For some time now many people, directly or indirectly linked to the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme, have been desperately seeking answers to various questions. The programme, which has made a significant contribution to the country, has suffered some major blows this year which some say may have caused the programme (along with Malaysia’s reputation) rather serious long-term damage.
We have been closely involved with the programme for 15 years and have connected with many thousands of applicants and visa holders. We have actively marketed Malaysia as an attractive, appealing place to for qualified foreigners to live and now feel the embarrassment that our promises, given in good faith, have not been fulfilled. It is sad to see a programme which has helped the Malaysian economy so much being cast aside at a time when the additional revenue is much needed.
We are not the only ones who are concerned about the damage being done; many MM2H agents who promoted the programme have had to close down causing job losses, new applicants who met the qualifying criteria have been rejected or had their applications returned, resident MM2H visa holders have been refused entry to the country (and some have quit the programme), property developers have been denied potential customers, and Malaysia is losing out on billions of ringgit of foreign exchange. There are many people seeking answers which, for unknown reasons, are not being offered.
Therefore, there was some optimism when Parliament opened this month and the topic was entered into the debate but the questions asked, and the answers given, did not address any of the issues. The responses just reiterated past statements without in any way clarifying important issues and reassuring the concerned parties.
Here are the key questions which, in our opinion, need to be answered for the good of the country, its international image, and to ensure a revised programme is in the best interests of Malaysia and does not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Why were most of the last batch of applications rejected? Agents enjoy high approval rates because they know what the terms and conditions are and can therefore ensure their clients’ applications meet the criteria. However, 90% of the last processed batch of applications were rejected with the unusual notation that the decision could not be appealed. Agents (and clients) would like to know on what grounds they were rejected, but despite repeated requests for clarification, none has been given.
Why was the most recent batch of applications returned to agents? Several thousand applications were returned to agents after the programme was suspended, which leaves them in a real dilemma as to what to tell the clients – hold on until the new programme is announced or give up and return their deposit (see next question). Given that new applications were suspended, it would have been an ideal time to catch up and process these applications, so why was this not done?
What about the agents who will not be able to return client deposits because they are bankrupt or have zero cash? We think a check should be made as to how many agents are out of business or have serious cash flow problems and cannot repay deposits. This creates a negative image of Malaysia. They were forced to close during the initial MCO lockdown, and when they were eventually permitted to reopen the programme was suspended cutting off most of their income. To make matters worse, the large number of rejected applications meant clients want their deposits back, and in many cases, the companies had used those funds to pay their running costs and stay in business. Some agents have asked if the government will give assistance to protect the country’s image? Agents cannot even give their clients reasons why they were rejected or advise how to get approved in the future.
Why suspend the programme in the first place? There was never any clear explanation for suspending the programme. Despite the very real challenges of Covid-19, applications could still be submitted, as there is no requirement to come to Malaysia to do that and they were taking up to one year to process. It would have made sense to keep the programme running, clear the backlog, and encourage more applicants. Reviews of the programme and changes have been made many times over the years since it was launched, and there was never a need to completely shut it down before.
What is the status of the programme review and why are experts not invited to participate? Although the review was announced months ago, it is not clear what stage it has reached. We had hoped to be involved, given our close involvement in the past and the fact we reach so many applicants and visa holders, but we have not been invited to participate in any meeting or meet with the people reviewing the programme, nor have we heard of other persons with detailed knowledge being invited to brainstorm.
Why are resident MM2Hers not given preferential residence status? From Malaysia’s perspective, the most attractive visa holders are the MM2Hers who relocate here, simply because, as residents, they contribute more to the economy. However, when the coronavirus crisis hit the country, many were locked out as if they were nothing more than casual tourists. The ones who had their only home here were deeply upset. Some said they felt betrayed, having been invited to come here and make Malaysia their home. Malaysian citizens, and in most cases Permanent Residents, were allowed free entry into the country during the border closures. Some guarantee of resident status for MM2Hers living here is an important issue which needs to be addressed in the next version of the programme. These are all important questions that should be answered. We believe it is only by getting answers to these issues that the programme can advance to its next stage.
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