BRT system in Iskandar Malaysia to cost less than RM3bil
The cost of implementing the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system in Iskandar Malaysia is expected to cost not more than RM3 billion, said Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) chief executive Datuk Ismail Ibrahim. The final value has yet to be announced, but the estimated amount will cover infrastructure cost for building the line, operation cost including buses and several other application costs. The BRT system will be developed in three phases and will cover almost 90% of the Iskandar Malaysia region. The first phase is expected to begin operation by 2020. (The Star Online)

Penang to build RM9.7mil centre for traditional trades
A row of derelict buildings along Victoria Street within the heritage zone will be turned into a centre for traditional trades and the creative industry, announced Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng. The vacant buildings, used as warehouses, will provide space for traditional trades. Priority will be given to local traditional trades at heavily subsidized rates. The state acquired the buildings with plans to develop working space and meeting rooms with MSC status for the creative and animation industry. The project is not expected to start yet due to pending heritage requirements. (The Malay Mail Online)

I-Bhd in talks for RM5bil to RM6bil project
Property developer I-Bhd is in talks with a few parties over a land deal for the group’s next phase of development, which include urban projects and townships. The group is looking to increase its landbank, and planning a big project worth RM5 billion to RM6 billion through joint venture or acquisition. The group’s i-City mega project in Shah Alam would keep it busy for another 10 to 15 years, so the focus would be on expanding its footprint outside of Shah Alam. It is planning to accumulate a RM1 billion investment property portfolio by 2018 and is developing its leisure segments to contribute half of its earnings. (The Star Online)

Penang’s heritage site under threat due to inflated prices
Price manipulations, market monopoly and evictions of generations-old tenants are threatening George Town’s world heritage site, claimed local NGOs. Heritage properties estimated at RM400,000 to RM600,000 are being sold for up to RM1.2 million. The inflated prices have stirred foreigners, especially Singaporeans, into buying up George Town’s pre-war shophouses. Even the prices of pre-war properties outside the heritage zone have shot up. Tenants who previously paid RM1,300 in rent now have to fork up about RM7,000 or more after the new owners refurbished the properties. Some evicted tenants took to living in the streets as they could not afford to pay the high rental prices. (The Star Online)

malaysia thailandThai tourist arrivals to Malaysia up 31.7% in 1Q
Malaysia recorded a 31.7% increase in Thai tourists for the first quarter this year compared to the same period last year. Contributing factors included the strengthen of the Thai baht against the Malaysian Ringgit which made Malaysia a more attractive and affordable holiday destination in the region. Thailand’s economic stability and aggressive promotions by airlines and travel agencies also contributed to the positive increase in number of Thai tourists. “Tourism products like Legoland theme park, Sunway Lagoon and Lost World of Tambun continue to be aggressively promoted among Thai tourists,” said Tourism Malaysia director Sulaiman Suip, noting sales of tourism packages to Malaysia in April rose 15%. (The Sun Daily)