Thursday, December 07, 2017

Our Cabinet has some of the best back-flip acrobats in the world with the unbelievable twists and turns over high-end property development freeze

Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani announced on November 17 that the government had sent a directive to halt all approvals for high-end residences, shopping complexes and office buildings priced over RM1 million.

The freeze came after Bank Negara’s report on the substantial supply and demand imbalance within the country’s property market. The report found that new property launches were skewed towards the high-end sector of the market.

The Second Finance Minister subsequently reaffirmed the blanket ban after his fellow Cabinet colleague, Works Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof said that developments would be reviewed on a case by case basis.

The ‘blanket ban’ had smacked of being a ‘hare-brained’ policy prescription as the Government started granting exemptions to projects which the Government had a vested interested.  In particular, the Minister of Federal Territories, Dato’ Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said the 1MDB-linked projects – Tun Razak Exchange and Bandar Malaysia were “pre-approved”, and are hence exempted.

The fact that Bandar Malaysia has not even found a developer with a plan appears immaterial to the ban exemption.

The biased exemption of such projects by Government-linked companies (GLCs) created an uproar among the private sector, who then lobbied hard to ease the ban.

Yesterday, the Government did another double-twist somersault on its ‘blanket ban’. Two statements by Urban Wellbeing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar and Datuk Seri Johari, suggested that the Government will now allow developers to appeal the ban on a case by case basis.

For luxury residential properties, Tan Sri Noh Omar announced that a four-minister committee to review the project applications comprising of Datuk Seri Johari, Datuk Fadillah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan and himself. The committee would apparently subject its approvals to criteria including the existing housing condition, the number of houses in that location and those priced above RM1 million, as well as the number of unsold houses.

Separately, Datuk Johari said that developers of office spaces and shopping malls could appeal to the relevant ministers if they find locations that lack those properties and can justify their developments. He even went on to say that “anyone can build an office provided you know how to market it”.

Does the Minister actually think that developers are going to build an office block or a mall that they are not confident in selling?

I was among the first who had criticised that the blanket ban would not do much to remedy the property market imbalance.  However, now the Ministers have granted themselves full discretionary powers to grant approval to any developers who can sweet talk way to win the hearts of the Ministers.

Have we now become a communist regime where the Government dictates how many left shoes to manufacture?  Two big mistakes here certainly don’t make a right.

The multiple twists and turns worthy of a world-class acrobatic act only goes to prove that the Najib administration is completely clueless in policy-making.  How does the above, for example, even address the main issue of the lack of affordable housing in the country and the largest oversupply of residential properties were reported at the RM500 000 to RM1 million segment?

The worst type of Government for any investor, foreign or domestic, is the absolutely lack of predictability and consistency in its policies.  The current fiasco will certainly have major short to long term negative implications for Malaysia’s economy.  The Cabinet must remedy its knee-jerk policy-making mechanism and instead, conduct a thorough study with all stakeholders, Bank Negara and think-tanks to design a consistent, constructive and incentivised policies to ensure continued growth and sustainability for the property sector and our economy.

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