Category: Blog (13)

WITH digital technology all the rage and taking the world by storm, we look at how science and automation has managed to change and revolutionise the way we do things, in this section, property.

While the internet has changed the way we receive information and connect with others and the smart phone transformed the whole concept of a phone, we now look at the evolution of finance and how purchasing items, including a house, is going through reform with the introduction of bitcoin.

Introducing bitcoin

When people hear terms like "bitcoin" and "blockchain", many are vague while some may not even be familiar with these words. But for the technology industry adept, bitcoin and blockchain is common as these new-age technology concepts and modus operandi have been around, perhaps less widely known in Southeast Asia as it is in the West and China.

For the uninformed and in the dark, bitcoin is a technology that has established a new electronic payment method using "digitised money" made with digital cryptography, otherwise known as cryptocurrency.

This system of payment is carried out when a user uses "bitcoin currency" (or cryptocurrency) to pay for goods by transferring the currency to another user (seller) within the bitcoin community.

Each transaction is recorded in a public data ledger known as "blockchain" and it is here where all the transactions that have taken place within the bitcoin community are stored.

The amazing thing about this system is that anyone in the bitcoin community is able to validate transactions that take place without the need of an intermediary.

Sound too good to be true and a little risky? Well, the reason there is no intermediate party necessary is due to the network bitcoin technology is regulated on.

Modus operandi and more

The bitcoin network is founded on a "peer-to-peer network system (P2P network)" which is explained as "a network of computers/ mobile configured to allow certain files and folders to be shared with everyone or with selected users".

As a result, the "participants" are in control of their transactions, making everyone equal within the bitcoin community, which is also transparent.

It is said that bitcoin technology was first created in 2008 by a person or a group of persons under the pseudonym "Satoshi Nakamoto" in a research paper. The research stated that there was need for a new electronic payment method, one using digitised money. The analysis also included the future of bitcoin, its benefits, capabilities and potential.

The system was implemented on Jan 3, 2009. And after just a few years, bitcoin grew to become a whopping US$12 billion (RM52.7 billion) globalised economy.

Bitcoin attributes

While not much has been said about bitcoin in this part of the region, the system has been around, slowly developing and growing. Like many things that are cloudy and not often talked about, people are weary hence, there will be sceptics who dissuade others about the system they themselves are unclear about.

With that, theSun's Brian Chung shares what he learnt of this new method of transaction and currency when he attended a talk by renowned entrepreneur, author and expert on bitcoin Andreas M. Antonopoulos.

Below, Antonopolous shares important information on bitcoin.

1) Bitcoin is an open system of payment: It is a system that anyone can access, participate and innovate, and does not require permission. Bitcoin allows anyone to join in and use the system, validate the transaction and create different kinds of cryptocurrency.

2) Bitcoin is borderless: Like the internet, bitcoin is not restricted to a country's rules and regulations as it has its own protocol with no distinction across countries.

3) Bitcoin is neutral: Bitcoin does not take the identity of the participant into any consideration. It only validates the transaction that takes place between participants. This attribute also allows participants to remain anonymous.

4) Bitcoin is censorship resistant: Every transaction in the bitcoin network cannot be frozen, censored or canceled. Like the internet, the bitcoin system is a global digital economy with one currency.

5) Bitcoin is a decentralised system: The bitcoin network has no central institution or centre point of control. This trait ensures that there is no one major target for hackers to concentrate their attacks on. Instead, hackers have to create attacks on every single participant's software with different forms of virus and codes to hack into one computer.

6) Bitcoin is scarce and limited: Bitcoin is a system of value like gold but in digital form. This makes it a system that is not based on credit and debit. It also makes bitcoin a singular global currency with no exchange rate between countries.

7) Every bitcoin transaction is permanent and immutable: The transaction of everyone in the community is verified by everyone in the system. Once it is verified, the transaction will be permanently recorded in the blockchain.

8) Bitcoin is a constantly innovative technology: The open source nature of the bitcoin technology allows other people to further improve on it. There are many other cryptocurrencies based on the bitcoin technology. Moreover, the bitcoin technology is dependent on the internet, which makes improvement and innovation necessary.

Bitcoin transactions can be done via smart phones and computers by downloading the application and software. Users do not need to register themselves to be part of the bitcoin network as all "participants" are referred to by codes and "signature of one's device".

However, iPhone users need to remember their iTunes password to download the application. In addition, the device that one has downloaded the bitcoin software on must remain connected to the internet in order for one to use the bitcoin method of payment.

Follow our column next week on the application of bitcoin in property.
[Note: All charts courtesy of Bitcoin Malaysia.]
SITUATED just slightly out of the city, Platinum Splendor Residence along Jalan Semarak (now known as Jalan Sultan Yahya Petra) is designed to become the solution to "city living at an affordable price".

The development, once ready, will present a condominium project by Platinum Victory Development Sdn Bhd offering over 2,000 housing units at price tags starting from as low as RM300,000.

The new condominium development project offers four unit types of between three and four bedrooms with two baths, in sizes ranging from 926sq ft to 1,184sq ft. Purchase of each unit comes with two carpark lots.

Since its soft launch in January this year, the project has enjoyed a take-up rate of over 70%. About 600 units are pegged under the government's Rumawip programme.

Plus points include good location, price tag, facilities and amenities, not to mention two parking spaces per lot.

The development no doubt ticks all the right boxes where good property DNA is concerned.

Platinum Splendor Residence will be officially launched this weekend - April 22 and 23 at its showroom, open to the public. Head over or visit the developer's official website for more information.
THIS week, we feature an article by lawyer Datuk Pretam Singh Darshan Singh referring to the action taken by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on improprieties relating to waiver of bumiputra allotment of houses in Johor.

Of state councils and house prices

There has been practice to impose a condition on housing developers, that they should set aside certain portion of the houses they build, to be sold to bumiputras and in the event they are unable to sell these lots, the developer has to pay a penalty. This raises the issue of whether the state, i.e. the local planning authority, has the power to impose such an award (no matter how noble the intention may be).

This issue is not new and has been discussed previously in the courts of law. One such case is the landmark lawsuit between Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang vs Syarikat Berkerjasama Serbaguna Sungai Gelugor [1999] 3 CLJ 65.

In this case, the dispute was whether Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (Penang City Council) had the power to impose the disputed condition whereby 30% of low-cost houses have to be built and sold at a cost not exceeding RM25,000 per unit in accordance with “garispanduan-garispanduan mengenai rumah pangsa murah Majlis” (Council guidelines on low-cost housing).

The people (society) agreed at its AGM, that the selling price of a two-bedroom flat, measuring an average of 500sq ft, shall not exceed RM32,000 and a three-bedroom flat, measuring an average of 650sq ft, shall not exceed RM45,000.

Being in a dilemma due to the ceiling price stipulated in the guidelines on low-cost housing, the developer sought the intervention of the courts as it was of the understanding that the council had no such power to impose conditions relating to prices of houses.

The verdict

The case, described as a “veritable legal porcupine bristling with interesting and complex points of Law” went on appeal to the Federal Court. It was a landmark case in the field of “Planning Law and Judicial Review” in this country and prominent counsel on both sides put up very convincing arguments that ran across six days.

At the end, Edgar Joseph Jr (Federal Court judge) made no apologies for the “acres of paper and streams of ink” that were devoted to the preparation of the unanimous judgment by the Federal Court.

Joseph held that it is axiomatic that local authorities are creatures of statute and their qualities and powers can only be derived by reference to what is expressed or implicit in the statutes under which they function.

The statutory scheme of the Local Government Act confers upon local authorities a distinct political function, to which the courts, by application of ordinary principles of statutory construction, should give effect.

“Taken at its full face value, the above provisions would appear to confer unlimited power on the planning authority to impose any condition it wishes (for example), because it considers the condition to be in the interest of the housing policy of the state government. But, the matter must be probed further.”

On probing further, the Federal Court concluded that the entire decision of Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang was wholly null, void and of no effect and stated that the council had no power to fix the prices of houses.

Similar case

In the case of Cayman Development (Kedah) Sdn Bhd vs Mohd Saad Bin Long [1999] MLJU 290, Cayman was a housing developer that wanted to develop a piece of land in the Mukim of Alor Merah, Alor Star, constructing a low-cost housing project. The state authority of Kedah imposed a condition that the developer had to:

“Menjual rumah-rumah yang dibina dengan harga kurang 5% daripada RM25,000.00 (RM23,750.00).”

[Translation: “To sell the built houses with 5% discount off RM25,000.00 (RM23,750.00).”]

When the developer sold the houses without the stipulated discount, the purchasers sued the developer to enforce the discount as imposed by the state authority of Kedah.

At the High Court, Hishamuddin J held that the state authority has no power to fix the requirements regarding the price of each of the units to be sold to the public, as well as the discount of 5% (to be given), as these are not the kind of requirements envisaged by the National Land Code.

Hishamuddin J:
“I have no doubt whatsoever of the good intention of the state authority, and that in prescribing the price and the discount, it certainly had in mind the interest of the low-income group of the general public, who would constitute the potential buyers of the low-cost units. Yet, with the greatest respect, I do not think that Parliament, in enacting Subsection 125 (5)(c) of the National Land Code, had in mind to confer on the state authority such huge power, so as to empower it to even fix the price of the low-cost units for the purpose of sale to potential buyers, let alone to prescribe any discount.

“Such requirements, as imposed, are commercial in nature. The state authority, being a regulatory body on matters pertaining to land, in determining the nature of the requirements to impose (if any) when approving a conversion, should avoid entering into the commercial arena. Instead, it should only confine itself to matters directly pertaining to the usage of land and the imposition of rent and premium (consequential to the conversion).”

Laws and limitations

Both these cases illustrate the point that both the state authority and “majlis” (state council) have no power to impose any condition relating to prices of houses and discounts, as these are considered commercial aspects that both should avoid entering into. Being mere regulatory bodies, they should only confine themselves to regulatory matters such as prescribing the usage of land and the imposition of rent and premium consequential to the conversion (of usage to the land).

Both cases remain unchallenged and continue to be good precedents as there have not been any legislative amendments to overturn these decisions. It is therefore timely to look into the fixing of the quota and subsequent penalty being imposed, as it may not have the proper legislative support.

A proper legal framework may be the step forward, as such quota and penalty imposition is also prevalent in other states.
THE workplace has evolved a lot in the last few years. The advancement of technology and a revolution in workplace culture have come to shape the modern office we know today – one that is completely different from the offices of not too long ago. In Malaysia, we can see this new design trend cultivated in offices such as Google, MindValley and KFit among others.

While part of this transformation is precipitated by today's more flexible working hours and conditions like having the option to work from home and other revolutionary working concepts that make for a happier and more productive workforce – the current state-of-the-art working spaces itself is said to benefit employee as well as employer in unconventional ways and means.

With that, we focus on home, a present-day work space and how one can get the most out of work time in this environment. For starters, it is advisable to designate a space or room in your home as your "office zone". The area should not only reflect your personal style but also be decorated and designed to keep you focused and ultimately boost productivity. Here are a few tips:

Control the office environment

It is important that the interior climate of your office space keep you focused while you are working. Ensure temperature controls of fans or air-conditioning are kept at a comfortable level, neither too high or low for interiors that are not too stuffy or chilly. Proper ventilation and natural sunlight is known to help keep one energised throughout the day. Therefore, consider getting skylights or clerestory windows (series of windows on the upper levels of high walls), which both help elevate the height of the room for adequate ventilation while ensuring sufficient natural lighting. Where possible, avoid fluorescent lights as they cause drowsiness. Instead, have an adjustable lamp at your desk, to use when it gets dark.

Use colour psychology

Colour has a psychological effect on our emotions.Hence, the reason it is important that your home office bear the right hues to generate the right "qi" or energy force. It is not surprising that white is said to be the default colour to dress any office interior as it is associated with an open, airy feeling, especially when paired with natural lighting. Colours such as green and blue are calming and refreshing and reported to improve focus and efficiency. Try pairing both these colours for the ultimate creative dream team. Think light blue walls paired with green plants or a bright green rug for a room that is calming and refreshing for the soul. You can also consider yellow for the office as it is the colour of optimism. Use it as
accents in your office setting, as in hanging art pieces, throw pillows or extra seating.

Personal touches for comfort

According to experts, it is easier for you to get into the productive frame of mind if you are comfortable in your surrounding environment. Therefore, create an art gallery of family photos above your desk or have these displayed in your line of sight. Bring your personal interests into the office decor. If you love to read, then line your walls with shelves of your favourite books. If you have collected arty handicraft, souvenirs or memorabilia (that bring back good memories) from your travels, create a small display area for them. A home in Stockholm uses a bright yellow open-shelf cupboard to display knickknacks while giving the small office a pop of colour. Place a daybed or chaise lounge in your work space to create a small nook where you can take short breaks or power naps. Then again, as every personal touch is "personal" according to the character of the individual, go with what motivates or inspires you and redecorate occasionally if and when you please.

Organisation made pretty

Bulky metal cabinets are for corporate offices, or so they say ... Although they could portray that zen-effect or reflect your "preferred style", in this case, we are looking at creative ways to make office organisation part of a pretty place. Start by implementing a command centre in your office where letters and magazines, calendars, to-do lists and cork boards jive. Some suggestions: get a fancy photo frame and use the glass to jot down daily tasks in whiteboard markers or go wild by creating an accent wall using chalkboard paint so that each day it can serve a different function (inspirational quote today –comprehensive to-do list tomorrow – like that). Pegboards are also a favourite, as Bondville blogger Steph Bond-Hutkin can attest to. A pegboard sits atop her daughter's room, with movable mint shelves that hold her books and stationery, while a to-do list and calendar hang above them. As for office stationery, clear plastic containers are a current favourite as it not only keeps stationery organised but makes it easier to locate needed items while adding bursts of colour in your office confines.

The space factor

It is still possible to create a home office when you are short of space. Look for a small corner in any room of your home that can be used as a tiny office area. Invest in a sturdy table that can fit into the nook of your home, such as a wall-mounted table or even a vintage school desk, as long as it can hold your laptop or PC. Another alternative – make like designer Kate Collins and have your nightstand work double duty as your office table. To pull this off, Collins placed a clean, modern mini desk with a single drawer for storage and a simple wooden chair next to her bed. If crawling into bed is your number one weakness and you prefer to do work outside your bedroom, then consider a place that is mostly under-furnished and overlooked, eg. the hallway. Swedish property realtor Entrance, made use of a home's wide hallway and turned it into a work space using a simple vintage desk paired with a modern black chair. A large mirror is placed above the desk to reflect light for brightness, illuminating the space to help keep one energised while working. Do not forget to spruce up these small corners with modest-sized decorative items (for a more spacious perception). Build vertical shelves for extra storage to keep folders, books or as a display of knickknacks if required.

Sometimes a work area can be as simple as lounging on the couch with your laptop, depending on the kind of work you are involved in. However, a permanent place to sit down with other occupational elements do help improve focus and will yield better results work-wise.
THE workplace has evolved a lot in the last few years. The advancement of technology and a revolution in workplace culture have come to shape the modern office we know today – one that is completely different from the offices of not too long ago. In Malaysia, we can see this new design trend cultivated in offices such as Google, MindValley and KFit among others.

While part of this transformation is precipitated by today's more flexible working hours and conditions like having the option to work from home and other revolutionary working concepts that make for a happier and more productive workforce – the current state-of-the-art working spaces itself is said to benefit employee as well as employer in unconventional ways and means.

With that, we focus on home, a present-day work space and how one can get the most out of work time in this environment. For starters, it is advisable to designate a space or room in your home as your "office zone". The area should not only reflect your personal style but also be decorated and designed to keep you focused and ultimately boost productivity. Here are a few tips:

Control the office environment

It is important that the interior climate of your office space keep you focused while you are working. Ensure temperature controls of fans or air-conditioning are kept at a comfortable level, neither too high or low for interiors that are not too stuffy or chilly. Proper ventilation and natural sunlight is known to help keep one energised throughout the day. Therefore, consider getting skylights or clerestory windows (series of windows on the upper levels of high walls), which both help elevate the height of the room for adequate ventilation while ensuring sufficient natural lighting. Where possible, avoid fluorescent lights as they cause drowsiness. Instead, have an adjustable lamp at your desk, to use when it gets dark.

Use colour psychology

Colour has a psychological effect on our emotions.Hence, the reason it is important that your home office bear the right hues to generate the right "qi" or energy force. It is not surprising that white is said to be the default colour to dress any office interior as it is associated with an open, airy feeling, especially when paired with natural lighting. Colours such as green and blue are calming and refreshing and reported to improve focus and efficiency. Try pairing both these colours for the ultimate creative dream team. Think light blue walls paired with green plants or a bright green rug for a room that is calming and refreshing for the soul. You can also consider yellow for the office as it is the colour of optimism. Use it as
accents in your office setting, as in hanging art pieces, throw pillows or extra seating.

Personal touches for comfort

According to experts, it is easier for you to get into the productive frame of mind if you are comfortable in your surrounding environment. Therefore, create an art gallery of family photos above your desk or have these displayed in your line of sight. Bring your personal interests into the office decor. If you love to read, then line your walls with shelves of your favourite books. If you have collected arty handicraft, souvenirs or memorabilia (that bring back good memories) from your travels, create a small display area for them. A home in Stockholm uses a bright yellow open-shelf cupboard to display knickknacks while giving the small office a pop of colour. Place a daybed or chaise lounge in your work space to create a small nook where you can take short breaks or power naps. Then again, as every personal touch is "personal" according to the character of the individual, go with what motivates or inspires you and redecorate occasionally if and when you please.

Organisation made pretty

Bulky metal cabinets are for corporate offices, or so they say ... Although they could portray that zen-effect or reflect your "preferred style", in this case, we are looking at creative ways to make office organisation part of a pretty place. Start by implementing a command centre in your office where letters and magazines, calendars, to-do lists and cork boards jive. Some suggestions: get a fancy photo frame and use the glass to jot down daily tasks in whiteboard markers or go wild by creating an accent wall using chalkboard paint so that each day it can serve a different function (inspirational quote today –comprehensive to-do list tomorrow – like that). Pegboards are also a favourite, as Bondville blogger Steph Bond-Hutkin can attest to. A pegboard sits atop her daughter's room, with movable mint shelves that hold her books and stationery, while a to-do list and calendar hang above them. As for office stationery, clear plastic containers are a current favourite as it not only keeps stationery organised but makes it easier to locate needed items while adding bursts of colour in your office confines.

The space factor

It is still possible to create a home office when you are short of space. Look for a small corner in any room of your home that can be used as a tiny office area. Invest in a sturdy table that can fit into the nook of your home, such as a wall-mounted table or even a vintage school desk, as long as it can hold your laptop or PC. Another alternative – make like designer Kate Collins and have your nightstand work double duty as your office table. To pull this off, Collins placed a clean, modern mini desk with a single drawer for storage and a simple wooden chair next to her bed. If crawling into bed is your number one weakness and you prefer to do work outside your bedroom, then consider a place that is mostly under-furnished and overlooked, eg. the hallway. Swedish property realtor Entrance, made use of a home's wide hallway and turned it into a work space using a simple vintage desk paired with a modern black chair. A large mirror is placed above the desk to reflect light for brightness, illuminating the space to help keep one energised while working. Do not forget to spruce up these small corners with modest-sized decorative items (for a more spacious perception). Build vertical shelves for extra storage to keep folders, books or as a display of knickknacks if required.

Sometimes a work area can be as simple as lounging on the couch with your laptop, depending on the kind of work you are involved in. However, a permanent place to sit down with other occupational elements do help improve focus and will yield better results work-wise.
HAVING featured previous articles on the uprising of mega cities, exploring the DNA of super cities last week, today we examine Malaysia’s very own Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, on its way to reaching developed nation “super city” status.

InvestKL
For a start, we look at Kuala Lumpur and examine InvestKL, a government-established entity created under the purview of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (Miti) and Federal Territories Ministry, tasked to steer KL city to attain this goal.

InvestKL is established to attract large global multinational firms like Fortune 500 and Forbes 2000 companies, to set up their head quarters, operational offices, international procurement centres and regional distribution facilities/shared services centres in the vicinity of the Klang Valley/Greater Kuala Lumpur (Greater KL).

InvestKL will promote and position Kuala Lumpur as the ideal location for multinational companies to set up their businesses in.

To garner the attention of these multinationals, InvestKL, which is accountable to the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) under the Prime Minister’s Department, set out to work with various government ministries, entities and agencies to formulate attractive fiscal packages to help corporations identify business opportunities and set up high value operations to develop their competitiveness in Southeast Asia and globally, right here in KL city itself.

Fundamental principles
Sitting in the CEO’s seat and heading this gargantuan task is InvestKL Corporation CEO Datuk Zainal Amanshah who shares insights on InvestKL.

Zainal said that the idea stemmed from the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) launched in Sept 2010, which was formulated as part of Malaysia’s National Transformation Programme. The ultimate aim: to elevate the country and raise its status to become a developed nation by 2020. The target of the ETP: to achieve this via identifying 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) – sectors which had the potential for private sector-driven growth and economic opportunity that could propel Malaysia to achieve this high-income, developed-nation, globally competitive status. One of these areas is Greater KL.

Once each of the 12 NKEAs were identified, each is to offer private sector involvement and investment opportunities through 9 Entry Point Projects (EPPs). EPP 1 is aimed at attracting 100 of the world’s dynamic firms to establish operations in Greater KL by 2020. To help realise the EPP 1 mission, InvestKL Corporation, otherwise known as InvestKL is established, a specialised investment agency set up by the Malaysian Government.

“InvestKL is mandated to attract 10 multinational companies (MNCs) a year, to invest in Greater KL. Since its establishment in 2010, we have successfully attracted multinational companies with total investment close to RM9 million,” shared Zainal. And these are projected to create over 9,000 regional jobs he adds.

The big picture
Zainal shares the plan on how InvestKL intends to succeed its Herculean tasks. “Several approaches were identified to attract the top-tier Fortune 500 and Forbes 2000 MNCs to invest in Greater KL. These include deepening our existing collaboration with our alliance partners and foreign embassies; working closely with government agencies like Mida and Matrade; plus leveraging on existing relationships between Malaysian embassies and the local business communities in countries these foreign companies are based in,” he shares.

Grateful is Zainal for the support by InvestKL’s stakeholders and partners in “selling Greater KL at global level via one-on-one meetings and focus group investment engagements.

“We never sit on our laurels and are never satisfied with just a list of identified investments. Instead, we constantly build and add potential investments to our funnel to ensure we have enough leads to achieve our KPIs,” the CEO shares.

Serving as an ideal location to set up one’s business hub, Greater KL boasts:
1) a central location;
2) credible spaces;
3) an area robust with multi-lingual pool of talent;
4) a location that offers cultural diversity;
5) a territory with game-changing infrastructure development;
and more.

The giants are here
“Over the years, there have been many foreign companies who have chosen Greater KL as their investment and expansion destination. Some of the recent ones include German-based industrial technology provider Voith; Japan’s creative content publisher Kadokawa; visual effects studio Bandai Namco Studios; and China Railway Group ... just to name a few,” Zainal shares. Others include US-based Oracle Corporation, Swiss multinational healthcare company Roche Holdings AG and China-based tech firm Huawei Technologies – “all using Greater KL to move up the value chain,” Zainal adds.

Of the above, we learn that Oracle’s recent decision to set up a digital sales hub in Greater KL will create at least 200 new jobs while Roche is reported to spend some RM110 million over the next two years on expansion of its global services centre here in Malaysia which will serve the APAC region. This will also create some over 260 jobs. China Railway will set up its regional hub here in Bandar Malaysia. “Greater KL is also home to Huawei’s customer solution integration and innovation experience centre. The facility
was also designed as an ICT hub to drive the industry’s open eco-system and accelerate digital transformation in Malaysia,” added Zainal.

To date, Zainal informs that 64 MNCs have set up operations here, with approved and committed investments amounting to RM8.9 billion (3.2% or RM3.2 billion already realised). These are expected to create more than 9,335 high-skilled jobs, 5,233 or 56% already on the payroll. While 17% account for foreign/expat talent, the remaining 83% are local.

Super city in the making
All the above provide encouragement and inspiration for the team at InvestKL. “It also shows that Greater KL and Malaysia have the right ingredients to attract MNCs. Although we managed to secure 13 MNCs last year, we have brought our targets down for 2017 looking at external headwinds, including uncertainties over US president Donald Trump’s policies, major elections in European countries, and the call-off of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement,” Zainal shared. Still, he says that the agency is looking at other regional countries for investments.

To furnish a better picture of what Greater KL will look like in the near future, we share excerpts from Knight Frank Malaysia executive director Judy Ong’s article. “Malaysia is the fifth largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow in East and Southeast Asia according to the UNCTAD 2015 World Investment Report. By 2020, the skyline of Greater KL is set to change dramatically with scheduled completions of the iconic 118-storey Merdeka PNB118 and the 92-storey Signature Tower in the financial district of Tun Razak Exchange (TRX). Moreover, the TRX, primed as the country’s financial and banking district, will also house the TRX Lifestyle Quarter which will include a luxury hotel, six residential towers and a retail destination connected to the TRX Park and dedicated Mass Rapid Transport (MRT) stations. Other notable projects to change the landscape include Bukit Bintang City Centre, Bandar Malaysia, rejuvenation of Damansara Town Centre and the Pavilion Damansara Heights project.” These, plus many more international hotel brands coming in, and with the completion of the additional 140km rail link of the MRT and LRT lines by 2022 – mobility and connectivity within the region will be enhanced, transforming Greater KL into a mega city.

Follow our column next week on the other super city in the making and InvestSelangor, which is tasked to take it to its greater heights.

Principle activities of InvestKL include:

»to drive;
»to promote;
»to attract;
»to stimulate; and
»to facilitate all types of investment activities in Greater KL and establish links and networks for investment activity. Furthermore, the agency is also responsible for identifying appropriate measures, resources, programmes and incentives to attract companies/businesses and/or corporations to Malaysia and help these companies facilitate the investment process in a smooth and hassle-free manner as possible.

Other responsibilities include:

»formulating competitive fiscal packages;
i»ntroducing investors to various specialised business hubs in Greater KL;
»provide post-investment services;
»propose talent management programmes;
»recommend the best investment locations; and
»help investors with the transition and to blend in with the local systems and culture via familiarisation programmes.
Characteristics of super cities and the power it has to spur national economy

URBAN migration attracting a particular type of demographic set – high-value professionals that are tech-savvy – is said to be the seed that is harvesting mega cities, otherwise known as global cities.

The rising of technology firms in urban areas and “big” towns, along with the perks that make for a “convenient and connected lifestyle” – online (in cyberspace), as well as on-ground (via convenient transportation via busses, taxis, trains/lrt/mrt, etc.) – these are drawing creative talents of the new age workforce and boosting urban economies.

The super in super cities
Call them mega cities or global cities, we explore these mostly urban areas, some along a revolutionary course of developing to become one, uncovering the DNA of these bustling regions and up-and-coming city centres with huge potential.

According to a five-year study conducted by Dr Tim Moonen, director of intelligence at The Business of Cities Ltd., there are five characteristics that contribute to the rise of these successful cities, which are:
»enhanced connectivity which enables trading;
»openness to diverse populations which attract entrepreneurs, merchants and traders, thus broadening the population catalogue;
»drive for innovation and invention of products and means of trade as in transport, currencies, insurance/stock markets, etc.;
»hunger to seek new markets where products can be sold; and
»willingness to take advantage of geopolitical change and opportunity as in expanding interests in new territories, aligning with winners in conflict or offering specialists services to new populations.

While many call to mind established cities like New York, London, Paris and Hong Kong with their populations of 10s of millions; cities like Shanghai, Mumbai and Sao Paolo have subsumed nearby cities, having undergone metropolitanisation.

Great was not always great
According to Moonen, there is a third and new wave of “global or mega cities” that have emerged in the last five to 10 years-smaller in size yet vivacious, innovative clusters offering high quality life and making use of cutting-edge technologies.

Benefits of these mega cities include firstly urbanisation. Where there is global growth, economies rise, lifestyles improve, living standards, jobs and wages step up, opportunities increase and businesses prosper. These are just some of the rewards sequential to a city that has developed to become a mega or global city.

While there are advantages, there are also disadvantages like:
»over crowded spaces which
»lead to health issues and such;
»the need to improve urban infrastructure;
»rising consumer needs as in housing, food stock and transportation;
»more jobs will need to be created;
»changing of old policies and institutions that can adapt or lose out; and more.

Expert’s say
According to remarks raised by Brookings Metro director Amy Liu at the Global Cities Summit in 2016: “As worldwide cities globalise and hyper-connect, whether as innovation hubs or manufacturing houses, continuous adaptation is required in order to be globally competitive and inclusive. How globalisation is managed will be the key to a city’s success or failure in its aim to achieve global or mega city status,” she said.

Hence, to remain relevant in this current era, the word of advice is – “Cities must increase their global competitiveness and create shared prosperity.”

Industry bigwigs and top brass professionals recommend:
»actively adapt to the unique global challenges;
»continuously upgrade the competitiveness of trade sectors;
»export and expand;
»improve access to quality education;
»launch global trade and investment strategies;
»build relationships with global firms and assist each other to
»be more trade-intensive; and
»be proactive and use a more strategic and demand-
»driven approach to
»workforce development.

In short, solve problems, collaborate, create local conditions for firms and workers to be part of a global success.

With that, next week we take a look at two cities in Malaysia and explore their global competitiveness or how each is working towards achieving it.

[The above mentioned information is retrieved from The Business of Cities Ltd and The Brookings Institution.]
VARIOUS cooling measures introduced by the Malaysian government and Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) to help curb escalating property prices has had little impact, said iProperty.com Malaysia and Singapore CEO Haresh Khoobchandani. Together with Brickz.com, the company analysed data from BNM and the Valuation and Property Services Department of Malaysia (JPPH) to examine if the measures introduced over the years actually impacted the residential and financial markets. theSun reports the study conducted.

“From the data we got, we saw that prices for residential property in Malaysia had been sky-rocketing since year 2000. Between 2008 and Q2 of 2009, following the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US, which affected economies around the world, house prices experienced nearly no growth. The number of loans approved for residential properties also decreased the same year as the market moved funds away from the softening real estate market,” Haresh said.

Based on figures in the Malaysia Residential Loans and National House Price Index (HPI), it was learned that the annual quarter on quarter national HPI began to increase the highest from 2011-Q1 to 2012-Q1. In 2011-Q1, the HPI was at 149.1, while in 2012-Q1, the HPI was at 167. Thus, the difference shows an increase of 17.9 index points in 2011. For the same period, performance for residential loans approved was stable at RM20.4 billion. The data showed that the quarter-on-quarter HPI had slowed down to a growth of 15.3 index points between 2015-Q1 and 2016-Q1. Performance for approved residential loans also fell drastically by RM5.6 billion from 2015-Q1 to 2016-Q1. HPI however, continued to rise despite a drop in the amount of residential loans approved since 2014.

“In our opinion, the drop in loans approved was contributed by all the previous interventions introduced by BankNegara and the government. The interventions did not reduce the property prices but did slow down the growth,” Haresh said.

Brickz.my founder Premendran Pathmanathan, who is also iProperty.com Malaysia’s data services general manager said that the measures introduced by the government, including removal of the Developer Interest Bearing Scheme (DIBS), had actually decelerated demand.

“Other factors that could also put the brakes on demand could be due to the changes in real property gains tax (RPGT), revision in loan to value (LTV) curbs and also the introduction of the Goods & Services Tax (GST). Aside from this, the global uncertainty, weakening ringgit, and change in price (drop) of oil and gas has also played a role in this as well,” Premendran reasoned.

“The DIBS scheme only required an initial payment of 5% or 10%of the property price. So, purchasing property became an attractive option for investors. It was likely that the increase in the price of new properties from 2011, were the result of speculative buying due to the scheme,” Premendran said.

Haresh however, felt that the cooling measures had actually impacted the financial sector and also reduced negative sentiments of the oversupplied housing market. “If you look at the data, the price index for houses continued to climb at double digit rates, by 15.3 index points in Q1 2016, while the financial sector on housing loans fell 23.24%. The various measures introduced appeared to have consolidated the financial sector and reduced the negative sentiments of the oversupplied housing market,” he said.

“It is unlikely that prices will decrease, instead likely to stabilise or increase at a slower rate in coming years. This is primarily due to the fact that we have a growing young adult population and this is driving the demand for property, which in turn will continue to place upward pressure on prices.

“With the real estate industry now consolidating, the industry may shift their focus toward developments that apply to affordable living. Infrastructure such as transportation, energy and social infrastructure will help to increase economic efficiency and reduce the cost of living, thus making locations that once seemed expensive to live in now more affordable.”

In all, Haresh believes the above is why property buyers and investors are adopting a cautious approach and are being very selective in where and what they choose to purchase.

“There is increased demand for affordable homes, particularly through a growing, young population looking for properties in the major urban centres.

“While Malaysians are concerned about the rising house prices and affordability, property is still viewed the most attractive investment choice and this is due to capital growth opportunities. It is also more stable compared to other assets,” he said. [Information and images from iProperty.com]

TIMELINE

2007

It was reported that in 2007, the Developer Interest Bearing Scheme (DIBS) was first introduced by a property developer in Penang, as a precursor to the Built-Then-Sell (BTS) 10-90 concept stated in the Housing Development (Control and Licensing) Regulations, 1989 (amended 2007). At that time, the demand in the real estate market was high and property developers were offering creative products and marketing schemes to attract house buyers. It can be observed that the total housing loans approved went up by 59.57% (RM5.07 billion) for quarter on quarter change in 2008 Q1

2008 TO 2009 Q2

House prices in Malaysia only had a growth of 0.9 index points in 2009 (Table 1) during the subprime mortgage crisis in the US which also affected economies around the world. It can also be observed that the amount of loans approved for residential properties suffered a contraction. In the same year the total housing loans approved fell by 14.13% (RM1.91 billion).

2010

In November 2010, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) implemented the policy of a maximum loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of 70%, which will be applicable to the third house financing facility by a borrower. The policy aimed at moderating the excessive investment and speculative activity in the residential property market.

2011

It is strongly believed that the increase in the prices of newly launched properties (primary market) beginning in 2011 are the results of speculative buying. At that time DIBS was popular among property developers to attract ordinary house buyers. The scheme also made it cheap for speculators to earn relatively large profits because it only warrants an initial 5% or 10% of property price and two to three years’ time period for them to sell the investments. From April to July 2011, BNM has raised the Statutory Reserve Requirement (SRR) Ratio three times to 4% from 1%. It is observed that there was a large shift in global liquidity which resulted in significant capital flows into emerging economies, particularly the Asian region. The decision to raise the SRR was undertaken as a pre-emptive measure to manage the risk of this build-up of liquidity. From Table 1, annual quarter-on-quarter national House Price Index (HPI) began to increase the highest from 2011-Q1 to 2012-Q1. In 2011-Q1, HPI was at 149.1, while in 2012-Q1 HPI was at 167. Thus, the difference shows an increase of 17.9 index points in 2011. For the same period, performance for residential loans approved is maintained at RM20.4 billion.

2012

In January 2012, BNM issued guidelines requiring financial institutions to make appropriate enquiries into a prospective borrower’s income after statutory deductions for tax and EPF, and consider all debt obligations in assessing affordability. The guidelines promote better protection for financial consumers and a sustainable credit market. The government has also revised the Real Property Gains Tax (RPGT) to 10% from 5% for properties held and disposed within two years as the previous rate of 5% is not effective in curbing real estate speculative activities. The government have also expanded My First Home Scheme to help those earning below RM3,000 by increasing the limit of house prices qualified to RM400k from RM200k. The scheme is available to house buyers through joint loans of husband and wife. At the same time, the high sovereign debt within the Eurozone was posing a threat to global economies. It started in 2009 whenGreece was at risk of defaulting its debt. There were allayed fears that Malaysia’s current government debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio of 53.3% in 2012 was vulnerable to any economic collapse from the Eurozone. Malaysia’s government debt to GDP ratio has always hovered below the limit of 55% since 2010. Meanwhile, the country’s gross external debt which includes external offshore, public enterprises and private sectors loans) to GDP ratio has been rising from 62% (RM602 billion) to 72.1% (RM833 billion) from 2012 to 2015.

2013

Loans approved for residential properties climbed in 2013. In November, BNM issued guidelines to banks tightening lending practices which include abolishment of Developer Interest Bearing Scheme (DIBS) and enforcement of stricter LTV ratio calculations, while the government imposed a higher RPGT at 15% for properties held and disposed within 2 years and 10% for properties held and disposed between two to five years.

2014

It can be observed that following the counter measures taken in 2014 such as revision of RPGT and curbs on LTV ratio, the amount of loans approved the following year in 2015 fell by 4.38% (RM1.11 billion) while Q1 quarter-on-quarter change in HPI for 2015 increased by 15.8 index points (Table 1).

2015

In June 2015, the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) began listing borrowers who have never paid back their loans into Central Credit Reference Information System (CCRIS). It has been reported that 30%of the loans submitted in 2016 were rejected due to applicant’s debts with PTPTN. From Table 1, quarter on quarter HPI has slowed to a growth of 15.3 index points between 2015-Q1 to 2016-Q1. Recall earlier on that in 2011, HPI increased by 17.9 index points. Performance for residential loans approved also fell drastically by RM5.6 billion from 2015-Q1 to 2016-Q1. HPI continues to rise (moving towards right) despite a drop in the amount of residential loans approved since 2014.
THE complexities of house purchase has been done finally, and now it is time to get the interiors of this place to call home decorated. While scouring glossy magazine spreads and endless Pinterest pins and internet posts for the next chic design that will keep you one up on the Joneses (or at least at par), don’t forget that reality is far different from a perfectly arranged photo, especially in the case of comfort.

Whether decorating your new home for the first time or looking to de-clutter and bring some order to the chaos, here are some tips and ideas for a fresh new and organised look for home.

ORGANISATION MATTERS
There are many reasons why including proper home organisation into one’s ID blueprint is important. For starters, good organisation planning ensures the home looks polished time and time again. Every item does and should have its own place in the home and when kept in its place, gives a particular room or space a streamlined appearance, like what you see in home design magazines.

For 2017, make it your personal aspiration to find each item its own space in your home – not in the “out of sight, out of mind” (under the table cloth or behind the curtain kind of way) – instead, a specific place that will enhance or beautify an area. If you find yourself struggling to do so, it might mean that it is time to de-clutter, give away or discard the odds and ends.

BYE-BYE CLUTTER
Many people make the mistake of purchasing storage containers before they have de-cluttered and reorganised their interiors to even know what will be going into those “plastic boxes”. Says Neat Method lifestyle organiser Marissa Hagmeyer: “We can’t stress enough that you should wait to buy anything until you have done the organising and measured your space to figure out exactly what you need before you ever step foot in a store. Professional organiser and designer Jeffrey Phillip adds in: “It can also lead to keeping things we do not need since it feels good to contain things and say or think, like ‘Ah, I have a bin for that!’”

One of the most popular de-cluttering trends at the moment is the KonMari method. Readers around the world have been inspired by Japanese organising consultant and author Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and can attest to the effectiveness of Kondo’s methods. The philosophy is simple – get rid of what does not “spark joy” in you.

Kondo’s advice: Tackle clutter by category rather than room. The reason, being that categories of items can be in different rooms.

When you gather all items in a category into one spot, it will be easier to de-clutter. Clothing, according to Kondo, should be the first category, because it has less emotional attachment to a person (or so they say).

This may seem odd to some, but Kondo talks about considering the “feelings” for your items. For clothes, she asks one to think how would a t-shirt feel huddled up in a corner? How would socks feel to be balled up and thrown into a corner? “Sort through the pieces that you definitely do not associate any form of joy with and chuck it out. Then move on to the next category.” Kondo has even created her own special technique of folding clothes that doesn’t just save you a ton of space, but also gives drawers a neat and streamlined look.

STORAGE SOLUTIONS
Once the de-cluttering is done, the organisation and configuration planning follows.

Baskets are your best (storage) friend. Even interior designers and home organisers swear by it. Baskets come in varying shapes, designs and materials, which make it easy to blend into the landscape of home.

First mark down which parts of home you will need baskets for – think the lowest level of the shelves, on top of cupboards, under the bed – and be sure to take down measurements for these areas. Interior designer Judith Balis is a fan of baskets. She says, “Baskets not only hide a multitude of sins, but they are also a great way to add texture to a room.”

When decorating with baskets, Balis likes to maintain consistency by using the same material for all baskets. She does this to avoid visual clutter, but adds that the baskets can be of varying shapes and sizes.

Use open shelving to hold yourself accountable for every item in the house. With no dark corners to hide the clutter, you will be more likely to reduce impulse spending and be disciplined in keeping your things organised.

Open shelving also makes it easier to put things away, as Impact Organizing LLC owner and certified professional organiser Kate Brown points out. “Make everything a one-handed operation and avoid lids at almost all costs. The fewer steps, the better the organising system,” says Brown.

To avoid visual clutter, especially in places like the pantry or kitchen, invest in clear containers of varying shapes and sizes for refillable foods like cereal, pasta or rice. Arrange and display your items as if they are pieces of art.

Don’t be afraid to use the back of doors for vertical storage either. A simple plastic shoe organiser can be used to hold other belongings like spices in the kitchen, toiletries in the bathroom or even small toys in the children’s room.

STAYING IN LANE
No doubt it isn’t easy getting organised the first time round, but maintain that state as it takes some discipline and picking up of good habits for any positive change.

Put limits by keeping track on how many of certain items you can own at a time. For example, if you are a collector of coloured pens, know the limit as to how many you own and how many you can own – depending on the “storage” capacity and space you have.

A huge tip (as this bad habit is found in many a home) is to place decorative items in places where it is easy to dump clutter such as coffee tables, bedside tables or kitchen countertops. Professional organiser Maeve Richmond suggests, “Place a plant, a figurine or a framed photo on your side tables, or even add a table runner or centrepiece to a dining room table.” With something that looks nice and in its place already there, there really is no place for “bits and pieces” or a mishmash of what-nots.

If all else fails, do not be afraid to seek professional help. At time external intervention is required before a situation takes a deep dive into being the next home on Hoarders!
WHILE last week's article highlighted the rise of global cities along with the shift in lifestyle habits and mindsets due to the way modern day companies function and the masses engage, this week we look at three mega trends expected to drive the real estate market and how Malaysia is faring in its goal as a developed nation.

To further understand these changes that are slowly and subtly changing the global urban landscape, let us first look at trends and market opportunities that are causing this evolution.

Shaping the shift

According to a study conducted by Oxford Economics on Global Cities 2030, the urban economic power will shift into the court on the east side. By the year 2030, it is forecast that:

>> 410 million more people will be living in the top 750 global cities;

>>240 million more jobs will be created (with 60 million extra jobs in industries);

>> the number of elderly aged 65 and above will rise by an additional 150 million people; consumer spending will increase by $18 trillion; and

>> 260 million more new homes will be needed.

China will be the powerhouse to watch, with cities like Chengdu, Hangzhou and Wuhan economically at the top. Cities expected to witness the biggest increases in population and GDP growth in Asia and Oceania include Dhaka, Karachi, Jakarta, Delhi, Mumbai, Tokyo, Istanbul, Singapore and Bangkok.
While emerging markets of India, Brazil and China will make it as the stories of the century, the world's major 750 cities (by 2030) as surveyed in the report, are set to contribute to the world's economy with staggering amounts.

Urban economic powers

According to the report, by 2030, Chinese cities will be at the heart of the radical shift in the urban centre of economic gravity. These cities, driven by burgeoning urban populations and rapid labour productivity growth, are expected to overtake Europe's 139 largest cities and America's 58 cities by 2020. Chinese urban incomes will also grow six times faster than that in the Europe sector.

By 2030, US and Asian cities are expected to dominate the top 10 spots with the biggest increases in urban income and consumer spending. While cities across Asia will continue to urbanise rapidly until 2030, their urban populations will also age. Across the globe, aging populations will bring both challenges and opportunities.

Real estate catalysts

The three mega trends to drive the real estate market according to investment and business website Visual Capitalist founder Jeff Desjardins are globalisation, demographics and technology. Here are examples of each and valuable tips for the real estate investor.

1) Globalisation – Global cities are receiving more foreign capital across all real estate types eg. 60% of commercial real estate in London, which have been bought up by international investors in the past 10 years. He urges investors to look for opportunities to diversify real estate portfolios across a broader mix of geographics and asset types.
His advice – think globally and develop strong knowledge about the local market before investing.

2) Demographics – The middle class in Asia is expected to "explode" in growth while in Western countries, the aged will reach their ranks. Global and mega cities have already started mushrooming and will attract and account for the vast majority of economic activity. Desjardins recommends investors look at emerging markets with rapidly expanding middle class (emerging markets), as well as capitalise on areas with large retiree populations.

3) Technology – With its omnipresence, technology will also impact real estate markets. The growing demographic of "highly-prized commodity of skilled and talented techies" drawn to urban centres will re-shape and re-map communities. Suggests Desjardins, explore emerging technology hubs for real estate opportunities and look for favourable circumstances
in urban-adjacent industrial properties as businesses establish distribution centres near cities to reduce costs.

Malaysia into the future

With all the development, evolution and progress that Asia is forecast for, it sounds as though the real estate industry in this part of the world is in for an exciting time. As it is back here on home ground, one cannot help but notice the amount of construction that has been on-going. Driving this growth and development is the Economic Transformation Programme, otherwise known as the ETP, which was launched in 2010 and has set sights for our country to achieve "developed-nation" status by 2020.

Parallel to our topic on global cities, we examine Greater Kuala Lumpur (Greater KL), which encompasses the capital city of KL and its surrounding metropolitan areas. Sprawling some 2,793 sq km to accommodate approximately 7.9 million people – Greater KL is said to be well positioned as a regional hub for diverse economic activities and business dealings. In its development as a megalopolis and with our currency where it is, public and private stakeholders are reported to be attracting multinational global firms to set up regional hubs right here. Agencies established to help the country achieve the ETP and its developed-nation come world-class status include InvestKL and InvestSelangor.

As it is, investors and stakeholders from China and Indonesia, as well as other countries are already behind a couple of major mega property development projects. The real estate landscape is already on its course of change as lifestyles and habits transform. Follow our column next week for more on this exciting era of change.

** Note: Data and charts taken from Global Cities 2030 study conducted by Oxford Economics.