Agong again asks MPs to back Muhyiddin’s Budget, stresses need for economic recovery

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah asked federal lawmakers to extend their support when Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s tables Budget 2021. Comptroller of the Royal Household Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said the Agong was concerned about the state of the economy and the welfare of Malaysians, which Al-Sultan said was at risk due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Therefore, Al-Sultan Abdullah urges all MPs to respect his decree advising them to immediately stop all political tussles and to instead focus on the welfare of the people and the wellness of the nation, so that the Budget 2021 can be passed without any interruption,” Ahmad Fadil said in a statement. The Agong first made the call on Sunday after announcing that he disagreed with the Muhyiddin administration’s bid to seek a proclamation of emergency in Malaysia, but this did not stop the political parties from resuming hostilities the next day. The Agong also expressed hope that Budget 202 would focus on economic recovery and the likelihood of the nation affected by the pandemic. (Malay Mail)

Loopholes that lead to property overhang

Flaws at the planning approval process and a failure to consider market conditions have led to over-building, and thus to the overhang situation in the country. Although land is a state matter and town planning is a powerful tool, state local authorities have failed to use it and developers “take advantage of” these loopholes. These are among some of the structural failures identified in a book published by the Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia (RISM), titled “Investigating the Property Overhang Situation: Policy Analyses”. Valuation and Property Services (JPPH) former director general Datuk Rahah Ismail wrote that although an overhang is a feature of the property market, there is a social cost to the yearly ballooning figure, besides an economic and financial one. She noted that the government looks at the total aggregated figure and is worried, but developers view it “project-by- project and location-by- location” and are not worried. Instead, “as part of their business strategy, ” they use the rising overhang to get government support to market unsold stock by seeking stamp duty waivers for buyers. Emphasis is put on compliance with no thought given to existing market conditions, nor what has been approved in the same or neighbouring municipalities, the writers say. Another loophole is planning approvals, which, once granted, “never lapses”. In addition, although each state has its own local plans, these plans “neglect the element of effective demand” in forecasting. (The Star Online)

Ekovest to turn into conglomerate, plant more durian trees

Ekovest Bhd aims to transform into a conglomerate, focusing on three core businesses namely infrastructure and construction, property and plantation. The company is in the midst of raising its stake in PLS Plantations Bhd to 57.38% from 32.84% currently. Executive chairman Tan Sri Lim Kang Hoo said Ekovest’s presence in PLS had enabled it to venture into the management and operation of oil palm and forest plantations, and more importantly in durian plantation, production, distribution and related businesses. He said raising Ekovest’s stake in PLS was in line with the long-term strategy of expanding and diversifying into other businesses. “We aim to reduce dependency and reliance on our existing businesses in construction, property development and toll operations,” he said. He said PLS was in negotiations with land owners for outright purchase of their property, or to form a joint venture. “We are going into high-tech agroculture, agriculture and aqua. We are introducing cash crops. The majority of the land will be planted with durian trees, and the produce exported globally with the key market being China,” he said. PLS has a joint venture with a state-owned enterprise of China which serves as the off takers for durian products. (NST Online)

CMMT: Resurgence in Covid-19 cases to impact retail recovery

CapitaLand Malaysia Mall REIT Management (CMRM) Sdn Bhd, the manager of CapitaLand Malaysia Mall Trust (CMMT) says the resurgence in Covid-19 cases is expected to impact Malaysia’s retail recovery. CMRM chairman David Wong said the firm is making efforts to stabilise CMMT’s portfolio through proactive asset and lease management to build greater resilience in the retail ecosystem. The firm’s chief executive officer Low Peck Chen said with most of its tenants having resumed operations since June 2020, shopper traffic and tenant sales per square foot for the first nine months of 2020 have recovered to about 58% and 82%, respectively, of last year’s levels. CMMT’s retail portfolio comprises Gurney Plaza, East Coast Mall (Penang), Sungei Wang, The Mines, and 3 Damansara in Klang Valley. The The decline in its earnings was mainly attributed to higher vacancies and the rental relief granted to affected tenants as they progressively resumed operations under the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO). (NST Online)

Fauci: First US COVID-19 vaccines could ship late Dec or early Jan

If all goes well, the first doses of a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine will likely become available to some high-risk Americans in late December or early January, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, said on Thursday. Based on current projections from vaccine front-runners Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc , Americans will likely know “sometime in December whether or not we have a safe and effective vaccine,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a live chat on social media. Both companies started the final stage of clinical testing in late July with tens of thousands of people taking part in each trial. Interim data from both companies data will then need to be reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will make recommendations on who gets the first doses if the trials prove successful. Practically speaking, Fauci said, the first vaccine doses would likely be deployed to individuals deemed most in need “by the end of December or the beginning of January.” (The Star Online)