SEMENYIH • The Malaysian government is working with various parties to issue clearer guidelines on foreign ownership in the multibillion-dollar Forest City project in Johor, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said yesterday.
She said her ministry would be holding a meeting with the Forest City developer, the state government, the Iskandar Regional Development Authority and the Johor authorities today to understand more about the project.
"The ministry will submit a report to the Cabinet later. Then only the government will look into foreign ownership matters related to the project.
"The developer will brief us on what transpired before our time. We can then have a clear direction on foreign ownership related to the project," she told reporters after an event in Semenyih, Selangor.
The Forest City project made international headlines after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said last week that Malaysia would not allow foreigners to buy residential units there.
When asked at a news conference about Forest City, Tun Dr Mahathir said: "One thing is certain, that city that is going to be built cannot be sold to foreigners.
"We are not going to give visas for people to come and live here."
He added that the government objected to the massive development "because it was built for foreigners, not built for Malaysians".
"Most Malaysians are unable to buy those flats," he said.
The Forest City developer has said that two-thirds of residential units in the project, comprising four man-made islands, were bought by mainland Chinese.
The developer, Country Garden Pacificview, said it had complied with all laws and regulations and had the necessary approvals to sell to foreign property buyers.
The company said in a statement on Aug 27, soon after Dr Mahathir made his comments, that Section 433B of the National Land Code outlined that a foreign citizen or a foreign company may acquire land in Malaysia subject to the prior approval of the state authority.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said in a statement on Tuesday that the purchase of properties did not guarantee automatic residency in Malaysia.
It said Malaysia imposed certain "conditions and information" for foreigners purchasing properties, irrespective of nationality.
Malaysia, in general, allows foreigners to purchase only residential units that are priced at RM1 million (S$332,900) and above, with several states placing a higher minimum price.
The PMO statement added that foreigners wishing to make Malaysia their permanent place of residence could join the Malaysia My Second Home programme.
Under the programme, multiple-entry social visit passes for 10 years - which are renewable - are issued by Malaysia.
The PMO statement said China tourists are given 30-day visas.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK