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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Malaysian real estate – cautious optimism

Although the Malaysian property sector was buoyant in 2007, the market is expected to be somewhat cautious this year given a high base effect from 2007, lower disposable incomes from higher inflationary pressure as well as knock-on effects from foreign buyers given the US credit crisis.

Prospect for real estate properties this year will largely depend on the location and development profile of the area.

After a period of upcycle in 2003-2006, the Malaysian residential property is expected to reach a plateau in 2008, underpinned by the aggressive launches of mid-to-high developments since 2006. On the demand side, take-up rates of new projects were not encouraging during the first nine months of 2007, with average sales performance of newly launched residential schemes at 44.3% vs 40.6% in 2006, despite higher units launched.

We expect the take-up rates this year to be lukewarm, given the wait and see attitude adopted by potential buyers and investors. The low medium and medium-cost segments will see softening this year as disposable incomes are affected by the rising cost of living given escalating inflation.

The high-end residential market is expected to witness a period of rationalisation and consolidation this year, and lose significant steam into 2009 on the back of increased supply, i.e. completion of new condominiums during the period.

Given the physical supply of high-end residentials coming onstream in 2008 and 2009, the growth in rentals and capital value is expected to ease by the end of this year. The rate of growth of occupancy levels and rentals will ultimately determine whether strong foreign interest will be sustained.

Office sector
Meanwhile, the outlook of the office sector is also highly dependant on the economy achieving its projected growth of 5.7% y-o-y this year, which would subsequently improve the performance of the services sector.

In Penang, property transactions in the state appear to have come to a standstill as investors wait and see how the state’s economic landscape will unfold, given the opposition’s victory in taking control of Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor in the country’s 12th general election on March 8. The wait-and-see attitude adopted by foreign investors will definitely slow down investments in the country’s real estate sector.

Factors supporting real estate growth
·We expect economic growth momentum to remain sustainable with 2008 GDP growth projection at 5.7% y-o-y, on the back of resilient domestic aggregate demand, given accommodative monetary environment, reinforced by sustained export growth. Positive consumer and business confidence, stable labour market conditions, coupled with higher household earnings and corporate sectors suggest that growth in private sector demand would remain strong.

Nonetheless, possible adverse impact of external forces on the domestic economy cannot be ignored – volatility in crude oil prices, aftermath of the US subprime crisis leading to more-than-expected slowdown in global economies, as well as excessive interest rate hikes in the region prematurely halting growth momentum.

·Given expectations of steady growth in 2008, Malaysia’s income per capita is expected to grow further from RM22,345 in 2007 to RM23,864 in 2008. The high levels of income are expected to boost consumer spending and investment. The middle class accounts for 75% of the total population, earning in excess of RM16,900 per annum. Positive wealth effects from rising equities have also contributed to rising household incomes.

Private consumption is expected to grow by 7.9% y-o-y in 2008, supported by increases in incomes, stronger prices of commodities and stable interest rates.

However, higher inflation and a sharp drop in the equity market could dampen consumption and pose a negative wealth effect to homebuyers. The volatility in the equity market has shifted sentiment and restrained the flow of more speculative foreign funds into physical property assets.

·Malaysia’s population is expected to increase from 27.17 million in 2007 to 28.96 million in 2010. The median age of Malaysians is 27.4 years. In 2007, a total of 63.4% of the total population consisted of those in the working age group of between 15 and 64. The Government expects that 63.8% of the population would be living in urban areas, resulting in a higher demand for more houses, schools and employment.

In recent years, proportion of total potential buyers grew from 36.9% in 2002 to 39.1% in 2007, underpinned by an increase in the age groups of between 40-49 and 50-59 at a 5-year CAGR of 2.7% and 5.4%, respectively, in 2007. The 40-59 age group is likely to be more affluent than the younger age groups and also more likely to buy higher-end property and own more than one property for investment purpose or for their children.

The average lending rates continue to fall to as low as 6.27% in Jan 08 as compared to 6.57% in Jan 07, suggesting that banks are still competing for quality mortgage home loans.However, if the impact of the world economy worsens, the NPL for residential property may edge upwards, in particular for properties held for investment purposes.

·In 2007, the Government introduced several bold measures to promote the domestic property/REIT sector.

Among others, they included a 50% stamp duty exemption (for transfer of purchase of residential property under RM250,000); EPF will free up RM9.6bil annually on the withdrawal of funds for home purchases and allow monthly withdrawals from Account II to settle home loan repayment; setting up of introductory fund of RM400mil to increase bumiputra property investment in Iskandar Development Region (IDR); allocation of funds worth RM100mil to promote investments in health services related projects in IDR; and foreign investors were allowed up to 70% ownership in REIT’s management companies from 49% previously.

·The 9MP has identified five growth corridors – Eastern Corridor, Northern Corridor, East Malaysia, IDR and Central Region. Infrastructure and utilities projects to be carried under the 9MP are expected to benefit the construction and construction-related players (such as property, cement and steel industries).

However, we caution that the Northern Corridor Economic Region projects, which covers the states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang and northern Perak may come under review given the opposition’s recent victory.

Residential Market
Malaysia’s residential market, which accounts for approximately 60% of total property transactions, has been the best-performing sector since 1997. The announcement by the Government that Foreign Investment Committee (FIC) approval is no longer required for foreigners buying property and recent exemption of the real property gains tax (RPGT) had witnessed a surge in niche development and property developers with ongoing high-end residential development projects especially in the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) area, Sri Hartamas (Mont Kiara), and around the Golden Triangle area.

However, given the high base effect witnessed over the last two years as well as rising cost of construction material, we do not expect to witness a surge in new launches for the high-end segment this year. In 2008, the prospect for residential properties will depend to a great degree on the location and development profile of the area.

The relaxation of property ownership regulation had drawn strong interest from foreign investors in 2007, which caused land prices in Kuala Lumpur city to accelerate.

The Four Seasons was priced at RM2,000 per sq ft as compared to RM1,000 per sq ft in 2006 for high-end properties around the KLCC area.

We expect property prices to widen between mass market and high-end residences given the spillover effects of petrodollar inflows on property demand in Malaysia as prices are relatively cheap compared to regional properties.

However, given the physical supply coming onstream in 2008 and 2009, we expect the growth in rentals and capital value to ease by the end of this year.

By The Star (by KFH Research)

Adapt to trends to suit needs


An American modernist home allows natural light and good ventilation into the living room – AP

HOMES and buildings are signs of times. We have cycled through many architectural trends when it comes to building our homes, and these have depended on the prevailing tastes and styles. As property developers, we are often guided by these designs and trends. But what creates a trend and what do we anticipate to be future trends?

Trends are not influenced solely by the artistic muse but more so, by what people want. This, in turn, relates to the evolving changes that affect society.

For example, the 1980s was characterised by the more ornate Grecian styles – this was a time when the economy was booming and people were generally inclined to flaunt their wealth with ostentatious classical designs that quickly became trendy.

Over the years, our collective taste seems to have simplified and this is reflected in the current streamlined, minimalist look that has found its way back into favour. Less is more, as architects, homebuyers and designers search for meaning and expression in the purity of form.

There is also an increasing awareness of the environment in which they live and the role that they can play in safeguarding it. Being “green” is now an important consideration for many home buyers and as a result of this rising sensitivity, developers are building homes with more windows for better lighting and ventilation, thus cutting down on the use of electricity.

Much research is now being conducted into ways of making buildings green. Apart from the use of natural and sustainable building materials and being more energy-efficient, builders and designers are studying plants that can assist in improving air quality. They are investigating the hardiness of different plants for their use in rooftop gardens and the use of rainwater for rooftop ponds and fountains.

In Europe, for example, some buildings have vertical gardens where plants and grass are grown and cultivated on walls without the need for soil. These living walls not only look good but also help to insulate the buildings.

Closer to home, the Nanyang Technological University’s School of Art, Design and Media building in Singapore sports a remarkable double-sloping turf roof that sweeps from ground level up, which is accessible as a communal space.

We are also becoming more conscious and aware of our collective heritage. Conservation and the adaptive use of old buildings is another popular trend.

Many first world countries are actively conserving their old buildings and using them in different ways. The old Bankside Power Station in the South Bank of London, for example, has been turned into the Tate Modern, a museum of international modern art.

Here in Kuala Lumpur, we have our own examples of conservation in the Central Market and the Asian Heritage Row in Jalan Doraisamy. These old buildings, when used efficiently and maintained well, definitely add to the city’s charm.

The way building materials are used is also changing, with property developers favouring the use of materials in their “raw” form.

Concrete, for example, may be left in its original form without being painted over. For example, the fa├žade of one of our developments, Park Seven on Persiaran KLCC, is unpainted fair-face concrete, which gives the building a natural, yet contemporary feel. It is now trendy to select more natural surfaces like unpolished granite and marble.

Some older materials have also been adapted to suit our contemporary tastes, like the new mosaic tiles that have been given a glassy makeover.

With our increasingly fast-paced, high-pressure lifestyles, the trend is that our homes have become our sanctuaries – places to which we retreat to rejuvenate. Homebuyers have very definite views about what is important in their lives.

They now appreciate a gated and guarded environment for the security that it provides, and facilities within the development for recreation.

They want to appreciate being at home and spending quality time with their loved ones. They want to entertain friends and family at home.

More space in which to relax is important and master bathrooms are now no longer considered separate rooms but, rather, extensions of the master bedrooms. In other words: liveability is the key.

In order to achieve all of this, clever use of space is very important. In Jia, our new seven-storey development in Singapore’s Wilkie Road, the swimming pool has been placed on the rooftop due to limited space; it will provide an unobstructed view of Singapore’s skyline as Jia is surrounded by low-rise buildings, a requirement of the location’s proximity to the Istana.

At the same time, Jia will feature full-height sliding doors that open to long balconies, providing a large, generous living area in which to relax and entertain.

As people travel and come into contact with new and innovative concepts, trends tend to change rapidly. But we must bear in mind that trends that work in the West do not necessarily work in the East. The challenge as property developers is to avoid blindly following trends. We need to set our own standards.

·The writer is the managing director of SDB Properties Sdn Bhd, a lifestyle property company. Bouquets and brickbats are welcome, send in your email to md@sdb.com.my

By The Star (by Teh Lip Kim)

Strong demand for Signature systems

Overseas market provides impetus for growth

FROM the onset, kitchen and wardrobe furniture may seem hardly a business that would whet investor appetite. But even as the limelight has long shone on plantation and oil and gas, a niche performer in the “dull” sector and new entrant to the Bursa Malaysia's second board, Signature International Bhd has chalked up a compounded growth rate of 31% per year – indeed, an impressive feat.


Tan: Strong demand seen in India and Middle East

Signature is a locally established operator specialising in the design, manufacturing and retailing of kitchen and wardrobe systems under the brand names Signature Kitchen and Signature Wardrobe.

A general notion exists that the growth prospects of furniture-based companies are staid due to their reliance on organic growth.

But interior fit out firm LCL Corp Bhd has managed to defy that by successfully replicating its business model in the Middle East, particularly Dubai, largely due to its international designs at a fraction of the cost.

Similarly, so has Signature, which has built its own niche in high-end developments and overseas expansion.

Growth from overseas has been encouraging with a compounded rate of 229% per annum over the last three years. From an initial contribution of some 5% three years ago, the business with footprints in 14 markets now contributes about 12%.

Signature's managing director and co-founder KC Tan says that with the strong demand for properties especially in India and the Middle East, he expects the overseas contribution to continue growing by double-digit speed.

“In the Middle East, they are growing so fast that one doesn't feel the recession in the US. We are aiming to open our office in Dubai this year, and another in China next year. We expect these markets to be our major contributors moving forward,” says Tan.

Due to the diversity of Signature's earnings, a softening property market in one particular market may not necessarily affect Signature's bottomline.

“How we are able to grow so quickly is because we outsource all our high quantity but low value jobs, while we focus on our low volume but high value jobs. Hence we do not face capacity constraints and huge capital requirements. We are able to increase our capacity as and when a big project comes to us,” says Tan.

Two pronged
The group’s overall business focus is based on a two-prong approach in servicing a wide market spectrum, including the retail market and the project market, thus representing a comprehensive coverage of the total market. There are advantages to that approach as retail market provides premium pricing, while the project market gives the group the volume to achieve economies of scale.

The strategy appears to have worked well with Signature, which observers say commands a high brand equity, which also explains its ability to bag jobs from high-end developers in the country.

In February, the company secured its maiden contract worth RM16mil in Dubai for the Palm Jumeriah Marina Apartments.

Tan says that markets like India and the Middle East are facing a shortage of property developers and kitchen manufacturers (on the back of rapid development), hence the demand for foreign expertise.

“Our main advantage lies in our price. Currently, India and Middle East get the services of a European kitchen manufacturer. They are a lot more expensive by virtue of their currency. Cost wise, they cannot compete with us. We offer the same quality for a cheaper price,” he says.

Winning strategy
Back home, while Signature is the market leader in Malaysia's retail kitchen market, its foray into the developer project-based market has seen a huge earnings surge in the past three years.

“In Malaysia, we have consistent and steady growth from our retail segment. Right now, it is almost a 50-50 contribution from both the retail and project segment. While the retail will continue to provide a very strong base for us, our growth will come from the project developers segment,” says Tan.

Signature has been hired by reputable developers for high-end projects such as One KLCC's One KL, Putra Perdana's The Marc Residence, Ireka's Kiara1@I-Zen and Glomac's Suria Stonor.

In February, Signature filled its books with another RM31mil worth of jobs, notably The Avare Condominum and The Hampshire, which are located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

These Malaysian property developers continue to make inroads overseas to expand their earnings base and with that, Tan says he is hopeful that Signature stands a good chance of tagging along with these developers for their future projects.

To date, Signature has a total order book of RM93mil, out of which RM68.5mil are for the domestic market. It has an unbilled portion of more than RM80mil as of December 2007. These projects are enough to keep the company busy for the next two years.

Tan says that he is bidding for RM80mil worth of jobs locally, and 14 projects overseas with a value of more than RM50mil. Historically, Signature has had a 50% success rate when it bids.



To-date, the group has 22 retail showrooms operating under the Signature Kitchen brand name in Malaysia. Of these local retail showrooms, 7 are wholly owned whereas the remaining are managed and owned by appointed dealers.

Based on an independent survey conducted recently, Signature has the largest retail network of kitchen systems in Malaysia.

Signature also has 10 retail showrooms overseas and has successfully exported its kitchen systems to 15 countries, namely Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Philippines, Maldives, Singapore, Bahrain, Brunei, Mauritius, Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Dominican Republic as well as Australia and New Zealand.

Signature was listed in January this year at an initial public offering price of RM1.25. It is currently trading at around RM1.03.

By The Star (by Tee Lin Say)

A house with several split-levels designed for privacy

A house with several split-levels designed for privacy

There is this attraction of all things Bali, which appears somewhat hard to resist, particularly among proud homeowners. The owner of this home located in Sg Buloh, Selangor, tries hard to exemplify the appeal of Bali and its widely recognisable and aesthetically pleasing architecture and motifs.

All it took for this owner to be mesmerised is a holiday in Bali – one of the hottest tourist spots in the world. Upon his return, he was eager to replicate the experience in his own haven. He owned an undulating piece of land in Sierramas, Sg Buloh. Never having built a house before, he sought the services of one of the country's well-known architects famed for his “open concept”.


The front facade of the house on a slope.

The house took seven years to build; two years of seeking and awaiting approvals from authorities and tweaking the plan. “The architect was known to use a lot of timber, and most of the joints were done without the use of nails. It was an art that few people knew and the contractor who was able to do this was a man in his late 60s. ‘If you will give me time, I will have it all done for you,’ he told us. Eager as we were to move in, we gave him time,” says the owner’s brother.

Despite his attempts to re-create what he saw on the famous island, there is no semblance of anything Balinese inside. There is a massive use of chenggal and nyatoh. The entire house is built on a network of corridors and passages with the main corridor being the “main thoroughfare” which cuts across the house from front to back, branching into smaller trails that go around the place right to the basement car park, garden, rooms and public areas.


The linear side garden beside the bungalow.

This main corridor separates the master bedroom, kitchen and dining and living area from the other bedrooms. Although this is a two-and-a-half storey house, there are several split-levels, which accord the place its privacy where needed.

The master bedroom, kitchen, dining and living area are enclosed in timber structure with the main corridor beside it. The master bedroom comes with an adjoining AV room, changing room and a study via a short flight of stairs.

There is more than one entrance to some of the more public areas and rooms because of the internal labyrinth-like network. These dual entrances are necessary because rain tends to come into some of these “externally exposed” passages that go around the house.

The timber passages curves around the house externally as a few of the rooms are located in little standalone blocks, adjoining the main structure of the house, via short flight of stairs. There is another study downstairs which can be converted into a bedroom; it overlooks the garden and has a bar counter right next to it.


A view of the garden and the linear park beyond from the balcony.

Although the owner had wanted a dominant Balinese concept, he has juxtaposed it with a heavy dose of Chinese element. There is a huge replica of a range of miniature mountains, complete with a series of cascading waterfalls that forms a koi pond to soothe the senses. The back of the house slopes down to a linear garden with palms.

After living here for five years, the family would like to move into a smaller home.

“I have moved out with my family, and my sister will also be moving out after getting married. This house is too big for my dad, my brother and his wife and children. We currently have two maids to maintain the place but such a big place is more suitable for an extended family,” he says.

Sierramas is a gated and guarded residential project by IGB Corp Bhd and is among the first housing project which puts an emphasis on security in the Klang Valley. It is located about 30 kilometres from the city and encompasses 96ha of land that is closed off with security fencing. The monthly maintenance and security fee, which depends on land size, includes the use of a community hall, which in turn includes an Olympic-sized swimming pool and tennis courts.

By The Star (by Thean Lee Cheng)

Salient points
2 1/2-storey freehold bungalow, RM3.98mil (Bungalow World, 03-7957 0017, Janice Loh Mobile: 012-268 4839, www.bungalow-world.com.my)
Land area: 9,600 sq ft Built up: 11,000sq ft, 8+1 bedrooms, 1 AV room and eight bathrooms. Basement car park can fit four cars back to back. Monthly maintenance and security charge of RM510.


Buying ‘subprime’ assets at good discount


Investors are looking for bargains in battered down subprime assets

WHEN the stock market is in a side-way or down trend, buying equities can be a challenging task and retail investors will most likely not make money buying shares.

With the subprime crisis hitting the US and other developed countries, some investors are looking for bargains in battered down subprime assets selling at vast discount to their face value.

Can ordinary retail investors get a chance to buy “subprime” assets at a fraction of their face value in Malaysia?

The answer to the above question is yes.

In Bursa Malaysia, there are some securities known as redeemable loan stocks that are listed.

These loan stocks are usually listed as a result of a debt restructuring exercise as companies in good financial health do not usually list their redeemable securities.

Due to the peculiar nature of the birth of such listed redeemable securities, these loan stocks are usually held by financial institutions.

As such redeemable securities are generally issued by companies in a weak financial position, these assets can be considered “subprime”.

But most, if not all, of these securities are secured by some assets of the companies which issued them.

This mitigate the risks of such securities if the assets value held as collaterals by the trustee of these loan stocks is equal or higher than the nominal value of the loan stocks. Even if the secured assets value is lower than the nominal value of the loan stocks, such securities may be worth investing if investors can get these assets at a good discount.

So, when can we get these loan stocks at good discounts?

As the holders of these securities are mostly financial institutions which ended up with these papers in a debt restructuring exercise, investors have an opportunity to buy them when some of these financial institutions decide to cut loss and sell these loan stocks in the market.

With not many investors aware of the properties of such assets, the financial institutions would have to sell them down to a good discount level to attract buyers.

If investors are alert to such “loan stock grand sales”, there are ample opportunities to make relatively safe money by buying such loan stocks at a fraction of their face value.

Among listed redeemable securities which had been through a fire sale are the redeemable securities of Aliran Ihsan Resources Bhd (AIRB-LA), Dutaland Bhd (Dutalnd-LB), South Malaysia Industries Bhd (SMI-LA) and Mithril Bhd (Mithril-LA).

These loan stocks had traded in between 30% and 70% below their nominal value during the fire sales by financial institutions and were available in good volume. Now, such loan stocks are believed to have been picked up by savvy investors and are not available in reasonable amount even if the discount is still there.

Just a few months ago, SMI-LA was sold down heavily to about 40% of its face value.

The company has just suspended the loan stocks temporarily to facilitate a partial redemption of SMI-LA.

For the portion of loan stocks being redeemed, investors are getting RM1 for what they could have got for 40 sen.

Even though this redemption is just for 20% of outstanding amount on a proportionate basis, the company has in the past partially redeemed this loan stock a few times.

If the redemption continues, and it appears that the company can redeem most if not all of the loan stocks, investors who got it cheap would have made a very handsome return on investment.

We do not know when another financial institution is going to do a fire sale of redeemable loan stocks.

When that happens, there is typically a window of a few days for savvy investors to pick them up cheap. So, just be prepared for such opportunities.

·Alan Voon is a warrant specialist. He can be reached at alan@warrantscapital.com or
www.warrants.com.my

By The Star

Japan to reduce overseas construction aid

TOKYO: Japan plans to cut its official aid for construction projects in developing nations by 15 per cent over the next five years, a foreign ministry report showed yesterday.

Officially pacifist Japan, the world’s second largest economy, relies on development aid, particularly low-interest loans, to promote its foreign policy.

But the government report said Japan would seek to “streamline aid projects by reducing costs and improving content.”

Japan’s overseas aid expenditure has declined for the past years as the government tries to reduce a huge fiscal deficit left over from a series of economic stimulus packages following recession in the 1990s.

Japan fell to fifth place from third in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s ranking of donors in 2007 after a 30 per cent drop in aid from the previous year.

Earlier this week an advisory panel to the Japanese government voiced concern about the reduction in official development assistance (ODA).

“The ODA is the foundation of Japan’s diplomacy,” the panel said in a statement, warning that the cutbacks could “critically harm Japan’s national interest.” In recent years, Japan has redirected aid spending to countries, many in Africa, seen as pivotal in its cherished bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Japan also plans to end most aid to China — a rising regional competitor which has opposed Tokyo’s UN bid — by the time of the 2008 Olympics which are expected to showcase Beijing’s newfound global clout.

By AFP

Highway to growth


ZAINUDIN: Firm looking at many countries

HIGHWAY operator Projek Lintasan Kota Holdings Sdn Bhd (Prolintas) will expand its business within Asia, its top chief says.

"We have looked into many countries, including China, Indonesia and the Philippines.

"We are now studying three highways within one country," group chief executive Zainudin A. Kadir said in an interview.

While Zainudin declined to name the country, he said that Prolintas had done its traffic study and would decide by the year-end on the viability of the project.

"Since it is an infrastructure project overseas, we have to be extremely careful because the investment value is hefty. It could be a minimum of RM2 billion," he said.

Considering that the build-operate-transfer project is a long-term investment, Prolintas plans to be the major stakeholder, he added.

Zainudin said the company was also evaluating the business and political risks in that country as it would be bringing in its own contractors and suppliers to work on the project.

"While other Malaysian companies are present in this country, we aim to be the first highway operator there," he said.

On the domestic front, Prolintas will increase the highways under its business from three at present, which are the Ampang-Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway, Guthrie Corridor Expressway and work-in-progress Lebuhraya Kemuning-Shah Alam.

"By year-end, we plan to own and operate at least four highways," Zainudin said, adding that Prolintas was in talks to buy one highway in Kuala Lumpur.

He emphasised that Prolintas would only buy highways that bring additional value to its shareholders.

The wholly-owned unit under Permodalan Nasional Bhd also submitted a proposal to the government last November to build an urban highway in the Klang Valley.

"We are waiting for the government to call us for further discussions on our proposal," Zainudin said.

On a Business Times story last year about its listing plans, Zainudin said the company aimed for a flotation in three to five years.

"We want to be a listed company one day because we can expand overseas more quickly due to the higher level of confidence placed in listed entities.

"But the final say comes from our shareholders," he said.

By New Straits Times (by Jeeva Arulampalam)

Make beach rehab a priority in Port Dickson

PORT Dickson (PD) is now being earmarked for a massive development plan that aims to inject new life into the town's tourism business.

But whatever grand plan the state government has, it has to be mindful of the sins of yesteryears, which have left this somewhat sleepy town, quite honestly, a model of wanton development.

News is that PD may be declared a duty-free zone. Also on the drawing board are a new Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex on reclaimed land, and a new jetty.

The plan is simple: PD is a traditional tourist destination and much is needed to liven up this town.

But plans have to be prioritised and much soul searching is needed to understand why PD has not fulfilled its potential as a premier beach closest to the Klang Valley.

The tried and tested route of “if you build, they will come” for PD is one that has been attempted before.

Developers, thinking that PD would benefit from its proximity to KL International Airport, have flooded this town with apartments and condominiums, many of which are, sadly, left idle today.

Apart from the deserted buildings, there has also been poor planning with regard to its hotels. Hotels and condominiums currently obstruct public access to the some of the town's best beaches.

This is frustrating for me as I used to visit PD frequently as a boy. My father grew up in this town and worked there for a few years.

The once-famed pristine beaches - a figment of one's imagination you might say if you look at the state of the beaches today - are crying for much needed rehabilitation.

PD's attraction used to be its beaches and efforts should have been made to protect this jewel instead of leaving it in disrepair. And the town today is an example of how development, almost unplanned and one-sided, has left a town worse off than before.

The authorities should know by now that development, if properly planned, does bring about vast benefits. Otherwise, it would be a step backwards instead of forward.

I don't know whether it is too late to save PD. But the authorities should spare no effort to improve the socio infrastructure in this town.

Money should also be directed at rehabilitating its polluted beaches and improving public facilities. This should, at least, be done concurrently with any plans to put up more steel, cement and structures in PD.

By The Star (by Jagdev Singh)