Death toll nears thousand in Indonesia earthquake, tsunami
Mass burials have begun for the hundreds of victims of the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Indonesian city of Palu. The current death toll of 844 is largely from the city of Palu and is expected to rise into the thousands as areas cut off by the damage are reached. In a desperate attempt to stave off the spread of disease in the devastated region, Indonesia’s national disaster mitigation agency authorised the burials to proceed as soon as possible. Meanwhile, nearly 50,000 people remain displaced and various parts of the nation “paralysed” amid the recovery efforts. This was the latest natural disaster to hit Indonesia, following a powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August, and the December 2004 tsunami in which killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. (ABC News)

JPPH does not control property prices in Malaysia
The Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) does not control the price of property, including residential buildings, says its director-general Nordin Daharom. The prices of houses were usually determined by demand and supply, except for low-cost houses in the primary market (from developers), where their ceiling price had been fixed by the respective state authorities. JPPH, which is under the Ministry of Finance, played a role in announcing important indicators for the real estate market to keep the market under control. Nordin said the components of a housing development scheme which could potentially contribute to an increase in home prices included costs of land, premiums, infrastructure development charges, contributions to utility providers (TNB, Syabas, Indah Water), building materials, bridging finance and end financing. (Malay Mail Online)

Developers agree to pass SST savings to property buyers
Property developers will review prices of new homes in response to the government’s call for tax exemption savings on construction materials to be passed on to consumers. According to the New Straits Times, some said they could also apply discounts to existing units despite the Sales and Services Tax exemption only coming into effect last month. Rehda said it would study the exact savings from the exemption before arriving at new prices, which it would reveal before the 2019 Budget announcement. Rehda Penang hoped to bring down overall house prices in the state by 10% for property above RM300,000 and 6% for affordable housing units. Mah Sing Group Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Ho Hon Sang said his firm will also study possible discounts. (Malay Mail Online)

PNB to invest into affordable housing
Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) is taking advantage of the country’s property market imbalance to explore the affordable housing market which has yet to be fully explored by property developers. PNB chairman Tan Sri Dr Zeti Aziz said the current segment of property growth is not balanced with excess supply across commercial and residential categories. “We intend to manage the inventory of these properties. We will not continue to contribute to the excess supply in the luxury residential segment that has already taken place. The oversupply of luxury residential would likely stretch until 2022,” she said. The plan would be carried out in stages, while PNB is currently focusing on balancing its property portfolio. (NST Online)

Gemas-JB rail contract sole mega rail job for 2019
Following the cancellation and deferment of the East Coast Rail Line (ECRL), MRT 3 (Circle Line) and KL-Singapore High speed Rail (HSR), the Gemas Johor Baru (JB) rail contract is the only mega rail contract left for 2019, said CIMB Research. “This development reaffirms YTL Corp Bhd’s position as the biggest play on Gemas-JB rail contract,” said CIMB Research, adding that the upside risk to sector call is a revival of cancelled rail contracts. It also noted that the Gemas-Johor Bahru Electrified Double-Tracking (EDT) project would now cost 15% to 20% less than the original RM9.4 billion value awarded to the Chinese consortium in 2016. (The Edge Markets)