Minister: Stricter foreign quota for Forest City looks increasingly likely

Kenneth Tee
Zuraida said that the government was concerned about Johor’s laws and policies that permit as much as 70 per cent of the Forest City project to go to foreign buyers. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, Sept 6 ― Heavier restriction on the number of foreign buyers allowed at the Forest City development in Johor has not been decided but is the most foreseeable measure at the moment, said Zuraida Kamaruddin.

The housing and local government minister stressed, however, that authorities still must study the matter thoroughly before making a decision.

“It is still premature to say so, but I think the direction (of the discussion) should be headed that way.

“I have submitted an early report to the Cabinet yesterday, but there is still a lot of fact-finding to be done before a comprehensive report could be submitted to the Prime Minister to decide on how we will address concerns issues raised by the development project,” she said after attending the 72nd National Council for Local Government meeting here.

She reiterated that the government was concerned about the state’s laws and policies that permit as much as 70 per cent of the RM410 billion development to go to foreign buyers.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad triggered controversy over Forest City last month when he said the government would not allow foreigners to snap up homes there, but later backtracked to say he meant they will not be granted resident status.

The controversy still prompted Zuraida’s ministry to study the matter.

“This is an issue that we have to review to ensure local participation and benefits were not sidelined so locals especially Johoreans can enjoy the sophisticated facilities available,” she said.

Apart from project developer Country Garden PacificView Sdn Bhd and the Johor state government, the minister said she will also meet with relevant developers for their views on foreign ownership policies.

Zuraida said Putrajaya was also studying a blanket policy on foreign ownership to clarify if this should be determined by state or federal powers.

“The state has the discretion to decide on certain policies and that is something we need to see it holistically,” she said.

Yesterday, Johor Housing and Rural Development Committee chairman Dzulkefly Ahmad said the state government has assembled a task force to examine weaknesses and loopholes related to the overall housing development in the state.

Asked about the issuance of resident visas for foreign buyers of Malaysian property, Zuraida said the Home Ministry was asked to tighten the screening of applicants under the Malaysia My Second Home programme.

The minister said the matter was discussed by the Cabinet, which felt the country needed to carefully consider visas given out as part of the scheme to encourage wealthy foreigners to retire here.

She also stressed that there were no official schemes or programmes that entitled foreign property buyers to a visa to reside in Malaysia.

“There is no such thing as you buy a home you get a visa. There is no such policy at all,” she said.

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