Too good to be true? Think twice


 

HAVE you ever grabbed an offer without any hesitation, simply because the price is too cheap to resist?

Many of us have this experience especially during sales or promotional campaigns. We tend to spend more at the end or buy things which we are uncertain of their quality when the deal seems too good to say no.

It may be harmless if the amount involved is insignificant. However, when we apply the same approach to big ticket items, it can cause vast implications.

Recently, I heard a case which reinforces this belief.

A friend shared that a property project which was selling for RM300,000 a few years ago is now stuck. Although the whole project was sold out, the developer has problem delivering the units on time.

The developer is calling all purchasers to renegotiate the liquidated and ascertained damages (LAD), a compensation for late delivery.

One of the homeowners said he is owed RM50,000 of LAD, which means the project is 1½ years late. When we chatted, we found that he purchased the unit solely due to its cheap pricing without doing much research in the first place.

The incident is a real-life example of paying too low for an item which can leave us as losers, especially when it involves huge sum of investment, such as property.

To many, buying a house maybe a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a decision made can make or break the happiness of a family.

A good decision ensures a roof over the head and a great living environment, while an imprudent move may incur long-term financial woes if the house is left uncompleted.

Nowadays, it is common to see people do research when they plan to buy a phone, household item, or other smaller ticket items.

Looking at the amount involved and implication of buying a house, we should apply the same discretion if not more.

It is always important for house buyers to study the background of a developer and project, consult experienced homeowners regarding the good and bad of a project before committing.

I have seen many people buy a house merely based on price consideration.

In fact, there are more to be deliberated when we commit for a roof over our heads. The location, project type, reputation of a developer, the workmanship, the future maintenance of the property etc, are all important factors for a good decision as they would affect the future value of a project.

Beware when a discount or a rebate sounds too good to be true, it may be just too good to be true and never materialised. If the collection or revenue of a housing project is not sufficient to fund the building cost, the developer may not be able to complete the project or deliver the house as per promised terms. At the end of the day, the “price” paid by homeowners would be far more expensive.

In general, the same principle applies elsewhere. It is a known fact that when we pay a premium for a quality product from a reliable producer, we have a peace of mind that the product could last longer and end up saving us money. Some lucky ones will end up gaining much more.

For instance, when we purchase a car, we should consider its resale value as some cars hold up well, while others collapse after a short period. Other determining factors include the specifications of the car, the after sales service, and the availability of spare parts.

Quality products always come with a higher price tag due to the research, effort, materials and services involved.

In addition to buying a house or big ticket items, other incidents that can tantamount to losing huge sums are like money games, get-rich-quick scheme, or the purchase of stolen cars or houses with caveats.

When an offer or a rebate sounds dodgy, the “good deal” can be a scam.

Years of experience tells me that when what is too good to be true, we should think twice. I always remind myself with a quote from John Ruskin (1819-1900) who was an art critic, an artist, an architect and a philosopher. “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.

“The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”

Food for thought by Alan Tong

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He was the world president of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

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Rail link a huge economic boost, big news for small towns in Malaysia


 
Boom time is here for railway towns, little places that dot the route of the RM55bil East Coast Rail Link from Port Klang to Kota Baru. Not only will the link shorten travel time between the west and the underdeveloped east of the peninsula, it will also unlock huge economic potential, create thousands of jobs and bring down the country’s carbon footprint. And it could all happen sooner than expected.

KUANTAN: Exciting days are ahead for the many small towns that dot the route of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) from Port Klang to the Kota Baru.

A host of towns including Bentong, Mentakab, Maran, Kuantan, Cherating, Chukai, Dungun, Kuala Terengganu and Tok Bali and Kota Baru, all of which are designated as ECRL stations, are looking at boom times ahead.

The ECRL will also benefit freight transport as it will 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”.

With its slogan of “Connecting Lives, Accelerating Growth”, Najib said the project sets the tone for an economic spin-off effect and positive social impact for the east coast states.

“The ECRL is a high impact project that will provide easy access from the Klang Valley to Pahang, Terengganu and Kelan­tan.

“The 688km rail link will be a catalyst for economic equality between the west coast and east coast as it will stimulate investments, spur commercial activity, create ample jobs, facilitate quality education and boost tourism in the states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan,” he said at the ground-breaking ceremony here yesterday.

Najib also urged local contractors with capabilities and know-how to seize the opportunity to take part in the project.

“We have together with our Chinese counterpart agreed that Malaysian contractors will be involved in at least 30% of this high impact project,” Najib said.

“The viability of the ECRL is undisputed as it is estimated that 5.4 million passengers and 53 million tonnes of cargo will use the service annually by the year 2030 as the primary transport between the east coast and west coast.

“Comparatively, revenue from the operation of the ECRL project is projected to be obtained through a transportation ratio of 30% passengers and 70% freight.”

Najib said the project was long overdue as the east coast states of the peninsula had only been connected to the west coast via a network of roads, highways and woefully inadequate rail lines.

Najib also urged local contractors with capabilities and know-how to seize the opportunity to take part in the project.

“We have together with our Chinese counterpart agreed that Malaysian contractors will be involved in at least 30% of this high impact project,” Najib said.

“The viability of the ECRL is undisputed as it is estimated that 5.4 million passengers and 53 million tonnes of cargo will use the service annually by the year 2030 as the primary transport between the east coast and west coast.

“Comparatively, revenue from the operation of the ECRL project is projected to be obtained through a transportation ratio of 30% passengers and 70% freight.”

Najib said the project was long overdue as the east coast states of the peninsula had only been connected to the west coast via a network of roads, highways and woefully inadequate rail lines.

The railway line, with 12 passenger-only stations, three freight stations and seven combined passenger-freight stations, is expected to increase the gross domestic product of the east coast states by 1.5%.

China’s state-owned China Communications Construction Company has been appointed for the construction of the RM55bil project.

Malaysia Rail Link Sdn Bhd is the special purpose vehicle under the Minister of Finance Incorporated tasked as the project owner.

Rail link a huge economic boost – ECRL project set to create over 80,000 jobs and promote businesses along its route

KUANTAN: The economic impact of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is huge and critics who say it is not feasible are wrong.

“There will be a multiplier effect. When there are more business people, we can get more taxes and government revenue will increase,” Malaysia Rail Link (MRL) chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah said.

He said critics must also look at the development that would take place alongside the ECRL in the long run.

China Communications Construction Group chairman Liu Qitao said the ECRL project was of great economic significance.

“It will promote social development and improve the living standards of those along the railway line, especially in the east coast,” he said.

Liu said that the rail link was also expected to generate more than 80,000 jobs for Malay­sians during its construction period.

Another 6,000 jobs will be created during the rail’s operation and the Chinese government will also train more than 3,000 Malaysian students.

A total of 3,600 graduates will be trained in rail technology through the ECRL Industrial Skills Training (PLKI-ECRL) programme.

Its chief coordinator Prof Dr Rizalman Mamat said about 1,000 applications had already been received as of yesterday.

“The first intake of 50 participants will begin in September with the next intake of 250 scheduled in December.

The next batch of 700 trainees will be in April next year.

“The programme will be focused specifically on the socio-economic development of the east coast but this does not mean those in the west coast cannot take part.

Dr Rizalman said the training was open to graduates who majored in civil engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering.

He added that Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP) had been appointed as the focal university for the implementation of the programme, with cooperation from Beijing Jiaotong University and Southwest Jiaotong University and other institutions of higher learning in Malaysia.

He said railway technology was developing rapidly and the programme was a stepping stone for UMP to develop rail engineering in the future.

The training under the programme will take four to six months, said Dr Rizalman.

China state councillor Wang Yong said ECRL was a landmark project for China and Malaysia.

“The team from our two sides have had productive cooperation. This is a full demonstration of the friendship between China and Malaysia and its efficiency,” said Wang.

MRL project director Yew Yow Boo said the railway would have 88.8km of viaducts mostly in Kelantan and Terengganu to bypass flood-prone areas.

Yew said the first phase would have a total length of 49km of tunnels at 19 locations with the longest being 17.9km connecting Bukit Tinggi and Gombak.

Source: The Star/ANN

Liow: Do not politicise the ECRL

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KAJANG: The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is created for the people and country, and should not be politicised or turned into a racial or language issue, says Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

“I would like to emphasise that the ECRL is one of the most important projects for the nation.

“It’s a game changer for the east coast. It is for the country’s economic development and to help us reach greater heights.

“The theme is very clear, we’re pushing for connecting lines and accelerating growth,” he said after attending Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman’s 15th anniversary celebration at its Sungai Long campus here yesterday.

The RM55bil ECRL from Port Klang to Kota Baru, which is 534.58km long, is estimated to be completed in 2024.

Liow cautioned actions that could harm good bilateral ties between Malaysia and China were counter-productive.

 

Varsity pillars: (Standing from left to right) Utar founding president Tan Sri Dr Ng Lay Swee, MCA vice president Datuk Dr Hou Kok Chung, Dr Chuah, Dr Ling, Liow, Dr Ting, Chong and Utar Board of Trustees chairman Tan Sri Dr Sak Cheng Lum cutting Utar’s anniversary cake. 

“We must explain to the people that the ECRL is for them and the nation. They should not be misled by those out to create a controversy,” he said.

The ECRL was launched in Kuantan on Wednesday.

Certain groups had criticised the rail link launch, claiming that it was “too Chinese”.

Liow described the launch as a successful event, adding that the project was set to bring many benefits to Malaysians.

“We have received a lot of support for the project. We are looking forward to its completion,” he added.
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Stop bitting the helping hand

The stalled building defects causing delays of relocation ..


Not ready: (Clockwise from top) The front view of the Batu Ferringhi market in Penang, exposed electrical sockets and cracked floor in the badminton court, and a leaking pipe in the washroom.

 
Defects causing delay of move to RM9mil Batu Ferringhi market

The scheduled relocation of traders to the RM9mil Batu Ferringhi market on Aug 14 is postponed to a later date until shortcomings such as leakage in the washrooms and cracks on the floor are fixed.

Lim checking on the condition of the market.- Photos: ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

SENIOR officers of the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) were left red-faced after Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng spotted several defects in the almost completed RM9mil Batu Ferringhi market during a site visit.

Lim, who was irked with the shortcomings, asked his officers to collect back copies of his text speech given earlier to reporters.

“Before I came in, I went to the washroom. I thought it would be ready.

“But the male washroom was locked and I had to use the unoccupied ladies washroom instead.

“If the market is considered ready (by the council), then it is unacceptable,” he said.

Washroom with missing taps
A leaking pipe pipe in the washroom

It is learnt that the ladies washroom was leaking and some of the taps had yet to be fixed.

Lim, who was walking to the dining area, was stopped by several traders who requested the council delay their relocation into the market which was earlier scheduled on Aug 14.

Speaking to newsmen, Lim said another date would be set.

“We cannot fix a date now until we are satisfied that the shortcomings have been rectified,” he said.

MBPP mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif said she would hold discussions with the market contractor and architect.

“Cracks have also appeared on the floor of the badminton courts,” she said.

Maimunah said the council had issued the Certificate of Practical Completion (CPC) for the market but not the Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC).

The market was scheduled for completion by the end of last year.

There are 16 hawker stalls, 28 wet and dry market units, a multipurpose hall, a library, three badminton courts, playground, bicycle path, shower rooms and 90 parking bays.

Source: The Star/ANN by Intan Amalina Mohd Ali

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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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Wall and awning collapsed in house near construction site


Brought down: A view of the fallen backyard wall and awning of the house.

 

Penang MCA: Guan Eng must explain cause of incident in house near construction site

GEORGE TOWN: Penang MCA is seeking an explanation from Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng on the collapse of a perimeter wall and an awning of a house in Jalan Bagan Baru 1, Butterworth.

Its organising secretary Dr Tan Chuan Hong said the house owner believed the collapse could be due to nearby construction carried out by Penang Development Corpora-tion (PDC), of which Lim is the chairman.

The area is also under the Bagan parliamentary seat which Lim is the MP.

Dr Tan said the house owner had earlier complained to PDC after seeing cracks on the wall at his backyard about one year ago.

He said PDC was carrying out piling works then for its two affordable housing projects.

“Luckily, nobody was hurt in the incident but the authorities came forward only after the wall fell,” he said when contacted yesterday.

“That is against their ‘competency, accountability and transparency’ policy.”

Dr Tan urged the state to conduct a safety review on the projects.

When contacted, Sungai Puyu assemblyman Phee Boon Poh said the awning and wall collapsed due to soil movement during the construction of a drain at the projects.

He said that after being told of the incident, he went for a site inspection with Seberang Prai Municipal Council president Rozali Mohamud, representatives from PDC and the contractor.

“I told the house owner that the state would take full responsibility.He will be fully compensated and repairs will be done soon.”

He added that the council issued a stop-work order for the drain construction pending investigation.

“Our geo-technical expert will do a soil test while PDC and council safety officers will investigate the incident,” he said.

Source: The Star  by Crystal Chiam Shiying

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The Asian financial crisis – 20 years later




East Asian Economies Remain Diverse

 

It is useful to reflect on whether lessons have been learnt and if the countries are vulnerable to new crises.

IT’S been 20 years since the Asian financial crisis struck in July 1997. Since then, there has been an even bigger global financial crisis, starting in 2008. Will there be another crisis?

The Asian crisis began when speculators brought down the Thai baht. Within months, the currencies of Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia were also affected. The East Asian Miracle turned into an Asian Financial Nightmare.

Despite the affected countries receiving only praise before the crisis, weaknesses had built up, including current account deficits, low foreign reserves and high external debt.

In particular, the countries had recently liberalised their financial system in line with international advice. This enabled local private companies to freely borrow from abroad, mainly in US dollars. Companies and banks in Korea, Indonesia and Thailand had in each country rapidly accumulated over a hundred billion dollars of external loans. This was the Achilles heel that led their countries to crisis.

These weaknesses made the countries ripe for speculators to bet against their currencies. When the governments used up their reserves in a vain attempt to stem the currency fall, three of the countries ran out of foreign exchange.

They went to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for bailout loans that carried draconian conditions that worsened their economic situation.

Malaysia was fortunate. It did not seek IMF loans. The foreign reserves had become dangerously low but were just about adequate. If the ringgit had fallen a bit further, the danger line would have been breached.

After a year of self-imposed austerity measures, Malaysia dramatically switched course and introduced a set of unorthodox policies.

These included pegging the ringgit to the dollar, selective capital controls to prevent short-term funds from exiting, lowering interest rates, increasing government spending and rescuing failing companies and banks.

This was the opposite of orthodoxy and the IMF policies. The global establishment predicted the sure collapse of the Malaysian economy.

But surprisingly, the economy recovered even faster and with fewer losses than the other countries. Today, the Malaysian measures are often cited as a successful anti-crisis strategy.

The IMF itself has changed a little. It now includes some capital controls as part of legitimate policy measures.

The Asian countries, vowing never to go to the IMF again, built up strong current account surpluses and foreign reserves to protect against bad years and keep off speculators. The economies recovered, but never back to the spectacular 7% to 10% pre-crisis growth rates.

Then in 2008, the global financial crisis erupted with the United States as its epicentre. The tip of the iceberg was the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the massive loans given out to non-credit-worthy house-buyers.

The underlying cause was the deregulation of US finance and the freedom with which financial institutions could devise all kinds of manipulative schemes and “financial products” to draw in unsuspecting customers. They made billions of dollars but the house of cards came tumbling down.

To fight the crisis, the US, under President Barack Obama, embarked first on expanding government spending and then on financial policies of near-zero interest rates and “quantitative easing”, with the Federal Reserve pumping trillions of dollars into the US banks.

It was hoped the cheap credit would get consumers and businesses to spend and lift the economy. But instead, a significant portion of the trillions went via investors into speculative activities, including abroad to emerging economies.

Europe, on the verge of recession, followed the US with near zero interest rates and large quantitative easing, with limited results.

The US-Europe financial crisis affected Asian countries in a limited way through declines in export growth and commodity prices. The large foreign reserves built up after the Asian crisis, plus the current account surplus situation, acted as buffers against external debt problems and kept speculators at bay.

Just as important, hundreds of billions of funds from the US and Europe poured into Asia yearly in search of higher yields. These massive capital inflows helped to boost Asian countries’ growth, but could cause their own problems.

First, they led to asset bubbles or rapid price increases of houses and the stock markets, and the bubbles may burst when they are over-ripe.

Second, many of the portfolio investors are short-term funds looking for quick profit, and they can be expected to leave when conditions change.

Third, the countries receiving capital inflows become vulnerable to financial volatility and economic instability.

If and when investors pull some or a lot of their money out, there may be price declines, inadequate replenishment of bonds, and a fall in the levels of currency and foreign reserves.

A few countries may face a new financial crisis.

A new vulnerability in many emerging economies is the rapid build-up of external debt in the form of bonds denominated in the local currency.

The Asian crisis two decades ago taught that over-borrowing in foreign currency can create difficulties in debt repayment should the local currency level fall.

To avoid this, many countries sold bonds denominated in the local currency to foreign investors.

However, if the bonds held by foreigners are large in value, the country will still be vulnerable to the effects of a withdrawal.

As an example, almost half of Malaysian government securities, denominated in ringgit, are held by foreigners.

Though the country does not face the risk of having to pay more in ringgit if there is a fall in the local currency, it may have other difficulties if foreigners withdraw their bonds.

What is the state of the world economy, what are the chances of a new financial crisis, and how would the Asian countries like Malaysia fare?

These are big and relevant questions to ponder 20 years after the start of the Asian crisis and nine years after the global crisis.

But we will have to consider them in another article.

By Martin Khor Global Trend

Martin Khor (director@southcentre.org) is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.
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Invest in the future



IT has always interested me to see how the different selection of words sent varied messages to readers and listeners.

Of late, I’m intrigued with the use of oxymorons, a combination of words that have opposite meanings and which usually produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect.

Some daily expressions such as “open secret”, “seriously funny”, “deafening silence” and “pretty ugly”, are good examples on how the completely opposite meanings of words create dramatic effect.

Among other oxymorons come an expression often heard among condominium owners to their management corporations (MCs) and management offices: “We want you to lower costs and improve quality.”

Just like any other oxymoron phrases, the statement above makes me puzzle and ponder. It is prudent to manage costs, but unrealistic cost cutting over the long run will lead to decline in the quality of facilities and services.

Based on my experience, quality always comes with cost especially in property management. It is impossible to achieve higher quality standards by reducing expenditure.

I have heard of occasions where homeowners’ representatives in MC set high benchmark for the property management team, but expect them to cut down on the number of workers and cleaners in order to reduce spending. Needless to say, we can imagine what the outcome would be without looking at the property itself.

In reality, MC and homeowners must invest, not spend less for better quality. While developers and property managers play the important role of ensuring the upkeep of properties, the property owners themselves are the main stakeholders in deciding the fate of their properties. They are the party who can approve the budget and usage of their service charge and sinking funds.

In my previous article, I mentioned it is important for homeowners to participate in property management, such as attending AGMs and EGMs to exercise their right to raise concerns and approve the budget during such meetings.

In addition, homeowners and MCs must be bold in making decisions to invest in their properties with the reserved funds they have in their account.

Hence, while it is important to manage cost, it is also important to spend wisely for the future. Inflation is a fact of life, so MCs and homeowners should factor the inflation rate into their service charges, and use the real inflation rate, typically higher than the officially sanctioned rate anywhere in the world.

Typically, service charge is used for the general maintenance of the building. Sinking fund, on the other hand, can be used for the painting and the repainting of the common property, acquisition of movable property, the replacement of any fixture or fitting, the upgrading and refurbishment of the common property, and any other capital expenditure deemed necessary.

Managing a strata property is like maintaining a car. We must service our car regularly and replace its parts when they are due for change according to mileage. If a car is serviced less often, it gets more expensive to fix later when the equipment falls apart, and sometimes it may be too late to change.

Hence, when we reduce spending on maintaining a property, the decline of quality may be slow but sure. It takes time and additional cost when homeowners want to re-invest to restore the property later.

Invest in the future is just like doing exercise. It is hard to do, but if done regularly it will build health, strength and happiness.

To invest in a strata property means to increase, not cut down services such as cleaning, maintenance, security and landscaping. It also means to spend the sinking fund regularly not just on replacements, but also on upgrades, as the world doesn’t stand still. New projects would make existing projects old and even obsolete if we don’t manage our property well.

Investor’s nightmare

How well a property is managed can make or break the value of the property. A quality property management will allow the value to increase; while poor management could translate into an investor’s nightmare.

Active management and upgrading of properties is an important approach to protect our homes and investments. As such, whenever homeowners or property management companies tell me they are able to increase quality and cut cost at the same time, I would wonder whether, “Is this a short-term gain at the detriment of long-term benefits?”

By Alan Tong

Datuk Alan Tong was the world president of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

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