PUTRAJAYA - The Malaysian government is studying the feasibility of reducing foreign ownership in Johor's Forest City development, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin was quoted by media reports as saying.
"For now, our key concern regarding this project is the government policy allowing 70 per cent ownership by foreigners. I feel this issue needs to be studied and reviewed to ensure our people's rights are not sidelined," Datuk Zuraida was quoted as saying on Thursday (Sept 6).
“I think the direction is to go for less."
The minister was speaking days after the Johor government reportedly proposed reserving 30 per cent of properties in Forest City for Malaysian buyers, as the state tries to allay federal government fears that Chinese nationals who bought into the project would become residents there.
But Ms Zuraida's comments on Thursday suggest that that threshold might be too low for the federal government.
Chinese buyers account for about two-thirds of Forest City units sold so far. A fifth are from Malaysia and the rest from 22 other countries.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad plunged the US$100 billion (S$137 billion) property project, being developed by Chinese company Country Garden and the Johor state, into uncertainty when he said last week foreigners would be barred from buying properties at the project.
Earlier this week, Tun Dr Mahathir said foreigners can buy residential units at Forest City, which is being built on four man-made islands in the Strait of Johor facing Singapore's Tuas, but they would not be issued visas to live there.
Ms Zuraida, speaking after attending the National Local Government Council meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail on Thursday, said the housing ministry would meet the Johor state government and the Forest City project management, as well as Malaysian real estate developers, to get their input on ownership policy involving foreigners.
"We need to get feedback from all quarters so that we can put together a report for the Cabinet and the prime minister in our effort to move forward," Ms Zuraida was quoted by New Straits Times as saying.
"So far, we have tabled the initial report before the Cabinet on Wednesday, which relates to the project facts including the project size, status on development that has been completed and still ongoing.
"Many need to be updated in the report as we seek ways to resolve arising issues."
Ms Zuraida also said her ministry would also consider tightening the Malaysia My Second Home immigration programme for well-heeled foreigners, NST reported. Approved applicants under the programme are issued 10-year multiple-entry, renewable social visit passes.
"(Any revision) is being discussed by the Cabinet and it includes getting the Home Ministry to be strict in giving approvals for the said programme including visa approval," Ms Zuraidah said, adding that there was no such thing as buying a home means getting a visa.