Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme was initiated by the federal government in 2002 under the purview of the Ministry of Tourism. Its primary objective is to allow citizens of recognised countries to reside in Malaysia on a long-term basis of up to 10 years.

In conjunction with the Perak Festival of Ideas, the MM2H Dialogue was held on Thursday, September 7. It took place at the banquet hall of the State Secretariat Building, Ipoh.

Among the speakers were State Tourism, Arts, Culture, Multimedia and Communications Committee Chairman, Dato' Nolee Ashilin Mohammed Radzi; Chairman of Real Estate and Housing Developers' Association Malaysia (REHDA), Tony Khoo Boon Chuan; Managing Director of Hibiscus New Lifestyle (MM2H) Sdn Bhd, Gloria Choong; Ipoh City Council Town Planning Director, Zulqarnain Mohamad and Business Development Director of PWP Properties (N) Sdn Bhd, Stephanie Chang.

The dialogue focused on ways to make Ipoh as every country's first choice of destination and to overcome challenges faced. According to Dato' Nolee, with Ipoh being featured on Lonely Planet it was to Perak’s advantage. She emphasised that the UNESCO World Heritage sites in the state should also be optimised.

"Malaysia being culturally diverse is already a plus factor. You come here, you witness various cultures and beliefs. To develop more international recognition, the private sector and the state government need to put their heads together. It could be in the form of property expos, roadshows and more, we have to start working as a team," she said.

Gloria emphasised that there were many shortcomings in the country. Tourists prefer convenience stores but if these places are short of products, what will their impression be?

"I think property value, in itself, is already an attraction. Perak is the only state which offers a minimum value of RM350, 000 for foreigners to purchase property here on the MM2H program. What's more to ask for? The only way is to maintain the price, instead of increasing it," said Stephanie.

"The first step is to zero in on the target group of MM2H, the retirees. There are two things a retiree looks for – a fully-furnished home and good security. If we maintain these two requirements, I'm certain the market will always be there," Tony added.

Zulqarnain remarked that the local council is doing the best they can. However, there is still room for improvement. The council will continue assisting in whatever way they can.

Another issue raised was the lack of direct flights to Ipoh. The speakers felt that having a decent airport would achieve much more.

At a recent roundtable discussion titled "Malaysian Affordable Housing: Can We Meet the Demand?", Chairman of Committee of Women, Family and Welfare Development, Housing and Local Government Development State of Perak, Dato' Rusnah Kassim, too, had a few things to say on  property development.

"Some of the developers, who were given land by the state government, haven’t constructed anything until today. That's why we now give them a grace period of six months before revoking the agreement. Developers should be more responsive," she insisted.

"I think it's about time we focus more on building homes for the Orang Asli. But currently, we only have less than RM15 million in our kitty. How many units can we build with this amount?" she lamented.

Khaleeja