Monday, 19 February 2018

(The Star) Johor poised to become economic powerhouse

Johor has the right ecosystem and is moving on the right track in developing, positioning and transforming itself as the new economic powerhouse in the southern region.

The next 10 years, dubbed as the “Golden Decade” for Johor, will propel the southernmost state in the peninsula in terms of development, progress and economic growth.

The progress and development taking place in south Johor, where Iskandar Malaysia is located and is being transformed into an international metropolis, is the best example of how Johor can achieve its mission and vision.

The Johor government has experienced tremendous development in the last decade in Iskandar Malaysia, thanks to its initiatives and efforts.

Launched on Nov 4, 2006, the country’s first economic growth corridor – Iskandar Malaysia – is spread over 2,217 sq km, and is three times bigger than Singapore and two times the size of Hong Kong.

Since its inception, it received RM253bil in investments as of Dec 31, 2017, and targets to achieve RM383bil when the economic corridor reaches maturity in 2025.

While progress and development in Iskandar Malaysia is only confined to south Johor, the state government wants to bring development to other areas beyond Iskandar Malaysia too.

Concerted, collective and continuous efforts are needed from all stakeholders in Johor to fully support the mammoth task undertaken by the state government to take the state to the next level.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin said Johor must move forward in its quest to become the new economic powerhouse in the region.

He said while it would not be an easy task ahead as there could be many challenges and obstacles along the way, it could only be achieved if all Johoreans played their part.

Khaled said Johor highly appreciated the contributions made by Malaysians from other states in the development and progress of Johor.

He said while Johor embraced the Bangsa Johor concept, they also welcomed those from other states who had made Johor their home.

“Johoreans and non-Johoreans are contributing directly and indirectly to the progress of the state,’’ Khaled said.

He said Malaysians from other states living in Johor had also benefitted from the development and would continue to do so in the coming years as Johor progresses.

Iskandar Malaysia is the best model on how development of an economic growth corridor in the country took place with the participation of all stakeholders.

The state authorities need to translate the new key economic sectors in the next 10 years under its development plan into a reality and enhance the existing traditional economic activities along the way.

Johor is fortunate due to its close proximity to Singapore, an international trade and financial centre.

It is a well-known fact that Johor and Singapore depend on each other economically, with thousands of Malaysians crossing over to the republic daily to work.

At the same time, Singaporeans love to shop and dine in Johor Baru due to the strong Singapore dollar, with many of them owning properties especially in Iskandar Malaysia.

Interest in Johor from domestic and foreign investors remains strong despite uncertainties and challenges in the global economic growth.

The state government has taken the right step by diversifying its economic portfolio in view of the challenges posed by the global economic situation.

Oil and gas, bio-economy, green technology, halal-based products, hospitality and services and logistics have been identified as some of the new economic sectors to spearhead Johor’s growth.

Johor tourism, trade and consumerism committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong said gone were the days when Johor could depend only on a particular economic sector or activity.

“Diversifying the economy will help us achieve our mission and vision to position and develop Johor as the new regional economic powerhouse,” he said.

Johor is no longer depending on a particular economic sector such as manufacturing, and over the past decade has diversified its economic portfolio and ventured into value-added investments.

The state has already established itself as the manufacturing hub in the southern region.

Statistics from the Malaysian Investment Development Authority shows that Johor attracted RM93bil in investments in the manufacturing sector, the highest in the country from 2013 to 2016.

The state also received a shot in the arm from the Federal Government with multi-billion ringgit mega projects to be implemented in the state within the next five to 10 years.

They are the Gemas-Johor Baru electrified double-tracking railway system, the High Speed Rail (HSR), the Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System Link (RTS Link) and Iskandar Malaysia Bus Rapid Transit System (IMBRT).

Improvement in connectivity and accessibility will attract more visitors, businessmen and investors to Johor.

As of February, Johor received good news with the reduction in levy and toll charges at the Johor Causeway and the Second Link Crossing in Tanjung Kupang, Gelang Patah.

The move by both Malaysia and Singapore governments will create economic spillover for Johor, namely in the tourism, retail, hospitality and manufacturing sectors.

From Jan 1, Malaysia also abolished toll charges at the Johor Causeway for vehicles using the Eastern Dispersal Link and Singapore followed by abolishing toll charges for vehicles exiting the Woodlands checkpoint.

Malaysia also reduced levy for lorries using the Second Link to RM50 this month, from the RM250 levy at the Johor Causeway if they used the Second Link to reduce congestion at the Johor Causeway.

From Feb 13, Malaysia reduced toll charges for vehicles using the Second Link and starting from April 1, Singapore will reduce charges at their Tuas checkpoint during peak and non-peak hours.

(The Star) Expert: Planners and developers must adhere to master plan

A property market expert from the United States says the public is bound to become negative towards any dense development in their neighbourhood due to fear of losing public space.

World Citizen Consulting’s principal consultant Bill Endsley said such resistance was common among residents anywhere around the world but the idea of high-density development did not mean that there should be no public space that comes with it.

Ultimately the city’s master plan must be fully understood and followed, he pointed out

“People are afraid of losing their public space. There should be a trade-off.

“If the developers are working with city planners, there should be an understanding ahead of time what the objective is going be.

“The developer needs to take the corporate social responsibility and say they are going to provide a certain amount of public space.

“In Chicago, US, many of the buildings have a setback from the road. They will put benches and create gardens. After the project is completed and when you pass the street and see the logo of the building, you will get a positive sense of the building with the new public space,

“Developers must think along this way. When you don’t think about public space, the public will become negative towards you,” said Endsley, who was one of the moderators at the World Urban Forum 9 (WUF9) held at Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre recently.

He stressed that there must be good understanding of the city’s master plan by all parties. The plan has to be for a long term.

“The master plan must take into consideration the long-term growth of the city and it needs to be looked at as a positive thing instead of negatively,” he said.

Endsley added that there was a new perspective on carparks in high buildings near transit oriented developments (TOD).

“Chicago has now reduced the required carparks in high-rise buildings near the public transit lines. You don’t need that many parking bays because the idea with TOD was for people to use public transport. This is integration in the full spectrum of development,” he said.

In most cases, he added, the developers, public transport providers and the government might all be working in silos. There may be no integration on how these plans may work together well, resulting in other problems including pollution.

“There is this notion that people may never be able to live in the city due to various factors. There’s the idea to place people in suburbs and have them commute to the city to work.

“Then it is always mentioned that there will be a green belt for recreational purposes. This idea of living in suburbs and travelling to the city to work has never been truly successful. What happens is there will still be loads of cars and traffic congestion from those who will be commuting, resulting in problems such as pollution.

“The trend is now to live, work and play in the same place,” Endsley said.

Another speaker at the forum was New York University Urban Expansion programme research scholar Patrick Lamson-Hall, who said in general, the job of city planners was to ensure there was sufficient availability of public facilities to meet the demand for floor space in a given area.

The obvious advantage of TOD is that it provides connectivity to places in which the price of land is comparatively low, he said.

“This makes housing more affordable in the city as a whole. It may raise prices locally for existing residents, but overall the benefits will outweigh the losses.

“Technically, all development is a form of TOD. Otherwise, you would never have development in a place without adequate transportation. Unless it is built with subsidies for example,” said Lamson-Hall, who has a master’s degree in Urban Planning from the NYU Wagner School of Public Service.

“I think residents should decide if they want their housing to be affordable or unaffordable.

“It is clear that people may not be keen to have their neighbourhood look like the KL CBD, but it is equally clear that there are those who are happy to live in that kind of neighbourhood. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be people moving into the new apartments; they would be staying put,” he added.

(The Star) Taking TOD out of context

Petaling Jaya was created as a satellite town in 1942 to ease the burden of a growing population in Kuala Lumpur then.

The township, which was awarded city status in 2006, today enjoys a modern and efficient public transport system as a city and is warming up to the concept of Transit Oriented Development (TOD) with high plot ratios such as 1:8.

Plot ratio represents the gross built-up area of a development to the land it occupies, while TODs are locations with efficient public transport such as the LRT and MRT.

However, the present Petaling Jaya Local Plan 1 (RTPJ1) only allows for a 1:4 plot ratio development in the city.

As a result of this, there has been much public objection in recent times to approvals of TOD with 1:8 plot ratio citing the Selangor Structural Plan.

Phang says it is worrying to know councillors‘ views are not taken seriously at full board meetings. 

PJ Utara MCA chief Tan Gim Tuan said the recent case where the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) councillors were urging for a 1:7.2 plot ratio for a 20-storey office tower being built on the 0.4ha land, showed that they had missed the point of TOD guidelines.

“They want a development to be granted 1:7.2, which is above the 1:4 ratio currently permitted in the RTPJ1. What the councillors requested for is very high. Even if 1:4 plot ratio is granted, it has to be subject to conditions.

“Petaling Jaya residents do not want the over-development that comes with its fair share of stress,” said Tan.

MyPJ, a coalition of 200 residents groups, objects to the high plot ratios for TOD in Petaling Jaya.

The group formed a petition called #TolakPjTOD last week, in which public signatures are being collected to object to high-rise developments in the city which have been approved by MBPJ using TOD as an excuse.

Petaling Jaya residents want areas with TOD status to have public amenities such as schools, hospitals as well as fire and police stations. 

Esham Salam, who spoke on behalf of the group, said MBPJ believed TOD might be the best solution for a liveable city but the residents did not share the sentiment.

He said residents felt the concept of TOD was being abused as there has been no information given to the public on the guidelines that developers must adhere to in high plot ratio developments.

“We need to know whether new public schools, government hospitals, fire and police stations, as well as other public amenities will be built in these areas with new high-rise developments.

“We see approvals being given for high-density and high-end serviced apartments in parts of the city.

“As it is, even the existing population finds it hard to access these public amenities and we fear things will be worse in the future,” he said.

Esham says MBPJ must be transparent about TOD planning. 

Esham said TOD was the most important aspect in deciding the future of the city and residents want MBPJ to be transparent about it.

“Even at 1:4 plot ratio, we are facing bad traffic condition. Imagine the stress it will bring to residents when it is 1:8.

“We feel the word TOD itself is oversold,” said Esham, urging the Selangor government to intervene and address the matter.

He pointed out that Petaling Jaya was not a Central Business District and development here must not be compared to that in Kuala Lumpur.

“Petaling Jaya is not Marina Bay in Singapore or even like Kuala Lumpur. We are a satellite city.

“We urge the Selangor mentri besar to customise the TOD and make the guidelines transparent.

“We want residents’ queries, such as whether there will be new schools and other amenities, put in place first,” he said.

Esham also questioned the city’s population aspiration, saying MBPJ cannot just say that public amenities are the responsibility of the Federal Government.

“The city has about 800,000 people but what is the future population aspiration? Will it be three million with no new public amenities?” he asked.

Tan says PJ residents do not want the stress of over-development. 

MyPj’s Jeffrey Phang, said it was worrying to know that the views of councillors were not taken seriously at the full board meeting.

Another MyPJ member, Kavin Thayalan, said TOD planning must be based on localised policies.

“It cannot be planned only now and simply because there is the LRT and MRT,” he said

“We must have regulations based on the location and also study if these locations that are granted high plot ratio are within a TOD area.

“A TOD area cannot be justified because it has a feeder bus route. In reality, this spot may be far away from the public transport hub. The frequency of feeder buses must also be studied.” he added.

Kavin also questioned whether these high-rise developments took into account the need for affordable housing.

“We see high-end apartments and serviced apartments. Where are the affordable homes at these TOD locations?” he asked.

Resident Eileen Thong said the issue of high-density developments in areas with TOD status was an eye-opener for the people of Petaling Jaya.

“We are taken aback by this issue and want it resolved,” she stressed.

Yeoh says residents fear that TOD projects will not have setbacks. 

Former Petaling Jaya councillor Cynthia Gabriel said the TOD concept was raised in MBPJ in 2014 but the concept would only work if sustainable development was at the heart of the intention.

“Both the TOD and sustainable development must be balanced,” she said.

“What we see are developments that seem to be taking place at the expense of public interest.

“The TOD concept itself is not wrong but when you don’t accompany it with sustainable development then it becomes a problem.”

Gabriel said the aspirations for Petaling Jaya must be made clear.

“Is Petaling Jaya still a satellite city? And is it a low or high-density place?” she pointed out.

She said Petaling Jaya mayor Datuk Mohd Azizi Mohd Zain now shouldered the burden of determining the city’s direction and MBPJ’s planning department should provide an answer on where the city’s planning was headed.

“The council must show some accountability and responsibility towards the well-being of the residents,” she said.

Thong wants issue of high-density projects in TOD areas resolved. 

“The mentri besar must act fast and preserve the transparency of the council, putting a stop to questionable practises such as shutting of the live streaming while matters are discussed at the full board meeting,

“Our country hosted the World Urban Forum 9 recently so we must be an example for sustainable development,” she added.

Former councillor Richard Yeoh said residents were fearful that TOD developments would not have setbacks.

“We have cases of developments along lanes and not roads. These are public concerns that must be clarified by the city council,” he stressed.

(The Star) Got himself a good catch

Poke chain aims to be the benchmark in a growing market

Most, if not all, students of culinary schools go in with a dream of running their own restaurant someday.

Aaron Lim, managing director of Fishbowl Ventures Sdn Bhd, was no different.

So after he graduated from culinary school, he tried to work his way up in the kitchen. He worked in F&B outlets and spent some time learning in the kitchens of France.

But not long after, he found that he could not take the kitchen anymore.

Growing market: The company wants to capture a larger market while the trend is still in its early stages.

“Fed up” with cooking, Lim turned to a sales job for solace. He survived in sales for two years before going back to making food.

In 2016, the 28-year-old was introduced to the poke dish.

Poke, pronounced poh-kay, is a Hawaiian dish that refers to the cuts of raw fish that top a typical poke bowl of hot rice and a variety of sides. The word “poke” means to cut or slice, and the dish originated from the odd off-cuts of a fishing catch – waste not, especially when you can season and enjoy it with a little sea salt or soy sauce.

“Initially, I didn’t like the concept. Hot and cold food served together was a no-no for me. But my friends brought me to try it in Singapore because we did not have it here at that time. And I found that I really like the taste. It was healthy. And I liked it,” he says.

Taking in feedback: Business took a positive turn following some changes that were implemented based on customer feedback.

Lim figured this could be his opportunity to finally run his own restaurant and decided to build a venture around the poke dish.

He toyed with the idea of bringing in one of the poke-centric franchises from Singapore, but decided to experiment with a homegrown brand of his own instead as it was “very doable”.

Once he got his menu set, Lim and his partners – friends, in his case – put in a total of RM160,000 to set up their first outlet in Sunway. The big student population in the area seemed a natural market to tap into for something as hipster-ish as the poke.

The first The Fish Bowl outlet opened in August 2016.

Game plan: Lim believes being genuine and generous with their portions will help sustain customers’ interest.

However, the first few months didn’t go by smoothly.

“We struggled the first few months. No one knew what poke was. We had to educate people about what poke was all about. And at that time, Pokemon Go was a big hit, so people thought we were related to the game. And when they find out we are not, they’re not interested to come in,” says Lim.

Then it got worse.

When November came rolling around, the surrounding universities were closed for the holidays. The area was dead quiet and the lull lasted till the Chinese New Year period.

“It was tough, but we still had to go on with the business because we had already put in so much effort into this shop,” states Lim.

Fortunately, things started to look up after the festive season early last year. Lim also implemented several changes to its menu and food presentation based on feedback from some of their customers, which helped grow their customer base.

“From the time we started, I learned a lot about consumer behaviour and tastebuds. And that helped us create our own menu along the way,” he says.

Another thing he learned was to manage people, particularly a team with different nationalities.

Growing team: The company currently has a total of some 60 employees under its umbrella. 

“There’s a language barrier. But you have to learn to be patient with people and to teach them how to work in a kitchen because some have no experience in a kitchen,” he adds.

The company currently has about 60 employees, including its staff at the restaurants.

What surprised Lim once there was an uptick in the business was its weekend crowd – they mainly consist of families. That meant The Fish Bowl’s offerings appealed to a wider market than just its weekday student crowd.

Subsequently, he decided to explore expansion opportunities in shopping malls. Although rentals were higher, so was foot traffic.

Lim was also lucky to have the support of a new investor, which gave Fishbowl Ventures the deep pockets it needed to expand The Fish Bowl chain quickly. Lim notes that the cost to set up an outlet is about RM250,000 to RM300,000.

The Fish Bowl opened its second outlet in 1 Utama Shopping Centre in April 2017 followed by another two more, in Pavilion KL and Plaza Arkadia, later in the year. It opened its fifth outlet this month and the company is looking to add another four more stores this year.

Is it, perhaps, growing too aggressively for a poke restaurant? Not really, says Lim. He thinks it is a good way to capture the market “while it is still hot”. He adds that there is still plenty of room for growth as a lot of people still don’t really know what poke is all about.

A bowl of dreams: Lim hopes The Fish Bowl will be a household brand for poke within the next two years. 

But while it is a growing trend now, he insists that The Fish Bowl cannot remain as just a trend.

“The challenge for us is that people think this is just a trend. I hope there will be more poke restaurants that will come into the market to increase awareness on the poke dish. At the moment, there are about six to seven other players.

“There’s a lot of potential for poke because Malaysians like Japanese food and that helps a lot because the poke has similarity to Japanese food,” he says.

Last year, Fishbowl Ventures turned in revenue of about RM1mil. With his line-up of store openings, Lim is expecting revenue to double by the end of the year.

But he acknowledges that the F&B market is a competitive one. It is a lot easier to start a food business these days because of alternative models such as food trucks and pop-up stores. It is also a lot harder to sustain a food business today because there are more players in the market, which also puts a lot of pressure on margins.

While others focus on margins, Lim pays more attention to his volume. He thinks that by being genuine and generous about their portions, he’d have a better chance at sustaining his customer base, thereby growing his volume.

The Fish Bowl will also introduce more side dishes and mains in the coming months to sustain interest in poke.

As more players offering poke come into the market, The Fish Bowl is not about to sit back and be just one of the restaurants, says Lim. He wants to be a benchmark for the market, much like how Starbucks has become a recognisable brand in the coffee market.

He hopes this becomes a reality in a year’s time once more of its outlets come on stream.

He is also eyeing the market outside of Klang Valley, with plans to open outlets in other states like Penang and Johor by next year.

One of his other challenge in growing the business is the uncertainty in the ringgit as most of its materials are imported.

“You need to have a good connection with your suppliers. I work very closely with them to control the stock that we get because we can’t pass the cost on to our customers,” he says.

(The Star) Option is open for second interest rate hike this year

PETALING JAYA: Bank Negara is keeping its options open for a second interest rate hike this year, according to economists, which should hold the ringgit on a stronger footing.

The local currency had strengthened 3% so far this year at 3.89 against the weakening US dollar.

“We think Bank Negara has not closed the door on a second hike in the second half of 2018 if demand-driven price pressures surface,” CIMB Research said in a recent note.

Bank Negara, in its first monetary policy in January, raised the overnight policy rate by 25 basis points to 3.25%. The move helped propel the ringgit to its highest level against the US dollar since April 2016.

The European Union announcement last week that the region’s economy in 2017 grew at its fastest pace since the 2007 global financial crisis had reiterated the ever-increasing optimism over the global economy.

“It is only a matter of time before other major central banks prepare the financial markets for their own adjustments to increased interest rates,” FXTM global head of currency strategy and market research Jameel Ahmad said in a report.

This eventuality, he said, posed a significant risk of weakening investor attraction towards the US dollar.

Jameel expects the US dollar to weaken further.

“It might sound strange on headline, considering that expectations are high for the Federal Reserve to raise US interest rates multiple times this year, but US interest rate policy is no longer a ‘pull’ for investors to purchase the US dollar,” he said.

The US dollar had fallen by about 4% against major currencies so far this year.

“The other currencies that would likely benefit heavily from a further round of selling in the US dollar are those in the emerging markets,” Jameel said.

Higher-yielding currencies like the South African Rand has gone up 6.5% in 2018, while the Thai baht had gained 4% year-to-date.

The first interest rate hike in January had sparked a rush for the ringgit. Growing expectation of further increase could propel the currency even higher.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

(The Star) A more level playing field

It was almost midnight on a recent Sunday, and the ETS (Electric Train Service) heading north from KL Sentral was packed with youngsters.

Around two hours later, however, the train was almost empty.

Lai Jen Hong, 24, who was taking the train to Ipoh where he lives, says the group, mostly comprising students from Uni­versiti Tunku Abdul Rahman in Kampar, got down at the Kampar Station.

They had probably gone back to their hometown for the weekend and were returning to campus, he says.

Lai himself was returning from a day trip to Subang Jaya, where he had attended a sales training session from 8.30am to 6pm.

“I took the first train from the Ipoh train station at 5.05am to Kuala Lumpur and the last train from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh at 11.05pm on the same day.

Right on track: ‘We are seeing big developments in Malaysia’s transportation system: rail, sea and air,’ says Liow (second from left), seen here with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at the launch of the Kelana Jaya and Ampang LRT Line Extension project at the Putra Heights LRT station in June 2016.

“The travel time is around two hours and 20 minutes for a one-way trip,” he says, adding that the total ETS fare was RM60, which is economical.

“In Kuala Lumpur, I move around using the LRT and MRT,” adds Lai, a diploma graduate who now works as a salesman.

He also makes day trips using the ETS to Kuala Lumpur and surrounding areas to meet customers.

“We usually meet at KL Sentral or other LRT or MRT stations. It is very convenient for us,” he shares.

Yes, connectivity has changed the way people live, work and play – for the better – these days.

As Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai points out: “The development in our country is a shared vision between the people and the Government. We are on the right track to move towards better days.”

He notes that the next 10 years will be a golden period for the people – the momentum for development is picking up and translating into more and better work and business opportunities.

“We are seeing big developments in the country’s transportation system: rail, sea and air,” he says of the progress in his ministry over the last four years.

Good connectivity certainly makes a huge difference in doing business, as well as the general way of life.

In Tanjung Malim, its MP Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan pointed out recently that 120,000 people in his constituency commute by train to work in Kuala Lumpur, about 70km apart, daily.

Liow says the people can also look foward to seamless travel using different train services very soon.

He says the rail expansion will, among others, see the completion of LRT 3 in 2020, followed by MRT 3 in 2024.

KL Sentral, he adds, will eventually become a transportation hub for passengers only.

Seamless travel: These MRT passengers will get more connectivity with the expansion of different train services currently in the works.

Liow envisions how an integrated rail network will make Greater Kuala Lumpur or Metropolitan Kuala Lumpur – the nucleus for development – highly accessible to the people.

Another rail to watch is the RM55bil East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), which is due for completion in 2024.

The 688km track from Port Klang in Selangor to Tumpat in Kelantan is set to dramatically transform the areas covering parts of Pahang and Trengganu.

See Choong Wing, from Bentong, has already started making business plans to tap into the ECRL’s potential.

“We can expect many locals and tourists to use the ECRL and make a stop in Bentong,” said the 25-year-old marketing graduate from Utar, who presently works as a supervisor at a durian ice cream shop in Bentong town.

He is confident that Bentong, which is famous for ecotourism and agrotourism, as well as its cuisine and fruits, especially durians, will see business rise further with the ECRL.

Tourism, a billion ringgit business, is fast transforming rural areas and small towns, thanks to rising interest among locals and tourists to explore these areas.

See says that Uber, which has yet to catch on in Bentong, will see good business with the ECRL since the train passengers will need public transportation to move around.

The travel time between the two ECRL stations in Gombak in Kuala Lumpur and Bentong will only take 25 minutes.

Currently, tourists usually come by cars or tour buses to Bentong town, which is often packed during weekends and public holidays.

At the Bentong wet market, vendors also share See’s hope and confidence in the ECRL to spur the economy further.

A Malay lady selling petai says the town’s tourism development in recent years is obvious.

“Bagus la (good),” she says when asked about her business these days.

Several other vendors selling local produce such as Bentong ginger and processed ginger products like ginger powder and titbits, soy sauce and the Chinese snack sat kei mah are all smiles when asked about how the ECRL would impact their business.

“More people, more business. This is certain,” says an elderly Chinese woman selling Bentong ginger and ginger powder.

“Many outsiders like to buy ginger powder as a souvenir. It is a practical gift,” she shares.

Liow, who has been Bentong MP since 1999, says more young people in his constituency will find new business and job opportunites when the ECRL starts operating.

He adds that the new rail links in other states such as Johor, as well as links to Singapore, are also shaping up.

Liow singles out the Kuala Lumpur–Singapore High Speed Rail with eight stations – from Bandar Malaysia, Putrajaya, Seremban, Melaka, Muar, Batu Pahat and Iskandar Puteri to Jurong East in Singapore – as a major development.

Another upcoming line is the Rapid Transit System (RTS) rail track linking Johor Baru and Woodlands in Singapore in 2024, which will ease congestion, especially along the Causeway.

During the two-hour media interview in Putrajaya last Monday, Liow also spoke at length on the development of ports and air travel, the newly opened Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) in the country and the cooperation between Malaysia and China under the Belt and Road initiative.

KLIA and KLIA2, he says, are seeing a combined total of 50 milion passengers a year now, compared to 6.5 million passengers in KLIA 20 years ago.

“The passenger volume is set to increase further with many developments coming up.

“For instance, 108 planes can take off and land within an hour from 2019, compared to 78 at the moment,” he says.

On the DFTZ and the increasingly challenging e-commerce sector, Liow says DFTZ will give Malaysia a competitive edge and that the country is expected to see a huge surge in export volume.

On the Belt and Road Initiative, he says it is a shared economic development among the countries involved.

Liow, who is also MCA president, says MCA was the first political party abroad to respond to the initiative by the Chinese government.

Launched in 2013, the initiative covers 65 countries.

With the rapid developments within the country, Liow says Malaysia is on track for international success and has the competitive edge in the world arena.

“We are fast gaining momentum and we need the continuity to move foward,” he adds.

(The Star) Langkawi gets RM1.3bil boost

LANGKAWI: Five new government projects worth RM1.3bil will be implemented here under the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP), said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The projects are the construction of an additional building for Hospital Langkawi (RM500mil), quarters for health staff (RM135mil), a new fire and rescue station as well as quarters at Padang Matsirat (RM30mil), upgrading of Jalan Bulatan Lapangan Terbang-Pulapol Langkawi (RM50mil) and a project to address the water supply problem (RM600mil).

“At present, Hospital Langkawi can only accommodate 110 beds, while the occupancy rate is nearly 90%.

“Therefore, the additional building for Hospital Langkawi has been approved under the 11MP,” he said in his speech when opening I Am Usahawan GO 4.0, a programme organised by the Malay Chambers of Commerce to create awareness on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, here yesterday.

The project, which would involve off-river storage at Padang Matsirat, would ensure an additional supply of 124.48 million litres daily that would be sufficient to accommodate water supply needs until 2040.

“Implementation of the project started early this year and is expected to be ready in 2022,” he added.

He said the projects proved the continuous commitment of the Government at the federal and state levels to safeguard the welfare of the people in Langkawi.

The Prime Minister also approved a RM3.2mil allocation for the construction of a 100m wave breaker at the fishermen’s jetty at Chenang near here, Bernama reported.

“I was informed by Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek that sometimes the waves are too strong for the fishing boats here so there is a need to solve this problem,” he said.

(The Star) Big jump in China tourist arrivals expected

KUALA LUMPUR: More than 250,000 Chinese tourists are expected to visit Malaysia during the Chinese New Year period this year compared to almost 200,000 last year.

Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) president Uzaidi Udanis said the association was confident of the arrival of more tourists as the Malaysian Embassy in China had issued 327,000 visas for the commencement of trips from yesterday to Chap Goh Meh in early March.

“This is a very positive development, since only 193,000 visas were issued for the same period last year,” he told reporters after a Lion Dance Performance programme at Dataran Merdeka here on Friday.

He said, apart from the close ties between the Malaysian and Chinese governments, among the factors contributing to the increase in the number of tourists from China was the important role played by more than 4,000 Mandarin-speaking tourist guides in the country.

Towards this end, he said that this helped increase the number of temporary licences for tourist guides who were fluent in Mandarin.

In addition, Mita has also held numerous promotional activities in China every year, he said. —Bernama

Friday, 16 February 2018

(The Star) Developer to roll out condo project in Setapak

Platinum Victory Holdings Sdn Bhd is set to launch its first property project for the year – PV18 Residence in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur – next month.

The high-rise residential development on 2.25ha of leasehold land along Jalan Langkawi, next to Danau Kota Lake, has a gross development value (GDV) of RM600mil and consists of two 40-storey blocks.

Offering 852 units with built-ups of 1,021sq ft and 1,219sq ft, prices start from RM473,000.

“The younger generation can stay close to their parents while enjoying privacy, or vice versa,” Platinum Victory Holdings Sdn Bhd executive director Gan Yee Hin said on the dual-key concept for the bigger apartment.

Homeowners will get to enjoy facilities such as a swimming pool, barbecue area, gymnasium, wading pool and gazebo on the ninth-floor landscaped deck while a basketball court will be located on the ground floor.

The practical layouts promise a comfortable living space for residents of PV18 Residence.

The strategically located development will provide easy access to major highways such as Duke, MRR2 and the proposed Duke 3, and the retail districts of Suria KLCC and Bukit Bintang.

The development will be well connected to various modes of public transport, including the LRT and the Integrated Transport Terminal Gombak that is expected to be ready next year.

“Metropolitan living is really about convenience and PV18 Residence resonates with that.

“We hope to achieve 100% take-up rate within six months,” said Yee Hin, adding that the project was expected to be completed ahead of schedule by December 2020.

Platinum Victory aims to launch projects with a GDV of RM2bil this year.

Other projects in the pipeline are Platinum OUG at Bukit OUG, PV9 Melati at Setapak and Platinum Arena in Jalan Kelang Lama.

Platinum OUG features a 34-storey condominium block of 440 units with a built-up area of 1,250sq ft and dual key feature while PV9 Melati consists of 953 condominium units across two 34-storey blocks with built-ups ranging from 1,000sq ft to 1,300sq ft.

Platinum Arena, located next to the Datuk Lee Chong Wei Sports Arena, will introduce a new concept revolving around sports.

Platinum Victory has been active in the Setapak area for almost two decades and is recognised for its many high-rise developments.

Rolling out a new development every quarter, company director Gary Gan said it was confident about its projects.

“As a community developer, we focus on creating reasonably- priced products without compromising on quality, space and our promise on delivery. Despite the current market sentiment, we believe there is still demand,” said Gary.

(The Star) Malaysia capable of achieving GDP of RM2 trillion by 2022

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is capable of achieving a gross domestic product (GDP) of RM2 trillion by 2022 if the annual growth rate is maintained at between five and six per cent, said the Department of Statistics.

Chief Statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said the country was on the right track to achieving the target based on its strong economic position.

“With the ongoing efforts, we hope to achieve RM2 trillion GDP by 2022,” he told reporters after giving a briefing on the country's economic statistics for full year and fourth quarter of 2017, here yesterday.

He said factors which contributed to the nation's economic growth included the government's focus on the digital economy, innovation and creativity, as well as emphasis on getting a more substantial contribution from the small and medium enterprises business segment.

Mohd Uzir said Malaysia's GDP rose to RM1.35 trillion in 2017 from RM1.23 trillion in 2016, adding, it is expected to increase to almost RM1.5 trillion this year based on the current favourable environment, the continuous inflow of foreign investments and execution of major infrastructure projects.

“These infrastructure projects may have a spillover effect, generating activities such as services, delivery and communications,” he added.

Mohd Uzir said the nation's economy was projected to grow at a rate of between 5% and 5.5% this year, supported by growth in external trade and domestic usage.

Exports are also expected to grow to RM948.7bil from RM917.5bil in 2017, while imports was expected to improve to RM851.7bil from RM822.9bil.

He said inflation was also expected to contract to between 3% and 3.5% compared with 3.6% previously, with the unemployment rate to remain stable at around 3.4%.

Mohd Uzir said the increase in the overseas spending rate was proof of the rise in disposable income among the people.

“Last year, Malaysians had spent RM45bil for overseas trips, including pilgrimages, compared with RM39bil in the preceding year,” he added.

Mohd Uzir said the government's efforts at attracting quality and value-added investments would also help expand the job market for skilled workers and increased wages.

As of last year, Malaysia's workforce comprised skilled workers (27.2%), semi-skilled workers (59.2%) and low-skilled workers (13.6%). — Bernama