China’s love of durian ‘next big threat’ to Malaysian rainforest
Soaring Chinese demand for the stinky durian fruit is turning into the next big threat to Malaysia’s depleted rainforest, a conservation expert said today, urging regulation. Malaysia has already lost vast tracts of rainforest to a thriving trade in wood and palm oil; now China’s appetite for the spiky durian risks clearing still more ground. Dzaeman Dzulkifli, executive director at the Tropical Rainforest Conservation & Research Centre (TRCRC), urged the government to stop demand for durian decimating Malaysia’s forests, saying checks needed introducing ― and fast. Durian is now grown by big farmers backed by big finance, as Malaysia cashes in. The government is counting on a 50% jump in exports by 2030 as it chases Thailand for a bigger share of the export market. (Malay Mail)

Zuraida: Malaysia ready for smart cities in five years
It will be another five years before most of the country is ready for the “smart city” concept, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said. She said that the concept is currently being developed for the elite and high-income group instead of the masses. At the same time, she said that before it can be introduced to some of Malaysia’s more rural townships and B40 communities, residents there must be educated to ensure that they will take care of the high-technology facilities and gadgets provided for them. She believes that the younger generation, especially those who are becoming more and more tech-savvy will have good habits inculcated into them as they will be more exposed to use of the gadgets. (Malay Mail)

PR1MA sales surge by 80% in past 2 months
The 1Malaysia People’s Housing Programme (PR1MA), which has not been performing since its establishment, is likely to report a turnaround with a surge of over 80% in sales since July, following the extension of the Home Ownership Campaign (HOC). Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said the rapid increase in sales was mainly attributed to the HOC in Sabah, giving PR1MA about RM5 billion of transaction value. It was reported that a total of 4,795 units of PR1MA homes with a sales value of RM1.24 billion were booked between March 1 and March 21. HOC is extended for another six months until Dec 31 this year to focus on houses below RM300,000, including PR1MA units. (The Malaysian Reserve)

Mah Sing hopes for fillip from Budget 2020
As Budget 2020 looms, Mah Sing Group Bhd is calling for the government to stimulate the property sector, including more relaxed lending guidelines for housing loans. Its founder and group managing director Tan Sri Leong Hoy Kum said loan eligibility has been one of the main challenges in the property market over the past few years. He recommended the government to allow for a higher debt service ratio of 70% to 80% from the current ratio of 60% for lower income group, and a higher margin of financing of up to 110% for first property, 90% for second property and 70% for third property. He also suggested that income from part time jobs should be taken into consideration in loan application review, as well as the introduction of a longer loan tenure of up to 45 years and lower interest rates for first-time home buyers. The group also called for a reduction in compliance cost as it remains as the most significant factor affecting developers’ cash flow. (The Sun Daily)

Glut may ease within 2 years
The Penang property market is likely to remain flat this year, says leading property portal general manager David Mawer. Mawer said factors like supply-demand imbalances of mainly high-rise projects, affordability and rise in living cost are expected to affect market. Other factors include the challenging outlook for the global and local economies. According to NAPIC, there are 2,200 high-rise overhang units with an abundance of unsold apartment and condominium units in Penang due to poor demand. Penang Rehda had said that the 2019 Budget was addressing the state’s property overhang issue through the National Home Ownership Campaign (HOC). Mawer believes the Penang Transport Master Plan will also enhance Penang’s property market in the future as it is expected to improve connectivity. (NST Online)