LETTER | The Forest City project is a project that involved the sultan of Johor and it is believed that the project bulldozed many laws of the country.
I remember it raised the concerns of the Singapore government on environmental impact issues. Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir Mohamad was quoted to have said: "Malaysia will not allow foreigners to buy residential units in the Forest City project in Johor".
In a media release today, Housing and Local Government Minister, Zuraida Kamaruddin also stressed that the US$100bil (RM410 billion) project had no links with the ministry or the National Physical Planning Council. I wonder what does she mean by this?
Didn't the developer comply with the necessary provisions of the Housing Development Act (HDA)? Is this a tit-for-tat between Mahathir and the Johor sultan and his son who had openly campaigned against Pakatan Harapan for GE14?
Whatever is said by anyone, I think we need to look at the big picture for Malaysia. We need FDI badly and the foreigners investing in Malaysian properties are bringing hard cash into Malaysia. Saying that we cannot sell houses to foreigners is wrong as the law allows foreigners to own property in Malaysia.
In Johor, any foreigner can buy property that meets the minimum threshold. For landed property in the international zone, foreigners can only buy landed properties priced above RM2 million and they can buy strata titles priced above RM1 million.
The lack of a consistent long-term policy is not helping Malaysia in bringing in FDI. In 2014, Lee Kuan Yew said in his book “One Man’s View of the World”:
“Let’s wait and see how [the] Iskandar [region] (and property investment in Johor) develops. This is an economic field of cooperation in which, you must remember, we are putting investments on Malaysian soil. And at the stroke of a pen, they can take it over.”
His words reflect his experience in dealing with Malaysian politicians and the economic relationship. Why is Singapore so successful? It is simple - their policy is designed after careful consideration with long-term aims and gives confidence to locals and foreigners.
I think we need to change the way we look at things. The policy of foreign ownership of properties was already in place for a long time. If Forest City wants to sell to foreigners, it would be within their right provided they meet the Foreign Investment Committee's guidelines.
To live in this country is a separate matter than acquiring property. For foreigners to live in this country, one has to be employed locally or having some business locally and they have to get residential permits or work permits or enter the “Malaysia My Second Home” scheme. This is not in the control of the individual states but is by the Malaysian immigration Authorities. As long as these people comply, we cannot deny them the right to stay.
We need to send out a consistent long-term message and have the required commitment if we want FDI to create employment and improve the quality of life for Malaysians. Haven't we learnt anything from Singapore?
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.