Cover Story: Young property captains celebrate diversity and unity

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Cover Story: Young property captains celebrate diversity and unity

Sep 5, 2023

This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on August 28, 2023 – September 3, 2023

As we celebrate Malaysia’s 66th year of independence this month, we ask some of the young leaders of property development companies what Hari Merdeka means to them and what they love about the country. They also highlight some of the challenges affecting the nation and property industry and share their hopes for Malaysia.

While they cherish the country’s rich tapestry of cultural diversity — and of course, the amazing food offerings — the young captains agree that standing united and working together is imperative to the nation’s growth and progress.



Executive Director 

Michael Chai

When I was younger, Hari Merdeka was just another holiday on my calendar. As I grew older and learnt more about the hardships of our forefathers in developing the country, I now fully understand the significance of flying the Malaysian flag and celebrating our national day. Merdeka Day is a particularly memorable day for me to celebrate my native country, which embodies peace, harmony and growth.

Looking back at the past 10 years, the country and its property industry has undergone many major changes and seen many challenges, with national unity and economic stability being the two most significant obstacles affecting the overall development progress.

Nonetheless, I am quite proud of Malaysia’s cultural diversity as well as its comparatively strong sense of unity in comparison to many other countries. My humble hope is that we can have a better future and a more united Malaysia. May our nation’s story continue to inspire the generations to come.


Jamie (left) and Adelynn


Executive Directors 

Jamie Lai and Adelynn Lai

As Malaysians, Hari Merdeka reinforces a sense of nationalism in us and reminds us of how Malaysia has evolved from the years of our forefathers who fought for independence to the modern, harmonious and multiracial nation of today.

Political uncertainty is one of the key challenges in the country. Although the federal government remains strong, political rhetoric at the state level across the country may affect investment confidence. Besides that, the increase in interest rates as well as the rise in the cost of raw materials have made property buyers think twice before committing to a purchase. This trend, if it continues, will bring forth a subtle slowdown in the sector.

Meanwhile, the diversity of the people, culture, food and buildings makes up the fundamentals of Malaysia. There [are very few countries] in the world where people with such cultural diversity can beautifully co-exist. Malaysia also has an amazing variety of food due to its many cultures and one will never run out of choices while food hunting in the country.

As Malaysia is still on the path to achieving the status of a developed country, there is much potential for growth in the country. We hope to see more bright talents return to Malaysia to help with nation-building and further improve the country in terms of efficiency, professionalism and transparency. We also hope for a clean and capable government to lead the nation to be on a par with the developed countries. May Malaysia once again return to being a roaring Asian tiger economy.




Chu Wai Lune

Hari Merdeka isn’t just about looking back at our history, but also about realising our duty in shaping where our country is headed. It is like a reminder for all of us to come together and promise to stand by freedom and fairness, not only for people but for our environment too. By embracing environmental consciousness, we are taking a step towards ensuring that the beauty and resources of our environment are preserved and cherished.

In terms of the challenges affecting the country and property industry, I believe that successfully addressing high inflation and attracting foreign direct investments will have a significant positive impact on society and the property industry as a whole. A robust economy results in a higher employment rate. That means our people will have a more stable income, opening up opportunities for long-term investments such as property ownership.

What do I love about my country? Definitely Malaysian food! To me, it is more than just tasty dishes — it is like a snapshot of Malaysia’s diverse culture and history. For me, Malaysian food evokes a sense of nostalgia and comfort. It is like a walk down memory lane to get-togethers with family and friends, the various festive celebrations and even the good old days of being a kid.

I really hope for a country that is all about embracing differences, being inclusive, standing up for everyone’s rights and being respectful of each other. Also, Malaysia is truly endowed with an abundance of natural beauty, so it would be more meaningful if we can take the lead in taking care of the environment too and be serious about it — simply by protecting our beautiful nature, and making sure we use resources in a smart way.



Executive Director

Ricky Lim

Hari Merdeka is more than just a day on the calendar; it is a celebration that reaches across generations. It is a time when we honour the freedom from colonisation to independence, reminding us of the sacrifices made to forge our sovereignty. It is also an opportunity to teach our children about our shared heritage and pride, instilling in them a love for their country and an understanding of the values that make us Malaysians.

In my humble opinion, the global uncertainty and fast-paced development of artificial intelligence (AI) are the significant challenges for the country and its property industry today. The unpredictable global landscape could lead to economic fluctuations, affecting long-term planning for family homes and community development, while the slow adoption rate of AI in the country and in the property industry demands a shift in skills, education and workforce strategy to ensure that our children, as well as the current workforce, are equipped to participate in an increasingly AI-driven world.

What I love about Malaysia is the way our rich heritage and diverse cultures come together in harmony. Our multi-ethnic background allows us to enjoy different traditions, foods and celebrations, all within one nation. This diversity brings freedom, allowing everyone, including our children, to be themselves while being a part of a united community. It is this mixture of freedom and harmony that makes Malaysia special, fostering dreams, innovation and a sense of belonging and pride in people of all ages.

My hope is for a future where this freedom continues to flourish, where technology, diversity and collaboration come together to forge new innovations. We envision a nation where our children not only have access to the latest technological advancements but also embrace them to unite and work together across different backgrounds and fields.

In our endeavours at i-City, we are actively bringing these values to life, including elements of play that encourage children to be themselves. By fostering an environment that encourages collaboration and harnesses the power of technology, we are creating a microcosm of the Malaysia we hope to see, contributing to building a brighter and more prosperous Malaysia for all.



Executive Director 

James Tan Cho Chia

Malaysia is a multiracial and multicultural country. Unlike holidays such as Chinese New Year, Deepavali and Hari Raya, which are celebrated by a particular culture, Hari Merdeka is a time that all races can gather to celebrate our diversity. It is a day to remember that we are all Malaysians, regardless of our race, religion or ethnicity. To me, Hari Merdeka is a day to look to the future with hope and optimism. It is a day to celebrate our achievements and recommit ourselves to building a better Malaysia for all.

In recent years, there has been a lot of news and discussions about the state of politics in Malaysia. I believe that political stability is a major driver of economic growth. Foreign investors like political stability, leading to more foreign investments, which is also an important economic growth driver. A growing economy would be great for the property market. It would also be great for Malaysians, who would be able to enjoy an improved quality of life. All this being said, I am optimistic for Malaysia.

Malaysia is a multicultural society with a rich history and culture. There are over 40 ethnic groups living in the country, including the three largest groups of Malaysians — Malays, Chinese and Indians — each having their unique customs and traditions. This diversity is one of the things that makes Malaysia special. The multilingualism of Malaysia is also a reflection of its diverse population. Most Malaysians can communicate in more than one language, making it easier for us to communicate with people from all over the world, which is a great asset.

Malaysia has a lot to offer, including its beautiful natural environment. I hope that one day, Malaysia will be internationally recognised as a great country with a strong economy and for its vibrant culture and commitment to peace and prosperity. I believe that Malaysia has the potential to achieve all this and stand tall on the global stage. Achieving this will be great for our economy and all Malaysians. We should all work together to achieve this goal.



Group Strategy And Operations Director

Lionel Leong

Merdeka is a day that promises hope and belonging to Malaysians. This day reminds us to pursue our selfless goals because independence means more to humanity than personal achievement. If we can keep this feeling alive, there is nothing stopping us from coming together for the country.

As a private sector entity, I believe we should also do our part by not only attracting foreign investors but also sharing our know-how of the local market conditions with them. Working together and sharing our expertise for the betterment of the nation improves local economic conditions, strengthens our currency, upskills the local workforce and raises the standard of living.

Meanwhile, I applaud the government’s effort in attracting foreign investments into the country — for example, Tesla Inc is setting up its headquarters and service centre in Selangor while Geely is investing US$10 billion, or RM45 billion, to build the largest auto city in Southeast Asia in Perak.

Some of the main challenges that the property industry has faced in recent years are the rising cost of construction materials, inflation and shortage of labour. In view of these challenges, Mah Sing has been doing our best to offer affordable homes through our M Series that are strategically located, with excellent connectivity, amenities and infrastructure.

There are so many things to love about Malaysia — mainly, Malaysians are warm, friendly, culturally diverse and we have fantastic food.

My hope for Malaysia is to see its unique positioning on the global map where ­multi-ethnicity and culture become the needed recipe for competitive advantage. We should see them as strengths that can help our country excel in various industries and establish a more substantial global presence. Besides, I hope to see continued growth and development in Malaysia’s property sector. I envision a future where our properties contribute to thriving communities and provide affordable as well as comfortable homes for people.




Lee Han Rick

Merdeka symbolises the triumph of unity and diversity that has enabled our nation to thrive and progress, while serving as a reminder of the responsibilities all of us carry as members of this society. We have inherited this land from the sacrifices of our forefathers and we each play a role in ensuring its success for our future generations.

I love that Malaysia is uniquely positioned in the world, where we are free of any major natural disasters and enjoy access to a wealth of natural resources. I also love that I can have nasi lemak for breakfast, banana leaf rice for lunch and bak kut teh for dinner.

In terms of obstacles that we have to overcome, I firmly believe that our nation has to move past race politics in order for our society to thrive and live together harmoniously. Our diversity has been exploited against us for political mileage when it can and should be our greatest strength. We are after all stronger when we are united and have more in common than we have differences.

As for the property industry, the rising compliance and regulatory costs imposed on us have escalated to excessive levels in recent years, impacting the affordability of properties today. This not only includes direct contribution fees paid to the authorities, but also delays and indirect costs incurred to comply with the expanding requirements set by state governments and utility providers.

Moving forward, I hope that we will continue to see structural reforms in our political system and progress made in the racial rhetoric of our society. I pray for a righteous government and leaders with integrity to be elected so that we can move past race politics and eliminate corruption for the betterment of this nation and future generations.



Executive Director and deputy group CEO 

Benjamin Teo

Hari Merdeka is a reminder that Malaysia is a sovereign nation. We create the destiny for ourselves and our future generations. For Paramount, we want to change lives and enrich communities for a better world, as stated in our corporate vision.

There are several challenges the country and the property industry are facing. For the country, Malaysia’s original target was to become a high-income nation by 2020 but the goal post has shifted several times, with new dates ranging from 2025 to 2030. One of the challenges is to raise productivity with high-skilled jobs. We will need two million more high-skilled jobs to reach the level of OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, with the electronics and integrated circuits manufacturing sector being the economic driver. Then, of course, we need to have people who are skilled enough to take up the jobs.

As for the property industry, property affordability is more than just a B40 issue. It affects the middle class too. This is one reason why Malaysia needs to become a high-income nation. Property prices are rising (in tandem with material and labour costs) faster than wages. At the same time, profit margins for property developers have thinned even with higher efficiency and value engineering. Lowering property prices is neither possible nor desirable as that would wipe out the wealth of existing property owners. We try to address lower profit margins with speed to market, by quickly developing the land we buy, thus lowering interest cost. Efficiency is key.

What I love about my country is the food! Malaysia is a food haven. We have diverse and delicious cuisines everywhere. We also have citizens of different cultures living in the country. This is wonderful because we can benefit from this diversity to achieve the common good.

My hope for Malaysia is that it will thrive and prosper; that Malaysians will enjoy the nation’s prosperity together, enjoy the beautiful country, have fun, look out for one another and last but not least, work together for the common good.



Business Development Director

Ter Shin Nie

Hari Merdeka means getting together to celebrate in unity for the love of our country, Malaysia. We live in peace and harmony regardless of our ethnicity, race or religion, which makes Malaysia so special. Hari Merdeka celebrates our love for our nation and honours those who had worked hard to achieve unity and independence for Malaysia. There is no place like Malaysia and I’m proud to call Malaysia my home.

What I love about Malaysia is the myriad of food, warmth and hospitality of the people. Our unique multicultural communities and sense of togetherness are trademarks of Malaysia. I love how we embrace diversity while retaining the culture, language and identity of all ethnicities and while remaining united. We are a community bound by our shared challenges, fortified by mutual empathy, and ever hopeful for a brighter tomorrow. There is strength in our shared experiences and wisdom in our unique journey.

Among the challenges affecting our country and the fiercely competitive property development industry are the rising costs of building materials and weak ringgit. It is important to remain agile and to keep up with consumer preferences, and anticipate changes.

In the upcoming years, I would love to see Malaysia’s continued progress and development into a developed nation, and I believe education is the foundation upon which all progress is built. We have to ensure every child has access to education, as education is an empowering right and an enabler to allow society to grow.



Executive Director 

Yeoh Pei Teeng

Hari Merdeka marks a day of camaraderie and patriotism, as people from all walks of life come together to celebrate the strength of our shared identity and values that bind us as a diverse yet harmonious society. Hari Merdeka allows us as Malaysians to take a reflective pause to honour our country’s achievements and to pay homage to the indomitable spirit of the rakyat that has shaped our progress as a nation. This celebration is a vivid reminder that despite the challenges that may arise, the continuous display of leadership and collective spirit from the nation ignites a source of inspiration for the younger generation to play a pivotal role in nation-building and to steer our country to a brighter tomorrow.

As the world continues to shoulder the post-pandemic-related economic turmoil paired with the uncertainty of global supply chains and inflationary pressures, these obstacles pose new challenges for the property industry, even though we see a trend of consumption shifting back to pre-pandemic levels. Developers need to chart a new era of resilience and strategise according to the ever-evolving dynamics of supply and demand with innovation at the forefront of staying relevant to our customers in this challenging environment. This entails creating a new landscape to redefine the parameters of innovative products targeting our audience, in particular the emerging tech-savvy young market.

I love everything ‘Malaysian’ that symbolises our shared culture and heritage. To this end, I have always cherished the ability of all Malaysians to celebrate our rich tapestry of cultural diversity that is interwoven with our collective Malaysian culture, from our traditions, customs and practices to our arts, cuisine and languages. It is this mutual respect for the cultural diversity that exists in Malaysia that underscores our sense of individuality in a multicultural society and preserves the values that define us as a harmonious community.

As the nation continues on its next phase of change, I envision a Malaysia that maintains a course of growth that embraces a renewed spirit of transformation, powered by the core values of sustainable prosperity, innovation, respect, trust and compassion in navigating current and future adversities. My hope is that we continue to reaffirm our commitment towards preserving national unity as we chart a new course towards the envisioned future.


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