The rail economics of East Coast Rail Link (ECRL)


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Rail link seen as game changer but cost is a concern.

TOK Bali, a fishing village in Kelantan with its beautiful sandy beaches and pristine blue waters has long been a hidden gem among well-travelled backpackers. But that may soon change. The idyllic town is one that is touted to potentially become a tourist hotspot, as it sits along the alignment of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), a multi-billion infrastructure project that promises many economic spin-offs.

After almost a decade in planning, ECRL was launched with great pomp this week.

Touted as a key game-changer for the east coast states of Peninsular Malaysia, the interstate ECRL is expected to help the economy of the four states that it covers by an additional 1.5% per year over the next 50 years.

On a micro level, more employment opportunities, particularly skilled jobs, will be made available to Malaysians. Domestic industry players especially in the construction sector, can now anticipate construction contracts to the tune of RM16bil, at least.

   
Another milstone:Najib checking out a train model at the ground-breaking ceremony this week.He called ECRL ‘another milestore in the country’s land public transport history”.

The ECRL is expected to benefit freight transport because it would link key economic and industrial areas within the East Coast Economic Region such as the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, Gambang Halal Park, Kertih Biopolymer Park and Tok Bali Integrated Fisheries Park to both Kuantan Port and Port Klang.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak called it “another milestone in the country’s land public transport history”.

Despite the much highlighted economic benefits from the rail network, the venture is attracting its own share of controversies from the way the contract was awarded to the price of contract.

For one, China’s state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) has been appointed for the construction of ECRL via a direct negotiation method.

Detractors have labelled ECRL – at a cost of RM80mil per kilometre – as the world’s costliest rail project. Note that, the Gemas-Johor Baru double-tracking stretch costs RM45mil per km.

ECRL, however, will go over hilly terrain and has several tunnels to be built.

There are questions on whether the 688km rail venture, at RM55bil, will be financially feasible.

Sources say the price tag is unlikely to have included land acquisition costs.

They indicate that close to half of the land plots required for the rail link sit on private land and would require land acquisition. At this point, the total land acquisition cost is unknown.

No money in rail

The concerns of the critics are understandable, given the fact that public infrastructure projects, namely rail projects are usually not commercially viable.

A quick check on the finances of Malaysia’s very own Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) and a number of major rail operators abroad, affirms the fact that rail projects do not promise easy money.

The loss-making KTMB which was corporatised in 1992, has not been able to financially sustain itself, resulting in the deterioration of its level of service despite attempts to turn around the company.

According to the railway service operator’s latest publicly available audited report for financial year 2013, the group registered a total net loss of RM128.2mil. However, note that, the net loss had narrowed by 46% from RM238.5mil in the previous year.

Had it not been for the government’s subsidy which kept it afloat, KTMB would find it difficult to continue its operations without a further raise of its fare.

In India, where railway is a favoured mode of transportation, the Indian Railways has been incurring losses on passenger operations every year. Earlier this year, the lower chamber of the Indian parliament was told that the state-owned rail operator recorded a loss of Rs359.18bil (RM24.04bil) in the period of 2015 to 2016.

This was slightly higher than its loss of Rs334.91bil (RM22.42bil) in the period of 2014-2015.

On the other hand, China’s state-owned rail operator, China Railway Corp, was reported to have recorded a 58% increase in earnings last year despite huge losses in the first nine months. However, a zoom into its finances reveals that the high profit made was only possible due to a significant annual government subsidy.

Similarly, Singapore’s SMRT Corp which manages the city-state’s rail operations posted a profit of S$7.4mil (RM23.33mil) in its financial year of 2016. This was on the back of a revenue of S$681mil (RM2.15bil), which rose by 4.1% year-on-year.

While the rail operations saw higher ridership in that year, SMRT Corp would have registered a loss of S$9.6mil (RM30.26mil) for its rail business, if not for the net property tax refund of S$17.1mil (RM53.9mil).

Considering the lack of commercial viability in such rail projects, ECRL would ultimately require assistance from the government in ensuring smooth operations, while maintaining an affordable service for its users. This is akin a crucial trade-off, to complement the government’s move to provide an integrated transportation system in Malaysia, which is long overdue.

AmBank Group’s chief economist Anthony Dass tells StarBizWeek that for every ringgit spent on capital projects such as transportation, it generates a return or multiplier effect of around 5% to 20%.

In his estimation, he says the ECRL should create around RM50-55bil in terms of gross domestic product.

“The impact of this project to the economy will be multilevel. Impact on the respective states’ GDP and national GDP will be evident, though the magnitude of the impact on the respective states is poised to vary.

“On a longer term, once the entire project is completed, we expect strong benefits seeping into services related activities. Properties in the major towns is likely to enjoy more especially the port-connected towns, driven by logistics- and trade-related businesses.

“Other areas would benefit from the movement of tourism. As for the smaller towns, they are more likely to enjoy from the spillovers of this connectivity through movement of people commuting to work and new areas of business growth especially in areas like the small and medium businesses,” says Anthony.

High cargo projections

By the year 2040, an estimated 8 million passengers and 53 million tonnes of cargo are expected to use the ECRL service annually as the primary transport between the east coast and west coast.

By 2040, ECRL is projected to support a freight density of 19 million tonnes.

The freight cargo projections of the rail network stands in stark contrast to the total cargo volume running through the entire Malaysian railways today.

As of 2015, the entire Malaysian railways operations handled a sum of 6.21 million tons of cargo, according to a study related to the ECRL.

To note, the revenue from the operation of the venture is projected to be obtained through a transportation ratio of 30% passengers and 70% freight.

If the projections of ECRL are anything to go by, the planners are anticipating a ballistic growth in volume of cargo being moved along the tracks.

Is this realistic?

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie remains concerned on the details of the project financing, albeit the expected trickle-down benefits of ECRL.

“While ECRL has been identified as a high impact public transport project that will connect east coast states with the west coast, especially Greater KL and Klang Valley, the high cost of RM55bil requires further justification. More clarity on the cost structure and terms and conditions of the loan is needed to ease public genuine concerns.

“It must be noted that the high costs, low profits and long gestation periods of transportation projects do not always make them financially viable. The financial viability of the ECRL would depend on the revenue generated to cover operating cash flow, including interest expenses.

“As the loan will have a seven year moratorium, the bunching of loan repayment together with interest payment will be substantial in the remaining 13 years,” he says.

Lowering cost the key

In terms of funding, 85% of the total project value of RM55bil would be to be funded by Exim Bank of China’s through a soft loan at a 3.25% interest.

The balance 15% would be financed through a sukuk programme by local banks.

There is no payment for the first seven years, and the government starts paying after the seventh year over a 13-year period.

At 3.25% interest per annum, the interest servicing bill for the project is huge.

“Hence the main challenge to this project will be to bring down cost as low as possible. The lower the cost, the lesser it would be the burden on the government’s balance sheet,” says an industry player.

Echoing a similar view, Lee noted the ERCL project loan is expected to be treated as “contingent liability” as it will be taken by Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd, a special purpose vehicle owned by the Ministry of Finance.

This is also to ensure that the Federal Government will not breach the self-imposed debt to GDP ratio of 55%.

As at end-March 2017, the Federal Government’s debt stood at RM664.5bil or 50.2% of GDP.

At the end of the day, despite the concerns on the possible cost overrun in the ECRL project, proper management and efficiency in project delivery could lead to cost savings and ultimately lower overall expenditure for ECRL.

History has shown that Malaysian companies can lower the cost, especially on rail projects compared to foreign players.

In the late 1990s, a consortium of India and China state-owned companies were awarded the contract to build a double track electrified railway system from Padang Besar to Johor Baru. The cost was estimated at RM44bil and paid through crude palm oil.

However, an MMC Corp Bhd-Gamuda Bhd joint venture managed to win the job in 2003 with a RM14.3bil proposal. However this project was shelved and subsequently continued after a lull of few years.

ECRL is a seven year project to be built in stages. Many factors can come into play in that period like delay in construction and rise in material costs.

However in the bigger picture, the infrastructure venture should not merely be seen from a commercial-viable lens alone. The trickle-down benefits on the economy and the Malaysian population should also be factored into the calculations.

The lower the cost, the higher the multiplier effect.

Source: The Star by ganeshwaran kanaandgurmeet kaur

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Local Council hoarding RM60mil in drainage funds


GEORGE TOWN: More than RM60mil collected from developers as drainage contributions in Seberang Prai has reportedly not been given to the state Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID).

Pulau Betong assemblyman Datuk Muhammad Farid Saad, who lashed out at Seberang Prai Municipal Council (MPSP) for withholding the money, said only RM2.2mil of RM63.39mil collected from 2008 to June last year was disbursed so far.

He said that according to the Auditor-General’s Report 2016, the move went against the directive which required contributions from developers to be channelled to a trust account maintained by the state DID director who would act as its controlling officer.

“MPSP’s failure to transfer the funds has resulted in many stalled flood mitigation projects.

“In 2016 alone, four places in central Seberang Prai were hit by flash floods 21 times.

“The rakyat are at the receiving end, all because MPSP wants to portray itself with a nice balance sheet.

“In the state assembly, the state government on April 2014, announced that it had increased the contributions from RM10,000 per acre to RM50,000 per acre.

“Did they spend part of the contributions on something else instead of drainage and irrigation or flood mitigation?” Muhammad Farid asked in a statement.

He said the Auditor-General also reported that MPSP’s Treasury Department was instructed to hand over RM400,000 annually to DID in 2010.

“That instruction did not get the approval from the state government. This is improper and action has to be taken.

“It is inappropriate for the local authority to make decisions behind the backs of the Chief Minister and state government.

He criticised MPSP for showing a lack of commitment in tackling floods.

“It is an irony that a local council which has won international accolades does not follow directives.

“The exposure by the Auditor-General has dented MPSP’s integrity.

“Its delay in handing over the contributions shows that it did not adhere to the state government’s CAT (competency, accountability and transparency) policy.

“Are they trying to secure another award — a local council with the healthiest coffers?”

MPSP president Datuk Rozali Mohamud said he would comment after reading Farid’s report in print.

Source: The Star

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Penang properties: security for homeseekers, location for foreigners, increased value for investors


 

Security ranks high for the homeseekers

GEORGE TOWN: Security is a key feature sought after by property buyers at the StarProperty.my Fair 2017 at Gurney Plaza and Gurney Paragon Mall here.

Eco World Development Group Berhad (EcoWorld) sales executive Andre Lim Han Lin said potential buyers approached the company due to the security features of its projects.

“We stress a lot on security in our projects. Take for example the Eco Meadows gated and guarded mixed development project in Simpang Ampat on the Penang mainland.

“Each housing unit comes with intercom system and alarm system to provide enhanced safety for our customers.

“In cases of emergency, homeowners can contact our well-trained security guards for assistance,” he said at the fair yesterday.

Hunza Properties (Penang) Sdn Bhd head of sales and marketing Karen Thein said the company’s Alila2 project in Tanjung Bungah comes with a top-notch security system to ensure the safety and security of its homebuyers.

“We have layers of security from the guardhouse, to the car park, lobby area and to the home unit.

“The project is equipped with security tags, access card control system and CCTVs,” she added.

She said Alila2 was also equipped with smart home panel that allows owners to view their visitors who are at the lobby.

“Owners can open the door to the lifts at the lobby from their home after confirming the identity of the visitors through the smart panel.

“Aside from that, each unit is equipped with a panic button for owners to alert the security guards during emergencies,” she said.

BDB Land Sdn Bhd sales executive Mohd Zaidi Md Jasmin said potential clients who came to their booths were also concerned about security.

“Security is one of the important factors we stressed in our Darulaman Perdana township in Sungai Petani.

“The project is a guarded community, crafted to meet the needs of those who seek comfort and safety in their homes.

“We have our security guards patrolling our project to ensure safety at all times.

“Besides safety, we are also into building a healthy and environmental-friendly community,” he said.

The StarProperty.my Fair 2017, organised by the Star Media Group, is open from 10am to 10pm daily until Sunday.. Admission is free.

By Christopher Tan The Star

Foreigners eyeing Penang properties

FOREIGNERS were among the early birds who visited the StarProperty.my Fair 2017 in Penang on its first day, looking for properties to invest in.

Couple Wallace Ng and Minnie Yip, both 50, from Hong Kong, said they were looking for a property with sea view and good facilities to invest in.

“Good location will be an added value to the property,” Ng said while checking the City Residence project in Tanjung Tokong by Ivory Properties Group Bhd at the fair yesterday.

Another couple from Shanghai, Liu Jun and Hua Wen Xin, both 49, were checking out Ewein Zenith’s City Of Dreams project in Gurney Drive.

“We are interested in having a property at a bay on Penang island. It would be a good investment for us. Location plays an important role,” Liu said.

New Zealander Brad Harman, 31, echoed similar sentiments, saying suitable location would be his first preference while looking for property in Penang.

“I understand that investing in the property market in Penang is profitable as it’s growing rapidly. This may be a good time to look for one but it will be a better choice when it has a good location too,” he said.

Henry Teoh, 29, and his girlfriend Jesslyn Tan, 24, both insurance agents from Penang who are searching for a second property in the state, said they were looking for a landed home since their first property is a high-rise.

“We prefer to have the house on the island as we think that the land value on the island is higher and it will be a good investment too,” Teoh said while checking the properties offered by IJM Land Bhd.

Sales and marketing executive Marie Kam, 37, who was eyeing Sentral Suites by Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB) in Kuala Lumpur Sentral, said the development attracted her due to its location.

“KL Sentral is a prime location in Kuala Lumpur,” she said.

At The Star’s booth in Gurney Plaza, retiree Ho Kam Hoong signed up for a one-year standalone ePaper subscription for RM180.

“I prefer The Star ePaper since it is more convenient as I can surf the news from anywhere.

“I like the lifestyle, social event and sports sections,” said Ho who received a complimentary RM20 Starbucks card, three free spins in the fair’s Spin & Win Contest and two additional months of free ePaper for signing up for the package.

More than RM50,000 worth of prizes are up for grabs in the Spin & Win Contest during the four day fair which is being held at Gurney Plaza and Gurney Paragon Mall.

The fair also offers visitors the opportunity to win a one-bedroom serviced suite worth over RM550,000 at PJ Midtown in Section 13 of Petaling Jaya, Selangor, under the Win A Home (WAH) campaign.

Simply like and follow the StarProperty.my Fair Facebook page, then register online at wah.starproperty.my or at the WAH booth in Gurney Paragon Mall, to get one entry.

Finally, complete a creative slogan in English.

Those who buy properties during this and all subsequent StarProperty.my Fairs until Dec 31 will be entitled to multiple entries.

Visit http://fair.starproperty.my for details and the terms and conditions.

The public could also sign up for the Penang Starwalk 2017 on Sept 10 and Fit For Life Fun Run on Nov 19 during the fair at The Star booth in Gurney Paragon.

The fair, organised by the Star Media Group, is open daily from 10am to 10pm until Sunday. Admission is free.

RM78,000 house four decades ago now priced close to RM1mil

PROPERTIES are a hedge against inflation as their value increases with time, said full-time property investor Kaygarn Tan.

Citing a single-storey house in Island Glades in Penang as example, he said the price doubled from RM78,000 in 1977 to RM158,000 in 1988.

“In 2015, it was priced at RM900,000,” Tan said in his talk titled ‘Creating Wealth Through Property Investment’.

He described the current property market as soft where purchasers hold much of the power in negotiations.

“This sentiment is shared by many business analysts and experts. It is now the buyer’s market.

“The people should grab the opportunity as sellers will be more flexible in their pricing,” he added.

Lawyer Khaw Veon Szu, in his talk titled ‘A Landmine-free Roadmap to Property Ownership/Investment’, said buying a property was arguably the biggest investment for ordinary people.

He advised buyers to equip themselves with basic knowledge of property purchasing and trust nobody.

“They should exercise due diligence, especially on the background of lawyers or real estate consultants before they engage their services,” he said.

In another talk, feng shui master Stephen Chin provided feng shui tips on selecting the right home.

The property education talks were brought to the fair by BDB Land.

Source: The Star/ANN

Educating the young urbanites

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GEORGE TOWN: Well-known developer BDB Land Sdn Bhd has launched its Property Education campaign at the StarProperty.my Fair 2017 organised by Star Media Group, in Penang.

Aimed at providing valuable insights into home ownership for the public, it includes informative talks at the four-day fair which ends today.

There will also be radio segments on 988 and Suria at prime time daily starting Aug 2, and digital content on The Star Online, to reach out to a broader audience.

The radio segments encompass topics like current property trends, upcoming developments, sub-sales market information, property investment, legal aspects, first-time buyer tips, foreign property news and more.

For the digital segment, there will be videos on various aspects of property ownership.

First-time buyers should benefit from the buying guide 101 that includes budget planning, things to prepare for, payment procedures and renovation costs, among others.

For experienced home buyers, there are also topics to look out for, such as refinancing a property, selling a property without making losses, who to approach if defects are found with the property, questions to ask the developer, and the importance of real estate management.

Izham presenting a momento to bin Yusoff, June Wong, Chief Content Officer of Star Media Group and her colleagues in Penang.
Izham presenting a memento to Wong. With them are Liong and Hwang.

BDB Group managing director and the BDB Land Sdn Bhd executive director Datuk Izham Yusoff said the campaign was in line with their EZY Home programme for young urbanites.

“Our track record of successfully delivering homes in self-sustaining townships in Kedah for over 30 years puts us in good position to give advice.>

“This reflects our long-standing commitment to help individuals own a home,” he said after the launch which started with an ice-breaking session by Suria Cruisers who engaged visitors in games and a quiz.

Also present were the company’s sales and marketing head Anneta Hassan, marketing and product development head Fadzil Amidi Ahmad and sales head Mohd Shukry Shuaib.

Joining them were Star Media Group Content Development chief operating officer June Wong and regional operations general manager (north) Simone Liong, as well as Star Media Radio Group general manager of sales Erin Hwang.

The public forums, themed “Let’s Talk Property”, continue today with sessions on “Attacting Wealth by Applying Vasthu Sastra (Indian Feng Shui)” at 11.30am by T. Selva, and “How Incredible i-Ching Helps Boost Prosperity in Your Home Fengshui” at 1.30pm by Mak Foo Wengg.

Popular with the masses: Visitors checking out The Light City project at the IJM Land’s booth during the StarProperty.my Fair 2017 at Gurney Plaza, Penang.

Completing the line up are talks on “5 Trends That Will Change the Malaysian Property Market Forever” at 4pm by Ahyat Ishak, and Penang Property Outlook at 5.30pm by Leon Lee.

The StarProperty.my Fair 2017 is organised by Star Media Group.

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Ex-Johor exco man, son and consultant face 21 counts amounting to RM36m


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JOHOR BARU: Former state executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi, his eldest son and a property consultant have been charged with a total of 21 counts of money laundering amounting to RM35.78mil in connection with the massive Johor land scandal that broke out in March.
The former state Housing and Local Government Committee chairman was charged with 13 counts of money laundering amounting to RM17.59mil.

His son Ahmad Fauzan Hatim, 25, and Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raub, 44, were charged with four counts each involving RM735,000 and RM17.46mil respectively.

They are said to have committed the offences via cheque transactions at five major banks around Johor Baru between November 2013 and December 2016.

Abd Latif, 51, pleaded not guilty to seven counts under Section 4(1) (b) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities 2001 (AMLA) (Act 613).

If found guilty, he can be sentenced to 15 years in jail and fined five times the amount or RM5mil, whichever is higher.

He also claimed trial to six counts under Section 4(1)(a) of the same Act, which carries a jail term of up to five years and a maximum fine of RM5mil, if convicted.

Ahmad Fauzan and Amir Sharifuddin also pleaded not guilty to four counts each under the Section 4(1) (b) and Section 4(1)(a) of the same Act, respectively.

Sessions Court judge Mohd Fauzi Mohd Nasir set bail at RM500,000 for Abd Latif, RM200,000 for Ahmad Fauzan and RM400,000 for Amir Shariffuddin in one surety each, to run concurrently with previously charged offences.

He was referring to the 33 counts of graft that Abd Latif and Amir Shariffuddin had claimed trial to on April 19 for allegedly converting bumiputra lots to non-bumiputra lots involving a total of RM30.3mil in Kota Masai, Tebrau, Kulai, Kempas, Nusajaya and Johor Baru.

The judge also fixed July 5 for next mention.

Abd Latif and Ahmad Fauzan were represented by a five-man legal team led by Datuk Hasnal Rezua Merican while lawyer Azrul Zulkifli Stork stood for Amir Shariffuddin.

The case was prosecuted by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) DPP Mohd Asnawi Abu Hanifah.

Earlier, the three accused arrived clad in orange lockup T-shirts and were escorted by MACC officers into the court at around 8.40am.

The Star by kathleen ann kili

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Fighting corruption a decade later; Wars on graft widens

Johor’s biggest corruption cases: land and housing scandal, slapped with 33 counts of graft


TWO IN COURT: Abd Latif (right) being brought to the Johor Baru Sessions Court by anti-graft officers. He is alleged to have abetted property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud (left) in the land development scandal.

After weeks of investigation, state executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi is finally brought to court to face 33 counts of graft. The land and housing scandal – one of Johor’s biggest corruption cases – is however set to widen as graft busters warn of more suspects to be charged soon.


MACC expected to haul up more people in land and housing scandal

JOHOR BARU: One of the state’s largest corruption scandals is about to get bigger as more people are expected to be hauled up to court in the coming weeks.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said they might be charged with the case involving Johor executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi either this month or next.

Among those to be charged, he said, were those who had been arrested previously.

However, he declined to reveal their names so as not to jeopardise MACC’s investigation, saying that no VIPs were involved.

“We are in the midst of completing our probe with the Deputy Public Prosecutor before charging them in court soon,” he told reporters after meeting MACC investigation director Datuk Simi Abd Ghani and Johor MACC director Datuk Azmi Alias here yesterday.

Azam said it was also possible for Abd Latif, who was jointly accused with property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud of committing 33 counts of graft yesterday, to face another round of charges then.

It was reported that eight suspects, including Abd Latiff ’s eldest son as well as his special officer, were nabbed by the MACC on Feb 24.

Anti-graft officers detained them after sifting through stacks of documents seized from the state government and developers.

They also seized luxury goods, including 21 cars such as Bentley, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, five high-powered motorcycles and 150 handbags.

On its probe into the purchase of real estate in Australia by Mara Incorporated Sdn Bhd, Azam said MACC called up 24 witnesses and visited seven premises, including a law firm, the offices of both Mara Inc and an appraiser, and their associates.

“All related documents have also been seized. We have gathered more new information, and it is a continuous investigation from the previous case in 2015,” he said.

“We need more time to complete this case as it involves another country.

“We have put in a request under a mutual legal assistance with the Australian AttorneyGeneral’s office but have yet to receive any response.

“We will also prepare the documents to be sent to Australia,” he said.

MACC had previously recorded the state- ment of suspended Mara chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa over the same investigation.

Annuar also handed over several documents relevant to the case.

The issue came to light after Australian newspaper The Age claimed that several senior Mara officials and a former politician had spent millions of Malaysian Government funds to buy an apartment block, known as Dudley International House, in Melbourne

Azam said his officers were also in the midst of preparing a report into alleged match fixing by football players from the Malaysian Indian Sports Council-Malaysia Indian Football Association.

“We expect this case to be completed within two to three weeks after we hand over the report to the deputy public prosecutor for charging.

Source:The Star headline news

Slapped with 33 counts of graft

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JOHOR BARU: State executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi has been charged in the Sessions Court here with 33 counts of graft, the earliest of which stretches back to just six months after he assumed office.

TWO IN COURT: Abd Latif (above) being brought to the Johor Baru Sessions Court by anti-graft officers. He is alleged to have abetted property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud (below) in the land development scandal.

Abd Latif, 51, was sworn in to his post as Johor Housing and Local Government Committee chairman in 2013 and according to the list of charges, he allegedly abetted property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud on Nov 13 that same year to convert bumiputra lots into non-bumiputra lots.

Yesterday, the court interpreter took about 15 minutes to read the list of charges to each of the accused in the case, considered one of the biggest corruption scandals in the state.

In total, Abd Latif is said to have abetted Amir, 44, to convert 1,480 houses.

He is also accused of helping to reduce the quantum of payment that developers had to contribute towards the Johor Housing Fund for converting these lots.

The offences, the last of which supposedly took place on Sept 13, 2016, involved payments of between RM100,000 and RM3.7mil.

Totalling some RM30.3mil, this involved development projects in Kota Masai, Tebrau, Kulai, Kempas, Nusajaya and Johor Baru.

Among the converted lots were apartments, double-storey terrace homes, cluster houses, cluster industrial lots, semi-Ds and bungalows.

Abd Latif was charged under Section 28 (1) (c) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act for abetment, which was read together with Section 16 (a)(B) for accepting bribes.

Amir was charged with 33 counts under Section 16 (a)(B) for accepting bribes for himself and Abdul Latif.

Judge Mohd Fauzi Mohd Nasir set bail at RM2mil in one surety for each of the accused and ordered their passports to be surrendered until the trial was over. He also fixed May 23 for mention.

At press time, only Amir posted bail while Abd Latif, who was unable to raise the amount, was sent to the Ulu Choh detention centre.

Earlier, 15 minutes after Abd Latif and Amir were ushered into the packed courtroom, a defence lawyer stood up and asked for their “Lokap SPRM” orange T-shirts to be removed.

Both Abd Latif, who took time to hug and shake the hands of several people, and Amir then changed into long-sleeved shirts.

Abd Latif was represented by a six-man legal team led by Datuk Hasnal Rezua Merican while two lawyers, headed by Azrul Zulkifli Stork, stood for Amir.

The case was prosecuted by MACC director Datuk Masri Mohd Daud, with assistance from Raja Amir Nasruddin.

Source: The Star by Nelson Benjamin and Norbaiti phaharoradzi

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Good time to invest in property now


Better upside: (from left) Knight Frank Sdn Bhd international project marketing (residential) senior manager Dominic Heaton-Watson, Knight Frank Asia-Pacific research head Nicholas Holt, Sarkunan and capital markets executive director James Buckley at the event

KUALA LUMPUR: The slowdown in the local property market has bottomed out, with prices seen picking up later this year, according to property consultancy firm Knight Frank Sdn Bhd.

“We predict a stable rate in 2017 and we will possibly see better upside towards the end of the year or early next year,” Knight Frank managing director Sarkunan Subramaniam said.

“The market has had a few years of contraction and we feel that this year, what will clear up one of the major concerns of most investors is the political uncertainty,” he said at the launch of Knight Frank’s 2017 Wealth Report here yesterday.

According to the report, “political uncertainty” was among the top concerns of its respondents in Asia at 25%.

“We’re going to have elections possibly this year. Once they have cleared, there will be positive movement in the market and that’s why I feel now is a good time to buy property in Malaysia.

“Once the elections are out, the economy will generally start picking up and sentiments will improve. Capital will also start coming in,” he said.

According to the wealth report, potential fall in asset values was the highest concern among its Asian respondents at 30%, followed by rising taxes and tighter controls on capital movement at 28% and 27% respectively.

Going forward, Sarkunan said affordable homes would primarily drive the local property market.

“Affordable homes will still be a driver to an extent, but medium-to-high end properties will also pick up again. Also, when the mass rapid transit (MRT) lines come into the city, it will drive the commercial market there as well.

“We’ve had a lot of decentralisation push over the last 10 years and the MRT will bring office workers to the city.”

Sarkunan pointed out that locations with light rail transit (LRT) and MRT lines, such as Damansara Heights, have bucked the trend in terms of condominium values.

“Prices have actually increased compared with some of the other areas in Malaysia. Transport hubs or transport-orientated developments, such as Kota Damansara, have also seen improvements in prices.”

The Knight Frank 2017 Wealth Report tracks the value of luxury homes in 100 key locations worldwide, including 19 destinations from Asia Pacific.

According to the report, values rose globally by 1.4% on average last year, compared with 1.8% in 2015. Asia was the second best performing world region last year, with prices rising 5.1%.

Australasia was the strongest performing world region with prices rising 11.4% year-on-year.

Source: BY EUGENE MAHALINGAM The Star/ANN

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Protecting house buyers’ interest


I REFER to the reports “Court: No power to grant extension” and “A fair and right judgment, says housing developer” ( The Star, Feb 28 – Developer has to compensate buyers for delays of projects, Court says).

The High Court decision declaring as ultra vires (beyond one’s legal power or authority) the Housing and Local Government Minister’s granting of a one-year extension of time (EOT) to developers to complete a delayed housing project and thus denying house buyers liquidated and ascertained damages (LAD) provided for under the sale and purchase agreement is timely, sound and indeed meritorious. It is hoped that the decision would be maintained should the minister decide to appeal it.

The Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966 was enacted for the protection of home buyers.

The long title of the Act (paragraph stating Parliament’s intent for the Act) says: “An Act to provide for the control and licensing of the business of housing development in Peninsular Malaysia, the protection of the interest of purchasers…” This makes clear that the housing development business is regulated to ensure that the protection of home buyers’ interest is paramount.

Two eminent judges, the late Tun Mohamed Suffian, former Lord President of Malaysia, and the late Tan Sri Lee Hun Hoe, the longest serving Chief Justice of Borneo, stated this in two landmark cases respectively.

Suffian LP (Sea Housing Corporation v Lee Poh Chee): “To protect home buyers, most of whom are people of modest means, from rich and powerful developers, Parliament found it necessary to regulate the sale of houses and protect buyers by enacting the Act.”

Lee Hun Hoe CJ (Borneo) (Beca (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd v Tan Choong Kuang & Anor): “The duty of observing the law is firmly placed on the housing developers for the protection of house buyers. Hence, any infringement of the law would render the housing developer liable to penalty on conviction.”

Respectfully, it is submitted that the decision to grant the developer of a housing project extension of time and thus deny the home buyers’ statutory rights to LAD ought to be exercised with diffidence. The decision, if any, ought to be made with the Act’s long title in mind, namely, “for the protection of interest of purchasers”.

In doing so, some aspects to consider are:

> In granting EOT, how will home buyers’ interest be protected?

> LAD is agreed monetary payment for home buyers’ losses for delay in completion of a housing project. Is denying home buyers’ the LAD by the EOT tantamount to protecting their interest?

Although Section 11(3) of the Act states that the developer under “special circumstances” may apply to the Controller of Housing for EOT, it is submitted that Parliament and the long title of the Act surely did not intend LAD to be wiped out by “a stroke of a pen”.

To avoid doubt, “special circumstances” would mean act of God or natural disaster, for example earth quake or tsunami, and not business or economic related challenges or hardship.

The above view would make legal sense of Section 11(3).

Again, the High Court decision is lauded.

Home buyers’ interest is of paramount importance under the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Act 1966. The Controller of Housing’s or Minister’s decision, although seemingly made “by a stroke of a pen”, must materialise or recognise this intent. Failing to do so would be ultra vires the Act.

May the redeeming light of the Housing Development Act (Control and Licensing) 1966 continue to shine effervescently and protect effectively home buyer’s interest for many years to come.

This letter is dedicated to the National Housebuyers Association, its great team of lawyers, professionals and volunteers for their sterling and pro-bono efforts to speak up for and preserve home buyers’ interest.

Source: ROBERT TAN,  Home buyer and author of Buying Property From Developer: What You Need To Know And Do, Petaling Jaya

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