Migrant wives kept like slaves by Aussies


Aussie's hushandsLooking out for them: Case worker and former child bride Eman Sharobeem says victims are reluctant to pursue justice through legal means. – AFP

Unhappily married – In Australia, migrant wives in abusive marriages are all the more vulnerable as they are dependent on their husbands. 

KANYA thought she was starting a new life in Australia after arriving from India to marry her husband, but it quickly turned into a nightmare.

She was barred from going out on her own, forced to cook and clean for her partner’s family, and made to sleep outdoors if she did not complete her tasks.

The fate of the 18-year-old, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, mirrors that of others in “slave-like” relationships that Salvation Army worker Jenny Stanger has taken in at a Sydney refuge for trafficked people in recent years.

The women came to Australia under the promise of a happy marriage, only to be exploited by their partners.

“It’s an absolute deception on the part of the perpetrator,” said Stanger of a problem involving nearly a quarter of her safehouse’s residents. Immigration figures show women in such situations come from China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam among others.

“Marriage was the tool that was used to exploit the women for profit, gain or personal advantage.”

“In a typical case, the migrant wife would face extreme isolation, extreme denial of their basic rights around freedom of movement, possibly an exploitation of their labour … and being denied money,” she said.

Getting a sense of how many marriage visas under Australia’s partner migration programme are used to bring women in for exploitation is difficult. Social workers say victims are often deliberately isolated and threatened if they seek help.

Researcher Samantha Lyneham, co-author of the first Australian study looking into the exploitation of women through migrant relationships beyond forced marriages, said the reluctance of victims to report crimes was a problem – such is their dependence on their abusers.

Lyneham said the fear of being deported, which stemmed from the “precarious immigration status” the women faced, was a key barrier, along with language and also mistrust of police after bad experiences in their home countries.

An inaugural Global Slavery Index published by the Walk Free Foundation in October said roughly 30 million people were living in modern-day slavery, of whom up to 3,300 were in Australia.

Lyneham’s new Australian Institute of Criminology report recorded the experiences of eight female victims – including Kanya – aged 18 to 49, mostly from South-East Asia, but also the Pacific, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

They found that while some women moved to Australia on marriage visas in search of economic opportunities, others did so for love and to start a family.

All the women had consented to their marriages, having met their spouses through arranged situations, family links, online dating sites and chance encounters. Seven of the women said they married their husbands outside Australia.

Case workers said the husbands – half of whom were from the same countries of origin as the women – were most likely to be dual-citizens.

One woman told of how her husband would lock her out of the house at night. “I would have to stay in the tree overnight,” she said.

Others told of sexual violence and coerced pregnancies, according to the report. The women said their passports were taken and they were blocked from using telephones or having access to money.

Clandestine crime

Lyneham said although the interviews showed cases had been “happening for some time”, it was also clear when she raised the issue with authorities that some were not aware of it.

“It’s a clandestine type of crime that people mistake for domestic violence,” Lyneham said.

The use of domestic violence laws to address cases highlights the difficulties in identifying and prosecuting such crimes, which cut across legislation separately targeting human trafficking, slavery and domestic abuse.

Official Australian data between July 2001 and June 2011 showed 337,127 people were granted partner migration visas, with Britain, China and India the most common countries of origin.

Between July 2006 and Dec 2011, 3,654 people on the visas obtained protection under the Family Violence Provision.

This allows them to apply for permanent residency if they or a family member are subjected to violence. About 12% came from China, 10% from the Philippines and 8% from Vietnam. Others came from India, Britain, Thailand and Fiji.

Lyneham said while the numbers appeared low, previous research showed under-reporting, particularly in migrant communities.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott in June announced more than A$100mil (RM298mil) to fight domestic violence, and vowed a “particular focus” on women from culturally diverse and indigenous backgrounds.

Forced marriages were criminalised and laws against forced labour were strengthened in 2013.

Case worker Eman Sharobeem, a former child bride who was abused during her marriage, said some women who approached her for help were not comfortable pursuing their husbands through the legal system.

While she worked with politicians to help formulate the 2013 laws, what “we are really interested in is educating the community more than just having a law to guide them”.

Her views are echoed by Salvation Army worker Stanger, who praised the legislation but added: “They (victims) are looking for a way out, so … the more doors we can open, the more likely someone is going to step through that door.” – AFP

Unhappily Married

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Happy together: Li gazing lovingly at Gan as she admires Li’s gift to her for Valentine’s Day. LI Kangyu has not left his house …

A love story like a fairy tale

Love storyHappy together: Li gazing lovingly at Gan as she admires Li’s gift to her for Valentine’s Day.

A Chinese man meets a Malaysian woman online, and romance begins to bloom in a special way.

LI Kangyu has not left his house for 30 years. Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, he has been paralysed and bedridden since he was seven.But his life took an unexpected turn for the better when he met a Malaysian woman Gan Suh Eng by chance on QQ, an online instant messaging platform, three years ago.

Despite being physically miles apart, they were drawn to each other.

“She has opened the windows of my soul,” Li, 39, said.

A year ago today, they exchanged wedding vows and began their life together at Li’s hometown, a village in Tangshan, Hebei province.

Li described their love story, which has attracted widespread media attention, as a fairy tale.

To him, Gan is an angel sent from heaven.

Her presence in his life has opened many doors for him.

Lying on a customised wheelchair given by a Good Samaritan, he can now enjoy the sunshine outside his house with Gan by his side.

Together they have travelled to Shanghai and Suzhou, among other cities, where Li has been invited to give motivational talks.

“A Shanghainese enterprise has shown interest in training me to become a motivational speaker.

“A book on my life story, to be penned by a writer, is also in the pipeline,” he said during The Star’s visit to his house, about 45 minutes by car from the city centre of Tangshan.

It is obvious that the love between the inseparable couple is going strong.

For the Chinese Valentine’s Day, qixi, which was celebrated last Saturday, Li presented Gan with a novelty ring that had a hidden clock face, while she surprised him with a blue striped tie.

Wearing a pink top that he had bought on online shopping site Taobao specially for the occasion, Li was delighted when told that the patterns printed on the shirt were that of Malaysia’s national flower, the hibiscus.

“It was a happy coincidence,” he said.

As Li recounted their first year together as husband and wife, Gan sat next to him, stroking his head affectionately.

They were more than happy to oblige when Gan was asked to give a peck on Li’s cheek.

“In the blink of an eye, a year has passed. We are both tolerant of and accommodating to each other’s shortcomings. Our love has grown deeper,” Li said.

Gan, 36, who hails from Selayang, was smitten by Li’s romantic and caring nature.

“Sometimes he will insist on helping me blow-dry my hair,” the former employee of a Malaysian Christian NGO said.

The couple leads a simple life in the village, surviving mostly on Li’s financial assistance from the government.

Although it is a meagre sum, Gan said the cost of living in the village is low, so they are doing fine.

Family members on both sides, who originally objected to their marriage, have now accepted them.

“My mum now cares about Li more than she cares about me,” Gan protested in jest. “She will ask to speak to him every time we talk on the phone, reminding him to take good care of himself and rest more.”

A local reporter who has been following their story since last year noted that Li appeared rosier and more cheerful.

“I am about 5kg heavier now and I have gained more muscle on my thigh,” Li said.

Their bright and neat space, a room in the house of Li’s third sister, is furnished with a double bed and sofa. Adorning the walls are their wedding photos.

A small wooden table sits on the bed for Li to use his laptop. As he cannot move his joints, he operates the laptop with a mouse placed near his right hip.

Looking ahead, Li dreams of having their own house and raising a child.

“We also want to start a charitable foundation to help the less fortunate. It looks like a far-fetched goal but I believe it will come to fruition one day,” he said.

Check In China by Tho Sin Yi The Star Columnists/Asia News Network


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 Hats off to a strict father 

It pays to be stern


I AM writing this in response to the article “Hats off to a strict father” written by Nithya Sidhhu (Here:  Hats off to a strict father ). The article really resonated with me.

All my three children, have always viewed me as a strict father.

Their complaints have never failed to make me feel that it was wrong for me to be such a strict father.

Like the writer, my eldest daughter also smarted under my regimen and in fact, complained to many of her friends that I was too harsh.

I felt that she did not understand the fact that I was actually intent on moulding her to become a person who would be ready to face life’s harsh realities one day.

Feeling misunderstood added to the guilt that grew in me.

That is why I felt immensely relieved when I read the article especially the words: “You may not appreciate it now but the discipline will help you in the future.”

Upon reading the article, I sent it to my eldest daughter who is currently studying in India.

Her reply really touched me because she said: “Appa (father) it was only after coming to college that I realised your strict ways were meant for my own good.”

Since it was Fathers Day, she sent me a picture with the quote: “The reason why a daughter loves her Dad the most is because there is at least one man in the world who will never hurt her. I love you, Dad”.

Both the article and my daughter’s message have succeeded in finally getting rid of the guilt within me.

Some fathers can’t help being strict but let me stress that they have their children’s best interests at heart.

The post is contributed by KARUNANITHY SUBBIAH Kuala Lumpur The StarEducate Sunday 22 June 2014.

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Hats off to a strict father



The writer pays tribute to the man whose strict code of rules and ethics have guided her over the years and attributed to her personal and professional goals.

I CAME across the following quote by illustrator Victor Devlin recently. It goes: Listen, there is no way any true man is going to let children live around him in his home and not discipline and teach, fight and mould them until they know all he knows. His goal is to make them better than he is. Being their friend is a distant second to this.

When I read his words, I thought to myself: “That sounds exactly like my father!”

Seriously, aren’t we who we are because of the way we were brought up? In my case, I must say it was that my father who shaped my character and my will. He was the most dominant force in my childhood years.

As a teacher, I’ve had students complain to me that their fathers were tough on them. I’d say to them in consolation, “You may not appreciate it now but the discipline will help you in the future”.

Children of strict fathers – yes, we exist.

When I was growing up, I have to admit though that I felt stifled by my father’s autocratic ways. Often, I bristled with inner rebellion when he was demanding and harsh.

But, it was his relentless pursuit for my learning and development that laid the core of steel I now have within me. Even my passion for realising both personal and professional goals springs from the firm resolve that he girded in me.

Values (and the right ones at that) were what he embedded in me. Integrity, determination, perseverance, diligence, responsibility and accountability: my father marched for years in a policeman’s boots that bore these very studs!

When I became a teacher, I found myself following my father’s example. I chose to be a strong, capable and respected individual.

But, I had no desire to be as hard as him. Therefore, the one important concession I made to myself was to temper my strict ways with traits of love, understanding, compassion and kindness.

For me, the “yin” and the “yang” of this combination are what made the crucial difference in my success as a teacher.

Nonetheless, the hardy principles taught by my father served me time and time again as I faced one challenge after another in the 26 years I trudged through the blackboard jungle.

When I was teaching in a large urban school once, a man came to see me to find out whether his son’s performance was good enough to apply for a premier college overseas.

Handing me his business card, he told me was that he was the head of a finance company. Assessing me rapidly with his eyes, he said, “My job takes me away from home a lot. But I want only the best for my son.”

Talking brusquely, he made no bones about the fact that he had both the means and the desire to send his son overseas to study. “It will make him independent,” he explained. When I spoke about his son’s potential and ability to succeed, the man listened quietly.

Cracking the whip

After I was done talking, he gave me another appraising look and then admitted, “I don’t get along very well with my son. He thinks I’m too strict. But, I know it’s important that I crack the whip now. If not, we will both regret it later.”

And then he shook my hand and left. No smile. No pleasantries.

Watching him leave, not only did I understand him, I understood him perfectly.

My student would inquire later how the meeting went. I assured him that it went well.

But in thinking about his father, I knew I hadn’t told the inscrutable man that his son was, in fact, a difficult student to deal with.

At times, in handling this boy, even I was filled with despair. What was to become of him? What could I do to help him? And, could I even really be of any help?

But, I neither lowered my standards for the boy nor gave up on him. As far as I was concerned, he had both the intelligence and ability to go far in life. He just wasn’t trying hard enough.

After meeting his father, I began to suspect that this boy’s reluctance to shape up was probably an act of retaliation against his father’s coldness.

In requiring good work of him, this student would often say churlishly to me, “Why are you so hard on me?”

And I would reply sincerely, “Because I really believe that you have it in you to do better work.”

But unlike his father, I showed this boy my “softer” side as often as I could. I would say pleasantly, “You know, I do care a lot about you. And, you perform surprisingly well when you take the trouble to do so.”

Once, I even told him: “Listen, I had a difficult time with my father too but he made me a successful person. Give your old man a break and put in some effort.”

Although he avoided me often, I pursued my goals relentlessly. I was after all, my father’s daughter, and if there is one imprint he left on me — to be persistent.

Finally, persuaded and encouraged to believe in himself, the boy began to turn the corner. After that, it was a joy to teach him – really it was!

He came to see me often and we talked about all sorts of topics – girls, music, books, politics and even photography.

I praised his good attributes and his honest attempts to improve, not once, but many times, because I knew his father could not and would not.

As a teacher, it was my responsibility and duty to do so, therefore I did it.

Reform and learning

My father believed in the power of reform through education. As a teacher, I too believe that all students are capable of learning. Therefore, a teacher’s push really matters.

By the way, I am not alone in thinking along these lines. Have you by any chance read Andre Agassi’s 2009 autobiography Open? Well, this former Wimbledon tennis world champion has faith in the same maxim.

After he retired from playing professionally, he launched the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation. In 2001, the Foundation opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, a K-12 public charter school for at-risk children. The 26,000-square-foot education complex that carries Agassi’s name places a huge emphasis on excellence. Agassi’s goal in hiring teachers is to procure men and women who are “sharp, passionate and inspired” and “willing to lay it on the line” and “get personally involved”.

He asks one thing and one thing only of his teachers: That they believe fervently that every student can be a learner.

Agassi hit a resounding shot when he said: “It sounds like a painfully obvious concept, self-evident, but nowadays it’s not.”

See what I mean? I’d add another adage: Do your best and God will do the rest. As teachers, we are bound by convention and limits but we still have to set, pursue and then reach the right goals. The minute teachers give up, the kids start falling like bowling pins. My father hammered this home because he could not and would not tolerate it when I said: “It can’t be done!”

Upon hearing this explanation, his answer was always the same: “Stop making excuses! Just admit that you didn’t work hard enough!”

Ah, what a great man he was because I do know now that his strict vigil did work wonders. Happy Fathers Day!

Contributed by Nithya Sidhhu Sunday StarEducate

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A father’s love for his family

father-daughterYou don’t need words to express how you feel when deeds can clearly get the message across

BEING close to 1,000km away from home by air indirectly means that a lot of times, I will miss out on many celebrations in Kuching.

Earlier this month, the Sarawakians were celebrating Gawai, or the harvest festival in the state.

Although the Dragon Boat Festival is also celebrated here, it is not the same without my mother’s home-made dumplings.

The faster pace of life here coupled with the number of activities I can do keep me occupied and provide me with a sense of fulfilment.

However, when I slow down, I will feel homesick once in a while.

Not long ago, I called my father to tell him that I would like to fly back to Kuching for a break.

He told me to save the flight money and “rest” because he thinks that flying can be a bit of a hassle.

It may sound odd as to why a father would tell his daughter not to go home for those reasons.

Flight tickets are very affordable these days especially during the off peak seasons or when the airlines are running a promotion.

And while it does take some effort to get to the airport, check-in and fly back all that usually takes about four hours (assuming there is no delay with the flight).

For a round trip back to my hometown, it possibly costs me a few hundred ringgit and eight hours of travelling but that, according to my father, is an unnecessary waste of time and money.

“Save your hard-earned money for better use,” he would say.

So, usually, I will fly back twice a year; once during Chinese New Year and another trip will be made as and when I want to.

“There really is no need to come back so often. It is such a chore. All you have to do is call us more often,” he argued.

I did not argue that it would not be the same because my father’s logic is slightly different from others’ and he is a bit stubborn.

“A bit” may be an understatement based on my mother’s standard but that is my father.

A man of few words who sometimes says things that people least expect and to a certain degree, mysterious.

Mysterious in a sense that no one in the family knows what he really thinks and how he really feels.

Sometimes I ask, “Why?”, and he will reply, “Don’t ask so much”.

Surprisingly, asking questions is part and parcel of what I do for a living now.

Compared to my mother, who will show her concern and express her thoughts overtly (and most of the times excessively), my father appears somewhat “emotionally detached”.

My mother is the kind who will impose her values and what she thinks is good on her children but my father appears cool and easy-going with many of the decisions his children make in life.

The difference in their approaches became antecedent to their arguments but my mother will usually have the last word.

When my mother gets angry, we usually know the reason but when my father becomes furious, the cause is mostly unknown.

Hence, that makes me wonder more, “Why?”

I cannot even comprehend the kind of food he loves – duck neck and fish head.

Most people prefer the meaty parts.

After countless “whys” on the subject, I finally realised that, all these are just the ways my father expresses his love.

He leaves the best for his family.

He swallows his pain, conceals his emotions because he does not want others to worry.

It is also because “by default” based on most societies’ standards, a man has to put a strong front to provide for and to protect his family.

His love is in his actions but not words, subtle yet powerful, silent yet beautiful. That, is a father’s love for his family.

> Ng Bei Shan, a business journalist with The Star, salutes all the fathers for being a warrior of their families. She hopes those who are able to celebrate the coming Father’s Day to treasure the moments with their heroes and gently reminds those who cannot make it back home to give their fathers a warm greeting.

Contributed by  # BAH! Ng Bei Shan
Ng Bei Shan, a business journalist with the Star, salutes all the fathers for being a warrior of their families. She hopes those who are able to celebrate the coming Father’s Day to treasure the moments with their heroes and gently reminds those who cannot make it back home to give their fathers a warm greeting.

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Old and abandoned, now newborn baby found abandoned outside house !

Baby abandonedRescued: The baby that was found in Kampung Sungai Sebatang in Alor Setar.

ALOR SETAR: A teenager was awakened from her sleep by the cries of a newborn baby outside her house in Kampung Sungai Sebatang off Jalan Kuala Kedah here.

Normawani Ahmad, 17, said she was awakened by the baby’s cries at about 3am yesterday.

“I looked out the window and saw the wailing infant, who was placed on a red plastic mat. I also heard someone walking away from my house while the baby was crying,” she said when met at the Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital yesterday.

Normawani called her mother, who was sleeping at another daughter’s house next door. They found the baby with the umbilical cord still attached to the body.

“My mother cleaned up the baby and dressed him in my nephew’s clothes.

“We then lodged a police report,” she added.

Kota Setar OCPD Assist Comm Adzaman Mohd Jan said police were looking for the mother and the case has been classified as child abandonment under the Penal Code.

Sources: The Star/ANN

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Property gain tax won’t hurt genuine buyers

Budget 2014_RGPT

Banning DIBS is the right move

FOR many years, the National House Buyers Association (HBA) has been urging the Government to take measures to stem the steep rise in property prices to avoid a “homeless generation” as current property prices are far beyond the reach of many low and middle-income families in urban and suburban areas.This is a ticking time bomb that will result in many social problems if left unchecked.

Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT)

The announcement of the revised rate of tax on gains made in the disposal of properties, namely, the Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT), formerly known as the Anti Speculation Act, under Budget 2014 is far more superior to what had been proposed under Budget 2013 (See table above)

This is because, typically, if the property is purchased directly from the developer, it takes two years (for landed properties) and three years (for strata properties) to be completed.

Hence, under the previous RPGT, speculators could purchase properties from property developers upon their launch and then flip these properties on completion (after two years) and having to pay 10% (i.e. within the 3rd to 5th year).

It is hoped that the revised RPGT rate will deter speculators and, at the same time, not punish genuine house buyers who buy for their own stay or long-term investment. It is worth noting that buyers of residential property could seek a once-in-a-lifetime exemption from the tax.

Budget 2014 is best described as an “excellent mathematical formula” to curb the unbridled escalation of house prices, which has in the last three years skyrocketed. The Government has taken a step in the right direction with measures to slow down the steep rise in property prices due to false demand caused by excessive speculation fuelled by easy housing loans and the previously low RPGT.

Foreign purchasers to pay more

HBA applauds the move to increase the minimum price of property that can be purchased by foreigners from RM500,000 to RM1mil. Foreigners must be prevented from “snapping up” property meant for the lower and middle income.

This artificially inflates prices and creates a domino effect which can result in higher property prices across the industry. This is especially true for development corridors such as Iskandar Malaysia which has seen foreign purchasers arriving in droves and scooping up properties with their advantageous exchange rate.

Banning the Developer Interest-Bearing Scheme (DIBS) 

DIBS is popular with speculators as they pay nothing to make a profit. Their initial down-payments and deposits are sometimes factored into the purchase price by the collusive developers, and some unethical financial institutions do not even require that the developer collect the deposit that has to be paid by the so-called purchaser.

This is one of the factors which induces “bogus” house buyers (which I have written about in this column on Aug 31 entitled: Of Speculators and bogus house buyers) who merely flip the property at the right time.

Kudos to Bank Negara for heeding our call and banning DIBS. It may be worth noting that Singapore banned DIBS in 2009.

Considering the deep pockets of property speculators, the effectiveness of these measures remain to be seen. However, they are expected to make speculation unworthwhile. HBA praises the Prime Minister for putting a stop to DIBS, which is one of the reasons attributed to the steep increase in property prices for three reasons:

1. DIBS encourages speculation as the house buyer does not need to “service” any interest/instalment during the construction stage. This will “lure” and tempt many house buyers to speculate and buy into DIBS projects hoping to flip on completion and make a quick profit with little or no capital upfront. Connivingly, the interest element is “serviced” by the participating developers.

2. DIBS artificially inflates prices as all interests borne by the developer are ultimately imputed into the property price. This in turn creates a domino effect which pulls up property prices in surrounding locations.

3. Bank and financial institution staff conniving with developers using the DIBS model should be investigated on their “modus operandi” in financing those artificially inflated prices (DIBS + sales price) and ignoring guidelines on prudent lending.

Banks and financial institutions are to be prudent and only provide mortgage financing up to the fair value/market value of the property. In this respect, a benchmark of fair value or market value is the current properties available. Somehow, properties sold under DIBS are always priced much higher; 15% to 20% higher compared with those without DIBS.

For standard condominiums costing RM500,000 without DIBS, should the developer market such properties under DIBS, the selling price could be as high as RM650,000. This creates a potential property bubble should the developer default in “servicing” the interest and the borrower/purchaser also defaults. The bank would only be able to recover up to RM500,000 if the said property is auctioned at market value.

In the event of an economic downturn, banks saddled with too much DIBS end-financing could collapse as the losses from such DIBS end-financing will erode the banks’ capital.

The collapse of just one bank/financial institution could cause a systemic collapse of the entire financial industry.

Bank Negara should take action against such bank and financial institution staff who have provided both project financing and end-financing to DIBS projects under the newly-minted Financial Services Act, 2013.

With the RPGT increase, banning of the DIBS and the Government’s aspiration to supply more ‘ownership housing schemes’ at affordable pricing, it is hoped that speculative demand for properties will stabilise to a more realistic level. I have heard that many businessmen do not do business anymore but indulge in property speculation as a livelihood and for income.

It is akin to the stock market dealings that were rampant during a ‘bull run’. Certain things have to be stopped before they become worse like the sub-prime crisis in the US.

If readers were to take a drive around completed projects, they will find signboards advertising units for sale upon the delivery of keys. If the purchaser is purchasing for his own occupation, why is there this need to put up these signboards or appoint estate agents to dispose of the units? It goes to show that some purchasers are merely speculators (not investors) from day one and the banks and financial institutions choose to “close one eye” despite knowing this.

Have the banks ever gone to the ground to check whether the units purchased and financed are actually “owner occupied”? If the property is “owner occupied”, the risk rating is lower and thus, he enjoys a lower interest rate. But if it is non-owner occupied, it should have higher interest rates. Borrowers of “owner occupied” properties are normally required to make a declaration to that effect to enjoy a lower interest rate.

But does the bank participate in this booking of credit risk?

If the property is non-owner occupied, the lending will fall under ‘real estate classification’ and not ‘housing’.

So, there may even be misreporting to Bank Negara and subsequent national statistics.

This column continues next week.

– Contributed by Chang Kim Loong

CHANG KIM LOONG is the honorary secretary-general of the National House Buyers Association (www.hba.org.my), a non-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO) manned by volunteers. He is also an NGO Councillor at the Subang Jaya Municipality Council.

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