Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Kampung Baru Dilemma

One of the hottest issues that have singed many parties in the development of Kuala Lumpur is in regard to the problems of Kampung Baru. It has remained what has been termed as a 'slum and squatter area' although situated right in the heart of the city. While some peripheral development had been undertaken and the Malay shops in and around the area have undergone some changes, the development as a whole is negligible when compared to the changes that have occurred elsewhere in the city of KL and its metropolitan areas.

There had been and there are now plans to develop the area so that the lands can be utilized to their full potentials. Kampung Baru if given the right conditions for investment and commercialization could easily become another golden triangle. But the 100% Malay residents and landowners are not comfortable with the idea of non-bumi investors coming in to buy over the lands from them, nor are the Bumiputras of the nation as a whole willing to see Kampung Baru "invaded" by the non-Bumis. As such no real progress has been made since Merdeka.

To develop the area and attract non-Bumi and foreign investment, there is no doubt that Kampung Baru has to be opened to the non-Malay towkays and taycoons. No Malay entrepreneur would be able to come up with the kind of capital investment necessary to turn the "slump area" into a buzzling commercial and residential center. While such development would not require that the present residents of Kampung Baru be displaced or pushed out since they can be offered luxurious homes with millions of ringgit as payment (or compensation) for their lands, the fact remains that they will loose the lands that they have owned for generations. And THAT is the most sensitive of all the issues involved.

So, how can that issue be resolved? One land owner and an ex-senior government officials with considerable experience in development planning, suggested to me that the answer is quite simple. Just allow the land to be utilized ON LEASE for say 60-90 years as necessary to allow the investors to get back their money with a comfortable margin. In this way the land DOES NOT ACTUALLY LEAVE the hands of the currents owners. Will the business community buy up the commercial and residential
premises if they will not become the outright owners? Or should the premises be only rented out? These are the ensuing issues to be considered. In either case the proposal will become less attractive to the potential investors who want to make their fortune on the development of the prime land.

Another possibility is for the government itself to take over the development of the last bastion of Malay settlement in KL. It should not let the matter be handled by a private agency which would certainly try to make as much profit as possible at the expense of the landowners. Only the government can protect and preserve the ownership rights of the landowners in Kampung Baru, who, left to the 'seduction' of the wealthy private investors would succumb to their monetary temptations. The greed for money among the landowners themselves would let Kampung Baru slip into the hands of the non-Bumi capitalists.
The need for the non-Bumi entrepreneurs to help boost up the commercial value of Kampung Baru should be confined to the development of business and commercial activities, not the sales of prime land.


abdulhalimshah said...

Akhi Norzah,
Once I recalled when the plane was leaving the aerobridge for the tarmac to take off, it had to ingeniously avoid a piece of property smack in the middle of Narita Airport which stood out like a sore thumb. I was told the landowner simply refused permission for his property to be acquired by the Narita Airport Authority so that it could easen the pilot in going for the take-off.

So it seemed a similar situation is taking place in Kampong Baru.Now if I were in the place of the landowner, how much money do I need in order to part with my land and be prepared to sign on the dotted line. I presume the landowners in Kg. Baru is in a dilemma. If money be the be all end all, then it is a simple matter of giving it up for a price. But there is more than meets the eye. Probably it has to do with the law of inheritance since all of them are Muslims. The fact that one piece of property is owned by a score of people is quite common in Malay Reserve areas. This is what we call, too many cooks spoil the broth. Even siblings may go for the jugular when it involves one's right to a piece of property. I have seen far too many occasions where the blood ties could not overcome the " Hasad Dengki" in many Malay families.

Al-Manar said...

Dear Norzah,
One point mentioned by AHS runs true if one looks at the vast area along the coast near where I am. It is all Malay reserve land. Many landowners have long gone and each piece of land belongs to so many 'anak cucu' dispersed all over the country, some dead. Many are not aware that they own a small fraction of land somewhere. Typical attitude of greed and jealousy plays important part in making the valuable land remains unproductive. Even political differences are an obstacle.Sadly,strategic areas that are not under Malay reserve have mostly gone because those 'anak cucus' can smell the lot of money offered. Where the answer lies is endlessly discussed.

norzah said...

Land ownership title with a number of owners, some already dead and gone while some could not be traced, is both a problem and a boon to the development of land in Malay settlement areas. It's a problem because no one takes actual responsibility for developing or utilizing the land. It's also a boon because no one can just sell away the land to investors and 'towkeys' with a lot of money. And so it remains in the hands of the original owners. Otherwise, as pointed by Pakcik Al-Manar, the land would no longer remain in the hands of the sons and "chuchus' of the original owner.

The problem of landowners who're reluctant to sell their lands because of the multiple-ownership issue or who value the pride of ownership more than money, as highlihgted by Akhi Halimshah, can also become a spanner in the wheel of development. Legend has it that the Late Tun Razak
personally visited an old lady to plead for a piece of land which blocked the passage of a road development project. A personal persuasion by the Prime Minister himself might overcome the problem.

But as far as Kg Baru is concerned, the offer of a real monetary fortune for a piece of land would surely ensure that the ownership will change hands in no time. If the question of into whose it goes does not matter. Kg Baru can be expected to become a concrete jungle in no time, each property bearing a name that can insult the original owner.

kaykuala said...

Akhi Norzah,
You have rightly put it. The future success of Kg Bharu in the Malaysian context has to involve non-Bumiputra capitalists. It is a business reality and their presence is necessary .

It is also a numbers game as Bumiputra participation in business in urban centres is negligible except those traditionally associated with the community.

The business community is driven by profit motive. If they think they can make money they’ll be there. This in turn will attract the necessary crowd to Kg Bharu.

The question is to how to balance the attraction of investments to Kg Bharu to the security and costs of tenure of the investors where it does not involve ownership. The ownership remains ala Malay Reserve basis.

If the planners can find that balance or formulae then Kg Bharu can thrive as any other commercial centre in K.L.

We need not be reminded that it is any different somehow.

norzah said...

Finding the right balance of Bumi and non-Bumi participation without losing the ownership of the land in Kg Baru, is indeed the crucial factor, Akhi Kaykuala.
Where existing Bumi entreprenuers lack the capital, the Government should be prepared to come in and assist to match the investment from the non-Bumi and foreign capitalists.

kaykuala said...

Akhi Norzah,
True enough. Invariably it would have to involve the govt. This would be a good opportunity for PM Najib's and YB Raja Nong Chik's credibility to be put to test.

The Kg Bharu development plan had better be good and had better be seen to be generally acceptable and to be peddled and exhorted well before GE13.

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