DBKL moves against foreign traders

By Jonathan Edward and Anith Adilah

KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 — A bold move by City Hall to introduce new guidelines for foreign owned businesses in the city is expected to draw more high-end foreign businesses to operate in the city centre. 

The guidelines will see only foreign businesses with registered capital of RM1 million allowed to set up businesses in the city. 

The move will apply to both new and existing businesses as early as next year as licences are usually renewed in December. 

Foreign business operators will no longer be allowed to set up new businesses in:

  • Jalan Silang/Jalan Tun Tan Siew Sin
  • Jalan Bukit Bintang
  • Lebuh Ampang/Leboh Pasar
  • Jalan Chow Kit/Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman
  • Jalan Masjid India
  • Jalan Kenanga
  • Pusat Bandar Utara, Selayang 

The areas are home to large numbers of migrant workers from Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and other countries, with the shops and businesses catering almost exclusively to the migrant worker population.

City Hall’s corporate planning director Khalid Zakaria said the list of areas is not exhaustive and will be updated from time to time. 

While the move may seem as a means to restrict foreign nationals from trading in the city, City Hall says it is necessary to ensure foreigners do not take control of the retail and commercial sectors in the city. 

“The flood of foreign traders has given a negative impact on the local traders and tarnished the city’s image,” Khalid said. 

Stressing the move was not meant to discourage foreign businesses, and City Hall has no objections to foreigners wanting to set up businesses in the city, he said: “As long as they get the endorsement and permission from relevant agencies, and our approval, they will be allowed to operate.”

Khalid said foreigners must obtain endorsement from:

  • Bank Negara
  • International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti)
  • Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry
  • Malaysian Investment Development Authority
  • InvestKL, an investment entity overseen by Miti, Federal Territories Ministry and the
  • Performance Management and Delivery Unit

City Hall also said it is mandatory for owners of these businesses to employ over 50 per cent of Malaysians. 

Several types of businesses are listed as off-limits for foreigners, including petrol stations, jewellery shops, motor garages, telecommunications (sale of prepaid cards and phone accessories) computers, furniture, herbal products and textile.

However, exemptions would be given to those trading in “international and exclusive brands”.

A source from City Hall said the move was necessary as many locals had also “pawned” their trading licences to foreigners in most of these areas and have allowed many to take over their businesses.

“We have to introduce such drastic measures as it is getting out of hand. The move will hopefully put end to such activities and also ensure genuine local businesses are able to thrive,” the source said.

“The days of foreigners running ‘mamak’ stalls will come to an end soon. They will not be allowed to run sundry shops and sell vegetables along the sidewalks.

“They can set up big hypermarkets in the city if they want, but they will no longer be able to run businesses meant for locals.”

The source said City Hall would also ensure a limited type of business is able to operate at a specific area to ensure locals have a level playing field.

Certain businesses will be off-limits to foreigners in the city centre.