By Salleh Buang
Ever since my good friend and editor, Andrew Wong, invited me to
“join him” (and leave behind us another daily) to become a regular
contributor for PropertyTimes, I have always enjoyed the prospect of
opening my e-mail Inbox every morning and perusing the messages that
readers of my column send me.
These letters vary in length and content. Some are short (ranging
from polite but nevertheless sincere expressions of appreciation to
requests for further information), but a few are indeed lengthy,
extending a couple of pages.
One particularly long note came from a person named Richard Fitz-Gibbon.
Addressing me as “Professor Buang”, he began by saying, “I am
writing to you from America. My wife was born in Petaling Jaya and
we visit Malaysia quite often.”
He then said that in the 1990s, he made frequent trips here as a
representative of a Canadian company that had developed and was then
marketing “a high-tech building system in the West”. Having studied
the building strategies prevalent in our country, he said he thought
his system “would be a great alternative to the drawn out methods”
we have adopted.
By way of explanation, Fitz-Gibbon said that with his four decades
of “planning and sub-dividing land” as well as “developing
residential, commercial and industrial properties”, he has realised
the system in place in this country “is not flexible and forward
Although he acknowledged the presence of our Petronas Twin Towers,
Putrajaya and KLIA as concrete “examples of modernisation”, he said
“the basic needs of the average person struggling to survive are not
Fitz-Gibbon said my article on the need for our housing industry to
build first, then sell, hit the nail on the head.
“I asked almost everyone I met why not build first and sell later
(as opposed to the current norm of selling and then building), but
they were all of the mindset that using other people’s money is
better - if their projects fail, they have less downside risk and
losses,” he wrote.
The American went on: “I have met many people who booked their
houses (that were not built yet), secured their financing and are
paying their monthly instalments, but still haven’t received the
titles to their units.
You have to ask yourself what kind of Government or system would
allow this to happen over and over?”
Fitz-Gibbon’s letter didn’t stop there, and delved into both the
bright and dark sides of the Malaysian way of life before he
concluded: “I really do love Malaysia and its people. I have never
felt shut out or threatened in any way. The people are the biggest
asset and the diversity does work well.”
If it is indeed true (as many of our national leaders have also
claimed) that our people are the nation’s biggest asset, then by
natural extension, house purchasers’ interest should be of paramount
concern and become the primary consideration of both the housing
industry and the relevant ministry. After all, without purchasers,
there would be no housing industry, and without the housing
industry, there would no need for a housing ministry.
Mid of last year (May 22, 2004), a local daily published a news
report that read: “Pak Lah wants housing developers to adopt (the
build-then-sell) concept to protect buyers”.
It went on to quote Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
as saying, “I think it is not right to pay money first before you
get your house. If they (the developers) don’t get to sell all their
houses, the money won’t be enough for them to build. What will
happen to those who have paid up?”
Although this “build then sell” issue has yet to be resolved
(despite having been publicly debated for over a decade), another
topic that has bedevilled the housing industry is also making
headlines - that of delays in the issuance of Certificates of
Fitness for Occupation (CFs) for completed housing units.
By the end of this year, the work of issuing CFs will be taken away
from the local authorities and handed over to the professionals
overseeing a housing development, made up of its architects and
The looming question posed by this action is whether the interest of
house purchasers will be better served. If the old CF rules are
scrapped because they “delay” the issuance of CFs, is “quicker”
necessarily better and safer?
Chang Kim Loong, secretary of the National House Buyers Association
(HBA), believes that abolishing the current rules and replacing the
existing procedure with self-certification by professionals in the
form of Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC) “could open a
new can of worms”.
Many of my friends share his sentiment.
“Should we risk our safety, even lives, in the name of speed?” Chang
To me, the answer is pretty obvious. And we certainly do not need
another reminder from an American visitor (despite his good
intentions) to show us the way.
Salleh Buang is senior advisor of a company specialising in
competitive intelligence. He is also active in training and public
speaking and can be reached at email@example.com