Recent articles in the New Straits Times and other local media indicate the “temporary suspension” of the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme has been confirmed, despite pleas from many quarters to leave it open while the planned review of the programme is conducted. No explanation has been offered why it cannot remain open during the review process and the decision shocked many, given the damage it will do to the programme’s reputation, as well as to the local MM2H agents who have been marketing it. The news comes on top of other negative stories about the programme, which collectively send the wrong message about it and do not reflect well on Malaysia. One consultant expressed dismay and scepticism, saying that revisions to the programme shouldn’t take several months to complete.
At a time when Malaysia is doing such an excellent job controlling the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, it would clearly be an opportune time to attract qualified people to consider coming and living here. The MM2H programme contributes billions of ringgit to the Malaysian economy, so it would seem logical to capitalise on this opportunity. Malaysia, like most other countries, needs all the help it can get to revive its Covid-depressed economy. They could even give approved applicants special dispensation to enter the country, after the appropriate Covid-19 testing and quarantine.
The foreign exchange such MM2Hers would bring, and their economic contribution to the country, should be welcomed. The all-important property industry, which has been having a very tough time lately, would also benefit. Our research shows that 60% of MM2H applicants who move here buy property. Even the ones who rent may assist Malaysian property owners, plenty of whom have unleased properties and may be struggling to pay their mortgages. Equally importantly, MM2Hers do not take any jobs away from Malaysians, as the programme is set up essentially as a retirement scheme.
Along with the fees and capital costs associated with the programme, the day-to-day spending of resident MM2Hers also contributes significantly to the Malaysian economy. According to an analysis published in Free Malaysia Today, “The programme’s participants spent an estimated RM4.9 billion in 2017 and RM4.4 billion in 2018 on property, rent, vehicles, and immigration fees. Among the other sectors they have contributed to are medical, education, travel, hospitality, retail, restaurant, and entertainment.” It’s important to note that virtually all of that spending is with money brought in from overseas.
For reasons which have not been shared with us, the government has decided to go in the opposite direction and suspend the programme altogether, as well as return (to agents) all recent applications that had been received for the visa. According to the statements given, the programme’s suspension is planned to last throughout the remainder of 2020.
Based on this and other recent events, a number of expats have told us it seems clear the government is trying to send a message that foreigners are not welcome here, but we do not believe this to necessarily be the case. Certainly refusing entry to the few MM2Hers who were stranded outside the country during the lockdown was regrettable and distressing, but we assume this was possibly because of confusion arising from the many initiatives to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The decision to suspend the MM2H programme comes on top of an unprecedented number of MM2H visa applications being declined, which suggests new criteria were applied, guidelines which were never shared with MM2H agents or applicants. Requests for an explanation or a review of the cases have not produced any response, which makes it hard for MM2H agents to provide explanations to their unlucky clients. The large number of declines also means deposits from applicants will have to be refunded. Coming on top of the losses sustained during the MCO when businesses were closed, this is sure to be very tough for agents’ cash flow. Now that the programme is being suspended, we are told many of them are facing bankruptcy and of course the resultant job losses for their Malaysian staffs.
Obviously, the several thousand people who thought they qualified for the programme but whose applications have been denied or suspended will not be saying nice things about Malaysia or the MM2H programme. This is very unfortunate, as bad news tends to spread quickly. The fact that the many agents who have worked so hard to market the programme are also facing major cash flow problems and even bankruptcy just makes the situation that much worse. As many as 100 consultancies are facing the prospect of closing down their businesses.
Local media have also seized on the suspension, with articles saying that it will damage Malaysia’s reputation and negatively impact the local economy, too. Lim Kok Sai, the president of the MM2H Consultants Association, estimates that the most recent batch of widescale rejections have cost the country at least RM776 million in lost revenue.
Efforts are continuing to try and convince the authorities to contain the damage done by letting the programme continue and re-examining the applications of the many people who qualified for the programme but have so far been rejected. Failing that, it would be good to receive an explanation why these actions were considered necessary in the first place.
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