Monday, 21 August 2017

(The Star) More affordable housing promised

KUANTAN: The Government will look into providing more affordable homes once the targeted 200,000 units under the civil servants housing project (PPA1M) are completed by 2020.

Chief Secretary to the Govern-ment Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa said the demand from civil servants for affordable housing had already passed the 300,000 mark.

“Hopefully, once the batch of 200,000 is completed, we can further increase the number of affordable homes,” said Dr Ali.

He said there were currently 126,105 units from 333 approved projects around the nation, of which 3% of the units had been completed and 19% were under construction.

He was present at the key handover ceremony to 197 house owners of the PPA1M Aspen project at Taman Kuantan Jaya here.

Also present was state secretary Datuk Seri Muhammad Safian Ismail.

Dr Ali added that the PPA1M Aspen project was completed six months ahead of schedule.

“Other projects in Kuantan and Putrajaya were also completed earlier than planned, and this is an indication that other projects can also be finished in a shorter period,” said Dr Ali.

The house prices ranging between RM188,000 and RM376,000 are about 30% below market rate.

The PPA1M Aspen project has a central park consisting of a children’s playground, a futsal court and an outdoor gym.

He assured civil servants in the state that the project at Taman Kuantan Jaya would expand to two more phases of another 558 units and was expected to complete in two years.

Developed by Adenland (Kuantan), the next phase will have a house club, two swimming pools, two futsal courts and four badminton courts, said its chief executive officer Nicholas Cheng.

PPA1M was started in 2013 with only a target of 100,000 units.

In June, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that an additional 100,000 units would be built under the scheme.

(The Star) One is not enough

MELAKA: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) has been urged to organise its MATTA Fair in the state more than once annually.

In making the suggestion, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron expressed his confidence that MATTA would attract a large crowd should it decide to host its popular fair more frequently here.

He believed that the association, under the leadership of its new president Datuk Tan Kok Liang, would be able to make the proposal a reality in the future.

“It does not matter in terms of its capacity but for every MATTA Fair held here, I believe the result will not disappoint the organiser,” he told reporters after opening the Melaka MATTA Fair 2017 at Melaka International Trade Centre (MITC) in Ayer Keroh here.

Also present were Idris’s wife Datin Seri Fadilah Abdullah, deputy Tourism, River, Beach and Island Development committee chairman Datuk Ghazale Muhamad and state financial officer Datuk Roslan Ibrahim.

Idris said tourism sector in the state continued to experience rapid growth as well as obtaining various international recognitions.

He said popular website Lonely Planet, for example, named Melaka among Asia’s top 10 travel destinations in a list that included places in Japan, Kazakhstan, China, Singapore, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka.

“Other successes this year include the recognition by The British Post which listed Melaka on the fifth spot in ‘The World’s Trendiest Holiday Destinations’ after Reykjavik in Iceland, Varadero (Cuba), Fethiye (Turkey) and Alicante (Spain),” he said.

In responding to Idris’s proposal, Tan said MATTA would review the result of its expo this year before deciding on whether to organise more fairs in the state.

“If the response is good, perhaps we can hold the travel fair twice a year here in the future,” he said.

Earlier in his welcoming speech, Tan called on the Government to look into the needs of the tourism industry when drawing up Budget 2018.

He said funding and incentives for investments in technology as well as allowing double deduction for e-Commerce websites for inbound sector would be needed to facilitate technology implementation.

“Incentives should also be given for online marketing and promotions.

“Otherwise, Malaysia will continue to lose billions of ringgit in foreign exchange to online travel agents that pay little or no tax to our Government,” he said.

(The Star) Ambitious venture taking shape

Aspen Vision City in Batu Kawan, Penang, is getting closer to fruition with the positive progress of multiple key developments.

Aspen Group chief executive officer Datuk M. Murly said the Vervea commercial precinct, which achieved 95% sales and bookings, was 45% completed.

“Vervea is also slated to obtain the Certificate of Completion and Compliance by the last quarter of 2018, which is also its completion date.”

At the same time, he said the earthworks for Columbia Asia Hospital and the IKEA store were already completed and both were scheduled to be ready by the last quarter of 2018.

The progress of the 10ha Central Park, he added, was right on track and the main access roads and landscaping of the entire development were being worked on.

The Vervea commercial precinct, IKEA store, Columbia Asia Hospital as well as a green lung are among the highlights of Aspen Vision City.

It is Aspen Group’s flagship joint venture development with IKEA Southeast Asia.

Aspen Vision City will house the northern region’s first IKEA store scheduled to be opened in Penang by Jan 1, 2019, along with other components including aninternational school and business hotel.

“Aspen Vision City has made a lot of progress since we started working with our joint venture partner IKEA Southeast Asia to develop this 99ha mixed scheme together in the last quarter of 2014.

“The partnership has proven to be very successful for us.

“It had spearheaded the growth of Batu Kawan during a period when not many wanted to be here.

“Now, everybody wants to be here and the partnership with IKEA has played a major role to bring about transformation,” he said after a signing ceremony at the Aspen Vision City sales gallery in Batu Kawan recently.

At the ceremony, Aspen Vision City Sdn Bhd awarded a contract amounting to RM442mil to Kerjaya Prospek (M) Sdn Bhd, which is a subsidiary company of construction outfit Kerjaya Prospek Group Berhad.

The contract entrusted Kerjaya Prospek with the role as contractor for the main building works of Vertu Resort in Batu Kawan.

This includes all civil and structural, electrical and external infrastructure works.

Vertu Resort is a high-rise urban resort-inspired residential development comprising 1,246 units set for completion in the fourth quarter of 2020.

It is located 350m away from the planned IKEA store.

Murly added that Aspen had always worked with good partners.

This is shown through the appointment of Kerjaya Prospek which was named as one of five Malaysian companies in the top 200 publicly traded companies in the Asia-Pacific region on the Forbes 2017 ‘Best Under a Billion’ list.

He added that the company was constantly on the lookout for more opportunities in the Southeast Asian region including in Thailand and the Philippines.

(The Star) Masjid India set to undergo major facelift

The popular Jalan Melayu Bazaar in Masjid India, Kuala Lumpur will soon be demolished to make way for a modern bazaar with an open concept.

The entire area will undergo a major overhaul to transform it into a shopping destination similar to London’s Oxford Street.

Mayor Datuk Seri Amin Nordin Abd Aziz said at first he wanted to retain the bazaar but after a site visit to the area, he felt that the place was ageing and looked shabby.

“I decided that the bazaar must go and be replaced with a modern concept that is open and bright, something akin to the push cart kiosk that can be moved around,’’ he said.

He also said the whole area would be fully pedestrianised with new tiles.

Jalan Melayu Bazaar was built at a cost of RM10.2mil in 2004.

Although the project was mooted six years ago, it was placed on the back burner due to disagreements between the bazaar traders and owners of shops located around it.

The project is behind schedule as traders refused to move out to allow upgrading works to take place while owners were not willing to let them trade in front of their shops.

The proposed modern bazaar to replace the one in Jalan Melayu is part of Precinct 7 of the River of Live (RoL) project that also involved the Dataran Merdeka stretch and Lorong Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

Amin Nordin said the Masjid India area had great potential to become a vibrant hub for visitors from all over the world.

The busy Masjid India area will soon go through a makeover.

In fact, traders in the 1900s arrived in small boats from Indonesia and docked at the confluence of Sungai Klang and Sungai Gombak to sell their wares.

Ever since the Jalan Melayu Bazaar was launched in 2004, the blue-and-green structure had been a subject of controversy.

It was built at a cost of RM10.2mil by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) as part of the upgrading and beautification of the commercial hub.

Back then, the Masjid India Action Committee, comprising business proprietors, shopkeepers and traders complained that entrances to their shops were blocked by the bazaar, affecting their business.

The Masjid India mosque committee also said that the structure blocked the entrance to the mosque, inconveniencing worshippers.

A tailor working in one of the retail outlets inside the relatively quiet Wisma Yakin.

Following the complaints, DBKL had dismantled three of the pillars and parts of the poly-carbonated roof fronting the mosque.

Now, DBKL will demolish the structure for good.

Bazaar traders not budging

Amin Nordin said a compromise was needed between traders and shopowners so that the project would not be delayed further.

“The major issue we are facing is the refusal of traders to relocate to allow contractors to start work,” Mohd Amin said.

The project that began on Dec 9 last year, he said, was scheduled for completion on Dec 6 next year but if a solution is not reached by the parties concerned there could be a delay.

“Bazaar traders don’t want to budge, shoplot owners on the other hand don’t want them to block their entrances.

“We have been engaging with them via focus group meetings but no one wants to compromise,” said Amin Nordin.

DBKL Project Management executive director Datuk Mahadi Che Ngah has been tasked to manage the situation.

The iconic Masjid India, the city's earliest mosque.

The mayor added that existing plans required the closing of several inner roads from 10am to 10pm.

He pointed out that carrying out construction work in a congested city was challenging.

“We have to look at traffic flow and provide an alternative route for pedestrians.

“Contractors need to plan ahead when transporting materials to the site and when doing work to minimise any inconvenience to the public,” he said.

Another major challenge are the underground utility cables belonging to Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd, Tenaga Nasional Bhd and Indah Water Konsortium Sdn Bhd.

This had caused delays in other RoL project sites too.

“The problem with Kuala Lumpur is that the city does not have a proper underground mapping archive. So when we don’t know where the utility lines are going to be, we have to take a guess and usually, we get it wrong,” he said.

The good news is that once the project is fully completed, DBKL will have a complete underground mapping system for the area which will be shared with other agencies.

(The Star) Johor eyes Xinjiang halal food firms

URUMUQI (Xinjiang): Johor wants to attract China’s Xinjiang-based halal food manufacturers to choose the state as their platform to enter the Asean market.

State Tourism, Trade and Consumerism Committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong said that from Johor, they could also export their products to the South-East Asian region.

“Johor’s strategic location along the world’s busiest shipping route is an advantage to reach out to not only South-East Asian countries but also markets beyond the region,” he said.

Tee, who led the Johor tourism and trade delegation team to Urumuqi in the Xinjiang autonomous region, said this at a dialogue with the businessmen here.

He said Johor’s close proximity with Singapore, an international trade and financial centre, also offered another advantage for Xinjiang exporters.

Tee said halal food manufacturers from the autonomous region could tap South-East Asian countries with over 620 million population.

He said Iskandar Malaysia in Johor offered good growth prospects for investors from Xinjiang.

“We have a dedicated halal park in Pasir Gudang and the project has attract strong interest from food manufacturers from several countries,” added Tee.

He said the federal and state level authorities would offer their assistance to Xinjiang investors planning to set up operations at the halal park.

Tee said this include getting the Malaysian halal certification, which is recognised worldwide.

Xinjiang Halal Traders and Manufacturers Association chairman Radib Abla hoped that Johor halal food manufacturers would consider using Xinjiang to venture into its neigbouring countries.

“There are over 500 million Muslims in these countries and demand for halal food is growing from Muslim consumers there,” he said.

The countries are Afghanistan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia and Tajikistan.

Radal said the autonomous region with a population of some 25 million, of which 60% are Muslims, offered good opportunities for halal food manufacturers in Johor.

Xinjiang region, located on the northwest of China, is the biggest region in the republic and has a long history as one of the important routes in the ancient Silk Road.

“China’s ambitious One Belt One Road project will revive the importance of the Silk Road and Urumuqi is one of the main points along the route,” he said.

(The Star) Malaysia ready to embrace digital economy

KUALA LUMPUR: The digital economy is an emerging trend in the global business landscape, with an increasing number of organisations, companies and investors adopting it.

In its journey to become a developed nation, Malaysia has embraced many strategies, including the shift towards the digital economy, to remain competitive and relevant to the modern business environment.

BNY Mellon’s head of global client management for Asia-Pacific, Gregory T. Roath, said Malaysia is on the right track in terms of awareness and interest in the digital economy, also known as the Internet economy.

“Talking to the clients we have (in Malaysia), such as pension funds, they are ready (to embark on the digital economy) and are talking to us (about it) to gain an understanding to what BNY Mellon is doing (regarding the development of digital economy) and how it would benefit them,” he told Bernama.

In fact, some of BNY Mellon’s clients in the region have visited its innovation centres, including the one in the Silicon Valley.

“The level of awareness among Malaysian businessmen regarding the digital economy is very high at present, comparable with other top organisations across the region,” he said.

Founded in 1784, BNY Mellon is the oldest bank in the United States. It has became a global investment company, which largely serves two areas – investment services and investment management.

Roath said BNY Mellon has the means to drive the innovations changing the way people work and think. “Globally, we have established nine innovation centres. Each centre focuses on different aspects of modern technology trends,” he said. — Bernama

Sunday, 20 August 2017

(NST) New blueprint for northern states

THE ancient Sungai Batu civilisation in Kedah was declared the oldest in Southeast Asia by archaeologists last year but it is a long way from making its mark on the tourist map.

The Belum Rainforest in Perak, which is far older than the Amazon and Congo rainforests, is a better bet as it has already gained a lot of international interest.

Both these places, which are categorised as heritage or historical tourism sites, are being marketed by their respective state tourism boards with limited funds.

But, Northern Corridor Implementation Authority (NCIA) chief executive Datuk Redza Rafiq has plans to promote these tourism sites, which contribute to the nation’s rich historical tapestry.

“They should not be overlooked as communities were living there a long time ago, as evidenced by the discovery of roof tiles and bricks dating back to 535 BC, and the remains of an ancient jetty.”

Redza said the best approach was to promote these sites jointly.

Agriculture and bio-industries, services (which includes tourism) and manufacturing are three key sectors which the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER) is focused on in the four northern Peninsular Malaysia states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang and Perak.

Redza, who has helmed the NCIA for eight of the 10 years of its existence, said the region was in its third wave of growth, after having laid out infrastructure as an initial catalyst and getting the involvement of the private sector.

The results of the RM17.25 billion investment by the Federal Government are now being enjoyed by the investing, trading and local communities.

The private sector invested RM79.9 billion and created 103,597 jobs between 2009 and last year.

“Blueprint 2.0, the third wave, follows the 11th Malaysia Plan, Economic Transformation Programme, Government Transformation Programme and New Economic Model.

“It covers more than 80 strategic projects that will spearhead economic development across Kedah, Perlis, Perak and Penang by 2030,” he said.

The blueprint outlines future directions and strategies to expand growth and reduce regional imbalances. It introduces bold measures for the long-term benefit of all by sustaining growth momentum and ensuring that the rakyat continue to prosper.

There are seven Growth Node projects and two, the Greater Kamunting Conurbation (GKC) and Manjung-Aman Jaya Maritime City, are located in Perak.

There are also 28 transcending borders projects and 45 localised high impact projects under Blueprint 2.0.

The transcending borders projects will also see the development of the NCER Tourism Hub or NORTH to promote tourist attractions, such as Belum and Sungai Batu.

Farmers in Perlis and Kedah, who are aged 60 on average, need to be introduced to new technology so that they can get involved in bio-industries.

The production of superfoods and superfruits have already commenced. Perak specialises in halia Bentong, Penang in lemons, Kedah in figs and Perlis in figs, lemons and the uncommon but nutritional gac fruit.

The game changer for the farming community, in developing these high value crops, is the ability to work with the private sector and academia and capitalise on the unique strengths of NCER.

Being part of the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth 
Triangle (IMT-GT) and Asean provides a lot of potential for 
the region which already has a strong manufacturing ecosystem, top tourist destinations and modern agriculture.

“Apart from Kamunting, we have a centre of excellence in Chuping, Perlis, which provides an interface between the academic community, companies and the local community to prepare them in terms of what’s coming in 
the ecosystem near them,” he said.

The COE provides support to green manufacturing, renewable energy and halal industries.

With Blueprint 2.0, which was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently, there will be more employment opportunities, skill sets, higher incomes and inclusivity.

Redza and his team are busy holding roadshows to prepare the local communities.

In all these initiatives, Redza said he was intrigued by the seamless relationship between the universities, especially Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and Universiti Malaysia Perlis, and the communities.

Sungai Chuchuh is one such success story about developing technology and attracting investors while community innovation centres are another.

“The famous stingless bee project is the result of USM input.”

Mustafa-Hive developed by Dr Mohd Zulkifli Mustafa of USM won the gold medal for the patent and farmers in Kubu Gajah in Kedah and Perak have been enjoying gains to the tune of RM48,000 annually as a side income.

“Likewise, there are hidden gems in the north. Take for instance the best padi estate in Seberang Prai Utara which has raised productivity by two metric tonnes per hectare. These are promising developments which can lead to self-sufficiency for the country.”

(The Star) Ong: Total trade hits RM859bil in first half

KAMPAR: Malaysia has recorded a total trade of about RM859bil in the first half of this year, a 22% increase compared with the same period last year.

Having recorded about RM670bil in the first half of last year, International Trade and Industry Minister II Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan (pic) said the increase in total trade was due to the demand for Malaysian products while the country’s trade foundation was also solid.

“There is demand for our manufactured goods like electronics and electrical products. Our palm oil sector is also strong.

“We’ve also engaged with a number of countries, signing free trade agreements with them to boost trade,” he said after attending the 25th Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman convocation ceremony here yesterday.

“The total exports from January to June this year was about RM451bil,” he added.

Ong said in June alone, the country recorded a total trade of RM136.26bil.

“Our exports in June were worth about RM73bil.

“We usually achieve between RM50bil and RM60bil but we managed to achieve more,” he said.

“Among the positive contributors included electrical and electronic products, chemicals, palm oil and natural gas,” he said.

Ong hopes the country will continue to show positive growth until the end of the year.

“Assuming we can continue keeping the pace and momentum for the remainder of the year, I think we can do well. Our total trade last year was about RM1.4 trillion.

“All these positive inputs will improve our currency rate and attract investors,” he said.

“Not all countries, not even some of the top countries can achieve this.”

Ong also hoped that Tanjung Malim can be turned into a “Little Detroit”, by bringing in more manufacturing plants so that young people need not move to urban cities for jobs.

“It’s how it was done there to retain its youth with more job opportunities.

“With the demand for more electronic parts, let’s hope more of these factories will come in,” he said.

(The Star) AirAsia targets three million visitors for Langkawi

LANGKAWI: AirAsia has targeted to bring three million visitors here this year, almost double last year’s 1.6 million.

Its group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said the airline has flown over a million people here from January to July with its 238 weekly flights and is aiming to hit the three million mark by year-end.

“Our vision is to make Langkawi as connected as Phuket, if not greater,” he said at the official launching of AirAsia’s Langkawi-Shenzhen route by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at the Langkawi International Airport yesterday.

Fernandes said the direct route, which started on Aug 9 and operates three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, would further boost tourism in Langkawi and was in line with the Langkawi Development Authority’s mission to tap into new foreign markets.

AirAsia now has seven direct flights to Langkawi, with four domestic routes – Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Baru and Kuching – and three international routes – Singapore, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. It also connects Langkawi to 15 countries such as Vietnam, South Korea and Taiwan via its Fly-Thru flights.

Fernandes said direct international tourists flown by AirAsia to Langkawi increased from 83,754 passengers in 2015 to 187,433 passengers in 2016, a 120% growth.

“This represents a contribution of RM300mil to the GDP based on the 12 times multiplier effect and 2016 was the first year when international tourists outnumbered domestic tourists,” he said in his speech.

Speaking to reporters later, Fernandes said AirAsia would continue to promote Langkawi, especially to tourists from China, India and Asean countries.

(The Star) KK to get changeable public transport system

KOTA KINABALU: The country’s first-ever public transport system that can be converted into a rail line will be built here as part of a programme to ease traffic in the state capital, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan.

He said the solution comprised a bus rapid transit (BRT) system that could eventually be transformed into a light rail transit (LRT).

“Elevated viaducts will be built for the BRT that can be used for an LRT system in the future, he added.

The BRT will be built in two phases, each costing about RM1bil, with the first running from Inanam to downtown Kota Kinabalu and ending at the international airport.

“I am excited about this,” Abdul Rahman said after launching the Sepanggar Umno division meeting yesterday.

He said the BRT was the brainchild of Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

It is considered the best solution for public transport in Kota Kinabalu, where the present population is too small for an LRT system.

Abdul Rahman said RM420mil would be spent to improve traffic flow along a 5km stretch of Jalan Sulaman between Indah Permai and the Yayasan Sabah building, just north of the city.

Another RM420mil, said Abdul Rahman, would be used to build flyovers and expand Jalan Sulaman from four lanes to six.