FOREIGNERS are welcome to buy and own properties in Malaysia but real estate developers will not be allowed anymore to build projects solely aimed at foreign buyers, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said on Monday.
"Let me be clear that our Prime Minister (Mahathir Mohamad) does not oppose foreigners buying properties in Malaysia, but when townships are built exclusively for foreigners, how does that benefit the country and Malaysians? This, the government will not accept," Mr Lim said in his keynote address at the 2018 Annual Property Developers Conference, as quoted by Malay Mail news site.
He did not mention any specific project, but Dr Mahathir has in recent weeks criticised the Forest City development on four man-made islands in the Johor Strait, facing Tuas in Singapore.
The township had been heavily marketed to mainland Chinese buyers and other foreigners. The project is led by China's Country Garden.
Dr Mahathir said early this month that foreigners can buy residential units at the US$100 billion Forest City development, but they would not be issued visas to live there.
The Malaysian government is now studying the feasibility of reducing foreign ownership in the Forest City development, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said.
Forest City would eventually house 700,000 people. Some 70 per cent of home buyers there so far were from China.
Country Garden Pacificview, the developer of Forest City, said it had complied with all laws and regulations and with the necessary approvals to sell to foreign property buyers.
Mr Lim said on Monday that no country would accept the construction of housing projects aimed mainly at foreign buyers.
"Don't worry," he said. "We are not preventing foreigners from buying your projects. After all, the projects are open and available to everyone, Malaysians and foreigners. Foreign buyers buying property is not a problem. We welcome that because, after all, they are bringing money into Malaysia", he said, as quoted by Free Malaysia Today news site.
Mr Lim also refuted claims that the government is being hostile to foreign businesses, saying nothing could be further from the truth.
He said Malaysia welcomes foreign direct investments (FDI) as long as it brought tangible benefits to the people and does not overburden the nation.