Tag Archives: government

Malaysia Automated Clearance System (MACS)

If you live in Johor Bahru and work in Singapore (or have some other need to commute frequently, student etc.) you would fill up your passport quickly if you got stamps in your passport for each entry and exit.

The Malaysia Automated Clearance System (MACS) uses a sticker (with embedded with a RFID chip) that is attached to the passport and scanned upon entry and departure from Malaysia. So this removes the Malaysian stamps.

MACS has been developed to cater to non-Malaysian investors, business persons and professionals. A Malaysian sponsor company is required. Working for a business in Iskandar that also required you to work in Singapore would likely qualify. This requirement is stated in some places but seems to be ignored often especially for those with a Singapore passport (which makes sense, say you are just someone who lives in Singapore and has a weekend home in JB shouldn’t you be able to use MACS?).

You can apply and receive your MACS sticker at the main Johor Bahru CIQ (ask when you are there I can’t find a direct link on their web site).

Enhanced Immigration Automated Clearance System (eIACS) brochure

Singapore has the Enhanced Immigration Automated Clearance System (eIACS) for Singapore citizens, permanent residents and Long Term Pass holders and Work pass holders. See the link for various conditions. It might only be available for those with Malaysian, USA, UK, Chinese or Australian passports (I am not sure on this part).

Please add your comments on your experience or suggestions related to commuting between Singapore and Johor Bahru.

Related: Timeline for Extending Singapore’s MRT to Johor Bahru Slips Into 2020, or BeyondTaking the Bus from Johor Bahru to SingaporeOnline Resources for Living in Johor BahruSingapore and Iskandar Malaysia

The Precipitous Fall of the Ringgit Shows the Economic Risk in the Malaysian Economy

The Malaysian Ringgit has collapsed in the last 6 months. This is largely due to the large amount of consumer and government debt (that I mentioned were problems for the Malaysian economy previously) with a large amount of that debt help by foreigners, the collapse of the natural resource prices (oil and gas and others) and dumping of Malaysian assets by investors losing confidence in Malaysia’s government and economy.

The economy is actually surviving better than you could hope given the problems listed above. The economy continues to grow, even if the rate of growth has decreased. The most serious problems remain the high debt level and finding some way to replace natural resource income. It also puts a spotlight on corruption problems which are easier to ignore when economic growth is strong.

chart of the Malaysian Ringgit v USD from 2005 to 2015

The chart shows the recent collapse of the Ringgit versus the US $ (the chart shows the 10 year history of exchange rates). The Ringgit has collapsed not just against the USD but also other currencies (for example reaching an all time low against the Singapore $).

Malaysia still has strong potential but the risks have increased greatly. The collapse of the Ringgit is an indication investors have lost confidence in Malaysia’s ability to address the long term issues with the economy. Part of the problem is natural resource income (including oil and gas and palm oil) have allowed Malaysia to not address issues and still prosper. Without very strong natural resource pricing propping up the economy the debt load and lack of confidence proved too great and the Ringett collapsed.

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Timeline for Extending Singapore’s MRT to Johor Bahru Slips Into 2020, or Beyond

I have mentioned before that the most important factor to the economic potential of Iskandar and Johor Bahru is the extension of Singapore’s MRT to Johor Bahru. I mentioned being skeptical of the claimed timeline years ago. And, in fact, that timeline has proven to be wrong.

Map of proposed Singapore to Johor Bahur MRT

Map shows the most sensible place for the first station in JB but that hasn’t been decided yet. Map by Seloloving

MRT link to Johor Baru unlikely before 2020

Hopping onto an MRT train and arriving in Johor Baru is unlikely to be a reality before 2020, as Malaysia has yet to determine a station site for its end of the line.

This Rapid Transit System link was first announced by Singapore and Malaysia in May 2010, and was initially targeted to be ready by 2018.

Rail construction experts said even if work started today, the line would be completed by 2020 at the earliest. But work is unlikely to start any time soon because no decision has yet been made on where the JB station will be.

And this article is only addressing 1 Johor Bahru MRT station. While that would still be useful. The discussion 4 years ago was starting with 5 stations in Johor Bahru which seems like a much more sensible starting point. Getting to 5 stations by the end of 2021 seems unlikely unless those responsible change the approach and treat this as a critically important project.

The importance of an MRT transportation system interlinking Singapore and Johor Bahru has only grown more critical in the last few years. Transportation issues are going to become increasingly annoying in Johor Bahru as all the luxury condos come online. And getting people into those condos that can afford them is still unrealistic without jobs in Singapore, for which the MRT extension is critical.

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2014 Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) Statistics

Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) is the program started by Malaysia in 2002 to encourage expats to stay in Malaysia by offering a long term (10 year) visa. The MM2H program is a very good idea to aid economic development in my opinion. It brings in foreign currency which is very useful: both from fixed deposits and spending by expats.

The currency help is especially helpful right now. The Malaysian Ringitt has collapsed in the last few months to just 3.57 MYR to the US $ now. It was stable at about 3 a couple years ago and slowly declined to 3.3 over a couple years before the recent collapse. The collapse is due to high government and consumer debt in Malaysia and the recent collapse of oil prices. Malaysia was running up large debts even when oil prices were high and the danger of doing so has come home to roost.

The MM2H program targets retirees and future retires and provides a relatively small but still consistent and useful inflow of hard currency which helps support the Ringitt (the recent collapse would be even worse without this support).

Since the program was started in 2002, 27,000 expats have been approved.

country 2014 total
China 1,294 6,219
Japan 362 3,546
Bangladesh 252 3,007
UK 93 2,169
Iran 23 1,312
Singapore 77 1,109
Taiwan 83 1,043
Pakistan 63 919
Korea 114 911
India 46 774

*data for 2014 is for 11 months, through November 2014.

China participation has exploded to 40% of the total in the last 2 years. From 2002 through 2012 China was granted 18% of MM2H visas.

It appears likely 2014 will finish with the 3rd largest number of MM2H visa granted just behind 2013 and 2012.

North America had 75 in 2014 and 1,017 total. South America has just 24 total. Africa had 31 in 2014 and 318 total while Oceana (which includes Australia and New Zealand) had 52 in 2014 and 743 total. Europe overall had 194 in 2014 and 3,553 total while Asia had 2,500 in 2014 and 21,212 total (which is 79% of all MM2H visas).

Related: Make Malaysia My 2nd Home (MM2H) Statistics (2012)Looking at the Malaysian Economy (2013)Iskandar Housing, Real Estate Investment Considerations

Channel News Asia Report on Iskandar

Sadly they don’t understand the web and the video is gone. When will site with huge budgets learn the basics of web site management such as web pages must live forever.

The webcast by Channel News Asia is a 22 minute look at Iskandar in Johor, Malaysia. The current population of Iskandar is 1.5 million people which is projected to grow to 3 million by 2025. Iskandar is 3 times the size of Singapore, which is the next door neighbor to Iskandar.

Two of the big focuses for Iskandar are education (for which Educity has been established in Iskandar and has brought in several British Universities to setup campuses) and medical care.

Related: Iskandar Overview VideoIskandar Housing Real Estate Investment ConsiderationsThe Potential of Iskandar is Very High but Investing in Iskandar has Risks

Malaysia State Pension Fund Investments, Including Large Purchases of European Real Estate

A recent articles shares some interesting details on the Malaysian state pension fund. For one thing they say the pension pool is the 6th largest in the world at $160 billion. I find that pretty amazing.

The article also say the fund aims to increase foreign holding to 23% (from 18% currently) within 2 years. As part of that the fund is investing in industrial property in Germany and office buildings in Paris and London and is considering buildings in New York City. 70% of Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, Temasek, is invested overseas (it stands at $170 billion, just ahead of Malaysia).

The current distribution of the Malaysian portfolio is: 55% bonds, 35% equity, 5% in real estate and 5% unspecified.

Mandatory deposit into the fund of nearly a quarter of Malaysians’ salaries (by the employee and employer) have build up the large investments in the fund.

It is somewhat ironic that Malaysia is simultaneously encouraging others to invest in Malaysia and choosing to invest retirement assets outside Malaysia (due to high valuations and low yields in Malaysia). While it is ironic, I think it also makes sense. There is great potential for land in Malaysia so investors seeking to capitalize of potential could make wise decisions to invest in Malaysia. And it makes sense to diversify investments for Malaysia retirement funds.

Malaysia pension fund to spend 500 million euros on German, French properties

German industrial land is a third of the price of comparable areas in Malaysia, where speculation has driven up prices sharply.

The EPF’s move to diversify its investments and secure higher payouts comes as Malaysia’s government grows concerned its citizens are not saving enough for their retirement, with 70 percent of retirees exhausting their EPF funds within 10 years of leaving the workforce.

I am a bit confused (I don’t have enough details) by the conflict between 25% saving rate and using up retirement funds in 10 years. The most sensible way to reconcile these seemingly odd statement would be to guess that the fund was only “recently” established. If you save 25% of your salary for 40 years you should have a very good retirement income. If you only saved for 10 years that would be a problem. Also if you saved 5% for 30 years and 25% for 5 years before retirement that would be a problem.

Related: Investing in Palm Oil PlantationsSingapore and Iskandar MalaysiaThe Potential of Iskandar is Very High but Investing in Iskandar has RisksHow Much of Current Income to Save for RetirementMalaysian Residence Pass for Skilled ProfessionalsIskandar Housing Real Estate Investment ConsiderationsSaving for Retirement

Pursuing a Growing Economy While Avoiding the Pitfalls That Befall to Many Middle Income Countries

This article provides some interesting data on the Malaysian, Indonesian and Thailand economies.

Malaysia’s High Real Yields Mean Flows Top Peers in Southeast Asia

Foreign ownership of the local-currency notes [in Malaysia] rose by $8.4 billion in the first 11 months, compared with a full-year increase of $4.9 billion in Indonesia and $6.6 billion in Thailand, according to official figures. Malaysia is rated A3 by Moody’s Investors Service, three levels above Indonesia and one step more than Thailand, while its 10-year bonds pay 2.3 percent after accounting for inflation, versus 0.9 percent and 0.1 percent for its respective peers.

Bhd. Malaysia has the lowest inflation in Southeast Asia even as the central bank kept borrowing costs on hold since May 2011, while limiting ringgit appreciation to 0.6 percent over the past two years.

Malaysia exempts foreign investors from paying income tax on bond earnings to boost investment in the $289 billion economy, Southeast Asia’s third largest. Thailand imposed a 15 percent levy in 2010 to stem gains in the baht, while Indonesia, the biggest of the three in terms of gross domestic product, introduced a similar tax of 20 percent in 2009.

Overseas investors held $42 billion of ringgit-denominated government bonds as of November 2012, central bank data show. That compares with $17 billion of baht securities in December and $28 billion in rupiah notes as of Jan. 21, according to data from the Bank of Thailand and Indonesia’s finance ministry.

Malaysia’s worsening fiscal deficit and high household debt, if not addressed, may add downside risk to the sovereign credit rating, said Wong.

Gross domestic product in Malaysia will increase 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent this year, compared with the 5 percent estimated for 2012, according to a government forecast in September. Indonesia’s GDP will rise 6.6 percent to 6.8 percent, Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo said Jan. 14, versus the central bank’s projection of 6.3 percent for last year. Thailand’s economy will expand 4.9 percent, compared with 5.9 percent in 2012, Bank of Thailand Assistant Governor Paiboon Kittisrikangwan said on Jan. 18.

There are some significant strengths in each of these economies and Malaysia has some distinct advantages including a strong natural resource base and fairly small population along with a strong current accounts surplus (exporting more than they are importing).

The biggest worry in Malaysia is the large government debt even after the advantages of selling natural resources. The lower population is an advantage in trying to rapidly increase median income. Malaysia has been doing well at this, but continuing it is not easy and perils have far too frequently interrupted other countries success at doing so. Balancing fast enough growth without tipping over into unsustainable bubbles (often with high leverage) is tricky. Malaysia will have to find a way to decrease the budget deficient while continuing the many things they are doing right to continue to succeed.

Balanced growth is important. Growing numerous strong economic sectors (say health care, manufacturing, natural resource, tourism, education, finance, housing) is critical to creating a robust economy that can grow over the long term even as individual segments suffer. It seems to me the housing sector is a bit over invested in which is a risk. Making sure to develop an economy that provides many good jobs is the key (as a strongly diversified economy will – for all different types of workers, highly education, technically skilled, vocational trained, even unskilled). Lots of expensive houses people can pay for has created many problems recently all over the globe, Malaysia hasn’t experienced that yet but it seems to me there is a risk of that problem. Avoiding that drain (overbuilding housing) will be key to how rapidly median income can increase in the next 20 years.

Related: Malaysian Economy Continues to Expand, Budget Deficits Remain HighCIMB Takes Aggressive Investment Bank ActionsManufacturing in Malaysia: Bahru Stainless Starts Production

Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ)

photo CIQ building in Johor Bahru

Johor Bahru CIQ

The Johor Bahru Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine Complex (CIQ) is a very large complex at the causeway to Singapore that accommodates Malaysian customs check for cars, trucks, buses and the JB Sentral train station. The CIQ was opened in 2008. The complex is know as CIQ – if you tell a taxi for example they will know where you mean to go if you say CIQ.

photo of Johor Bahru CIQ

Looking up to Johor Bahru CIQ from the street (all photos by John Hunter)

Queues are often reasonable but at rush hour (especially leaving Singapore on Friday’s and near public holidays) can be long. In several ways taking the bus is quite appealing (costs of bringing a car into Singapore plus tolls and there are significant restrictions on taxis that make that option difficult) but the walking from the entrance to the custom lines is quite a distance so that will add 5 minutes to your time. And waiting for a bus once you clear customs can add another 5 – 10 minutes. [update – given all the long delays and complaints from people they reopened walking over the causway as an option. A newspaper story in 2016 claimed 300,000 people walk across each day, that surprises me and I am not 100% sure the number is accurate]

The 2nd link (to the West) has shorter queues currently (these are the only 2 links between Singapore and Johor Bahru now). That is one of the reasons many people have been buying out near the 2nd link. Also that is a focus area for the Iskandar economic development initiative and the available of housing estates with integrated security and new bungalows is another attraction.

JB Sentral, which opened in 2010, is located in the same area and includes the train station and a large bus terminal.

Singapore and Malaysia have been taking recently about extending the MRT (light rail) from Singapore into Johor Bahru before the end of this decade and the likely location of the first stop is JB Sentral. This MRT (and extending 5 to 7 more stops in Johor Bahru will be a welcome improvement to mass transit and continue to build the economic ties between the two cities. Currently you have to take the long walk through Malaysian customs, then walk to the bus, take it over the causeway, walk through Singapore customs, catch the bus again and then got to the MRT (which for some reason isn’t the closer Woodlands MRT but the Kranji MRT). So just getting on the MRT in JB and clearing customs and getting right back on will be a big improvement. Of course they will have to add quite a few more customs staff to prevent long queues.

Related: Taking the Bus from Johor Bahru to SingaporeResidence Pass for Talented ExpatsPenang Condo Market

Residence Pass for Talented Expats

I wrote about the Malaysian Residence Pass for Skilled Professionals previously. I found some up to date links to the official site, with some updated information (do see my original post, as the post shares information I don’t see on the official site now – that information may not be official but it does provide some good ideas on what was being thought of when the program was originally announced).

One part of the plan for long term economic growth is to focus on workers with highly valued talents globally: technology, engineering (oil production, construction, manufacturing…), higher education, health care… From the official TalentCorp site (this is the organization the government is putting in charge of implementation of the efforts to attract and grow talent):

a nation’s economic growth would hinge on its ability to attract, nurture and retain top talent. Malaysia has thus far achieved some success in steering its economy to current levels. Going forward, talent is expected to play a key role in supporting Malaysia achieve its objectives of propelling the economy to a high-income status.

Major cities around the world have thrived because of talent and their ability to capitalize on the best and brightest minds around. Malaysian professionals from abroad and top foreign talent complement the Malaysian talent pool, providing variety and diversity in terms of expertise and experience. Our local pool must be enhanced with the best skills and talents that can be tapped globally.

We welcome talent to Malaysia, which offers a host of opportunities for talent to develop and enhance their skills and experience in key sectors of the economy. The Malaysian Government has rolled out various initiatives and programs to engage top foreign talent in the long term.

As I mentioned the Residence Pass (which offers a long term visa without being tied to 1 employer – for skilled professionals) program was signed in April of 2011 to attract and keep top talent in Malaysia. Since my original post the program is officially providing the new passes. However, at this time, it is limited to those expats already with a current visa and having been in Malaysia on such a visa for the last 3 years.

Obviously this is a very small percentage of the talent available globally. So the program will obviously need to expand to be more useful. But I don’t see any details on when that will happen. I have asked but have not received a response yet. Please share information you have that others would find interesting.

As I said before, I think this effort to attract, retain and encourage the development of internationally valuable talent is a very wise move by Malaysia. I have written about the importance of science and engineering to economic development on the Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog for years: How to Build a World Class Technology Economy (2006)The Economic Benefits of Engineering Excellence (2007)Keeping Out Technology Workers is not a Good Economic Strategy (2009)Science and Engineering in Global Economics (2006)Asia: Rising Stars of Science and Engineering (2007).

Related: Penang Condo MarketStrong Singapore DollarSingapore Ranks Highly as an Expat Destination

Malaysian Residence Pass for Skilled Professionals

The Residence Pass program officially launched on April 1st. I still can’t find much information on it. If I am reading things right, Talent Corporation Malaysia Bhd has been tapped by the government to lead this effort.

The Residence Pass was a new immigration instrument which offers 5 to 10 years of residence and work in Malaysia. Unlike other employment passes it is not tied to a specific employers so it allows workers to move between jobs much more easily. For the initial phase of implementation, Residence Pass applicants must hold a valid Employment Pass. The Residence Pass is targeted at world-class talents and thus, to secure approval, applicants must demonstrate a high level of professional achievements, supported by possession of relevant qualifications and work experience, especially in key economic sectors, as identified under the Economic Transformation Programme.

Currently, only those with current employment passes are eligible to apply (but eventually it will be opened to others). To requirements/materials needed to apply for the RP Talent pass are:

  • Academic Qualification: Bachelors / Masters / PHD degree in any discipline from a recognized Institute of Higher Learning, Diploma or a Professional / Competency Certificate from a recognized Professional Institute.
  • Total years of working experience: MINIMUM total of 5 years working experience.
  • Salary: MINIMUM gross annual salary of RM144,000 (approximately US$50,000)
  • Industry/Sector: Applicant from all industries and sectors are welcomed to apply.
  • Local Sponsor: Applicant must have a local sponsor i.e Malaysia Citizen, 21 years old and above.
  • Recommendation: Any recommendation from regulatory bodies will be an added advantage.
  • Years of experience working in Malaysia: MINIMUM total of 3 years working experience in Malaysia and it must be continuous.
  • Income Tax File No: Applicant must have an Income Tax File Number in Malaysia and have paid income tax for a MINIMUM of 2 years.
  • My understanding (though I could definitely be wrong) is that the last two will be removed at a later date, I believe, allowing those who have not worked in Malaysia to apply. I believe the idea is to retain and attract new talent, therefore the last two requirements don’t seem to make sense. My guess is they are just using it, initially, as a way to control applications.

    The Residence Pass Talent Application Form is required only for manual submission of applications. Required documents include: copy of passport, updated resume, and a copy of educational certificates. It seems to cost 2,000+MYR to apply (about $700).
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