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Friday, 22 August 2014

(The Star) Giving youths a second chance

Youths from single-parent and dysfunctional families who are lagging behind in education will soon have a campus to help transform their lives.

The campus is aimed at lowering the crime level among youths in the Klang Valley by providing them with positive vocational training at a new 12-hectare complex in Hulu Selangor, which is expected to begin construction early next year.

It will have about 100 apartments, administration and workshop buildings, a multipurpose hall as well as sports facilities.

Located in Kalumpang, north Hulu Selangor, which is an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur, unemployed youths will get a second chance to learn and enhance their vocational skills.

These courses are aimed at keeping academically weak students off the streets.

Male students will get to study mechatronics, electrical wiring, welding, air-condition repair and plumbing, while the female students will get to improve their culinary skills and take on corporate secretarial studies.

The new campus was made possible by MySkills Foundation, which was set up to take care of the needs of students who have dropped out of school or obtained poor grades.

MySkills Foundation director S. Pasupathi said the collaboration between the Economic Planning Unit and MySkills Foundation was one of the steps the Government had taken to help underprivileged youths to be part of the national transformation agenda.

“The MySkills programme has benefited more than 300 students nationwide and improved 300 families indirectly,” she said.

MySkills Foundation, with its established Primus Institute of Technology located in Port Klang, was formed with a strong vision and mission to transform underprivileged youths of various communities, meeting the approval of the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry in 2011.

Hundreds of students have successfully completed certified programmes.

MySkills was also formed to engage the government to formulate more inclusive, fair and equitable policies concerning underachieving youths.

Pasupathi said market-relevant skills training was introduced to improve skills of the underprivileged youths.

MySkills first college, Primus, can accommodate up to 700 students.

“Our centre consists of eight fully air-conditioned classrooms, a computer lab, an assembly hall for talks and activities, four Electrical and Mechatronics labs that can house at least 25 students per session, a library, computer lab, surau and cafeteria.“

It is situated in Port Klang town, where public transport facilities such as KTM and buses are within walking distance and there is easy access to major highways.

“We also provide hostel accommodation and shuttle bus facilities for the students. All our students are given college uniforms and there is a punch-card system in place to keep track of their attendance,” Pasupathi added.

Their courses and modules are accredited by the Department of Skills Development (JPK).

MySkills also provides counselling sessions for youths and organises transformational activities daily for the students.

“Our focus is not only on education but also to develop the personality and social skills of the youths at risk. It has always been our dream to build a society of skilled youths,” Pasupathi added.

(The Star) MRT Corp to organise traffic diversions in Cheras to ease congestion

MMC-Gamuda KVMRT (PDP) Sdn Bhd has suggested several alternative routes through the housing estates in Cheras to lighten the traffic load along Jalan Cheras and the Cheras-Kajang Highway.

In response to StarMetro’s story on congestion in Cheras compounded by the construction of the MRT, company deputy construction director Adil Putra Ahmad said more VMS (variable message signboards) and signage would be put up to direct some traffic away from the gridlocked roads.

In addition to regular announcements in the media to inform Cheras residents of traffic diversions that are carried out in stages, the company will distribute leaflets at the area’s toll plazas and petrol stations to show the overall traffic management plan.

Apart from the alternative routes (refer to the map below) through housing estates, MRT also advised motorists from KL to use the Sungai Besi Highway instead of the Jalan Cheras or East-West Link to go to Kajang.

“We apologise to motorists in Cheras for having to put up with bad traffic jams now compounded by the MRT construction and we are grateful that they have been understanding, especially about the noise at night near stretches where works are done 24 hours,” he said.

He highlighted that the rush hours were avoided and efforts had been made to maintain the number of traffic lanes by reducing the lane width as per relevant authorities’ guidelines.

In areas where it is unavoidable given the limited space to construct in a tight urban setting, temporary lane closures are implemented at night.

Traffic police facilitate major traffic diversions, especially at night.

Motorists are also urged to plan their journey to avoid using the roads involved in night closures carried out from 11pm.

“We used to start the night closures at 10pm but now, at 11pm for traffic to ease and we have to stop work latest by 5.30am to make way for the contra-flow conducted by Kuala Lumpur City Hall.

“We have only a narrow window to work on.

“Also, some sites are not levelled so we need more space to keep the machinery stable,” he added.

There are eight stations along a 10.5km stretch from Jalan Cheras to Cheras-Kajang Highway (Grand Saga) , namely Maluri, Taman Pertama, Taman Midah, Taman Mutiara, Taman Connaught, Taman Suntex, Taman Sri Raya and Bandar Tun Hussein Onn stations.

The first four stations are located along Jalan Cheras.

Adil added that more machines were being utilised at the construction sites to expedite work and extra steps were taken to improve the traffic condition such as increasing the number of lanes whenever a temporary night contra-flow was implemented.

“Having more than one traffic lane at the contra-flow stretch and at the point of the traffic diversion helps to ease the flow of traffic, especially at locations where cars from the mainstream traffic join the contra-flow stretch,” he added.

He said the MRT construction was advancing steadily and most of the piers along Jalan Cheras and Cheras-Kajang Highway were already up; building of the elevated guideways and stations were also in progress.

“Once the civil and structural works are completed around the third quarter of 2015, the inconvenience at the road level should be reduced significantly.

(NST) ACCCIM: There’s room to ease cooling measures


KUALA LUMPUR: With various stringent measures currently in place, developers will have greater competition in terms of product offerings and pricing, said See Hoy Chan Holdings director Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok.

Kok, who is also Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) chairman of construction, property and infrastructure committee and deputy secretary-general, said developers will need to be more creative and make adjustments accordingly to attract buyers.

Cooling measures, such as doubling the real property gains tax (RPGT) from 15 to 30 per cent for properties sold within three years of purchase, removal of the developer interest bearing scheme (DIBS), a lower loan-to-value ratio and a RM1 million floor price for foreign investors have softened the housing market in recent months.

These measures are meant to curb spiralling home prices but they have taken a toll on the overall property market.

Preliminary findings of the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) Property Industry Survey showed that the market is softening and there are fewer launches taking place in the first six months of this year.

Members reported that sales in the first half of this year has dropped as compared to the second half of last year.

“We are supportive of the government measures but all that, including the implementation of the six per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST) in its present form, will hurt the whole construction industry,” Teo told Property Times.

He urges the government to release the brakes and re-look at some of its cooling measures to help ease the burden of property developers, contractors, suppliers and buyers.

According to him, between 30 and 35 per cent of house buyers currently get their loans rejected for properties in all price range.

“All these have cut off a lot of people from buying properties. Banning DIBS altogether will also put pressure of the high acquisition cost on genuine buyers, including first-time buyers and Bumiputera buyers,” Teo said.

(NST) Overcoming GST challenges


RISING COST: Property developers want govt to soften impact of new tax on industry

EVEN as property developers struggle to regain traction and cope with the rising cost of construction, they now have to deal with the six per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST).

GST, a multi-stage consumption tax that will come into effect on April 1 next year, will replace the government sales and service taxes (SST) of 10 and six per cent, respectively.

There are 950 items that will be taxed under the GST and more details on this will be realised at the forth-coming 2015 Budget.

The impact on prices is expected to vary, where some items will be cheaper, some goods will maintain their prices, while others will become more expensive.

Among the key challenges that the property market is facing are high land cost, which includes conversion, development charges, premium cost, quit rent and stamp duty, and scarcity of land, especially in urban areas such as Klang Valley and Penang.

Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) patron Datuk Ng Seing Liong told Property Times that there is an increased cost of doing business due to the high capital contributions and compliance cost that developers can't run away from.

Other key challenges include highly regulated policies, laws and regulations, he said at Rehda’s GST roundtable discussion entitled “Impact of GST on Property Industry”, here, recently.

Also present were the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) chairman of construction, property and infrastructure committee and deputy secretary-general Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok, Building Materials Distributors Association of Malaysia president Yang Kian Lock, and Master Builders Association Malaysia treasurer-general (MBAM) Eric Lai Wee Meng.

Ng said Rehda and 13 other associations that are directly and indirectly involved in property development and construction have submitted a memorandum to the Ministry of Finance Inc to highlight the impact of GST on the industry.

From April 1 next year, purchasers of commercial properties will have to pay the six per cent GST, while buyers of residential properties are exempted.

Ng said the GST, in its current form, will cause financial hardship by adding to the cost of development and resulting in higher property prices, which will eventually be passed on to house buyers.

He said residential properties are tax-exempted instead of being zero-rated, leaving developers unable to claim back the six per cent as part of input tax contributed to the GST.

“We cannot claim back input tax. A developer has to add the tax to the cost of construction and that will increase the selling price. We have sent signals to the government and they are not responding fast enough. There are only a few months left before the GST is implemented," Ng said.

Rehda is proposing that residential properties, including affordable houses, be zero-rated and commercial and industrial units to be standard-rated.

Zero-rated means builders can claim back the input tax; hence, they don’t have to pass on the increase to house buyers, while for standard-rated, GST is collected by the businesses and paid to the government. If their input tax is bigger than their output tax, they can recover the difference.

"The reality is that tax-exempt goods are only exempted from GST at the point of sale, that is when houses are sold by the developers. The goods and services that are used by the developers in the making of these tax-exempt goods are not exempted from GST.

“For example, building materials such as cement, steel bars, sand, bricks, wood, ceramic and roofing tiles are not tax-exempt and developers will either have to absorb the cost or raise house prices. The government is also proposing that land owners should start charging developers the GST as construction cost service.

“All these will add to our current construction cost, which is around 55 per cent. With the GST, our margins will be tighter and house prices will continue to rise. We can expect a more than three per cent increase in house prices next year.”

Ng said, with the rise in land prices and higher cost of construction, it would be quite difficult to get affordable homes below RM400,000, especially in prime areas in the Klang Valley, Penang and Johor.

Meanwhile, according to Yang, the impact of GST on cash flow for building material suppliers will be more severe.

“In our business, we provide credit facilities ranging from 30 to 90 days. But under the GST, we have to pay the tax under 21 days, even though we have not collected the money from our buyers. If we don't pay within 21 days, there will be a penalty of RM50,000, among others. The government has to be realistic and not impose such a ruling,” Yang said.

Lai of MBAM said contractors have estimated a four per cent rise in cost.

“The four per cent increase in construction cost coupled with the six per cent GST on other goods and services would eventually lead to higher overall cost of doing business,” he said.

(NST) ‘Gurney Drive to remain green’


GEORGE TOWN: Penang’s undersea tunnel project, which is expected to connect Bagan Ajam in Seberang Perai with Jalan Pangkor on Penang Island, is unlikely to see the island’s famed waterfront, Gurney Drive, being sacrificed.

Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd, the company that won the bid to build the tunnel and three road bypasses, said the state government wanted Gurney Drive to remain green.

“We understand that there was supposed to be a park built there, since the state authorities are insistent about keeping the area green,” said chairman Datuk Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli during the company’s Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house here yesterday.

Public concerns had been raised that the seafront promenade would be affected when reclamation works started on one side of the 1.7km Gurney Drive, as well as works on the proposed undersea tunnel, which would be carried out at the other end.

He said the consortium would start a feasibility study in January for the proposed 6.5km undersea tunnel. Construction works are expected to start in 2016, with completion scheduled for 2023 or 2024.

“It will take us a year to complete it, since it will be a more environmentally sensitive project, compared with the three road bypasses that we are proposing to build,” said Zarul Ahmad.

The consortium, a joint venture between Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd and China Railway Construction Co Ltd, was awarded the projects earlier last year.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

(NST) SDB working on RM400m niche property projects


KUALA LUMPUR: Property developer Selangor Dredging Bhd (SDB) is working on niche property developments with a combined gross development value (GDV) of more than RM400 million.

The developments slated for launch are superlink homes in JIA@Melawati and SqWhere@Sungai Buloh, a serviced apartment block that is part of a larger commercial development located opposite the Kampung Baru Sungai Buloh MRT station.

“We will be launching 79 JIA Melawati link houses by November. The GDV for that will be about RM75 million.

“And next year, we will be launching the second phase of serviced apartments in Sungai Buloh and that would be around RM330 million.

“All in, we will be launching projects with GDV of about RM500 million in six to nine months,” SDB managing director Teh Lip Kim said after the company’s annual shareholders meeting, here, yesterday.

SDB posted a net profit of RM62.17 million in its financial year ended March 31 2014, compared to the RM48 million it achieved a year ago.

“This year, we achieved RM377.2 million in turnover and RM62 million in net profit. This has been the highest we have achieved in five to 10 years,” said Teh. 

The group achieved new sales of RM840 million, of which RM634 million were derived from developments in Malaysia and Singapore.

Teh said SDB is looking to acquire more landbank. It is on the lookout for suitable locations in Penang, the Klang Valley and Singapore.

It first embarked on property development in 2004 and the property arm now accounts for nearly 90 per cent of the company’s revenue.

(NST) EcoWorld posts lower profit


SHAH ALAM: Eco World Development Group Bhd (EcoWorld) recorded a profit-before-tax of RM7.7 million on the back of RM76.7 million revenue for the nine months ended June 30 2014.

The lower revenue and profit this year is due to the completion of its Saujana Glenmarie project in the Klang Valley and reduced launches at its Kota Masai project in Iskandar Malaysia, it said yesterday.

Since the beginning of the year, EcoWorld has been expanding its landbank extensively.

In March, it entered into an agreement to acquire land next to Kota Kemuning, here, which will be developed into a luxury enclave known as EcoSanctuary.

In April, EcoWorld announced a major corporate exercise that included the acquisition of development rights to eight projects owned by Eco World Development Sdn Bhd (EW).

Last month, EcoWorld entered into an agreement with a private landowner to acquire land in Semenyih for a township project to be called EcoForest.

Upon the completion of these acquisitions, EcoWorld’s total landbank will increase from 401ha at the start of financial year 2014 to about 1,993ha, with a total gross development value of RM47 billion.

On the development front, EW has been launching several projects, but their development rights are all in the process of being acquired by EcoWorld.

“As of July 31, EW’s cumulative sales on EcoSky, EcoMajestic, EcoBotanic, EcoSpring and Eco Business Park I totalled RM2.015 billion. This has exceeded the sales target of RM2 billion set for the current financial year. As soon as we complete the acquisition of the development rights, the benefits of all the sales secured by EW will transfer to EcoWorld,” said EcoWorld president and chief executive officer Datuk Chang Khim Wah.

The group is also launching several projects towards the end of the year, including the EcoTropics residential township and Eco Business Park III in Johor.

(NST) J-Biotech to develop industrial park in Senai


JOHOR BARU: Johor Biotechnology and Biodiversity Corporation (J-Biotech) will build a biotechnology industrial park to attract more related industry players to Johor.

Its chief executive officer Wan Amir Jeffery Wan Abdul Majid said the construction of the park would start early next year and the first phase was expected for completion in 2017.

Senai has been picked to house the world-class biotechnology park due to several factors.

"Senai has been selected as it is regarded as a strategic location especially from the aspect of logistics, besides having other facilities such as airport, cargo and good road network.

"When completed, the Johor Biotechnology Park will house J-Biotech's headquarters, biotechnology lab, incubator and others," he said to reporters today.

Apart from that, the biotechnology park will also be equipped with a regional collection, processing and distribution centre.

Wan Amir Jeffery said the collection facility would become a one-stop centre before products from the biotechnology park are distributed to other places.

He said the construction of the biotechnology park as well as the provision of facilities would assist in attracting local and foreign investors in the biotechnology industry to the state.-- Bernama

(The Star) MWCF gives grant to help manage proposed Tun Mustapha Park

KOTA KINABALU: Efforts for the establishment of a marine park in northern Sabah has been given a boost with RM138,000 grant to WWF Malaysia.

The financial contribution from the Malaysian Wildlife Conservation Foundation (MWCF) would go towards gazetting and managing of the proposed Tun Mustapha Park (TMP)

The specific aim of the MWCF funds are to develop and implement collaborative enforcement between the enforcement agencies, such as Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Department of Fisheries Sabah (DOFS), Marine Police, Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD).

Also involved were local community representatives (honorary wildlife wardens and community groups) in the proposed TMP.

TMP enforcement will address issues of the use of small mesh size in fishing gear; use of high light intensity in purse seiners; illegal trawling in non-trawl areas; direct take of turtles and poaching of turtle eggs; illegal sand mining; and fish bombing activities, among others.

“WWF-Malaysia appreciates the funding as it will go a long way towards the work we are doing for the gazettement and management of Tun Mustapha Park,” said WWF Malaysia executive director/CEO Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma.

“The money will also enable local community representatives to receive training as Honorary Wildlife Wardens (HWW) from the SWD,” he said.

“These HWWs will participate in regular monthly patrols set up jointly with enforcement agencies to check for illegal encroachment or activities in the proposed TMP,” added Dr Dionysius.

Community support and participation in the establishment of a marine protected area (MPA) was important to ensure the success of the MPA.

Communities that are empowered to manage their resources would ensure the success of an MPA and its effective management, he said.

Through active participation and involvement, the local communities in the TMP would be encouraged to comply with management plans and regulations that are being established for the park.

In March 2003, the Government of Sabah approved a move to gazette the proposed 1mil-hectare TMP located at the northern part of Sabah.

The park was also known as the Kudat-Banggi Priority Conservation Area (PCA); one of the key areas identified under the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion as being globally significant for its high biodiversity and rich natural resources.

Lying at the apex of the Coral Triangle, TMP harbours one of the richest marine flora and fauna complexes in the world and is also home to more than 80,000 coastal dwellers that depend on a healthy and sustainable supply of marine resources.

(The Star) Central JB awaiting decision to get City Council status

JOHOR BARU: The Central Johor Baru Municipal Council (MPJBT) is working towards attaining City Council status, making it the second such council in the state.

Its president Sallehuddin Hassan said that the state government had agreed in principal on this and they were now awaiting the final decision on the matter.

”We have also redrawn our new boundaries and certain areas will be taken over by other councils,” he said, adding that the council presently serves about 250,000 household within its jurisdiction.

He added that last year, the council collected RM214mil in various taxes.

“This is the first time we have collected such a huge amount,” he told reporters at the launch of a campaign to fly the national flag and the launch of a new mobile counter here.

Asked whether the name may also be changed, he said, “Let’s wait and see”.

He added that presently 86% of their revenue was from residential, 11% from commercial and the balance from industries.

The other city council in Johor is the Johor Baru City Council (MBJB).

He added that the council also hoped to find another alternative location to expand as their present building in Skudai was too cramped.

“We are looking for a suitable land for our expansion,” he said, adding that they also needed more staff.

On collection of taxes, he said that the council was working towards collecting about RM25mil in arrears.

“Presently our collection rate is about 85% each year. This arrears have been accumulating for more than 10 years,” he added.

On the new mobile counter, he said that the public should take advantage of the two counters, which would be serving all the households within MPJBT.

Salehuddin said that the public would also be able to pay up their taxes at the counters including house assessment fees, renewal of business licenses, pay their council stall rent, parking compounds and water bills.

He added that some RM1.4mil was collected via the mobile counter last year.

“So far we have collected RM1.1mil for the first seven months of this year,” he added that the new mobile counter costs RM175,000.

He added that the mobile counters would be placed outside selected council halls until end of the year.