Construction Permits ranking ‘simply unacceptable’


President of Rehda, Datuk Seri Michael Yam, is currently on a visit to a number of countries to learn about how they deal with construction permits, all with an eye to  arrive at a “best practice” method. He notes that one particular city in Australia has a process which is even worse and more time consuming than in KL, “thus proving that this obtaining of planning approvals is indeed very challenging and similar in timing and approach globally.”

As an emerging economy, Malaysia has done relatively well in terms of the World Bank Doing Business study and for a small nation, it should take pride in top position for Access to Credit and other high ranking areas of legal structure etc.

So, Malaysia has climbed to 12th position in terms of business competitiveness as rated by the World Bank. Credit must be given to the Government and in particular the Prime Minister’s department in initiating the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and launching the 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) to inject new life and accelerate the transformation of the economy for the well-being of the country.

This move is meant to be a stimulant to the business as usual approach taking the country to a developed economy by 2020. This “business unusual” approach needs to be pushed through with some aggression to ensure we do not lose track of the targets set. Towards this end, not only Pemudah (Special Taskforce to Facilitate Business) but also Pemandu (The Performance Management & Delivery Unit) have been the drivers of this ambitious roadmap to prevent Malaysia deteriorating to just another has been nation.

From the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (Rehda) perspective, we are seeing the ETP and NKEA strategies gaining traction. Rome was not built in one day and similarly we need time for the ETP and NKEA to take shape and propel the country forward.

We believe that the MRT project, River of Life, proposed High Speed Rail, waste treatment proposals and the complementary work of Talent Corporation and InvestKL on an integrated approach is bearing fruit. The per capita income has gone up especially in the Klang Valley and there seems to be a buzz in and around KL, albeit not without the inherent traffic jam and environment impact caused by construction activities linked to the MRT and River of Life projects.

With the accelerated population growth particularly in the Greater KL/Klang Valley region attributable to both natural growth and also rapid urbanisation, there is a need for accommodation to house the new population.

In tandem with that more retail, commercial, industrial and also associated amenities need to be provided. This is where the major bottleneck of securing planning approval or Development Order (DO) becomes a serious challenge. As more applications are being made by developers for new property and as they get more complex due to the size and mixed used concept, more time and attention is required by city planners to process these submissions. The under resourced departments can only do so much in compliance with the various By-laws, Planning, Building and Engineering Acts.

It does not help too that some of these Acts and By-laws are archaic and do not follow the trend and changing needs of Gen Y. The desire to improve Malaysia’s poor ranking of the time to obtain “construction permit” is there for both the public and private sector since the costs (particularly bank interest) arising to unwarranted delays will simply be passed onto the buying consumer.

The ranking of 96 (although an improvement from 116 ) is simply unacceptable which is why some of us are in Australia, from where I am writing this, to study their system.

A visit to Singapore’s Planning Department and also HK’s equivalent will also be arranged before year end to look at their procedures too. We hope to arrive at a “best practice” method for the consideration of both our private and public sector.

Through this exercise and subsequent implementation, it is hoped that the period to obtain a construction permit will be drastically shortened. It is pertinent to note that our evaluation of the approval process in Australia varies from city to city too. One particular city in fact has a process which is even worse and more time consuming than in KL proving that this obtaining of planning approvals is indeed very challenging and similar in timing and approach globally – with few exceptions.

Notwithstanding the above speed bumps, Rehda chooses to view the glass as half-full and is optimistic that the Government and the various ministries and agencies want to do good and embark on the various plans. As an NGO representing a sizeable number of members that impacts other downstream and upstream industries and provides a significant percentage of the country’s employment, it is in our common interest to support and work hand in hand with Pemandu, Pemudah and the various NKEA teams to help deliver on the vision. We have not a lot to loose but plenty to gain from the Government’s intent. We ignore it at our peril.


The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Photo credit: Flickr user @yakobusan Jakob Montrasio 孟亚柯

Leave a Comment