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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Developers: Foreign labour cut could lead to delays and higher property prices

KUALA LUMPUR: Developers are concerned that the Government’s move to reduce the number of foreign workers in the country will result in project delays, leading to possible price increases in property.

Almost 100% of construction workers in the country are foreigners, according to International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) Malaysia president Datuk Richard Fong.

Datuk Richard Fong ... ‘We will have the same problem again.’

“We have already seen the effect of tightening labour market five years ago when workers were sent home on an amnesty programme. We will have the same problem again,” he said at a press conference here after a talk by FIABCI World president (2010/2011) Enrico Campagnoli entitled Fiabci in front of Financial Crisis.

He said this resulted in delays in completion of projects which allowed buyers to claim penalties from developers for late delivery.

“When the workers finally returned, we had to retrain them because they were unskilled. So, it is a cycle which keeps repeating itself. The workers return but the issue that cropped up was quality, which in turn led to high rates of defects in the properties,” Fong, who is also Glomac Bhd group executive vice-chairman, said.

FIABCI World President Datuk Alan Tong said “with reference to reducing foreign workers, before the authorities come up with new rules, it would be prudent for more dialogue between the Government and the private sector to facilitate a better understanding of the sector, which today, depends almost 100% on foreign labour.”

“If the authorities want to reduce the number of foreign workers in the country, they must first think of the alternatives. Notwithstanding that, we laud the Government’s proposed plan to wean the country off subsidies,” added Tong, who is also Bukit Kiara Properties (BKP) group chairman.

Tong’s views are shared by See Hoy Chan Holdings group director Datuk Teo Chiang Kok, the developer for Bandar Utama township. Teo, who is also the first vice-chairman of the FIABCI Asia-Pacific Secretariat, said there must be safety nets for the lower income groups with the removal of subsidies.

“Do not look at subsidies as purely a setback suffered by consumers because flour and sugar prices are going to go up. The removal of subsidies also involves water, electricity and petrol which will impact the housing sector in no small way. We have to look at the bigger picture,” Teo said. Earlier, Campagnoli said the debt situation in the euro zone would affect the property sector in different ways because the countries have different economic strengths.

By The Star

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