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K.C. BOEY: Getting to the meat of Southeast Asia Print E-mail
Monday, 03 August 2009 11:02

DATUK Kee Phaik Cheen would be biased in imagining Malaysia as the meat in the burger of Southeast Asia.

Thailand would be the top bun, with Indonesia the lower layer, and Singapore the lettuce in between.

Kee is a director of the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board.

Giving credence to Kee’s message to a ballroom-full of target candidates for Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) at the Park Hyatt Melbourne was Melbourne couple and now Penang residents Pat and Alan Jones.

Throw in an endorsement from the floor from manufacturer Ken Barber and you have a balanced pitch.

 


Barber and his wife Lena divide their time between their Suasana Sentral Condominium in Kuala Lumpur and their farm in Little River, Victoria, as Barber travels between Europe and Asia as his electrical cables manufacturing business demands.

For the Joneses, everything that they have is now in Penang.

Since they took up residence under MM2H four years ago, they had not been back to Australia until invited by Tourism Malaysia to join Kee on her “burger roadshow”.

Kee had started at the Sydney Retirement & Lifestyle Expo from July 24-26 as part of a three-city swing to promote MM2H (www.mm2h.gov.my). From Melbourne, she and the Joneses went on to Perth.

The Joneses live in what they have called the Green House in Jalan Muntri, in Georgetown, a pre-war shoplot that they, between them a former antique dealer and owner operator of motels in Victoria, bought and renovated.

They own three other properties, which they similarly brought up to scratch. What did they find themselves up against in Penang, the questions flowed in Melbourne. Were there restrictions? What did it cost them?

The Joneses run a café out of the Green House, offering everything Aussie from Vegemite sandwiches to pasta, pizza, pies and desserts. They continue to own the other properties.

For the roadshow, they brought a photo album of their life and property, and the attractions, in Penang.

Alan sums up the cost in terms of the rate of currency exchange between Australia and Malaysia. And comparable cost of housing in inner suburban Melbourne.

“It comes down to about a third of the costs,” says Alan.

And he rates the quality of material and labour second to none.

The lifestyle has kept the Joneses preoccupied from thinking about Australia. “Whenever you felt like it at 11pm, you could go round the corner for satay,” says Pat “Beats bingo and bowls (in Australia).”

Barber points to the banking, financial and legal institutions common to Australia’s legacy of British administration.

The Joneses, talking to the New Sunday Times, were gushing in their description of Malaysia.

“Safety is a major factor. It is an extremely safe city to live in,” says Alan, 64, of where the Joneses live. Malaysia has so much to offer in its mix of people, culture, food and festivals,
says Pat, 62.

She recalls with delight her participation in a padi festival
in Alor Star, riding on a palm frond, covered in mud.

“Malaysians are blasé about their festivals,” says Alan. “We go to all of them... (life) changes every day.”

The Joneses first set foot on Penang seven years ago when they took a package deal off an advertisement in the local papers.

From not having a day off in years running their motel in Victoria, they ended up visiting Penang every three to four months, using it as base to visit Alor Star, Taiping, Ipoh, Malacca and everywhere they could get to.

Now the Joneses unwittingly find themselves unofficial MM2H ambassadors.

The Green House has become an information bureau to visitors,
many of them with questions about making Malaysia their second home.

“I don’t know where they come from, and who sent them,” says Alan.

“Often they tell us ‘somebody’ told them. Once we had someone who
told us a taxi driver in Kuala Lumpur had told him about us.”

Kee and the Joneses talk of the multiplier effect of MM2H residents in making tourism the second biggest foreign exchange earner for Malaysia.

Last year, tourism brought in RM50.2 billion, second only to manufacturing (RM491.9 billion), ahead of palm oil (RM46 billion, crude oil (RM43 billion) and LNG (RM40.7 billion). Rubber was a distant sixth at RM8.1 billion.

From 2002 to last year, Malaysia had accepted 12,566 MM2H residents. At a conservative estimate of each candidate bringing in RM1 million to meet the needs of living they had become accustomed to, that was a huge injection into the economy, Kee tells the New Sunday Times.

Which was why Tourism Malaysia was in an aggressive campaign to promote MM2H, with Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen visiting Europe and China.

Source: http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/articles/20090802122237/Article/index_html



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