JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The multibillion-ringgit Forest City project in Gelang Patah can be turned into an iconic development project in the region, says a leading property consultant firm in Malaysia's southern region.
KGV International Property Consultants (M) Sdn Bhd director Samuel Tan Wee Cheng hopes that the project will be completed as planned.
"Do not turn the project into a white elephant as it is not good for Iskandar Malaysia and the country," he said.
Remarks by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad this week that foreigners will be barred from buying residential units at the Forest City development has caused some confusion, with Malaysia's Federal Housing Ministry saying it has been tasked with studying the residential agreements in the project.
Johor's Housing and Rural Development Committee chairman Dzulkefly Ahmad, a member of the state Cabinet, said on Monday that Dr Mahathir's comments came as a shock as there had been no discussions with Johor.
The US$100 billion (S$136 billion) Forest City, which comprises apartment blocks, landed houses, office towers, hotels and shopping centres, is meant to eventually have 700,000 residents.
Mr Tan said looking at the scale of the project, which is located just across Singapore, the authorities could take the initiative to promote it as Johor's new tourist attraction.
"Forest City entails the reclamation and development of a large area in the Straits of Johor and the creation of four man-made islands with a gross development value of RM600 billion (S$199 billion) over 30 years.
"Johor's economic prospects, especially tourism and services sectors, will benefit directly and indirectly from the project in terms of tourist dollars," he said.
Mr Tan said at the same time, the state government should be more careful when approving development projects by foreign developers, including incentives given to them which local developers did not enjoy.
Johor Consumers Movement Association chairman Md Salleh Sadijo said the government made the right move by banning foreigners from purchasing residential properties there.
"They will come and stay only for a few months and their units will be left unoccupied for the rest of the year," said Mr Salleh.
Checks at the project site showed that construction works were still being carried out.
Lorries were still moving within the construction site, in addition to many busy workers there.