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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Time is of the essence in the property development sector too

Have you been to the Immigration Department recently to renew your passport? I was surprised to hear from a family member that 45 minutes was all that she needed to renew her passport. The process of renewing a passport has indeed positively changed with the time.

I recalled in the past that it took months before one could get a passport renewed. The processing time then reduced to weeks, followed by days and eventually to 45 minutes.

The evolution of improvement in the passport renewal process is beyond doubt, impressive. It is clear proof that things of bigger scale can become more efficient with continuous improvement and commitment to improve.

The improved passport renewal process brings forth many benefits such as less waiting time, and reduction in parking and transportation costs as a second trip to the immigration department to pick up the passport is no longer required. The government, businesses, common people and ultimately, the country are beneficiaries of these successes.

This form of efficiency is greatly required in other industries including the property development industry. Sadly today, the process of getting the necessary approvals for a property development project is extremely lengthy.

In my previous article, I highlighted the negative consequences of introducing “cooling off” measures to curb or control house prices and to stifle temporarily the buying appetite of home buyers.

All these measures not only slow down the rate of production of new houses by developers but create a massive housing backlog in the near future due to the anticipated demand and supply imbalance.

It is therefore essential to increase the supply of new housing units with greater pace to meet the increasing demand and maintain property prices.

Property developers today unfortunately have to wait a year or two to obtain the necessary approvals from several authorities before a project can be launched. Then there is a further two to three years required for the construction and completion of the building. Thus, a condominium project may require a total of at least four to five years before it is ready for occupation.

According to the latest World Bank Doing Business Report, Malaysia was ranked 18th when it comes to the ease of doing business. Last year we were ranked 23rd. However, in terms of Dealing with Construction Permits, our ranking dropped to 113th from 111th last year.

The report also highlighted that Malaysian developers need to go through 22 procedures and spend 260 days in total to obtain the necessary licenses, permits and complete the required notifications and inspections.

Comparatively, Singaporean developers need to undergo 11 procedures and the whole process takes 26 days, imagine if this can be achieved in Malaysia. As for Thailand, developers are required to comply with eight procedures and approximately 157 days to go through the whole process. In the case of Indonesia, the whole process involves 13 procedures and an expected processing time of 158 days.

Our closest neighbours definitely have the edge in terms of speed to start property construction i.e. 6 to 11 months advantage.

For Malaysia to remain competitive against its neighbours and in the same breath, meet the growing demand of its population for new housing units at an affordable price, immediate steps need to be taken to improve the approval process for new housing developments in the same fashion as the immigration department.

It is good to note that the Government is looking into the matter when the Chief Secretary to the Government, Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan recently held a Public Consultation with relevant parties, both public and private, to improve efficiency in the construction industry.

As for Kuala Lumpur, the City Hall is also putting in noteworthy effort to shorten the processing time by taking the lead to allow developers to submit their plans online.

When the approval time is shortened and the speed of construction enhanced, the supply of new housing units will increase in momentum and able to respond to the growing demand.

The fear of continuous inflation will be curtailed and at the same time, there will be room for reasonable price appreciation in the future.

For these aspirations to be realised, time efficiency is the essence. It is vital that the relevant agencies, authorities and the private sector set their sights in the same destination and row in the same direction. After all, if you can get a passport renewed in 45 minutes, what else can you expect to speed up?

FIABCI Asia Pacific Chairman, Datuk Alan Tong, has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was FIABCI World President in 2005/06 and was named Property Man of The Year 2010. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties.

By The Star

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