MM2H members may be allowed to work

The government may further relax rules for the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme to allow foreigners to work in certain sectors.

Industry sources said the move could help attract more foreigners, especially those with certain skills, to buy homes in Malaysia and also enable local companies to tap their work experience.

Currently, those who come here under MM2H are not allowed to work.

It is not clear yet which sectors could be liberalised for MM2H participants but the services industry is touted as a strong possibility.

By allowing MM2H participants to work, the government will give a much needed boost to the country’s property and retail sectors, both already feeling the pinch of the current global credit crisis.

According to a source familiar with the MM2H programme, deliberations are ongoing at the sub-committee level of the National Economic Action Committee in the Prime Minister’s Department to make the MM2H more attractive.

Another source said the government is also studying a property industry’s request to relocate the MM2H secretariat, now parked under the ministry of tourism, to the PM’s Department to give it more clout. “As it is, MM2H does not seem like a priority project of the tourism ministry. I see it more as its stepchild,” said the source.

The government has been reviewing the MM2H regulations from time to time but the impact of the current global credit crunch demands that efforts be stepped up, industry sources said. By making Malaysia their second home, high net worth foreigners and their next-of-kin and friends,would be persuaded to invest in Malaysia.

MM2H has evolved from the Silver Hair Programme which the government introduced in 1996 to convince foreign retirees above 50 years of age into making Malaysia their second home. MM2H participants are issued with multiple-entry social visit passes for 10 years. They are no longer required to have a local sponsor.

Promoting MM2H aggressively is in line with objectives of Malaysia Property Inc (MPI), a joint public and private sector initiative formed early this year to brand and promote Malaysia as a property destination haven.

MPI has a RM25 million grant from the Economic Planning Unit and it sees the participation of the International Real Estate Federation (Fiabci) Malaysian Chapter and the Real Estate and Developers Association Malaysia (Rehda). It is understood that MPI will kick off its maiden international property roadshow in Tokyo next month before moving on to Britain and the Middle East.

One complaint about the MM2H is that it lacked co-ordinated promotional efforts by the various government agencies while guidelines are also interpreted differently.

Fiabci Malaysia president Datuk Richard Fong told The Edge Financial Daily the programme needs more exposure and fine-tuning, adding that he has also received feedback that “different officers sometimes offer different interpretations of the guidelines”. The success of the programme rested on both its publicity as well as implementation, added Fong.

Under MM2H, foreigners buying residential properties worth RM250,000 in Peninsular Malaysia and RM300,000 in East Malaysia are exempted from having to get approval from the Foreign Investment Committee (FIC).

One sticky point however is that foreigners married to Malaysians are not eligible for MM2H incentives like the 10-year social visit pass.

By Au Foong Yee (The Edge Daily)

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