Putting our house in order


WITH the announcement of the new Housing and Local Government Minister, Zuraida Kamaruddin, there have been a lot of news and interviews on her proposals to put our housing industry in order.

Her new plans will help create a new housing environment in our country if well executed. I particularly like the minister’s assurance that there won’t be any political intervention in decision-making, especially in housing development matters.

The key objective of the ministry is to synchronise all affordable housing schemes under one roof with the establishment of the National Affordable Housing Council, which is expected to be announced in August.

The streamlining will involve four agencies, Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd, 1Malaysia Civil Servants Housing Programme (PPA1M), Rumah Mampu Milik Wilayah Persekutuan (RumaWIP), and 1Malaysia People’s Housing Scheme (PR1MA).

With this prompt move, the housing ministry will have better control over the construction of affordable houses, and will attempt to resolve the mismatch between market supply and demand in certain housing segments.

Apart from the new supply, we should also look at our current housing supply. As at end-2017, we have 5.4 million houses, of which 21% or 1.15 million were low-cost houses and flats. This should be sufficient to accommodate the critical housing needs of our Rakyat if they were allocated to the right group of people.

In my last article, I mentioned that there were potential leakages in our previous distribution system that had caused the failure of qualified applicants to buy or rent a low-cost home.

In early June 2018, the new Housing Minister requested owners of People’s Housing Projects (PPR units) who were renting out their units to foreigners to evict their tenants within 90 days.

It is important for the authorities to carry out surveys on residents of low-cost housing after certain grace period to ensure the ownership and tenancy of government housing fall into the right hands.

By addressing the current leakages and with the identification of the right target audience, the issue can be quickly resolved.

Our new government plans to set up an online platform for application of affordable housing in the future. This would be an effective way to gather market demand based on the actual requirement and ensure greater transparency in the allocation process.

In addition, the government promises to build one million affordable homes within 10 years. It also suggests the housing price for the B40 group (with a median monthly household income of RM3,000) to be around RM60,000, and equipped with basic facilities such as a park and a community hall.

Based on the contributing factors of housing development which include land, the approval process and resources, only the government can build houses at the price of around RM60,000.

Only the government can gather land bank through compulsory land acquisition of agriculture land, then to convert the land for housing development, and increase housing projects with public funds.

As taxpayers, I believe we are more than happy to help elevate the living standards of the B40 group knowing very well that our money is well-spent in making a difference for the future of our nation.

I applaud the new government for taking the bold measures in putting things in order, and walking the talk by planning for more affordable housing.

Offering affordable housing and a comfortable living environment are essential criteria in building a sustainable future for our country. Whenever the government announces more constructive measures and makes things more transparent, the market environment becomes more optimistic. With this confidence, the Rakyat will be more than willing to do our part as taxpayers to achieve the common goals for the benefit of all.

Food for thought Alan Tong

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in  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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Don’t allow another landslide tragedy to happen !


Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide
Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide
Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide

Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide

Image result for Tanjung Bungah landslide

 

STATE exco member Jagdeep Singh Deo should stop talking only of the 76m altitude restriction and also talk of 25-degree slope gradient restriction on hillside development.

According to The Star on Labour Day, state exco member Jagdeep Singh Deo wrote in his Facebook page: “I want everyone to get their facts right during this election campaign…”, and he went on to state that the Penang government did not approve projects on land more than 76m (250 ft) above sea level.

The Penang Structure Plan clearly states that sensitive hill land is defined not only as land over 76m above sea level but also slopes of more than 25 degrees; the development of such land is restricted to “special projects” only.

Any construction on slopes of more than 25 degree contravenes the second condition. Hillside development cannot be discussed only with reference to the altitude.

For slope stability, the higher the slope face and the steeper the angle, the higher the risk of slope failure.

While the previous Barisan Nasional government here approved many such hillside developments, the record of the present state government shows that more development on sensitive hillsides have been approved.

State exco member Chow Kon Yeow, in his reply to an enquiry in the State Assembly on November 2015, revealed that 56 high-rise towers have been approved on sensitive hill land between 2008 and end-2015.

In the case of the Tanjung Bungah landslide tragedy, DAP leaders claimed that the project was on flat land when it was evident that it was built on land that was once a slope and had been cut flat.

During the earthworks stage of that project, a 20m high, 60-degree angle slope was then formed at the boundary.

It was this slope that failed and buried 11 workers alive.

Under the Hillside Development Guidelines 2012, such a slope is classified as Class Three. Submission requirements include a geo-technical report by a geo-technical engineer and a geo-technical review report by an independent checker.

At present, another proposed project above the Miami Green Resort Condominium is on Class Four land (with slopes greater than 35 degrees) which is classified as “Environmentally Sensitive Areas with Disaster Risk”.

Under the draft Penang Structure Plan 2020, no form of development is allowed on such land.

A technical review of the site by Zeezy Global, a consulting firm, found that the proposed development is on a hill, on Lot 62, with height ranges from 40m to 140m above sea level.

Almost 50% of the slopes have a gradient of more than 25 degrees, and in some areas as steep as 40 to 50 degrees. Some parts of the area designated for construction are higher than 76m.

The project consists of two 34-storey towers of serviced apartments, each with 336 units, and a 20-storey “affordable housing” tower with 197 units.

Two retention ponds larger than an Olympic-sized pool with total capacity of 5.2 millon litres on the hill are planned to cater to expected high surface run-offs during and after construction.

The existence of such a huge mass of water poses potential risks to residents if the slopes de-stabilise during or after construction, particularly if monitoring, maintenance and enforcement are weak.

Existing gunite slopes in Miami Green are not designed for additional loading.

With the new project, exertion of loads at the upper slopes could endanger the residents.

The disturbance from the construction could affect the integrity of the existing slope. No assurance has been made regarding risks of landslides or slope failures during and after construction.

In light of the Tanjung Bungah tragedy, lessons must be learned. If the local and state authorities do not have the technical capacity to implement, monitor and enforce the present hillside guidelines, a moratorium on hillside development should be imposed until such time that this problem is resolved.

The public should not be put at risk anymore. Eleven lives were lost and hopefully not in vain.

By Dr Lim Mah Hui Former Penang Island City councillor
Dr Lim says hillside development cannot be discussed only with reference to the altitude

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Penang govt rapped over hill slope development


FMT – GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Forum has repeated its call for all hillslope development to be stopped immediately, following deadly hillslope collapse ...
Geotechnical engineer Aziz Noor says the new project puts the people and the place in danger

 

Engineer: Lives at risk in Penang hill project

 

GEORGE TOWN: The DAP-led state government has turned a blind eye on the imminent danger of hill slope development, said a Tanjung Bungah resident.

At a forum-cum-press conference yesterday, geotechnical consultant Aziz Noor (pic) said building the proposed multi-storey mixed development behind the Miami Green Resort Condominium would pose a danger to the condo and its residents.

The development which has been approved on the class four hill, comprises five 29-storey building blocks, two 34-storey serviced apartments with 336 units each and one block of affordable apartments with 197 units.

Meanwhile, former Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari, who is the Tanjong Bungah candidate for Pakatan Harapan, said the state government would review the guidelines on hill slope development. – Bernama

 


GEORGE TOWN: An engineer has sounded a warning about “imminent danger” from a new hillside development of eight tower blocks of apartments planned in an environmentally-sensitive area of Tanjung Bungah.

Geotechnical consultant Aziz Noor, speaking at a forum-cum-press conference today, accused the DAP-led state government of turning a blind eye on the imminent danger of hill slope development.

The proposed mixed development behind Miami Green Resort condominium puts the existing residence and its people in danger, he said.

The development has been approved on a 12-acre plot with a 35-degree slope on a Class Four hill, which exceeds 250 feet above sea level.

It comprises five 29-storey tower blocks, two 34-storey blocks of 336 serviced apartments each, and one block of 197 units of affordable apartments.

Aziz said that the project was not only in an environmentally sensitive area, it also contradicts the 2007 Penang Structure Plan that forbid any development above a gradient of 25-degree gradient and 250 feet above sea-level.

The design of one development does not guarantee safety. A Detailed Environmental Impact Assessment must be conducted and reviewed. This development puts the place and people in imminent danger,” he said.

Residents of the area said they had vented their frustration multiple times since November but had not received any response from the state government and Penang Island City Council.

The residents, together with the Tanjung Bunga residents association, had spoken on the matter many times, but no one seemed bothered, said one of the residents, Lim Liew Ming.

“Our lives are at risk. The upcoming development is a ticking time-bomb. Are the authorities waiting for a tragedy to happen, and only then act on it?,” she asked.

State Barisan Nasional chairman Teng Chang Yeow, who is also BN candidate for the Tanjong Bunga state seat in the general election, said the project should have been shelved from the beginning.

“We will put a stop to this. Even if we need to pay compensation,” he said.

The Barisan Nasional has pledged to declare all highland and hill slope areas of 250 feet above sea-level as permanent forest reserve.

Former Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari, who is the Pakatan Harapan candidate for Tanjong Bunga, said the state government would review the guidelines on hill slope development.

Source:FMT.Click here to get live updates throughout the GE14 season

 

GEORGE TOWN: An MCA state leader has criticised Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng over the latter’s statement that more stop-work orders have been issued against hillside development by the current state government.

State MCA Wanita chairman Tan Cheng Liang said Lim, who is also the DAP secretary-general, had “conveniently avoided” revealing the increase in number of protests in the state since 2008.

“He boasts about more stop-work orders being issued now compared to when Barisan Nasional was helming the state government.

“However, he failed to reveal that there have been more protests by Penangites against hillside development since Pakatan Rakyat took over.

“The latest is the chorus of dissatisfaction by residents of Mount Pleasure in Batu Ferringhi, objecting against approval accorded by the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) for the construction of 21 four-storey villas and 80 two-storey bungalows there,” she said.

She said the 2008 DAP general election manifesto unveiled by Lim promised to “preserve our forest, wetlands and bio-diversity” while Pakatan Rakyat’s common policy framework stressed that the “environment must be preserved for the sustainability of future generations.”

“Just six weeks ago, Lim said in a speech that the Pakatan government was proud of its record of not approving any hillside development.

“However, the voices of disapproval by Penangites are evidence that Lim, the DAP and Pakatan are deceptive,” she claimed.

Citing examples, she said on April 8 this year, Sungai Ara residents protested against approval issued by MPPP Planning Department for two hillside development projects and in February 2009, Tanjung Bungah residents protested and submitted a memorandum calling on the state government to ban all current and future Class III and Class IV hillslope development projects.

“In view of these protests and to deliver the DAP and Pakatan’s pledge to protect the environment, I challenge Lim and the state government to issue a stop-work orders against all hillside development projects approved by MPPP,” she said in a press release yesterday.

Tan also took a swipe at Lim for focusing on luxury residences but allegedly had no regard for the poor.

“Approvals are given for exclusive housing and condominium projects on hills, but scant attention is given to low-cost housing for the poor where no low or medium cost units were constructed between 2008 to 2011,” she claimed.

On Tuesday, Lim said more stop-work orders had been issued by both local councils since 2008 compared to previously.

He said this proved that the state government was “more stringent in upholding the rule of law, demanding strict compliance with technical requirements and more unforgiving than Barisan.” – The Star

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Penang Forum Planning for Penang’s Future


NGO draws up own manifesto to assist the next state government

(From left) Anil, Ben, Dr Chee, Khoo Salma, Dr Anwar and Dr Kam at the press conference to launch the Penang Forum Agenda 2018 at Penang Heritage Trust in Church Street.
(From left) Anil, Ben, Dr Chee, Khoo Salma, Dr Anwar and Dr Kam at the press conference to launch the Penang Forum Agenda 2018 at Penang Heritage Trust in Church Street. 

PENANG Forum, a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups, has come up with its own ‘manifesto’ with emphasis on three principles namely good governance, social inclusion and sustainable development.

Dubbed the ‘Penang Forum Agenda 2018’, six members shared insights into various areas that could be improved by the new state government.

The agenda, supporting transit-oriented development, walkable downtowns, mixed-income housing, public green open spaces and social inclusion was discussed by forum members comprising of activist Datuk Dr Anwar Fazal, scientist Dr Kam Suan Pheng, social activists Dr Chee Heng Leng, Khoo Salma Nasution, Anil Netto and Ben Wismen.

Khoo Salma said in the past 10 years, the state made progress on some fronts but it was over dependent on growth driven by the property sector and tourism.

“A far-sighted vision for Penang requires a paradigm shift to new urbanism, sustainable transport and environmental resilience.

“We are willing to work with the next state government to come up with different economic strategies so that we are not over reliant on the construction sector and mass tourism,” she told newsmen at the Penang Heritage Trust in Church Street after the event yesterday.

Khoo Salma urged the new government to look into making public buildings, spaces and transport accessible for people with disabilities.

“Employment and housing quotas should be fulfilled for them as well.

“Public facilities at council and state flats need to be updated to an elderly-friendly design,” she said.

Khoo Salma also urged for the new state government to adopt a comprehensive approach to the housing policy, prioritising social housing for the low-income category.

Anil said that affordable housing should be not more than three times the annual income for the middle-income group.

“It does not mean we need to stop building but we need to look at the needs of the population, we should look for property development for the two categories rather than high-end development.”

Scientist Dr Kam shared that the agenda was not only to give ideas to political parties but to survive beyond the campaigning period.

“If they like certain things or better still all of our recommendations, it would be great.

“I hope that the next state government will take a look at our manifesto and incorporate some of the ideas,” she said.

Dr Anwar said the Penang Forum Agenda would be shared with all concerned parties as well as posted online for the public to view.

For further details on the agenda visit https://penangforum.net/  by N. Trisha The Star

Penang Forum has a list of demands which it calls on Penang’s newly
elected officials of 2018 to act upon and deliver. These demands are
related to the three principles of good governance, social inclusion and
sustainable development. Read More

 

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China buyers eyeing Penang property in growing tourism


Worthy investment: Mah Sing sales executive Victor Cheah (left) introducing the M Vista project to visitors at StarProperty.my Fair in Queensbay Mall, Penang.
Visitors checking out MTT Properties &  Development Sdn Bhd’s Botanica CT Centre during the StarProperty.my Fair in Queensbay Mall, Penang.

PENANG recently come under the radar of investors from China, said Property Talk principal Steven Cheah.

“It used to be Australia that attracted their interests, but now it is Penang. So, we can expect to see potential house buyers from China at the fair,” he said.

Cheah was speaking at the sideline of the StarProperty.my Fair 2018 which opened at Queensbay Mall yesterday and will end on Sunday.

He said the China investors were interested in high-rise properties near the sea priced at around RM1mil to RM2mil.

Cheah added that house buyers were now more selective due to higher interest rates.

“Most of them will be paying attention to the new launches in the southwest district and in Seberang Prai, where it is still possible to find properties priced below RM500,000,” he said.

Cheah said with the right location, good road connectivity, product type and concept, demand for properties in Penang would still be strong.

Potential house buyers checking out BinWan Development Sdn Bhd’s Gelugor Heights during StarProperty.my Fair in Queensbay Mall, Penang. Potential house buyers checking out BinWan Development Sdn Bhd’s Gelugor Heights during StarProperty.my Fair in Queensbay Mall, Penang.

“Malaysia’s strong fundamentals augur well for the outlook going forward.

“Malaysia’s population is young with an average age of 30 to 31 years old, and many people are still looking to start a family. This is a good sign for the property market.

“There will be weaknesses in between as the market is adjusting to the supply and demand situation.

“From the medium to long term perspective, property is still one of the choice investments preferred by investors,” he said.

Meanwhile, Yew Chor Hian, who hails from Kedah, said he was interested in a high-rise property priced at around RM600,000.

“I work in Bayan Baru, so I am interested to stay on the island.

Visitors renewing The Star newspaper subscription at The Star info counter at the fair.
Visitors renewing The Star newspaper subscription at The Star info counter at the fair.

“The size and location are important to me,” he added.

Australian Ray Stubb said he was looking for a high-rise condominium.

“We are interested in getting a unit near the sea,” he said.

A total of 17 exhibitors are displaying their products at the fair, of which 15 are developers.

The developers are SPNB Aspirasi Sdn Bhd, Mah Sing Group Bhd, Ewein Zenith Sdn Bhd, Iconic Land Sdn Bhd, Regata Maju Sdn Bhd, JKP Sdn Bhd, SP Setia Bhd, MTT Properties & Development, Galeri Tropika Sdn Bhd, Devoteshens Sdn Bhd, Binwan Development Sdn Bhd, Bertam Properties Sdn Bhd, Corfield Development Sdn Bhd, Penang Development Corporation and Pembangunan Rasa Sempurna Sdn Bhd.

The other two exhibitors are Property Talk, a Penang-based real estate agency, and East West One Marketing Sdn Bhd, which is an oil palm investment company.

The Star by David Tanby david Tan

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“The market is still soft, but things are improving following the strong economic growth in 2017,” Nordin(inset picture) told reporters after the launch of the Property Market Report 2017 here yesterday

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 Bringing smiles to house buyers

Malaysia’s low wages: low-skilled, low productivity, low quality, reliance on cheap foreign workers! Need to manage!


Survey: Most workers not paid enough to achieve minimum acceptable living standard

 

Wages too low, says Bank Negara – Survey: most workers not paid enough to achieve minimum acceptable living standard

ALTHOUGH the income levels of Malaysians have increased significantly over the years, voices of discontent are mounting over the decline in purchasing power.

Low and depressed salaries are among the grouses of executives and non-executives amid the apparent lifestyle changes of Malaysians.

With the rising cost of living, they lament that there is now less room for long-term savings and investments.

According to the Employees Job Happiness Index 2017 survey by JobStreet.com, one in three Malaysian employees want a pay rise, with rewards constituting 52% of the domestic workforce’s motivation to work.

In its 2017 Annual Report, Bank Negara points out that the expenditure of the bottom 40% (B40) of Malaysian households has expanded at a faster pace compared with their income.

From 2014 to 2016, the average B40 income level grew by 5.8% annually, marginally lower than the 6% growth in the B40 household spending in the same period.

It is also worth noting that half of working Malaysians only earned less than the national median of RM1,703 in 2016.

The central bank, in consideration of the low-wage conundrum, has recently recommended that employers use a “living wage” as a guideline to compensate their employees for their labour.

Essentially, the living wage refers to the income level needed to achieve a minimum acceptable standard of living, depending on the geographical location.

Citing Kuala Lumpur as an example, Bank Negara estimates that the living wage in the city two years ago was about RM2,700 for a single adult. The living wage estimate for a couple without a child was RM4,500, while for a couple with two children, the living wage was RM6,500.

As much as Malaysians support higher wages, which can outgrow escalating living cost, the bigger question is whether their employers are willing to increase wages significantly.

Also, is it realistic for employers to pay higher salaries in line with the suggested living wage?

Speaking to StarBizWeek, Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan says that the living wage is unsuitable for adoption in Malaysia – for now.

He believes that the living wage will turn out to be damaging to the domestic labour market, given the rising cost of doing business in recent times.

Shamsuddin: While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs. << Shamsuddin: While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs.
Shamsuddin: While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs.

“The living wage concept is unrealistic in Malaysia for the time being. While employers in Malaysia are more than happy to compensate workers for their work, people must also understand that they are bogged down by escalating costs.

“However, if the workers are proactive and upskill themselves to increase their productivity, then I do not see any reason for employers to refrain from offering higher pay packages.

“The Government on its part, should not micro-manage the economy to the extent of telling the employers how much to pay their workers. Instead, the Government can provide various incentives to the employers to bring down costs, which will translate into higher salaries or even exempt the employees’ bonuses from tax,” he says.

Socio Economic Research Centre executive director Lee Heng Guie welcomes Bank Negara’s living wage guideline “to prevent a wage employee from the deprivation of a decent standard of living”.

In order to push for the acceptance of a living wage in Malaysia, Lee recommends that government-linked companies (GLCs) adopt the concept gradually.

“The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers.

“This would require extensive consultations and engagements with the stakeholders.

“Perhaps, as one of the largest employers in the country, GLCs can incorporate the living wage clause in their suppliers’ procurement contracts,” he says.

Concerns about Malaysia’s low-wage environment are not only centred on the low-skilled workers but across-the-board, as even executives lament about being lowly-compensated.

Are Malaysians being paid enough?

Based on data from the Statistics Department’s Salaries and Wages Survey Report 2016, most Malaysian workers are still paid significantly lower than the desired amount to achieve “minimum acceptable living standard”, at least in Kuala Lumpur.

Nearly 50% of working adults in Kuala Lumpur earned less than RM2,500 per month in 2016, notably lower than the RM2,700 living wage as suggested by Bank Negara.

In fact, up to 27% of households in Kuala Lumpur earned below the estimated living wage in 2016.

While wage growth has exceeded inflation over the years, real wage growth has been largely subtle. Real wage refers to income adjusted for inflation.

According to the MEF’s website, the salaries of executives were expected to grow by 5.55% in 2017, compared with 6.31% in 2013. As for non-executives, the average salary was anticipated to increase by 5.44% in 2017, down from 6.78% in 2013.

Given the 3.7% headline inflation registered in 2017, executives’ salaries may have just inched up by 1.85% on average, after factoring in inflation.

As for non-executives, their real wage could have grown by 1.74%, lesser than the executives in Malaysia.

While a slight moderation in headline inflation is expected this year, the purchasing power of Malaysians is unlikely to improve significantly.

In an earlier report by StarBiz, Shamsuddin described 2018 as a “bad year for employees and employers”, and projected Malaysians’ average salary increment to be lower than last year.

He blamed several new policies and measures introduced by the government such as the mandatory requirement for employers to defray levy for their foreign workers and the introduction of the Employment Insurance System, which would increase the costs borne by domestic businesses.

“It will be difficult for employers to raise salaries after this, given such dampeners,” he was reported as saying.

The biggest challenge now is to strike a balance between the market’s ability to compensate a worker and the worker’s required income level to achieve a minimum acceptable standard of living.

Sunway University Business School professor of economics Yeah Kim Leng says that more efforts have to be made to enhance the business and investment climate, in order to entice existing firms to expand and upgrade while new firms and start-ups emerge to create more high-paying jobs.

Yeah: A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth. << Yeah: A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth.
Yeah: A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth
.

He also calls upon business owners and employees to forge appropriate wage-setting mechanisms, which are benchmarked against the productivity of the workers.

“The Government should consider additional fiscal incentives for firms that provide worker benefits to meet the living wage standard. For example, double tax deduction for transport allowance and other cost of living adjustments for the lower-salaried employees,” states Yeah.

Meanwhile, Lee opines that employees should be given a higher share of the profit generated by their employers moving forward, in line with the practice in many high-income nations abroad.
 

“It is actually reasonable for Malaysian employers to allocate a larger chunk of their profits to reward their workers and motivate them,” he says. 

In 2016, the compensation of employees to gross domestic product (CE-to-GDP) ratio in Malaysia improved to 35.3%. The CE-to-GDP ratio shows the workers’ share in the profits made by business owners.

For every RM1 generated in 2016, 35.3 sen was paid to the employee and 59.5 sen went to corporate earnings, while five sen was given to the government in the form of taxes.

In its 11th Malaysia Plan, the Government aspires to increase the CE-to-GDP ratio substantially to 40%, from 34% in 2013.

While Malaysia’s CE-to-GDP ratio has continued to improve over the years, it is notably lower than several other high and middle-income countries.

The 11th Malaysia Plan document stated that the country’s CE-to-GDP ratio was lower than Australia (47.8%), South Korea (43.2%) and even South Africa (45.9%).

In an earlier media report, however, Malaysian Institute of Economic Research executive director Zakariah Abdul Rashid hinted that Malaysia was unlikely to reach its CE-to-GDP ratio target by 2020.

This was mainly as a result of Malaysia’s lower-than-expected productivity growth.


Low-wage conundrum

 According to Bank Negara, the main underlying cause of Malaysia’s low-wage environment is the high numbers of cheap foreign workers.

Governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim says that the country should cut back on its foreign worker dependency to drive higher wages for Malaysians across-the-board.

“In Malaysia, our salaries and wages are low, as half of the working Malaysians earn less than RM1,700 per month and the average starting salary of a diploma graduate is only about RM350 above the minimum wage.

“It is high time to reform our labour market by creating high-quality, good-paying jobs for Malaysians,” he says.

Echoing a similar stance, Yeah says that the continuing reliance on foreign workers has resulted in a predominantly low wage-low productivity-low value economy, with many features of a middle-income trap.

“On one end of the wage-skill spectrum, the low-skilled jobs are being substituted by easy availability of unskilled foreign workers, thereby keeping the blue-collar wages from rising.

“At the other end, skilled job wages are being depressed by insufficient high-wage job creation, weak firm profitability amid rising market competition and excess capacity, industry consolidations and other factors resulting in a slack labour market,” he says.

Lee: The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers. << Lee: The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers.
Lee: The enforcement of commitments toward the living wage is a complex and costly issue, and more importantly, should be paid voluntarily by the employers.

It is worth noting that the share of high-skilled jobs has reduced to 37% in the period from 2011 to 2017, as compared to 45% from 2002 to 2010.

Malaysia has come a long way since its independence, transforming itself from a largely rural agragrian country to a regional economic powerhouse, which is driven by its strong services and manufacturing sectors.


While industrialisation and automation have grown robustly since the 1990s, economists feel that the country has not managed to substantially move up the value chain compared with other countries such as Singapore.

The lack of a high-skilled workforce, low productivity, employment opportunities to cater to high-skilled professionals and the presence of cheap foreign workers have all weighed down on the Malaysian economy, particularly the income levels of Malaysians.

Citing the examples of Singapore and Australia, which are successful in raising wages historically, Yeah says that structural reforms should be undertaken in Malaysia to reverse the low-wage conundrum.

“A good quality and inclusive education system coupled with sound economic policies and effective implementation have enabled the two countries to sustain growth, raise productivity and wages and shift to higher-value activities,” he says.

Sources: by Ganeshwaran Kana, The Star

Economist: Manage labour issues to achieve high-income economy

Cheap manpower: While Malaysia has clearly
benefitted from the presence of foreign workers, the role that foreign
workers play in the Malaysian economy must keep up with the times.

WHY are wages still low in Malaysia?

Well, there are six words to describe the main reason for this – “high dependence on low-skilled foreign workers”.

The issue of Malaysia’s huge reliance on low-skilled foreign labour has been raised time and again, but only moderate progress has been made in alleviating the situation.

Low-skilled foreign labour remains a prevalent feature of Malaysia’s economy, and according to Bank Negara, it is a major factor suppressing local wages and impeding the country’s progress towards a high-productivity nation.

As the central bank governor Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim puts it, Malaysia is currently weighed down by a low-wage, low-productivity trap, with the contributing factor being the prolonged reliance on low-skilled foreign workers.

While their existence may benefit individual firms in the short term, they could impose high macroeconomic costs to the economy over the longer term.

“Easy availability of cheap low-skilled foreign workers blunts the need for productivity improvement and automation. Employers keep wages low to maintain margins,” Muhammad says.

“Unfortunately, this depresses wages for local workers. The hiring of low-skilled foreign workers also promotes the creation of low-skilled jobs,” he adds.

From 2011 to 2017, the share of low-skilled jobs in Malaysia increased significantly to 16%, compared with only 8% in the period of 2002 to 2010. Apart from that, local economic sectors that rely on foreign workers such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing also suffer from low productivity.

Nevertheless, it is an undeniable fact that foreign workers do contribute somewhat to Malaysia’s economic growth.

The World Bank, in its study about three years ago noted that immigrant labour both high and low-skilled, continued to play a crucial role in Malaysia’s economic development, and would still be needed for the country to achieve high-income status by 2020.

The global institution’s econometric modeling suggested that a 10% net increase in low-skilled foreign workers could increase Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as 1.1%. For every 10 new immigrant workers in a given state and sector, up to five new jobs may be created for Malaysians in that state and sector, it said.

Even so, the World Bank acknowledged that the influx of foreign labour did have a negative impact on the wages of some groups.

Its study found a 10% increase in immigration flow would reduce wages of the least-educated Malaysians, which represents 14% of the total labour force, by 0.74%. Overall, a 10% increase in immigration flow would slightly increase the wages of Malaysians by 0.14%.

According to Muhammad, while some argue that foreign employment creates economic activities, which consequently create jobs for local employment, it is neither the most efficient nor the desired route to create more mid-to-high-skilled jobs.

“Compared with local employment, foreign workers repatriate a large share of their incomes, which limits the spillover or multiplier effect on the domestic economy,” he explains.

Total outward remittances in 2017 stood at RM35.3bil, of which the bulk was accounted for by foreign workers.

In addition, Muhammad says high dependence on low-skilled foreign workers will also have an adverse effect of shaping Malaysia’s reputation as a low-skilled, labour-intensive destination.

Bank Negara says while Malaysia has clearly benefitted from the presence of foreign workers, the role that foreign workers play in the Malaysian economy must keep up with the times.

The central bank believes critical reforms to the country’s labour market are very much within its reach, and it should continue to gradually wean its dependence on foreign workers.

Malaysia should seize the opportunity now to set itself on a more productive, sophisticated and sustainable economic growth path, it says.

According to Muhammad, cutting back on foreign worker dependency can help to drive higher wages for Malaysians across-the-board.

The Government’s efforts in reducing the country’s dependency on low-skilled foreign workers have been ongoing since the implementation of the 8th Malaysia Plan (2001-2005), with greater clarity and a renewed focus to resolve the issue at hand upon the implementation of the 11th Malaysia Plan.

This has resulted in the steady decline in the share of documented foreign workers from 16.1% in 2013 to 12.0% of the labour force in 2017.

More can be done to build on the progress made, Bank Negara says, while proposing a five-pronged approach to managing foreign workers in Malaysia.

Firstly, it says, there must be a clear stance on the role of low-skilled foreign workers in Malaysia’s economic narrative. Secondly, policy implementation and changes must be gradual and clearly communicated to the industry.

Thirdly, existing demand-management tools (such as quotas, dependency ceilings and levies) can be reformed to be more market-driven, while incentivising the outcomes that are in line with Malaysia’s economic objectives.

Fourthly, there is room to ensure better treatment of foreign workers, be it improvements in working conditions or ensuring that foreign workers are paid as agreed. Lastly, it is also important to note that the proposed reforms must be complemented with effective monitoring and enforcement on the ground, particularly with respect to undocumented foreign workers.

An economist tells StarBizWeek that addressing the high reliance on foreign workers is pertinent for Malaysia’s transition into a high-income economy.

“Malaysia needs to shift its focus from importing cheap labour to managing labour flow that can maximise growth and facilitate its structural adjustment towards a higher income economy,” he says.

“It has been far too long for our economy to be swamped with foreign workers who are unskilled, or have low skill sets that could not contribute meaningfully to Malaysia’s aspiration of becoming a high-income economy,” he adds.

By Cecilia Kok, The Star

Related:

‘Urgent need for coordinated action’ – TheWorldNews.net

 

Bank Negara refutes report on living wage – Business News

 

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Restructuring our household debt


NEW Year always come with new resolutions. Finance is an important aspect of most people’s checklists when it comes to planning new goals.

While it is good to set new financial targets, it is also vital to re-look at our debt portfolio to ascertain if it is at a healthy state.

At a national level, our country also has its financial targets matched against its debt portfolio.

According to the latest Risk Developments and Assessment of Financial Stability 2016 Report by Bank Negara, the country’s household debt was at RM1.086 trillion or 88.4% of gross domestic product (GDP) as at end 2016.

Residential housing loan accounted for 50.3% (RM546.3bil) of total household debts, motor vehicles at 14.6%, personal financing at 14.9%, non-residential loan was 7.4%, securities at 5.7%, followed by credit cards at 3.5% and other items at 3.6%.

Evidently, residential housing loan is the highest among all types of household debt. However, a McKinsey Global Institute Report on “Debt and (Not Much) Deleveraging” in 2015 highlighted that in advanced countries, mortgage or housing loan comprises 74% of total household debt on average.

As a country that aspires to be a developed nation, a housing loan ratio of 50.3% to total household debt would be considered low, compared to 74% for the advanced countries. In other words, we are spending too much on items that depreciate in value immediately – such as car loans, credit card loans and personal loans – compared to assets that appreciate in value in the long run, such as houses.

Advanced economies, which are usually consumer nations, have only 26% debts on non-housing loan as compared to ours at 49.7%.

In order to adopt the household debt ratio of advanced economies, our housing loan of RM546.3bil should be at 74% of total household debt. This means that if we were to keep our housing loan of RM546.3bil constant, our total household debt should be reduced from the current RM1.086 trillion to a more manageable RM738bil. This would require other non-housing loans (car loans, credit card loans and personal loans etc) to reduce from 49.7% of total household debt to only 26%. To achieve this ratio, the non-housing loan debt must collapse from the current RM539.7bil to only RM192bil.

Reducing total household debt from the current RM1.086 trillion to a more manageable RM738bil would also have the added benefit of reducing our total household debt-to-GDP ratio from the high 88.4% to only 60%, making us one of the top countries globally for financial health.

Malaysia’s household debt at present ranked as one of the highest in Asia. Based on the same 2015 McKinsey Report, our household debt-to-income ratio was 146% in 2014 (the ratio of other developing countries was about 42%) compared to the average of 110% in advanced economies.

Adjusting the debt ratio by reducing car loans, personal loans and credit card loans will make our nation stay financially healthy.

Car values depreciate at about 10% to 20% per year based on insurance calculations, accounting standards and actual market prices. Assets financed by personal and credit card loans typically depreciate immediately and aggressively.

The easy access to credit cards and personal loan facilities tend to encourage people to spend excessively, especially when there is no maximum credit limit imposed on credit cards for those earning more than RM36,000 per year.

If we maximised the credit limit given without considering our financial ability, we will need a long time to repay due to the high interest rates, which ranged from 15% to 18% per annum.

Based on a report in The Star recently, Malaysia’s youth are seeing a worrying trend with those aged between 25 and 44 forming the biggest group classified as bankrupt.

The top four reasons for bankruptcy were car loans (26.63%), personal loans (25.48%), housing loans (16.87%) and business loans (10.24%).

It is time for the Government to introduce more drastic cooling-off measures for non-housing loans in order to curb debt that is not backed by assets. This will protect the rakyat from further impoverishment that they are voicing and feeling today.

As we kick start the new year, it is good to relook into our debt portfolio. When we are able to identify where we make up most of our debts, and start to reallocate our financial resources more effectively, we will be heading towards a sound and healthier financial status as a nation.

By Alan Tong – Food for thought

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 e-mail feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.
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