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Friday, 27 March 2015

(The Star) Homes with privacy in mind

KUCHING: Potential housebuyers can visit MJC City Development Sdn Bhd’s SkyVilla Residence show units this weekend.
Located in Batu Kawah New Township here, SkyVilla is only 7km away from the city centre and Kuching International Airport, with businesses along Jalan Batu Kawa offering convenience to residents.
Since its launch in 2008, MJC City has been promoting SkyVilla as a home for modern living with privacy and protection to set minds at peace.
The developer is currently selling the third block known as Bella, which consists of 16 floors with eight semi-detached units each.
With ceiling heights up to 3.7 metres, the units feature good ventilation and natural lighting. Facilities for residents include a six-point security system, clubhouse, mini theatre, rooftop garden, swimming pool, outdoor jacuzzi, children’s playground, gymnasium and barbeque pits.
Prices of Bella units start from RM385 per sq ft.
MJC City offers a “4U2OWN” scheme to help buyers purchase a unit with a lower start-up cost and a limited RM5,000 discount will be given to the first five early-bird buyers this weekend.
Buyers can also purchase a unit in Bella with downpayment as low as RM13,000.
The show units can be viewed from 9am to 6pm tomorrow and 10am to 5pm on Sunday.
For more information, call 019-828 1777, 012-885 6169, 016-891 0877, 016-887 5971 or 013-818 4335.

(The Star) Vehicle dealers and second-hand sellers adopt a wait-and-see position

Car dealers and consumers are unsure about what will happen once the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is implemented.
Everyone is confused as to whether cars would actually become cheaper or more expensive.
UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd branch manager Richard Tan Hang Kok said the current 10% sales and services tax would be replaced with the 6% GST but that does not necessarily mean prices of cars would come down.
“We need to bear in mind that vendors and suppliers are not subjected to taxes at the moment.
“When it comes to the GST system, the tax is applied to the entire production chain, which means that car assemblers are to be charged a 6% GST on the components they supply.
“Thus, there would be a price difference when it comes to the end product but even then, I foresee a very minimal difference in car prices of about 1% to 2% at the most,” he said.
Used car dealer Andrew Leong is of the opinion that cars would cost more.
“Regardless of whether one is buying a new or used car, it is the consumer who is going to suffer because they are the ones who will bear the extra costs in the end.
“It is only logical for manufacturers and sellers to pass on any extra costs to buyers,” he said.
Leong added it would be difficult for used car dealers to factor in another 6% into their selling price.
“It is much simpler to round up the figure, which will inevitably be more than 6% and I’m sure that is what everyone is going to do,” he said.
Leong’s partner at Anleo Enterprise, Foo See Tong, said despite GST fears, consumers were not rushing to buy cars.
“Most of them are waiting to see what happens after this.
“Everything seems so chaotic at present. Even the Customs Department is unable to answer the questions posed to them,” he said.
SG Automotive owner Ong Chee Seng also lamented that sales have been slow since the last quarter of 2014.
“I think a more plausible reason is that the economy has grown slowly and there is cautious consumer spending.
“If you have money, what is 6%? But if you have no money, even 1% is taxing,” he said.
A sales manager of a local car dealership who wished to remain anonymous said buyers were in a quandary.
“While some have made their purchase in a bid to escape the GST, there are also some who are leaving it to fate.
“They want to wait and see what happens when the GST is implemented,” he said.
One such person is administrator S. L. Tham, who intends on getting a new car but has decided not to rush into things.
“Rather than make a hasty decision, I’m going to take a gamble.
“I will wait until the GST is implemented,” she said.
Senior citizen Kok Yoon Ping is among those who wasted no time to buy a new car, knowing for sure that the implementation of the GST would result in more expensive cars.
“I was advised by the car salesman to make my purchase before April 1. His reasoning was that there is no way cars would be cheaper when car parts are subjected to 6% tax, which I totally agree,” she said.

(The Star) Second dam needed for Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The water supply situation along Sabah’s west coast is at a precarious stage with the existing Babagon dam being barely able to meet existing demand, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said.
He said there was no other choice but for the state to build a second water supply dam at the Crocker Range near Kampung Kaiduan in Papar district near here.
Pairin, the state Infrastructure Development Minister, said 21,000 million litres of water held at the Babagon dam in Penampang was just enough to supply the three million consumers in the current prolonged dry spell in Sabah.
“In a few years this amount of water will no longer be sufficient. That is why building the dam at Kaiduan is a matter of urgency,” he said in launching the state level Water Day conference here on Monday.
He said the government wanted construction of the Kaiduan dam to begin as soon as possible as the project costing an estimated RM2.8bil would take at least three years to complete.
Construction of the dam had been opposed by local villagers in the area and a number of environmental and concerned groups as the structure would result in the flooding of 12sq km including schools, churches, graves apart from farmland.
Noting that there were similar vociferous objections when the state wanted to build the Babagon dam in the 1990’s, Pairin who was chief minister between 1985 and 1994, said that he was thankful the Sabah government proceeded with the project.
“If there was no Babagon dam the whole west coast of Sabah would now be a in dire situation. The taps would be running dry,” he said, adding that the construction of the dam would affect 110 families.
He said the situation would have been worse during the El-Nino induced drought in 1998 in adding that “without the Babagon dam, it would been catastrophe for Sabah.”
Noting the current climate of extreme weather patterns in Sabah with the state experiencing severe floods in late 2014 and early this year followed by prolonged drought, he said the dams would provide the capacity to store up water.
On the fate of the Kaiduan villagers, he said the government wanted to ensure better livelihood for them in the area where they would be resettled.
“We are organising a dialogue soon to explain to them and the various concerned groups about our plans to help these affected by the dam,” said Pairin.
Earlier, Pairin read out the speech of Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman who said that water supply demand had increased from 863 million litres per day in 2005 to 994 million litres per day in 2010 for the state’s 3.12mil population.
In tandem with this, there has been an increase in demand for electricity supply, Musa said.
“With an upward trend in the demand for water, it is becoming increasingly challenging to source and manage water resources, more so against the backdrop of climate change and uncertainty in weather patterns,” he added.
“Due to these variables, all stakeholders need to come together and devise plans and approaches to face how we will manage and use water as we move ahead,” he said.

(The Star) Showcase of green properties

People looking for green properties will be able to cherry-pick what best appeals to their conscience and aesthetics at an eco-themed property fair this weekend at Tropicana City Mall.
The fair, organised by Aha Marketing Sdn Bhd, will feature green properties from Mah Sing Group, SP Setia Bhd Group, DK Group, MK Land Holdings Bhd, Meridin Properties, Hua Yang Bhd, MKH Bhd and Splash Park.
“As consumers become more affluent, they make smarter choices in selecting properties that are eco-friendly. We received lots of feedback from property developers participating in our show that consumers today make eco choices because they want to save money on their utility bills and, at the same time, save the environment and strive for better living.
“This is the very reason why we are putting together an expo of this nature to bring together all the eco property products offered by the different developers under one roof,” said Aha’s Liew Jin Hui.
Aha Marketing is expecting some 5,000 visitors to its fair every day.
Apart form the property display, there will also be other programmes to educate consumers on the need to go green.
Tropicana City Mall will be collaborating with Aha Marketing to make the event more exciting and memorable.
Visitors to the fair are encouraged to bring their old light bulbs and old paint containers for disposal and, in return, will receive a gift of biodegradable cup and bowl.
As part of its commitment to educate consumers on making better choices when selecting property products, Aha Marketing is also partnering Saito Academy to organise children’s workshop sessions to teach consumers simple household tasks that can help save the environment.
Not least, in conjunction with Earth Hour 2015, which falls on Saturday, between 8.30pm and 9.30pm, Aha is encouraging individuals and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour as a symbol of their commitment to a more sustainable planet.
Over 13 booths and various eco properties and programmes await visitors at the weekend property fair, which runs from today to Sunday.

(The Star) Enjoy New York-style hot dogs

Nathan's Famous, a New York brand known for its frankfurters has made its South-East Asian debut with the opening of its first restaurant in the region at IOI City Mall, Putrajaya.
“Nathan’s Famous is well-known for serving great quality food that puts the real taste of New York within affordable, convenient reach of customers,” said Urban Fun Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Tunku Karldej Bahrin, whose company is the master franchisee of Nathan’s Famous in Malaysia and Singapore.
“Nathan’s signature menu items, high quality ingredients, restaurant ambience and higher service level puts us in a very unique niche,” said Tunku Karldej.
Nathan’s Famous started in 1916 in Coney Island by Nathan Handwerker, a Polish immigrant to the United States, using a secret recipe from the grandmother of his wife Ida.
The recipe is still used today for making its famous frankfurters, also known as hot dogs which can count Al Capone, Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra among its fans.
Regional debut: Tunku Karldej (second from right) with Nathan’s Famous mascot and staff members at the brand’s restaurant at IOI City Mall, Putrajaya.
Regional debut: Tunku Karldej (second from right) with Nathan’s Famous mascot and staff members at the brand’s restaurant at IOI City Mall, Putrajaya.

Nathan’s Famous is also renowned for its annual hot dog-eating contest which takes place every fourth of July at the original Nathan’s Famous outlet in Coney Island.
Over 500 million Nathan’s Famous hot dogs were sold last year.
The brand presently has 241 restaurants within the United States and 60 outlets in 11 other countries. It is located at over 50,000 points of distribution.
Nathan’s Famous signature dish is the frankfurter, which is served in the original form or with toppings like chilli, chilli cheese, cheese mushroom or sauteed onion.
It also serves cheeseburgers and cheesesteaks.
For non-beef eaters, there are options like grilled chicken sandwich, spicy krispy chicken sandwich and krispy chicken tenders.
The items are available a la carte or as combo meals with a drink and jumbo crinkle cut French fries.
Tunku Karldej said the Malaysian restaurant gets its stock from halal-certified suppliers, including halal beef from Australia, and is in the process of getting halal certification.
“We’ve been getting enquiries from shopping mall operators and leasing agents since the restaurant’s soft opening three months ago,” said Tunku Karldej, adding that the company hopes to expand at a rate of two to five new outlets per year over the next five years using the franchise model.
He expressed hope of sending a Malaysian representative to the hot dog-eating contest next year, in conjunction with Nathan’s Famous 100th anniversary celebrations.
Nathan’s Famous is located at L1 - 13B, First Floor, IOI City Mall.

(The Star) Pharmacy megastore opens in PJ

Malaysia's first megastore pharmacy has opened a store in Section 19, Petaling Jaya.
With 18,000sq ft of retail space, Super Pharmacy is officially listed as “The Biggest Pharmacy Outlet in Malaysia” in the Malaysia Book of Records.
Super Pharmacy aims to meet consumers’ demands for quality and cost-savvy options by housing a large stock of products.
Super Pharmacy chief executive officer David Mah Chez Yong said the company wanted to serve the growing demand of smart consumers.
“We drew inspiration from warehouse pharmacies overseas and realised that it was time Malaysia had a pharmacy of similar magnitude to call its own.
“After years of planning, I’m proud to announce that Malaysia’s first-ever pharmacy megastore is officially open,” said Mah.
Consumers have the option to purchase in bulk, something not available in the average pharmacy.
Much like its retail section, Super Pharmacy’s pharmacy counter is also stocked with the latest over-the-counter medication and drugs to meet almost every need.
Starting with a bang: Mah holding up the Malaysia Book of Records certificate for ‘The Biggest Pharmacy Outlet in Malaysia’ certificate at the store’s opening ceremony.
Starting with a bang: Mah holding up the Malaysia Book of Records certificate for ‘The Biggest Pharmacy Outlet in Malaysia’ certificate at the store’s opening ceremony.

This allows Super Pharmacy to provide customised formulations for those with special healthcare needs.
Super Pharmacy also aims to provide a holistic approach to personal healthcare by actively engaging its community with in-store activities such as health and nutrition talks.
These talks will be conducted by its in-house naturopaths and specialist partners.
“We want Super Pharmacy to be more than a pharmacy with fun and value-added activities,” added Mah.
For customers’ convenience, the warehouse is open daily from 8am to 11pm with services such as online shopping, phone orders and home delivery.
Super Pharmacy plans to expand the existing megastore to over 30,000 sq ft to ensure their customers will continue to enjoy a wider range of products.

(The Star) Workshop in a mall

One of the hassles of car ownership is having to service it every 5,000km. Auto service centres — more commonly known as workshops among Malaysians — are a common sight in the country.
Almost every neighbourhood has a traditional auto service centre, and bigger towns usually boasts specialist workshops catering to specific car brands.
However, despite the growth in numbers, auto service centres seem to be frozen in time. Most are dusty, greasy and badly lit, without so much as proper waiting area.
Some invest a small fortune to ensure customers are comfortable while waiting. Air-conditioned rooms equipped with flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi are not a rarity in such places, but the overall experience still not fantastic.
Things may be about to change. One company, Citicars PLT, has taken the bold step of opening up auto service centres in malls across the Klang Valley with the aim of changing the overall customer experience for people getting their cars serviced.
New approach
Conceptualised by Michael Liu, Citicars Auto Servicing wants to be a one-stop “lifestyle vehicle servicing and repair outlet”. It intends to provide customers with convenient and affordable vehicle service.
“Regular car servicing and maintenance is a necessity but most people dread the experience. People don’t want to wait around and do nothing. We want to change that,” says Liu.
Citicars’s first outlet, located in Sunway Pyramid opened its doors in May last year. The company quickly expanded by opening a second outlet in Gardens Mall, Mid Valley City just two months later.
The rapid expansion plan did not just stop there. They added two more outlets in Empire Subang and City Square Johor Baru, showing that Citicars means business. Another outlet has also been added in Paradigm Mall, Petaling Jaya.
“We want to be a market leader in the lifestyle servicing and repair industry in terms of outlet distribution in convenient locations,” says Liu.
“Who does not like malls? Why don’t you spend your time at the malls while getting your car serviced? Go shopping, dine, go for a movie, buy your groceries or simply enjoy quality time with loved ones in the shopping mall and, after that, you can conveniently drive home safely in your fully serviced and reliable vehicle,” adds Liu.
Starbucks of auto-servicing
Most auto service centres are still operated by sole proprietors or car companies. Citing the example of coffee shops, Liu says Citicars cater to a very specific market segment.
“If you look at Starbucks, they cater to a very niche market and coffeeshops have regulars as well. Customers have their preferences, and they go where they like.
“We operate under the same principle. We may not attract the customers who are comfortable going to their regular mechanic whom they have known for the past 10 or 15 years, but there are those who will choose our service,” says Liu.
Looking at the younger demographic that frequents malls, one would say that Liu has a very strong business model as the numbers seem to be in his favour.
According to the Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA), last year’s total industry volume reached 666,465 units, a slight increase from 2013’s 655,793 units. With the number of new drivers continuously rising, Citicars is banking on the right segment.
Pricing is a key issue as real estate within malls can be costly. Liu assures customers that all servicing is conducted in an open and area.
“Our customers can be assured of fair pricing, work quality, top-quality lubricants and genuine original parts,” says Liu.
Hoping to open 30 more locations by June next year, Liu sees opportunity across Malaysia and will be working with partners to achieve his target.
“We are looking for partners to help us expand. With an investment of between RM200,000 and RM400,000, one can open up a Citicars service centre in a mall in their town,” says Liu.
Overcoming challenges
Liu says Citicars, which services about eight cars a day in the Klang Valley, still faces some teething issues in its effort to grow the business.
“Staffing is a key issue, but we are working with automotive colleges to get the right people on board. Citicars is the perfect platform for graduates in the field of automotive engineering. Our concept allows our employees to grow,” says Liu.
Customer concerns about pricing are another issue. According to Liu, many potential customers think that because Citicar auto service centres are located in malls, they are probably more expensive than your average workshop.
“To be honest, we have to price ourselves competitively if we want to grow. Therefore, our pricing has to be on par with our competitors in normal locations,” says Liu.
If Citicars can replicate the success of car washing services that moved into malls several years ago, they may just strike gold with their business model.

(The Star) All systems go for GST, says Shah Alam mayor

Shah Alam mayor Datuk Ahmad Zaharin Mohd Saad said the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) was all set for the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The areas where GST will be imposed include hall rental, payment of building and road works plans, and sales of road maps.
Areas that are not subjected to GST are assessment taxes, permits, licences, fines and compounds, he said during the fullboard meeting.
“We have upgraded our systems for the GST after consulting the Customs Department.
“Once it is implemented, we will look out for loopholes in the new system and correct it.
“I don’t see a great effect on us or the community but what I fear is the public receiving wrong information.
“So from time to time, we will informally notify and clarify topics related to GST with the public,” he said, adding that MBSA staff had already been sent for courses acquainting them with GST.
MBSA acting deputy mayor Roslan Darus said after paying for the goods and tax, the council would be able to claim the amount from the Customs Department.
“In terms of provision to pay for the tax, we will prepare an allocation in advance for GST payment, which we can then claim from the department.
“We have registered with the Customs Department and we have also identified suppliers who have registered with the department as we can only claim for purchases from these suppliers,” he said.
The council also discussed on-going community gardening efforts in Section 8 since last year and decided that it would be officially launched in May.
Roslan said works for community gardening efforts in Sections 31, U5, U8, and U13 totalling 17,8062 sq m would also begin this year, with another 10 still under consideration.
The council would look into the restoration and enhancement of the quality of water in lakes using biological and environmentally friendly methods, he added.
Trial sites included Tasik Shah Alam, Tasik Barat, Tasik Tengah and Tasik Timur.
MBSA also launched its ‘Shah Alam Enduride 2015’ programme co-organised by Pedal Explore.
The endurance cycling event aims to test the physical and mental dexterity of participants.
The 130km-ride, which will cover MBSA and Sepang Municipal Council areas, will be held on April 5, with an estimated 1,500 participants.

(The Star) Ruling on boom gates expected to encourage better regulation

Not many houseowners who disagree with the gated -and-guarded scheme in their neighbourhood would have the determination to sue their residents association and see it through right up to Federal Court level.
While Au Kean Hoe’s suit against D’Villa Equestrian Residents Association in Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya, was ultimately dismissed by the Federal Court,the case is expected to result in clearer guidelines and greater regulation of gated-and-guarded communities. The ruling allows boom gates across public roads and guardhouses.
Section 5 Residents Association president Mohd Rafiq Fazaldin said the ruling was a relief for those worried about rising crime rates in their area.
Damansara Jaya RA president Datuk Yew Cheng Hoe also lauded the ruling.
“We have been using boom gates in our area for about five years,” he said, adding that they did not bar access to people but the vigilant security helped discourage would-be criminals.
Yew said crime had reduced significantly since its implementation.
“We used to have about 35 to 40 crimes reported per month but that has now dropped to about one to two cases now,” he said.
The five-member panel chaired by Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin in their judgment on March 19 said regulated access to a defined area was not an obstruction in law, particularly if it was for security purposes.
Justice Zulkefli said guardhouses and boom gates were authorised structures under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976; the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 and the Local Government Act 1976.
He noted in his judgment that the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ), as the relevant local authority in the present case, was fully empowered to approve the guardhouse with the boom gates in accordance with MBPJ guidelines for guarded communities issued by the Urban Planning Department in May 2011.
Lawyer and former Petaling Jaya councillor Derek Fernandez said the decision by the Federal Court affirmed the authority of MBPJ to regulate gated-and-guarded schemes.
“The decision upholds the validity of state government guidelines over current practices, in particular its approval of manned boom gates to regulate access.
“It underlines the council’s power under the Local Government Act to regulate public safety.
“Schemes that are not approved by the council and do not comply with the guidelines are considered illegal,” he pointed out.
MCA veteran Datuk Dr Wong Sai Hou said public roads should remain accessible during the day.
He said limiting access to neighbourhood roads was not a problem for cul-de-sac.
“However, public roads which lead to other areas in the neighbourhood should be accessible during the day.
“Service providers engaged by local councils such as garbage collectors and street cleaners should have access to gated neighbourhoods,” he said.
He added that the state government should have clear rules to ensure the gated-and-guarded scheme is well regulated.
Friends of Kota Damansara member Jeffrey Phang said the Federal Court’s ruling took into account public safety.
“Sometimes, the council will tear down the boom gate when just one or two residents complain,” he said.
Yew, too, wants better guidelines from Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) to ensure smoother implementation of the gated-and-guarded scheme.
He noted that some areas might not be adhering to the ruling that boom gates are not supposed to be down during the day but only between midnight to 6am.
“About 80% of our residents supported erecting boom gates,” he said, adding that the remaining 20% comprised tenants and students renting rooms.
Fernandez said the guidelines might need to be amended to ensure that residents who were not part of the scheme were not forced to lift the boom gates themselves to gain access to their homes.
“I hope MBPJ and the state government will make amendments to be fair to those who do not want to join the scheme for various reasons,” he added.
In its statement to StarMetro, MBPJ said that it would review and modify the basic basic guidelines in view of the court ruling.
“The guidelines include getting agreement from 75% or three-quarter of the residents. obtaining a temporary occupation licence from the Petaling Land and District Office as well as a temporary building permit from MBPJ for constructing a guard house, and installation of swing gates only allowed at lanes with security guards on duty round the clock,” the council stated.
It added that up till March 26, MBPJ had approved 32 residents association to set up a “guarded community.”

(The Star) Plans for more free bus service

Expanding the free community bus service to three or four more local councils would cost between RM12mil and RM15mil per year.
Running one bus service, even on a limited scale in Subang Jaya, would take about RM3mil, said Selangor executive councillor for transportation Datuk Teng Chang Khim.
“For 2015, the state government allocated RM3.5mil for the transport portfolio and there are plans to implement the free community bus service in a few cities in Selangor,” said Teng.
The free bus service is currently implemented in Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam.
The state government has received proposals from the Shah Alam, Subang Jaya and Klang local authorities, with Ampang Jaya expected to submit their proposal this week.
Teng said this during a press conference at the “Urban Transportation Towards Sustainable City” workshop and seminar, organised by the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ).
Teng added that the state government was also looking at using electric buses, although they were more expensive.
Negotiations are ongoing with RapidBus and another company to provide the electric vehicles which are more environmentally friendly.
The state wants 60% of Selangor residents to use public transport.
At the same press conference, Petaling Jaya councillor Lee Suet Sen clarified that the next three months’ trial period for the expanded PJ City Bus route which would include SS2 would also gather data on waiting times.
“The 20 to 25 minutes interval for the expanded route is still reasonable, but if needed, we will look into getting more buses in next year’s budget,” said Lee.
Teng added that while short frequency times were important, so were ridership numbers.
The two-day seminar and workshop is part of the PJ Master Transportation Plan study.
“This event will update residents on the progress of the study, and get further feedback on what they want,
“Petaling Jaya is one of the highest-density cities in Malaysia, with 7,000 residents per square kilometre,” said Lee.