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Expat News- February 2012

In recognition of the Malaysian Government’s plans to attract more foreigners to Malaysia and liberalise the rules on visas and work permits, we are introducing this news section to keep resident and prospective expats updated on news affecting them working or living here.

Malaysia Ranks As Top Asian Retirement Destination

International Living once again rated Malaysia the best place in Asia to retire. It ranked fourth in the world in their 2012 Retirement Index behind Ecuador, Panama and Mexico. Thailand was the only other Asian country which received high rankings, coming in at ninth place.

International Living has been going for some 30 years and primarily focuses on American retirees, which may be the reason they tend to give such high ratings to Central and Latin American countries. However, they do offer a lot of information about the countries and claim to have over 400,000 people on their mailing database for their e-newsletters.

Interestingly, once again the weather negatively impacted Malaysia’s ranking. With a score of just 66 out of a 100 for climate, it was even lower than Thailand which scored 75 points in this category. We find it rather confusing that Malaysia frequently gets penalised, as a place to live, because of its climate. We know it can get hot and humid here, but our own surveys repeatedly show that expats living here rate the weather as a major plus factor – not a negative. It seems that the people who do these surveys usually live in colder climates and focus heavily on the humidity factor to conclude the weather is very unpleasant.

Broadband Penetration Rises

The Government has announced that 62% of Malaysian homes now have broadband internet access up from 54% in 2012. This is good progress towards achieving the target of 75% by 2015. A key focus is those areas with limited access – mostly parts of Sarawak, Sabah, Pahang and Kelantan. This translates to around 6.5 million households now enjoying broadband access. One negative aspect of this growth has been cyber security with increased cases of spam, phishing, hacking, cyber bullying and other related problems. There were over 7000 cases referred to the Incident Centre at Cyber Security Malaysia last year. This is an agency set up by the Government to focus on cyber security issues. They operate a help desk for people facing problems.

Iskandar Region Taking Off

There have been various positive announcements about the Iskandar Region (IR) since it was decided to develop this huge area around Johor. There are frequent news items about massive Arab investment although it is not always clear how much has actually come through. However, the cumulative foreign investment has been substantial. Our own efforts to get more information from the management, as well as suggest they might want to tell the expat community about their efforts, have never come to anything.

The result of course is that many expats are not aware of some of the developments down there. Some of the big property developers have created some attractive developments in Nusajaya which is part of IR. They have been selling quite well, particularly to Singaporeans or expats living in Singapore. The cost differential from that country is enormous. The new Administrative centre for Johor is completed and the buildings are certainly attractively and creatively designed.

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Part of the overall plan is to set up a regional education hub in an area they are calling Edu City and that is making progress. The University of Newcastle has already opened its medical campus and the University of Southampton is recruiting students for its engineering campus. Marlborough College will also be opening their Malaysian private secondary school this year.

Towards the end of this year, Legoland will open its first Asian theme park in the Iskandar Region. It will take up 76 acres and is targeting around one million visitors a year.

Invest KL Now Established

InvestKL is a new entity which has been established to help attract more foreign investment in Kuala Lumpur. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry has been doing this for many years. However, under the Economic Transformation Programme, the government is keen to see some big names enter Malaysia.

Invest KL is specifically charged with attracting 100 of the world’s largest multinationals to set up operations in the Greater Kuala Lumpur area.

It is headed up by Zainal Amanshah who was brought in from the private sector to become Chief Executive Officer at the end of last year.

Early Elections

There has been considerable speculation that the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition may call a General Election in the first part of this year. The parliamentary term is for five years, so the election must be called not later than 2013. Various parties have expressed their view that an earlier election might be on the cards to avoid being forced to hold an election if the Malaysian economy is negatively affected by the global economic slowdown which shows no signs of improving.

The impact on expats would most likely be felt if the opposition gets in and decides it does not want to pursue the Transformation Programmes which the current government have introduced and which are now well underway and already showing some encouraging signs for the economy.

Source: The Expat February 2012 
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This article has been edited for ExpatGomalaysia.com

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