states and the district of Mersing in Johor.
The ECER is the third development region to be launched this year after the IDR in Johor and the NCER covering states in northern Peninsular Malaysia.
The masterplan proposes to develop the region in 12 years under the 9th, 10th and 11th Malaysia Plans.
The roads to be built include Phase Three of the East Coast Expressway linking Kuala Terengganu and Kota Baru, Phase Four of the expressway connecting Kuantan to Johor Baru and a highway linking Temerloh to Kuala Pilah.
Hassan said 47% of the cost of developing the ECER would be financed by the private sector, including 27% via private finance initiative.
“The main objective of the ECER is to accelerate growth in the region in a viable, equitable and sustainable manner.
“This region is among the poorest in the country and we need to correct the imbalance between the east and west coast,” he said, adding that the east coast states accounted for more than 30% of the country’s hardcore poor.
Hassan said the five main clusters or sectors that had been identified as the engine of growth for the region covers tourism, oil, gas and petrochemical, manufacturing, agriculture and education.
“Agriculture will be the main project because of the huge tracts of land available. Our experts have identified two types of crops – citrus fruits and pineapples – as the most suitable to be cultivated in the region.
“We are also looking at setting up rubber tree forest estates of up to 100,000ha to be grown and harvested for their timber. This will in turn enable furniture factories to be set up in the region as rubber wood will be easily available,” he added.