KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Muhamad on Tuesday declared that the government will not issue visas to foreign buyers in Malaysia.
This followed an earlier remark regarding the barring of foreigners from purchasing homes at the upscale eco Forest City near Singapore.
“Purchase of properties, however, does not guarantee automatic residency in the country,” Mahathir said in a press statement on Tuesday. He added that Malaysia imposes certain conditions on property bought by foreigners.
Mahathir told reporters on Monday that Forest City “cannot be sold to foreigners,” saying that he was against the idea. “We are not going to give visas for people to come and live here,” Mahathir said.
“Our objection is because it was built for foreigners, not meant for Malaysians. Most Malaysians are unable to buy those flats,” he said.
However, Malaysia’s Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Dr. Xavier Jayakumar’s told Parliament recently that the government’s decision to continue allowing foreign buyers to own freehold property in Forest City was in accordance with the ruling issued by the National Land Council in 2014.
Country Garden’s Chairman Yeung Kwok Keung said in a statement on Monday that Mahathir’s remarks “may have been taken out of context” as his comments were not in line with the discussion at a closed-door meeting between them recently.
“This must be a new policy proclamation, which the new government has the right to enact,” Dr. Oh Ei Sun, Malaysian political scientist, told Arab News, adding that foreigners can buy residences in Malaysia over $250,000 according to Malaysia’s previous housing policy.
Ever since his campaigning days and after coming to power, the Malaysian premier has not been in favor of such luxury homes for foreigners and has wanted those homes to be made affordable to local buyers instead, Dr. Oh said.
“Mahathir was not in favor of what he considers to be expensive extraterritorial enclaves populated mostly by foreigners, at a time when there is an affordable housing crisis domestically,” he said.
Developed by the Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings Co, Forest City is a futuristic, massive-scale $100 billion real property project located in the state of Johore, which is separated from Singapore by the Johore Strait.
The ambitious project was envisaged to house 700,000 residents in four man-made islands, about three times the size of Singapore’s Sentosa island.
On the company’s website, it has been trying to attract foreign buyers more than Malaysians for sales of apartments: “Forest City will offer wealthy international buyers luxury homes, the most advanced 3D multi-layered urban planning concept, flush green surroundings with no vehicles traveling.”
“Sales at many of these similar projects have been stalling in recent months due to China’s tightened currency control measures barring large amounts from going overseas,” Dr. Oh said. Developers have been launching huge marketing campaigns mostly in China, he said.
Last year, 70 percent of apartments were purchased by Chinese nationals, 20 percent by Malaysians and the rest from 22 other countries including neighboring Asian nations. However, the development of Forest City has been slow as only a fraction of the planned reclaimed land of 20 sq km was built.
In the heated reaction following Mahathir’s foreign-buyer ban remark, the government reiterated that it welcomes “foreign direct investment that contributes to the transfer of technology, provides employment for locals and the setting up of industries.”
The government also reassured tourists from China that the government welcomes “all tourists including from China” and is looking at attracting 10 million Chinese nationals for tourism in the coming years.