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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Addressing some real concerns

From Left: Seth and Dr Lim with a model of AraGreen Residences. They want to build a community in which multi-generation families get to live together without compromising on privacy.

HSB Development's latest project looks to cater to the changing lifestyle needs of today's family units

It is not very often that a project with a difference comes along. Developers tend to think of aesthetics and lifestyle and as a house purchaser, we get sold on this. Developers also tend to build for those who are in their prime, who are able to lead an active lifestyle.

There is nothing wrong with these pursuits, from the developer's or the buyer's point of view. But there is a need to look further into the future because there will come a time when medical, social and physical support services are needed. This may be childcare services, or assistance for the elderly. These needs are very real and it takes a doctor-turned-developer to think of this.

Concepts for the future

Dr Y C Lim, chairman of HSC Healthcare Sdn Bhd, went into property development with his partner Dr Soo Chee Siong and set up HSB Development Sdn Bhd.

Their serviced-apartment project is located in Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya diagonally across Sime Darby group's Seri Pilmoor. The residential portion, known as AraGreen Residences, will occupy 7.5 acres.

Adjacent to it will be the commercial portion AraGreen Village. This portion will be located on 1.2 acres and comprises two buildings offering childcare and nursing services for the elderly. These services will be housed together with medical and physiotherapy service providers while the second tower will offer food and beverage outlets, convenience stores and other amenities. There will also be serviced-apartments here.

Says Dr Lim: “AraGreens development is based on three pillars a multi-generational home living concept, health and wellness concept and a green sustainable concept.

“We wanted to go beyond the horizons of healthcare services by building a community in which multi-generation families get to live together without compromising on privacy. There need to be designs and features to cater for both children and the elderly,” says Dr Lim.

Dr Lim says very often when a developer considered a health and wellness project, the focus was only on the hardware. It was the soft components that needed to be incorporated into the property and a lot of thought needed to go into this soft part of it.

“It is more than having wider doors that allow a wheelchair through, or stretcher-friendly lifts,” he says.

The physical, psychological and emotional aspects plus the support and care services must all come together to make the health and wellness concept possible.

With this in mind, HSB has introduced the “dual key” concept which is designed for families to stay together “under one roof” but separately.

“A typical dual key home will have an ancillary unit annexed to the primary or main larger unit with separate entrances,” explains HSB Developement CEO Seth Lim.

“This is especially appealing to families as they have the comfort of knowing that their loved ones elderly parents or grown-up children live just next to them. The ancillary unit is self-contained with its own living space, bathroom and kitchenette,” says Seth.

He says there was always the possibility of renting out the adjoining unit, smaller unit or the bigger unit. So it was not limited to multi-generational living but also to generate income.

To further promote interaction and accessibility for all the generations, AraGreens will feature 4.76 acres of community space offering facilities like jogging and exercise areas, badminton and futsal courts and pools.

Says Dr Lim: “Our objective is to provide space for a variety of activities that are suitable for little children, the second generation, and the elderly.”

Health, quality to the fore

Besides being generous with outdoor open spaces, AraGreen Residences will also introduce what will be Malaysia's first Medihome (Medically Enabled Home System) a proprietary product by HSC Healthcare that enables residents to periodically check their health status within the comfort of their home.

Says Dr Lim: “The MediHome System monitors the health of residents from a central medical hub located within the development. They will be able to check their health status such as electrocardiogram (ECG), blood pressure, blood glucose and oximetry, and these readings will be transmitted wirelessly to a server.

“Children who are abroad will be able to access the state of their parents' health via their smart phones,” says Dr Lim.

Each unit will come with these medical devices. Reminders can also be set to take medicines at required intervals and there will also be a screen to show the type of tablets to be taken. These reminders are linked to the children's smart phones so they can call home to check with their parents. Dr Lim says this would help children monitor their elderly parents even while they are abroad using technology.

Besides each of the units being equipped with these medical devices, there is also the option to have the units partially or fully furnished right down to the sofa set.

Dr Lim also details the fittings used. These included Grohe sanitary fittings, Duravit sanitary ware for the master bathroom, American Standard for other bathrooms, imported kitchen appliances and imported low E-glass for the facade glazing and Italian Iseo locksets.

The entire development is designed with the family set up and the health and wellness of the residents in mind. The project is master planned to achieve the Singapore Green Mark (Gold Plus) and Malaysia Green Building Index to create a green and sustainable environment.

Dr Lim says the company's objective was to create a mini self-contained township with the support services and amenities provided by the adjacent commerical project Ara Village.

The residential portion will have six blocks of 15-storey serviced apartments, or a total of about 700 units on 7.25 acres.

The company will be selling all the units in the residential portion and leasing out the commercial portion, which will also come with another set of serviced-apartments for recurring income.

There will be 2.5 storeys of underground car parks. The built-ups for the standard units are between 700 and 3,000 sq ft while penthouses are between 3,100sq ft and 3,834sq ft. There are also ground floor units which come with their own private gardens. Price ranges between RM500,000 and RM2.4mil. The project is expected to be launched next month. Construction started last month and is expected to be completed in 2015. The contractor is Putra Perdana Construction Sdn Bhd and the architect is Singapore-based WOW d.lab Pte Ltd, which is part of WOW Design Group.

This is HSB Developement's second project. Their first project is Menara HSC, a medical centre located next to the British High Commission. A physician, Dr Lim lived in Hong Kong for 15 years. He returned in 2000. His interest in property development and his training and experience as a doctor motivated him to come up with the AraGreen project.

“We put ourselves in the place of the consumer or buyer. That was how the concept came about,” he says.

When he built Menara HSC, he integrated it with the serviced-apartments, Somerset Place, which is managed by the Ascott group. Somerset enjoys an occupancy of over 90% with half of the residents being patients or their children. Menara HSC houses a medical centre for heart, eye, joints and spine.

By The Star (by THEAN LEE CHENG)

Every reason to feel upbeat about the property market

REPORTS released in the last two to three weeks on the state of the property sector in Malaysia and other countries in this region should offer some comfort to both builders and investors.

The Malaysian Property Market Report 2011 that is issued by the Valuation and Property Services Department of the Finance Ministry has painted a fairly positive picture.

According to the report, the Malaysian property market saw its highest growth in the last five years. For instance, the number of transactions in 2011 was up 14% and the value of transactions in the same year rose 28% compared with the previous year.

Perhaps it is for this reason that sentiment remain upbeat not only among property investors in Malaysia but in other countries in this region as well, such as Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Also released just recently is the Asia Property Market Sentiment Report 2012 by, a network of property websites covering Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

According to this report, 59.5% of those surveyed think that the Malaysian property market is still doing well, and 62.3% of them have expressed a desire to acquire new property within the next six to 12 months. That, certainly, is a show of confidence in the property market in Malaysia, and sweet music to developers' ears.

More numbers: of those surveyed, 28% have said that they were looking to buy for investment.

But then again, some may ask, is it all that great? Are those numbers for real? Even if they are, are we drawing the right conclusions, the perennial pessimist will ask.

Given the scenario, we have reason to feel positive about the Malaysian property market.

Not reported here or anywhere, but widely acknowledge and perhaps even fairly extensively practised is the purchasing of properties for the future generations.

Parents monitor the prices of houses for the benefit of their children. Many who can afford it are already buying new homes for their children, out of fear that prices could rise to a level beyond their children's means if they wait for the children to grow up, find a job and start looking for a home on their own.

This practice now begs the question: if the children of this generation can't afford to buy their own homes, how then are their own children going to fare? But that is another issue.

Looking at it from an investor's point of view, there is still a lot of upside in the property market, particularly in Malaysia.

The property market in Malaysia is still quite under-priced when compared with those in Indonesia, Hong Kong or our nearest neighbour Singapore.

There are many family ties between Malaysia and Singapore and our cousins across the Causeway have more than occasionally envied us our property prices.

The fact that Singaporeans make up a large proportion of foreign property purchasers in Malaysia, particularly in Johor, is a case in point.

Property developers are also increasingly eyeing markets outside Malaysia with many carrying out promotional efforts to attract buyers from China, Indonesia and of course Singapore.

So long as property remains cheaper in Malaysia than in those countries, we will continue to be an attractive investment destination.

Even moves by the authorities to keep prices in check, such as one proposal to raise the floor price of property foreigners are allowed to buy, may not have the desired effect of preventing prices from rising.

A recent report says that the government may decide to put in place new requirements for foreigners planning to invest in the property market in Malaysia by restricting them to properties valued at RM1mil and above. Currently, they are allowed to purchase any property valued at RM500,000 and above.

This is not likely to have much impact as most property purchases by foreigners are in the RM1mil and above category anyway.

In a buoyant market, this requirement may even encourage developers to raise prices to a level above RM1mil just to widen their target market to include foreigners. That would be one more way to keep prices going up.

On the whole, the economy is performing fairly well. Unemployment rate is about 3% while the inflation rate was at 2.2% in February. The Bursa Malaysia index hit a new high this month.

Foreign direct investment has also risen by 12.3% to RM32.9bil in 2011 compared with the previous year.

These are reasons to feel upbeat. If one needs an indicator on how good sentiments are, just count the number of new property launches since the beginning of this year.

The three hotspots of Klang Valley, Penang and Johor Baru continue to command top prices as demand continues to focus on these three areas.

Overall growth for the residential sector, according to the Malaysian Property Market Report, was 19%, with Selangor recording the highest for home transactions at 28%.

Yes, there is reason to be optimistic. The challenge now is to ensure that we continue to enjoy sustained growth, but prices remain affordable for the vast majority of Malaysians.

Most of all, we do not want the bubble to burst.

Teh Lip Kim is the MD of SDB Properties Sdn Bhd, a lifestyle property company. Bouquets and brickbats are welcomed. Send by email to

By The Star (by Teh Lip Kim)

How to get the best resale price

While the adage “location, location, location” is still considered the ideal gauge for your property’s resale value, there are other factors that can still play a part in helping you get the best price when you part ways with your home.

One of the things to consider is the upgrades or renovations that you may have made to the property. While making improvements to a home can be a good thing, there are some additions that can make or break your property’s resale value.

The following are some home upgrades that will dampen your property’s resale value.

Poor renovation

It’s one thing to make renovations to your home – and another thing when those upgrades requires further improvements!

“Nobody likes to buy a home with something that requires big money to modify or repair,” says property investor Kamarul Ariff.

He gives an example of a property he had purchased that had a “badly-renovated roof.”

“The roof obviously had some bad leaks in the past but the renovations were very poorly done by the former owner. Unfortunately, when people go to inspect property, not many check to see if the roofing is in good condition. After all, most homebuyers or investors check out a property when the weather is clear anyway.”

Kamarul recalls that after buying the property, it rained heavily - indoors!

“There were leaks everywhere! When I finally got an expert to check the roof, I discovered that there were badly done patches made to some holes on the roof, which only worsen the leaks.

“In my opinion, it’s better to spend a bit more money and get a good job done than to stinge and get poor workmanship. In the long run, nobody benefits.

“It’ll affect your resale value and the buyer who’s looking for his dream home ends up buying into a financial nightmare.”

P. Lalitha, a home-buyer, shares a similar sentiment.

“The apartment I bought had poor floor renovations in the bathroom. Of course, it was my neighbour who lived below that alerted me of this.”

Upon inspection by an expert, she discovered that the cement used by a previous owner for the flooring was of poor quality.

“Renovations were not just done, they were badly done. So much so that it cost me a fortune to fix them. My advice for future home-buyers? Check every inch of your house. To home sellers, if you want to get the best resale value for your home, get your renovations done by an expert,” Lalitha says.

Permanent upgrades

Some homeowners make upgrades to their property for personal gratification without taking into account the fact that they may need to sell it in the future. However, these renovations hardly do anything when it comes to resale value, nor do they make it easy to sell.

“Among them are fixtures such as swimming pools and wall modifications,” says KL Interior Design executive designer Robert Lee.

“Having a swimming pool can increase the price of a home, but it also comes with extra responsibilities that not everyone wants. If you’re a senior citizen and not the active sort, you’d probably need to hire someone to clean and maintain the pool you’d probably never use.”

He also points out that major works done to a property’s structure, such as to its walls, can be hard to undo.

“There was this large family living in two adjacent terrace houses and they made a huge arch in the wall between the two houses. When it came to selling, they had a huge problem!

“They also wanted to sell off the house as soon as possible and refused to patch-up the wall.”

Other structural changes, like turning a three-bedroom apartment or house into a two rooms can also put a damper on resale value, says Lee.

“If you’re selling a two-bedroom apartment and your neighbour is selling a three-bedded one at the same price, which property do you think a buyer will you go for?”

Home-Deco Art Sdn Bhd director Rachel Tam says having a distinct paint job won’t affect a home’s potential resale value.

“Some people paint their homes in all kinds of colours, like a kindergarten,” she chuckles.

“But it won’t affect a property’s resale value. It’s not permanent and can be easily replaced. Besides, the first thing most homebuyers do is give it a new coat of paint anyway.

Unexpected outcome

Some upgrades can be so extreme that they no longer look like what they were initially set out to be.

“We knew of someone who bought a single-storey house for RM250,000 and spent about RM200,000 to build a second level. When he sold it, he only got RM300,000,” says Lee.

“Some renovations that place a property beyond its original architecture will not increase its resale value,” he adds.

Tam notes that some people turn their homes into an office or place to conduct business, which may or may not affect the property’s resale value.

“It depends on how extensive the renovations are. If you’re just converting one room into an office, then it’s fine, as the future owner won’t need to do much or anything at all to convert it back into an ordinary room.

“However, if you’re going to start raring animals or live stock there, which may include additional structures to contain them, then this could be a put-off for potential homebuyers who are looking for a basic place to live.”


Up close and personal with Tan Sri Lim Kim Hong

CRISIS in a family can be a life changing moment. For Tan Sri Lim Kim Hong, born to a poor family of 10 children, the passing of his father when he was the wide-eyed youngest child means making the hard decision to drop out of school because of financial constraints.

Deprived of pursuing a formal education beyond Standard Six, Lim ventured into the world of grown men, learning to earn a living and at the same time honing his skills as an entrepreneur.

Lim, 61, however did not foresake the morsels of education that was imparted to him. His affinity for mathematics, in which he was a top performer when he was in school, helped hone his business acumen and gave him the impetus to strike out on his own as an entrepreneur.

Lim has ventured into several pioneering projects ranging from spring mattresses in Malaysia and China, stainless steel pipes and fittings, digital products and property development.

Principles that matter

He professes that his beliefs and traits in life had been influenced and shaped by his childhood.Although Lim can beam with pride now and describes his journey in life thus far as “an achievement beyond expectation”, he still sheds tears when he digs deep into his memory bank, recollecting those difficult days in his childhood.

Looking back, Lim believes those difficult days had taught him some profound lessons about not giving up when the going got tough.

Not one to resort to “short cuts”, he worked hard and believes in gaining the trust of people he comes across in life.

“My life philosophies include adhering to responsibility, transparency and honesty. I also practise the Confucius classics of honour and mutual gains with whomever I interact. Incidentally, they are entrepreneurial traits and they have naturally made me more of an entrepreneur than just a businessman.

“I believe it is important to gain the trust of people by being honest, and keeping to our words. You’ll never know when our paths will cross again and we’ll need those attributes to keep ourselves well prepared to be able to see and clinch opportunities that come our way,” he shares his thoughts.

Opportunities come knocking

After dropping out from school, Lim underwent a three year stint as an apprentice at a furniture making shop in Muar. He met some good samaritans who trusted him and extended various forms of assistance, such as supplying him with raw materials for furniture making. That gave him the opportunity to strike out on his own as a carpenter.

He believes everyone would have at least two to three opportunities during their life time to “make good in life”, and the onus is on the individual to see those opportunities when they turn up.

“Like the Chinese age-old wisdom says: Behind every difficulty or danger, therein lies an opportunity. Perhaps I’ve been lucky and was able to see and make good all the opportunities availed to me.”

Lim points out that before one achieves success, a person was bound to face adversities in one form or another.

“I have also experienced failures through my course of successes, but the important lesson to learn is to stand up after every fall and move forward with agility and self-confidence.”

He also challenges himself to “scale a higher hilltop every few years”. Whenever he reaches a certain level of success, he will assess its limits to growth.

“If I cannot get another quantum leap, I will find ways to scale a higher and different hilltop. I started out in life as a carpenter with a vision to own a business of my own.” At 21, he signed up as a Dunlop mattress dealer and within a short period of time became the biggest dealer in the country. Instead of resting on his laurels, Lim realised the opportunity for him to grow further as a dealer was limited and set out to find ways “to make better mattresses.”

He says this resulted in him starting the country’s first spring mattress venture under the Dreamland brand, which “revolutionised” the local bedding market and the sleeping habits of Malaysians.

That “break” actually earned him the de-facto title of “Mattress King” and the Dreamland mattress became an instant success. Within a year, Lim’s company, Dreamland Holdings Bhd became the local market leader.

He then set his sights on the vast China market and became the first Malaysian to venture to China in 1984 with the opening of his first offshore plant in Tianjin. This was followed by 11 more plants in Shanghai, Dalian, Qingdao, Xian, and other locations in China over the next decade.

Dreamland was listed in 1987 and in 1993, Lim decided to cash out by selling the company for RM350mil cash.

Setting new challenges

Armed with that war chest, Lim ventured into investing offshore in Singapore, China and Hong Kong. He also bought some prime land in Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam, including a 90 acre parcel in Section 7, Shah Alam, that is now being developed into an RM3bil digital landscape called i-City.

In addition, he bought over Sanyo Industries Malaysia Bhd in 1999, a public-listed company manufacturing electrical products and renamed it I-Bhd.

Due to competition, the production of “white goods” that included air conditioners and rice cookers were phased out. I-Bhd then ventured into digital products including computers, notebooks, cameras and LED televisions for about two to three years before production ceased.

Lim says people still remember him for the Dreamland spring mattress and whenever he travels to China, he still meets many who recall Lim was there before China “opened its doors.”

In 2007, the company focused on property development with its maiden flagship project, i-City.

Lim is the executive chairman of I-Bhd, the developer of i-City, an urban intelligent city development model. Speaking of his venture into property, Lim says: “The property sector has much higher mountains to scale and if one is innovative enough there are opportunities to generate recurring and growing revenue from a property project. The development of i-City reflects this concept, where in addition to being an MSC Malaysia Cybercentre, there is now a leisure component. And the latest plan to add another RM1bil in gross development with the Clarke Quay@i-City concept and data centre complex within the same site is another example of what I mean.”

Despite critics having predicted failure of the project from the start (due to the many negative factors and prevailing restrictions), Lim says he went ahead with the project taking into consideration the social benefits it would bring to the local community.

“With concerted efforts, perseverance and the support of the Government (both Federal and State) coupled with the introduction of innovative concepts, i-City is beginning to show signs of success. I consider this a major moment in my life as not only have I managed to create a demand for this part of Selangor but in the process, i-City has much more socio-economic benefits compared to all my earlier ventures.”

Shaping up for the future

On who he looks up to in life, Lim, without hesitating, answers: “My mother. Having been the sole bread-winner, she is a great influence onme. My mother’s teachings and the way she looked at life shaped my attitude, character and lifestyle. Despite being poor, my mother would bake cakes for us. She put love into them and this made the cakes taste better. In this context, I often tell my staff that if they also put “love” (as in passion and enthusiasm) into their work, their contribution would be much greater.”

Lim also admires Malaysia’s first prime minister, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman fondly known as Bapa Malaysia and the late P. Ramlee.

“Without Tunku Abdul Rahman, we would not have Malaysia. We would still be a British colony. P. Ramlee’s life history is likemine, full of determination. But he had not much support. I was and still am fortunate to be surrounded by supporters who gave me a chance to be a successful entrepreneur.”

Going forward, Lim sees himself setting aside a little more time for himself and his wife to pursue other interest besides work.

“All this while, my focus has been on stability and building up the business to increase shareholders’ wealth and bring benefits to society, leaving little time for myself as the business requires plenty of effort, personal attention and time.

“My wife and I used to spend almost all our time at work, but now we try to take time off for leisure. We try to go overseas as we are always inspired by new ideas from ourtravels, and we always try to keep abreast with the latest technology.

“At this juncture, I have only managed to find time for one or two holiday cruises a year. I want to reach a stage where I can have the business managed on ‘auto-pilot’. As for the expansion of the business, we have decided to take the route of acquisitions and strategic alliances.”

His two sons, who are aged 40 and 37, are striking out on their own.

“They worked with me for a while but they have decided that they want to build their own business rather than inherit one. There was a time when I had hoped that they could take over the business, but today I have accepted the fact that my business has to be structured in such a manner that it will be managed by professionals. I also have supported my sons and given them a strong foundation. I believe that they can excel.”

As for philanthropy, Lim says he will continue to donate towards providing education for the poor.

“Education can provide breakthroughs for the poor. With education, the sky is the limit,” he says.

Lim’s advice for young Malaysians in order to do well and be successful in life was to be diligent, passionate and honest.

“But there is no substitute for integrity. If you are honest and hardworking, you will find success. Luck sometimes help, but luck is only an accelerator. If you are not diligent or have no passion in what you do, you will not recognise the lucky breaks when they come.

“I advise the youngsters not to fear failure. Failures are basic steps to success. They also have to be extra careful. Nowadays, crises are very unpredictable and can catch you offhand. But there are many unlimited opportunities in this world.”

By The Star

Putting things into perspective

Foreign interest: The foreigners who are buying properties in Malaysia are no l onger the British but from countries in the region including Singapore, Indonesia, China and South Korea.

Is this anti-foreign investment sentiment justified? Currently, 98% of residential properties are owned by Malaysians while foreigners own only 2% in Malaysia.

SHOULD Malaysia follow suit just because of Singapore's recent moves to stabilise its property market by increasing stamp duties and stopping rich foreigners from becoming permanent residents?

Singapore's situation is very different from Malaysia. Firstly, in terms of size Singapore is smaller than Perlis, Malaysia's smallest state but its population is 20 times bigger. This is in contrast to Malaysia which has a low population density but large land size.

Secondly, Singapore has been very successful in attracting talents and expatriates for the last 30 years, a route that Malaysia has only started to embark upon.

Between 1970 and 1980, the size of the non-resident population in Singapore doubled.

The trend has continued and non-residents constituted 26.8% and permanent residents 10.2% of the population in 2011, reflecting the highest proportion of foreign workers in Asia.

This small island has already increased its population from four million to 5.2 million in 2011 in just a decade. While there are plans to raise this to 6.5 million within the next 20 years, this may be stalled.

Singapore has managed to increase its share of knowledge workers from 51% in the 1960s to 59% in 1990s through liberal immigration policies, affordable yet comfortable accommodations and house ownership.

Anti-foreigner sentiment began to build up as one in every three persons living in Singapore is a foreigner.

The Government is now able to pull the brakes on foreign property buyers given their past successes. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expected a slower 1% to 3% growth in the Singapore economy and said that “admitting fewer workers means forgoing business opportunities and slower growth.”

Malaysia, on the other hand, is a long way from achieving the 10 million population it plans to attract to Greater Kuala Lumpur from the present six million by 2020. The country has only started to embark on this high income path two years ago.

Lowest paid

According to the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) statistics, expatriates have been falling at a compound annual growth rate of -9% per annum from 2000 to 2008. Expatriates working in Malaysia are among the lowest paid compared with regional peers, according to a HSBC Bank survey.

Is this anti-foreign investment sentiment justified? Currently, 98% of residential properties are owned by Malaysians while foreigners own only 2% in Malaysia.

Statistics show that there is an overhang of property priced below RM150,000 for the past three years.

The foreigners who are buying properties in Malaysia are no longer the British but from countries in the region including Singapore, Indonesia, China and South Korea.

Similarly, Malaysians are snapping up properties, companies and banks in the region as well as in the United Kingdom.

Bank Negara statistics show that there is more money leaving the country than entering in 2011. Through fostering friendlier ties with Asean and Asean+3, Malaysia wants to enter foreign markets in Asean, China, South Korea and Japan.

Malaysian companies want to be regional players. If that is so, we also have to tread carefully on policies when others are entering Malaysian territory.

Who are the real culprits behind the rise in property prices?

If speculation among locals account for rising property prices, then Bank Negara's move to place restrictions on loans and net income instead of gross income would sufficiently contain the priceincrease.

Bank Negara has been very effective in curbing volatile rise in property prices as seen in the steady and gradual rise in prices of Malaysian versus Singapore house price index. (See chart)

Why are expatriates good for the country? Ultimately, every Malaysian wants to enjoy a higher income per capita.

High-income nation

As Malaysian wages are no longer competitive to China, India and emerging Asean member countries like Vietnam and Indonesia, the only route for the future of the country is to embark on a path towards a high-income nation.

In order to do this, Malaysia needs sizeable talent pool to attract multi-national companies to relocate their outsourcing industries here.

Malaysia needs to attract both returning diaspora and foreign talents because of our very small number of highly-skilled population in contrast to those available in China and India.

Expatriates can provide skills that our local population may not have. If we want our universities and research to be ranked anywhere within the top 50 globally, we need foreign talents. Foreign businessmen create jobs when they invest here.

The nation has made the right moves in reducing the cost of doing business, liberalising equity requirements for listed stocks as well as property. All these have gradually made an impact on foreign investors. Last year, Malaysia moved into the international investors' radar and the nation's foreign direct investment hit an all-time high of RM33bil.

To backtrack on its more liberal policies now would simply douse the renewed foreign interest in Malaysia.

Historically, every time Malaysia tightens its property policies, it triggers a downturn in property values. “When Malaysia removes restrictions, investments take a spike. When Malaysian reinstates restrictions on foreign investments, the market will over-correct,” said a Singapore analyst.

Look out for Malaysia Property Incorporated's (MPI) solutions to increasing residential property in the price range of RM500,000 to RM1mil in next week's column.

Kumar Tharmalingam is the CEO of MPI. MPI is a public-private initiative set up by the EPU to promote and facilitate foreign investment in Malaysian real estate. MPI's raises Malaysia's profile in the international investment radar through constantly updating foreign investors on Malaysia and real estate information.

By The Star (by Kumar Tharmalingam)

Safety a priority for development projects

KLANG Valley folks are both awed and apprehensive by the many development projects that are either in the drawing board or already under way in their midst that are bound to change their living, recreation and working landscapes.

One of the most massive projects under way is of course the My Rapid Transit (MRT) public transport system. The others include the development of the 3,300 acres of the Rubber Research Institute land in Sungei Buloh, the 494-acre former military airport in Sungei Besi, Kuala Lumpur Financial District and redevelopment of Pudu Jail.

Many of the projects are expected to take place concurrently, and when the huge boulders, skylifts and tractors roll in, there is bound to be various issues cropping up especially pertaining to public safety and worsening traffic jams, among others.

Public safety should be of paramount importance. High standards of safe industry practices and standards at the construction sites should be spelt out clearly and strictly adhered to by all the contractors. Heavy penalties must be meted out to those who fail to practice these safety standards. The safety standards should cover proper safety procedures and high standards in safety, health and environment protection in all the project sites.

The aim is to prevent injury, minimise environmental impact, and ensure minimum inconvenience to the public.

The ongoing construction work to upgrade the public transport system in the Klang Valley is bound to cause more severe road congestion and other inconveniences when work progresses. As it is, the relentless road congestion has been one of the main reasons marring the ease of travel in our cities.

Proper traffic dispersal system has to be in place and well tested to ensure the traffic jams will not lead to grid locks on the roads which frequently happen these days on roads where there is construction going on (especially when it rains).

I believe many of us must have knots in our stomachs when it comes to crossing roads during rush hours. It can be quite a herculean task when there is no pedestrian crossing or overhead bridge in sight.

With the high traffic these days, it is necessary to make pedestrian bridge a mandatory feature on our roads and highways to ensure safety of the pedestrians. This requirement should be spelt out in the contract to the appointed contractors who undertake the construction work.

The sheer size of the areas earmarked for development especially the new massive townships, and the fact that very little information has been provided on the progress of the projects must have caused apprehension among the people.

Even industry players who are keen to bid for the projects have very scant information about how things are going and are very much in the dark on how they can participate. To ensure the best and viable ideas are given due consideration, inviting bids via open tenders by industry players will be the best and most appropriate method to adopt.

It is not just about coming out with the project plans but equally important is the need to keep the public and industry players posted on the progress, and how they will be impacted or benefit from the projects.

For greater transparency and accountability, details on the progress of these projects should be regularly posted and updated on the websites of the governing authorities that are overseeing them. The public will want to know how the project will blend with the existing environment, and what are the plans for traffic dispersal system. Environment impact assessment studies need to be conducted to determine the potential impact of those projects on the overall environment so that solutions can be built into the master plan.

On the positive side, Klang Valley folks must be looking forward to these projects further sprucing up the living environment for a higher quality of life and greater conveniences for them.

If planned holistically and executed well, the large parcels of land have the potential for better integration of public infrastructure and services. They will also remain relevant and sustainable for a longer term.

I believe this is indeed a golden opportunity to replan and redesign our cities to become global cities that provide higher living standards and more wholesome and quality environment.

The development plans should not be based on profit targets, but also for the social, environmental and sustainable causes.

Supply should be of a high quality and value, and development should be coordinated so as not to upset the supply and demand equilibrium.

It is important to be alert to the tendency to build up the land to the maximum; instead there should be a purposeful intention to set aside space for parks, green lungs and other public spaces for recreation and leisure. Making the city green with the allotment of open public spaces and green networks, complete with environmental protection zones and control measures, will preserve the green areas and parks from being roped in for development in future.

Town planners must have the foresight to plan the roads and other infrastructures for the growing population over the long term. And it boils down to having holistic master plans and best intentions for our cities.

Deputy news editor Angie Ng sees immense benefit from cleaning up our heavily polluted rivers as pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes can be built in along riverside stretches to promote walking and cycling culture among Klang Valley folks.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

Bank to adopt city park

It’s a deal: Marking the adoption of the park in the city are (from front left) Osman, Mohd Sheriff, Ahmad Phesal Talib, and Ahmad Fuad.

The country’s oldest bank Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Berhad (Standard Chartered) recently entered into an agreement with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to adopt a prime location public park in the heart of the city recently.

The bank is the first organisation to be offered the opportunity to adopt the 40,000 sq ft (4,000 sqm) park under the government’s Signature Park Adoption Programme as one of Greater KL and Klang Valley’s Greener KL Entry Point Projects (EPPs) under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP). Greener KL project will further Kuala Lumpur along its goal to become the top 20 most liveable cities in the world by 2020.

To commemorate the initiative, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signing ceremony between the two parties was held marking the bank’s sponsorship of the development and management of maintenance of the park for the next seven years.

Standard Chartered Malaysia managing director and CEO, Osman Morad said, “This programme is in recognition of our contribution to environmental efforts locally and around the world. We are proud to be part of this key government initiative as we reinforce our commitment to Malaysia.”

Commenting on the signing, Kuala Lumpur mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail said, “In line with Greener KL Project’s objective, DBKL is pleased to receive support from Standard Chartered Malaysia to participate in the Signature Park Adoption Programme. The intention being that greening the city with pocket parks will help attract talents and tourists into greater Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley.”

Signing on behalf of Standard Chartered Malaysia was managing director and CEO Osman Morad and representing the city was Ahmad Fuad.

The signing was witnessed by Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Ministry secretary general Datuk Ahmad Phesal Talib, Pemandu director of NKRA and NKEA Datuk Ahmad Suhaili Idrus, Standard Chartered Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, Standard Chartered South-East Asia regional CEO Neeraj Swaroop and Standard Chartered Plc non-executive director Ruth Markland.

The park offered to Standard Chartered, is situated in lot 776 and lot 83 at Jalan Pinang and Jalan P.Ramlee.

Located amid the highrises and towering buildings, it is the only remaining green lung in and around the Kuala Lumpur city centre.

Tree species that are indigenous to Malaysia such as Hopea odorata and Pongonoia will be planted to support the concept of an “urban forest” amid the concrete jungle.

By The Star

Naim-KPJ JV company to invest RM70mil in private hospital in Miri

KUCHING: A Naim Holdings Bhd-KPJ Healthcare Bhd joint-venture (JV) firm will invest in a private hospital project in oil town Miri.

The proposed 100-bed full-fledge hospital will be built on 1.62ha in Bandar Baru Permyjaya, Naim’s flagship integrated mixed development project.

Naim engineering and construction head Sivakumar Ramasamy said the four-storey hospital was estimated to cost RM70mil.

“The proposed hospital building plan is anticipated to be submitted for approval to the relevant authorities by July, with construction works to start the following month.

“The hospital is expected to be completed and commissioned in September 2014,” he told StarBizWeek yesterday.

The project will be undertaken by a 30:70 JV company between Naim’s wholly-owned subisidary, Naim Land Sdn Bhd (NLSB), and KPJ’s wholly-owned unit, Kumpulan Perubatan (Johor) Sdn Bhd (KPJSB).

The JV company, which will own the hospital, will have an initial authorised share capital of RM25mil. NLSB will sell the 1.62ha to the JV firm for RM5.9mil.

It has been agreed that Naim’s construction arm – Naim Engineering Sdn Bhd – will be the contractor for the hospital project.

The hospital building will be leased to KPJSB, which will provide a master planner and project manager to advise on the medical centre’s design and technical requirements.

When completed, the private hospital would be the third in Miri, Sarawak’s second city. The existing private hospitals are Columbia Medical Centre and Miri City Medical Centre.

It will be KPJ’s second hospital in Sarawak, the first was set up in Tabuan Jaya commercial centre here several years ago. KPJ is one of Malaysia’s leading private healthcare provider, operating a chain of 20 health centres nationwide.

Kuching now has three private hospitals and the fourth is under construction. There are two private hospitals in Sibu.

By The Star

BLand seeking partners for Great Mall of China

KUALA LUMPUR: Berjaya Land Bhd (BLand) is in talks with several Malaysian and foreign investors to help develop Phase Two of its RM7.5 billion Great Mall of China (GMOC) project in Hebei Province in China.

Its chief executive officer Datuk Francis Ng Sooi Lin said BLand is also seeking funding for the second phase of the project.

BLand is developing the integrated mall complex, the biggest in the world, through Berjaya Great Mall of China Co Ltd (BGMOC).

BGMOC is a 51:49 joint venture between BLand and Berjaya Group founder Tan Sri Vincent Tan, via his private arm Berjaya Times Square Cayman Ltd.

Ng said two of the biggest banks in Malaysia have offered financing of up to US$200 million (RM614 million) each for the phase two development.

"We are also looking at Bank of China for our funding options. We have not made a decision," Ng told Business Times in an interview.

Ng said Phase Two is estimated to cost around RM3 billion and will take three to five years to complete.

The GMOC project will cover over two million sq ft of retail space and feature two hotels, two serviced apartments, office towers, a convention centre, a theatre and a parking complex. There will also be an indoor monorail, three theme parks and aquarium.

Phase Two will comprise the development of hotels, serviced apartments, office towers, convention centre, theatre and monorail. Piling work will begin in June, Ng said.

The phase one construction, comprising a retail and pedestrian mall, three theme parks and parking bays, began in 2010 and is expected to complete by October next year.

BGMOC has a paid-up capital of US$165 million (RM507 million), almost half of which has been utilised for the phase one development.

Ng said the key selling points of the GMOC are the theme parks, the aquarium, the theatre and the 455,000 sq ft convention centre with seating capacity of 10,000.

"These will be the main attractions for the project. The main challenge will be funding for Phase Two. Once we have secured the financing, we expect the project to sell on its own," Ng said.

By Business Times

Finding your perfect abode

I RECENTLY purchased my first home, because I was tired of throwing money down the rental pit (or rather, my parents pushed me to make that purchase). However, when it comes to buying property, which is likely the biggest investment one will ever make, there can be a lot of catches. I don’t claim to be an expert: I am not a real estate agent nor a property consultant. All I can tell you is what I’ve learned from my experience as a first time homebuyer, and a few things that “I wish I had known then”.

Lesson 1: Timing, timing, timing. You won’t get it perfect.

If you do get the timing perfect, then good for you. Everyone wants to “buy low, sell high.” I thought the prices were high in 2008. Little did I know that the property market went on a steady rise despite the gloomy global economy. Problem is, no one can predict the future. Try not to buy a house solely based on the assumption that it will rise in value. Yes, in the long term (long term meaning 20 or 30 years), real estate tends to be a pretty good investment, plus it is an investment you can actually use in the meantime (you get to live in it while it appreciates).

Lesson 2: Realise the hidden costs.

Realise that buying real estate costs money. There are closing costs on a loan, inspection fees, lawyer fees. When you a sell a house, it’s the same deal. Not to mention the moving costs. Buying a house really is a long term investment, so you’d better be sure you know what you want and that you can afford it, because you have to understand that your house may drop in value in the short term. If you plan to be there 10 years, then a short term drop in value due to the economy should not bother you. You should buy for other reasons than potential profit, because as a lot of people are finding out, that’s not a safe bet.

Lesson 3: Don’t look at homes before you have examined your own budget.

I knew of someone who insisted on looking for high end condominiums before knowing her loan amount. When you apply for a loan, the bank can offer you a purchase price which is the absolute limit of what you could afford, based on what you’ve shown them. Do you really want to buy at your absolute affordability limit? Not a fun idea. Sure, you could probably afford to pay the mortgage. But you’ll be able to afford little else. How about some disposable income for vacations and savings?

For example, if you’ve been renting, you’ve enjoyed the landlord’s responsibility to fix maintenance issues in your home. That option will cease to exist. You will now need to pay a professional to fix issues that may be expensive later on. When looking at housing, sometimes it is depressing what is actually affordable.

Once you’ve determined a truly comfortable price range, then look at properties only in that price range. Tell your real estate agent you are only willing to look in that price range. Do not tempt yourself by looking at anything above that price range (because like me, you’ll definitely like it!) If you cannot find something livable in that price range, then perhaps it is not the right time for you to buy. Perhaps the smart thing to do would be to wait a couple more years until you have a more sizeable down payment.

Lesson 4: Don’t skip the home inspections.

You absolutely must pay the money for a thorough home inspection as well as termite or pest inspection, especially if you’re buying a home that has been lived in before. The cost of these inspections is minor in comparison with the cost of the problems they might uncover.

Don’t skip your own personal visual inspection, either! I had looked so long at condos, that when I found one I liked based on first impression, but you have to really inspect every nook and cranny yourself. Because while that old floor might be perfectly functional and not something of note for the inspector, is the ugliness really something you can live with? Or will you be dying to spend big bucks to replace it once you’ve moved in? Don’t gloss over the details. Poke and prod. The sellers can be clever.

My friend discovered on her final walk-through (when it was really too late to back out without losing a ton of money) that there was a lot the previous owners had hidden. There were huge cracks in the walls that had been disguised with lots of bookshelves. The flooring was in terrible shape but she hadn’t noticed due to the area rugs. So, before you plunk down a huge deposit, take a flashlight with you and don’t be afraid to lift rugs or move furniture to look at everything thoroughly.

The process of finding, buying, and renovating a house can be the most frustrating, stressful processes we would have to endure. It is littered with people of little competence, high disinterest, and no accountability. It is expensive and time-consuming, but hopefully, very rewarding once you’ve settled in.

Dawn Jeremiah has yet to renovate and furnish her condo and is afraid of starting the process. Armed with a passion for television and journalism, she handles regional marketing at a regional lifestyle channel. She also tweets at

By The Star (by Dawn Jeremiah)