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WHEN TUN MAHATHIR SPEAKS

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Our esteemed former Prime Minister of Malaysia talks about the property industry, his concerns and the ideal time for home ownership.

When he was a boy, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad shared, there was no property industry. Back then, after Independence, people preferred to live where they were doing business. It was common for people to live on the top floor of their shop houses and ran their businesses on the lower floor. There was no property being developed as such.

“People didn’t expect that they should be in different places to do their business or to live. As they became more prosperous as business traders and retailers, they preferred to live away from their business. That’s how it all started,” he said.

Tun Mahathir, many may not know, was among the first property developers in his hometown Alor Setar, Kedah. In 1964, he built a string of semi-detached houses – about 24 of them. “I was the second developer in Alor Setar… the first was a religious teacher named Ali Mukhsin,” he told.

Tun Mahathir’s stint in property development was inspired by the religious teacher’s initiative. At that time, his sisters owned a piece of land in Alor Setar and he managed to persuade them to transfer the land to him. “In return, I gave them each a pair of semi-detached house,” Tun said about his debut in real estate.

To him, as people became more affluent, they would want a better living condition so the industry picks up as there is demand and this, overtime, improves the quality of properties. “Today, property business has become a very big business and everybody wants to go into it because they can make good margins in their profit,” Tun Mahathir said, adding, “I should make money too when I was a developer but I am not good at collecting money. I borrowed money to build the houses, but some [tenants] didn’t pay,” he said and laughed.

NOT EVERYBODY SHOULD THINK ABOUT OWNING A HOUSE UNTIL THEY COME TO A STAGE WHERE THEY HAVE SUFFICIENT MONEY TO OWN A HOUSE. YOU CAN’T HAVE A COUNTRY WHERE EVERYBODY LIVES IN A ‘HOUSE-OWNING DEMOCRACY’. I DON’T BELIEVE IN THAT.

– TUN MAHATHIR

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Tun Mahathir with Property Insight Malaysia publisher KK Chua

To him, as people became more affluent, they would want a better living condition so the industry picks up as there is demand and this, overtime, improves the quality of properties. “Today, property business has become a very big business and everybody wants to go into it because they can make good margins in their profit,” Tun Mahathir said, adding, “I should make money too when I was a developer but I am not good at collecting money. I borrowed money to build the houses, but some [tenants] didn’t pay,” he said and laughed.

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