What This Malaysian Thinks about Indonesians' Fear

Dato' Alan Tong Kok Mau is the president of FIABCI International (2005-2006) and president of FIABCI Malaysia (1994-2000), besides being a successful Malaysian property businessman, owner and chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties group that deals with real estate investment, construction and development. He contributes his opinion regarding the coming FIABCI World Congress in Bali, May 2010, and also about eco-property and foreign ownership of Malaysian and Indonesian properties.

Bali will host the 61st FIABCI World Congress this coming May 2010. Dato, what is your comment about Bali?

The World Congress would be a good opportunity for FIABCI Indonesia to invite all the other FIABCI members in the world to Bali. This event is excellent for Indonesia, so the country can show how it's doing with its property industry, such as in Bali. Many people have heard of Bali, but not everyone has had a chance to visit the island.

I support Bali in hosting the 61st FIABCI World Congress. I've repeatedly visited Bali, among which to Amandari, Four Seasons. My son likes the ambience and culture here. I come to Bali every year with my children and grand children for vacation. The culture in Bali is an amazing charm for foreigners. I'm sure that foreign colleagues who will visit Bali will be impressed and will return. And for me, Bali is very interesting, it's has a class of its own.

The FIABCI World Congress in Bali next May will discuss issues regarding eco-property. How far have the green property and eco-property concepts been implemented in Malaysia?

I think FIABCI has the commitment to promote eco-property all over the world. I believe the FIABCI president, Elizabeth, will come here (Bali) and share her experience on eco-property. I'm glad the FIABCI congress will be held in Bali. Elizabeth must come to Bali and see what it has to offer to the world. In Malaysia, some developers have implemented those concepts. There's eco-city in Shah Alam and in Johor, both by the same developer, SP Setia. They've built very attractive housing estates.

Malaysia has started on eco-property since 10 years ago. Private companies have built an eco-friendly and energy-saving township in Johor, while the Malaysian local government has built Kota Baru Shah Alam with the eco-property concept.

My company, Sunrise, which then developed into Bukit Kiara, built the high-rise condominium. It's built with beautiful green nuances and landscape.

Currently Indonesia is still discussing about foreign property ownership. In Malaysia, how are the regulations on this matter?

Let's see the global situation now. Most countries in the world advance because of rapid growth in their property industry. Malaysia has applied foreign property ownership since 20 years ago. It's true that Malaysia had been worried that too many (foreign) people would purchase the properties. However, only vacant lands were barred from foreign purchases. Now, foreigners in Malaysia are allowed to purchase apartments. Many foreigners purchase the condominium (units) my company built.

I believe that Indonesians, and the Indonesian government need not worry about selling property to foreigners. Politically, if the government is concerned, then my suggestion is to do what the Malaysian government did by regulating foreigners so they can only purchase properties worth above USD 100,000 for example. It would be foolish if the Indonesian government restricted foreigners from buying property.

I think Indonesia is a decade or two behind Malaysia and Singapore regarding foreign ownership. Of course you can imagine how foreigners would bring cash to your country. This fresh funding can be allocated for other things, such as housing the homelesses.

You can take Singapore and Hongkong for example. Many buildings are built there, and the buyers are always foreigners. The state gains profit from such property purchases. Why is it so important to a state? Because it can encourage property development.

The government benefits from taxes and developers gain fresh funding, and furthermore, contructions of property projects would absorb labor. This would stimulate other industries, such as for steel, electricity, furniture, and others besides. The more property is built, the more alive the industry becomes and more job opportunities will be available. We've experienced this in Malaysia.

I'm confident that the property industry in Indonesia is very prospective. The development in Indonesia for the past few years has been rapid.

The income per capita and the buying power of Indonesians are rising. No need to worry if foreigners buy property in your country. I think Indonesia should learn from Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Hongkong, the Philippines, and China.

If you buy property in Malaysia, you can use it indefinitely. Malaysia has been very generous and daring regarding foreign property ownership. In Vietnam it's limited to 70 years, the same applies in Singapore. China used to prohibit foreign property ownership but now they've allowed it.

As you can see in Dubai, in the Middle East, 30 years ago Dubai was just a desert land. No one went there. After property projects were done, the real estate in Dubai has come to life.

Guess who buys property in Dubai? Mostly foreigners. So there's no excuse for Indonesia to fear property ownership by foreigners.