British lawmakers finally approve historic Brexit deal

Britain’s parliament finally approved Brexit on Thursday, allowing it to become the first country to leave the European Union later this month, ending years of arguments that toppled two governments and splintered society. The House of Commons erupted in cheers after MPs ratified Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s divorce deal with Brussels by 330 votes to 231, turning the page on an extraordinary era of political drama and chaos. Some view Brexit with horror, fearing it will strip them of their European identities and turn Britain into an insular, less important nation. Others embraced it with fervour, viewing it as a chance to “take back control” from officials in Brussels and see Britain regain some of its past might. The Brexit bill must still be passed by the unelected House of Lords and the European Parliament, which is seen as a formality. All eyes are now on another major challenge: the negotiation of a new relationship between Britain and the remaining 27 EU nations, which form the world’s largest single market. (NST Online)

Sluggish property market conditions to continue in 2020 — analysts

Developers did not see much improvement in the property market in 2019, as it continued to be affected by affordability issues, slower economic growth and high levels of unsold stock. Analysts expect conditions to remain sluggish in 2020. While the KL Property Index saw a rise at the start of 2019, touching a high of 964.6 points on Feb 21, the trend turned negative for the rest of the year with the index declining to a low of 747.62 during the year. Many listed developers saw drops in their share prices in 2019. Top decliners included Yong Tai Bhd (down 56%), Eastern & Oriental Bhd (down 42%), S P Setia Bhd (down 30%) and LBS Bina Group Bhd (down 20%). On the other hand, several property counters appreciated during the year, with some even by more than 100%. (The Edge)

Minister: Kampung Baru development plan can be finalised by June

The Federal Territories Ministry is optimistic that the Kampung Baru Development Plan will be finalised by June this year based on the feedback received from the landowners. Minister Khalid Abdul Samad said he has directed Kampong Bharu Development Corporation to hold group meetings with the landowners to discuss issues that have arisen. 97% said they are ready to sell their lots to pave the way for the Kampung Baru Development Plan and will finalise it in the next six months, he said. Khalid said the ministry is prepared to take the necessary steps if it failed to get 100% approval from the landowners. The government had announced a new offer of RM1,000 per square foot as the final price for buying over land in Kampung Baru compared to RM850 previously. RM150 per sq ft of the purchase price would be paid in the form of stakes in a special purpose vehicle (SPV) that will be set up to facilitate the redevelopment. (Malay Mail)

Govt urged to reconsider smoking zone proposal

The government has been urged to review its proposal to set up special smoking zones in public places, estimated to cost RM1 million, and instead used the allocation for smokers’ rehabilitation programmes or treatment for diseases caused by smoking. Malaysian Public Health Medicine Specialist Association president Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said such designated zones were not necessary as smokers were restricted from lighting up at only 23 gazetted areas, such as eateries, air conditioned shops, hospitals and government premises. He said smoking zones in public places such as the ones provided by the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) will give an impression of ‘re-normalisation’, as well as discourage smokers from quitting the habit. Recently Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said local authorities who wish to set up special smoking areas in public places within their respective areas can apply to ministry for an allocation, with RM1 million set aside for this purpose. She said RM5,000 will be allocated to each local authority to set up smoking zones. (The Borneo Post)

New policy may not be favourable for foreigners in Singapore

Malaysians seeking jobs in Singapore might have a tough time getting hired by companies and employers in the republic in the future. The Singapore government had on Jan 1, announced that it would update rules to ensure employers do not discriminate against Singaporeans workers by hiring foreigners. Johor South SME Association adviser Teh Kee Sin said if the new policy was adopted, it would surely affect many Malaysian job seekers including school-leavers and university graduates. Teh pointed out that Singapore companies engaged foreigners including Malaysians for two key reasons – these were jobs Singaporeans were not interested in taking up and a shortage of manpower to fill up the job vacancy. He said many firms based in Singapore favouring foreigners for various posts clearly showed that foreigners could do the jobs as well as Singaporeans. “Singapore should look at foreign workers as complementary to their national economic growth, ’’ said Teh. He said at the same time, the Malaysian government still needed to create more job opportunities for Malaysians by attracting more foreign direct investment into the country. (The Star Online)