At independence Malaysia faced a big unemployment problem. To solve this we started with opening land for the landless. But development of land was not able to create enough jobs. It was therefore decided that Malaysia should industrialise. But Malaysia had no manufacturing expertise, no capital, no big corporations and no knowledge of the world market.
2.Accordingly Malaysia decided to invite foreign investors. By this we meant that foreign manufacturing companies could set up labour intensive plants in Malaysia to produce for export. The Government would provide land and infrastructure and give tax holidays.
3. FDI solved most of our unemployment problem and enriched the country through industrialisation and inflow of capital. But a large amount of the capital was raised domestically.
4But today Najib’s Government has given a new definition for Foreign Direct Investment. He regards foreigners bringing in money to buy land and develop towns and cities where their people would come and stay as foreign direct investment.
5.The result benefits us not at all. Much of the most valuable land will now be owned and occupied by foreigners. In effect they will become foreign land.
6.When we sold Singapore island to the Brits we must know that Singapore with all its wealth and development has become a foreign country. We cannot be proud of its achievement anymore than we can of the development of other countries in the world.
7.Currently we are seeing huge tracts of land around Johor Bahru being sold to foreigners with no restriction on the sale of properties developed to them and mass immigration to take up residence in these new cities. One example is Forest City developed by a China-based company. Already thousands of units have been completed and sold to mainland Chinese. Bloomberg reports that 700,000 mainland Chinese would stay there. And the same agency pointed out that around Forest City, and therefore around Johor Bahru, there are 60 similar projects which can house more than one million people.
8.Typically Chinese contractors prefer to bring in their own workers, architects and engineers. Few Malaysians would be employed in these projects. And few Malaysians would be able to buy the flats being built.
9. Actually our own people are quite capable of developing our land. They may not have the capital to invest immediately. The development may be slower and the scale may not be so big. The buyers will be local.
10.It doesn’t need much imagination to see how much this benefit Malaysia, Malaysians and the Malaysian Government.
11.But if we consider inflow of foreign capital to buy, develop and occupy our land as FDI, then we must expect huge areas of our land becoming foreign enclaves.
12.In most countries foreigners are not allowed to buy land. They may be given contracts to build but they will be only contractors. Certainly what they build will not be for huge numbers of foreign people to occupy almost exclusively.
13.But we are very generous. Even when we limit foreign buyers to buying only the expensive property but the Government, including the state Government would give exemption so that even low cost or affordable houses can be bought by foreigners.
14.We claim that – these foreigners will not stay permanently in the enclaves they develop. We claim they will stay here only for the winter months.
15.But we are kidding ourselves. Can we imagine hundreds of thousands of foreign people flying into the country to stay for three months and then flying out to their country to live there for nine months. Can we imagine for nine months these towns and cities will be empty – the shops, flats, offices, hotels, and recreation areas being closed. They will become ghost cities and towns. Empty roads and streets. Empty shopping complexes. It is absurd. Denying that 700,000 would occupy Forest City is self-deluding. No condition on who can stay in these houses has been stipulated.
16.But some point out that the investment will come from many countries. Agreed. But most of them have not enough people to settle in foreign lands. They would be investing in industries to benefit from our low-cost labour. They would build their plants in the industrial estates we put up. They will not engage in huge housing development projects. They will not settle here.
17.We can allow for foreign ownership of small plots of land. We can lease the land to them.
18.But we cannot allow thousands of acres to be owned, developed and settled by foreigners. If we do that literally they would become foreign enclaves, troublesome for local authorities to manage. Indeed difficult even for the central Government to manage.
19.We want our country to develop. Experience have shown that Malaysians can develop their own country. Their development is second to none. But their development would be for Malaysians.
20.But during Najib’s China trip, he claimed that he succeeded in getting 150 billion Ringgit of FDI. No details were given. I am sure that most of this FDI would involve selling land, Government’s and 1MDB land to pay the debts which everyone knows have been incurred by them. We are going to see large chunks of Malaysia being developed by the foreign buyers and being occupied by them. Eventually they would demand for citizenship and they will participate in Malaysian politics including in elections. Whatever ideology they believe in might change the colour of Malaysian politics.
21.As much as we cannot be proud of the development in parts of land which have become a foreign country, we cannot be proud of a magnificently developed Malaysia, occupied and owned by foreigners.
WRITER: MAHATHIR MOHAMAD