Malaysia’s PM to halt visas for Forest City foreign buyers

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. (AFP)
Updated 28 August 2018

Malaysia’s PM to halt visas for Forest City foreign buyers

  • “We are not going to give visas for people to come and live here,” Mahathir said
  • Mahathir was not in favor of what he considers to be expensive extraterritorial enclaves populated mostly by foreigners

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Muhamad on Tuesday declared that the government will not issue visas to foreign buyers in Malaysia.

This followed an earlier remark regarding the barring of foreigners from purchasing homes at the upscale eco Forest City near Singapore.

“Purchase of properties, however, does not guarantee automatic residency in the country,” Mahathir said in a press statement on Tuesday. He added that Malaysia imposes certain conditions on property bought by foreigners.

Mahathir told reporters on Monday that Forest City “cannot be sold to foreigners,” saying that he was against the idea. “We are not going to give visas for people to come and live here,” Mahathir said.

“Our objection is because it was built for foreigners, not meant for Malaysians. Most Malaysians are unable to buy those flats,” he said.

However, Malaysia’s Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr. Xavier Jayakumar’s told Parliament recently that the government’s decision to continue allowing foreign buyers to own freehold property in Forest City was in accordance with the ruling issued by the National Land Council in 2014.

Country Garden’s Chairman Yeung Kwok Keung said in a statement on Monday that Mahathir’s remarks “may have been taken out of context” as his comments were not in line with the discussion at a closed-door meeting between them recently. 

“This must be a new policy proclamation, which the new government has the right to enact,” Dr. Oh Ei Sun, Malaysian political scientist, told Arab News, adding that foreigners can buy residences in Malaysia over $250,000 according to Malaysia’s previous housing policy.

Ever since his campaigning days and after coming to power, the Malaysian premier has not been in favor of such luxury homes for foreigners and has wanted those homes to be made affordable to local buyers instead, Dr. Oh said.

“Mahathir was not in favor of what he considers to be expensive extraterritorial enclaves populated mostly by foreigners, at a time when there is an affordable housing crisis domestically,” he said.

Developed by the Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings Co, Forest City is a futuristic, massive-scale $100 billion real property project located in the state of Johore, which is separated from Singapore by the Johore Strait.

The ambitious project was envisaged to house 700,000 residents in four man-made islands, about three times the size of Singapore’s Sentosa island.

On the company’s website, it has been trying to attract foreign buyers more than Malaysians for sales of apartments: “Forest City will offer wealthy international buyers luxury homes, the most advanced 3D multi-layered urban planning concept, flush green surroundings with no vehicles traveling.”

“Sales at many of these similar projects have been stalling in recent months due to China’s tightened currency control measures barring large amounts from going overseas,” Dr. Oh said. Developers have been launching huge marketing campaigns mostly in China, he said.

Last year, 70 percent of apartments were purchased by Chinese nationals, 20 percent by Malaysians and the rest from 22 other countries including neighboring Asian nations. However, the development of Forest City has been slow as only a fraction of the planned reclaimed land of 20 sq km was built.

In the heated reaction following Mahathir’s foreign-buyer ban remark, the government reiterated that it welcomes “foreign direct investment that contributes to the transfer of technology, provides employment for locals and the setting up of industries.”

The government also reassured tourists from China that the government welcomes “all tourists including from China” and is looking at attracting 10 million Chinese nationals for tourism in the coming years. 


Rivals question front-runner Sanders’ electability at rowdy Democratic debate

Updated 11 min 59 sec ago

Rivals question front-runner Sanders’ electability at rowdy Democratic debate

  • ‘Bernie will lose to Donald Trump, and Donald Trump and the House and the Senate and some of the statehouses will all go red’
  • ‘I can tell you exactly how it all adds up. It adds up to four more years of Donald Trump’

CHARLESTON, South Carolina: Surging Democratic presidential front-runner Bernie Sanders came under withering fire in a boisterous debate in South Carolina on Tuesday, as rivals attacked the high cost of his ambitious economic agenda and warned he would cost the party the White House and control of Congress.

In a debate that featured candidates repeatedly shouting over one another and ignoring their time limits, Sanders’ opponents united in attacking the independent senator and self-avowed democratic socialist as a risky choice to lead Democrats against Republican President Donald Trump in November.

“Bernie will lose to Donald Trump, and Donald Trump and the House and the Senate and some of the statehouses will all go red,” billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, adding that would be “a catastrophe.”

Pete Buttigieg, the moderate former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, criticized Sanders for the shifting estimates on the costs of his proposals such as government-run health care and questioned how he could get his agenda passed.

“I can tell you exactly how it all adds up. It adds up to four more years of Donald Trump,” Buttigieg said, adding that a Sanders race against Trump would be devastating to the country.

“If you think the last four years has been chaotic, divisive, toxic, exhausting, imagine spending the better part of 2020 with Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump,” Buttigieg said.

Sanders defended his ability to pay for costly programs such as Medicare for All, which would replace private health insurance with a government-run program, and said he was raising issues supported by the American people.

“My favorability nationally, I believe, is the highest up here,” Sanders said in a reference to opinion polls, adding he beat Trump in most national surveys.

“If you want to beat Trump, what you’re going to need is an unprecedented grassroots movement of black and white and Latino, Native American and Asian, people who are standing up and fighting for justice. That’s what our movement is about,” Sanders said.

Sanders has taken command of the race after strong showings in the first three nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, and the debate was the last chance for his opponents to try to stop his momentum before Saturday’s South Carolina primary and next week’s 14 vital Super Tuesday contests.

Even Elizabeth Warren, a senator from Massachusetts and progressive ally of Sanders who is trying to revive a struggling campaign, took a swing at her old friend.

“I think I would make a better president than Bernie. And the reason for that is that getting a progressive agenda enacted is going to be really hard,” she said. “I dug in, I did the work, and then Bernie’s team trashed me.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar said neither Sanders nor Warren had shown the leadership in the Senate to accomplish much.

“It matters if you can actually get things done,” she said.