JOHOR BARU – A Malaysian MP has called on detractors of a government plan inviting experts from other countries, including Singapore, to improve Malaysia’s housing policy to place public interest above political interest.
Tebrau MP Jimmy Puah Wee Tse said it was getting more difficult and frustrating for Malaysians to acquire homes as the cost of housing has been rising every year.
Lack of affordable housing is one of the most pressing and concerning issues for Malaysians, especially in major cities.
“The government is on the right path in trying to find a workable solution to address the home ownership issue for the people,” Mr Puah said in a statement released on Friday, adding that this includes plans by Local Government Development Minister Nga Kor Ming to rope in experts from countries such as Singapore to look at Malaysia’s housing situation.
On Jan 17, Mr Nga said that his ministry would examine case studies and best practices to tackle the affordable-housing issue for Malaysia.
He also said the Singapore Government is allowing the Republic’s Housing Board (HDB) flat contractors to visit his ministry in February to share their knowledge about building affordable homes.
But the minister’s plans did not go down well with several politicians, including Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, who has criticised Mr Nga’s move.
The Kedah Menteri Besar reportedly suggested during a recent rally in Kedah’s Sik district that Mr Nga’s ministry was attempting to carry out the Silk Road agenda of China. A video taken of Mr Sanusi during the rally was circulated online.
Mr Puah said the racial undertones in the criticism and politicking were totally unwarranted.
“Of course, our civil servants have performed admirably in trying to provide housing accommodation to all Malaysians,” said the Parti Keadilan Rakyat vice-chairman for Johor.
He added that there are existing policies, such as PR1MA (1Malaysia Housing Programme) and People’s Housing Programme, that have provided Malaysians with a roof over their heads, especially during these challenging times.
Mr Puah said those who criticise the government policies should do so with an unbiased lens and debate them on their merits versus the needs of society.
These critics should place the public interest over personal and political interests that would not benefit the millions of Malaysians desperate for housing, he added.
He said there is no shame in admitting that the Singapore HDB policy is one of the most successful in the world.
“Not only does it provide quality and affordable housing accommodation for its citizens, but the subsequent maintenance is also great.”
Mr Puah said there is nothing wrong in wanting to learn from the success stories of others, and only those with a siege mentality will resist this opportunity.
Mr Nambee Ashvin Nambiar, general manager of the Yayasan My First Home (YMFH) foundation, said Mr Nga has made the right move to invite representatives from Singapore to share their knowledge. YMFH is a charitable foundation that focuses on promoting and facilitating the development of affordable housing and home ownership by low-income groups.
Mr Nambee said data has shown that nearly 80 per cent of Singaporeans are living in flats administered by the HDB.
The remaining 20 per cent, citizens from the upper middle class and the rich, are living in private developments such as condominiums and landed property.
These figures mean that Singapore is one of the countries in the world with almost 100 per cent home ownership.
“One of the most attractive models that makes the housing situation in Singapore unique is the fact that the land is owned by the Government for a 99-year lease, taking off the land cost, which in return reduces the housing cost and makes it affordable,” said Mr Nambee.
YMFH believes house ownership should be a fundamental right, but unfortunately, in Malaysia, housing costs have risen faster than incomes, he added.
“We have an exemplary model close to home; we must now understand the concept and localise it to suit most Malaysians,” he said.
“We do not want to run into a long-term problem where people do not have a comfortable home and must keep renting and moving from one place to another due to cost.” THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK