Foreigners ‘welcome’ in Johor plan

FOREST CITY::The statement by the Malaysian state’s chief minister contradicts the prime minister’s vow that foreigners cannot buy housing in the Chinese project

Reuters, SKANDAR PUTERI, Malaysia

Wed, Sep 05, 2018 - Page 10

Foreigners are welcome to buy property in Chinese developer Country Garden’s controversial US$100 billion Forest City project on Malaysia’s southern shore, Malaysia’s Johor State Chief Minister Osman Sapian said yesterday.

Forest City is a 30-year project that provides jobs for Malaysians, Osman said in comments that appeared to contradict Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s vow last week to prevent foreigners from buying housing in the project.

“The Johor government believes that Malaysia has comprehensive laws that protect the rights of foreign investors and companies, including purchasing property,” Osman told a briefing. “The Johor government believes that the federal government is able to be fair in protecting foreign companies that run operations in Malaysia.”

The comments appear unlikely to ease confusion surrounding the fate of the giant project, which already faced uncertainty following Mahathir’s pledge last week.

Country Garden shares were little changed yesterday morning in a flat Hong Kong stock market.

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 nations, including Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea.

“Country Garden Pacificview is always providing economic benefits from the project to local agencies,” Osman said, referring to the joint venture between the Chinese developer and Johor.

The project would create more than 9,000 jobs in the construction sector, he added.

Mahathir had capitalized on popular disquiet about Chinese investment pouring into Malaysia during his campaign ahead of his election win on May 9.

Osman belongs to the coalition that brought Mahathir to power.

Since becoming prime minister, Mahathir has put the brakes on a number of China-backed projects, including the US$20 billion East Coast Rail Link project and a natural gas pipeline project in Sabah State.