Bank Negara: Issue is affordability, not credit access
Credit access is not the problem faced by potential homebuyers, but rather more fundamental issues like affordability and shortage of reasonably priced houses, says Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM). The central bank stressed that first-time homeowners continue to have access to home financing. About 75% of borrowers or 1.5 million people who have housing loans are first-time homebuyers. Responsible financing guidelines serve to ensure individuals borrow within their capacity to repay borrowings, in order to prevent them from falling into financial hardship, which ultimately undermines home ownership. The central bank, it highlighted, does not prescribe any lending limits, and lending decisions continue to be determined by a bank’s business decision, reflecting its risk appetite and strategies. Generally, applicants who fulfill the credit criteria and can afford to pay the debt will have access to credit. BNM’s statement was in response to recent reports urging it to review lending guidelines. (The Edge Markets)

White House calls for Malaysian transparency following fund scandal
The White House has urged Malaysia to demonstrate good governance and a transparent business climate, a day after US prosecutors sued and tried to seize $1 billion in assets bought with money stolen from a state development fund. The lawsuits present a potentially thorny issue and will likely affect relations, but did not come as a surprise. No criminal charges have been filed in the scandal surrounding Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund, which was overseen by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. (Reuters)

The Batu Ferringhi night market in George Town, Penang (Photo from TimeOut)

The Batu Ferringhi night market in George Town, Penang (Photo from TimeOut)

‘Disneyfication’ of George Town will hurt economy, warns Penang heritage group
Penang’s tourism industry will suffer a backlash from the mushrooming of trinket shops, high-end cafes and illegal hotels within the Unesco world heritage site, said the George Town Heritage Action Group. Its co-founder Joann Khaw warned the state government that such activities will hurt Penang’s economy as cultural tourists would be put off by the ‘Disneyfication’ of George Town. “Disneyfication” was the term Khaw used to describe the increasing number of souvenir stalls, high-end cafes and novelty shops opening up within the port city to lure in tourists. Khaw listed a number of negative impacts the heritage zone is facing such as bad traffic and pollution from tour buses waiting for tourists at various spots, increasing evictions, rising rent, increase in cafes and illegal guest houses and most importantly, erosion of tangible and intangible heritage. (The Malay Mail Online)

Hua Yang braces for challenging property sector
Property developer Hua Yang Bhd is expecting continued challenges for the property industry, with tight liquidity and subdued consumer sentiments. Its net profit for the first quarter fell 20% from a year ago due to lower sales, whille revenue fell 10%. However, Hua Yang, which is involved in building affordable housing, remains positive on its prospects for the financial year ending March 31, 2017. (The Star Online)

Gamuda builds RM63mil international school in Jade Hills township
Gamuda Land Bhd is investing RM63 million to build an Eaton International School campus at its Jade Hills township in Kajang, Selangor. The company hopes the school will become a catalyst for the township’s growth, providing the community easy access to quality education. The partnership was formulated upon a build-and-lease model, whereby Gamuda Land builds the school based on the education service provider’s requirement, and lease the assets to the latter. The new campus can house up to 2,000 students. (The Edge Markets)

Foreigners can buy apartments in Indonesia soon
Indonesia is in the process of finalising new regulations that will allow foreigners to buy an apartment in the country. Under a 1960 Agrarian Law, foreigners are not allowed to own homes in Indonesia, South-east Asia’s biggest economy. Liberalising the property sector would be one of the reforms that would attract foreign investors and “make our economy boom”, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said, adding that some property agents have reported getting more inquiries. An emergency law is expected to be issued next month, which will allow foreigners to purchase an apartment, but not landed houses. (The Straits Times)