Razak is a graduate from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), with a degree in Town and Country Planning. He joined YTL Construction Sdn Bhd in 1992. He gained his knowledge in the construction industry there, specialising in the design and construction of the Nucleus Hospital projects. In 1996, he joined Trans Resources Corporation Berhad (TRC) and was involved in the construction of the Hotel Seri Malaysia chains. He was reassigned to TRC Land thereafter, overseeing their property development projects in Klang Valley and Johor. After 13 years at TRC, Razak moved to Pelangi Berhad as the Head of Southern Region in 2007. The company later merged with I&P Group Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB). With his extensive expertise in the construction and property development industry, Razak joined Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor Sdn Bhd (KPRJ), a Johor Government-Linked Company, in May 2015 as the CEO.
Tell us the role that KPRJ plays as a State Government-Linked Company
We have served Johor as one of the major developers in social and infrastructural projects. The State Government has entrusted us to serve the people of Johor and to help realise its development agenda. With these duties incumbent on us, we will continue to adopt a systematic development plan so that our projects will better serve the people and leave a long-lasting positive impact. Such strategies and plans require us to not only take into account of the current needs of the Johorians, but to also foresee potential areas in need of attention. It is also our pledge to ensure that projects are implemented well and our outcomes are of the best quality. When we contribute to the state’s economy, we are catalysing prosperity for Johor and the well-being of its people.
Is the market demographics in Johor different from the rest of the country?
The demographics here in Johor are slightly different. Nowadays, we see non-Johorians slowly residing particularly in Johor Bahru. This may be attributed to the recent development of Iskandar Malaysia and PIPC. The inflow of non-locals mainly comprises of both professional and blue-collared workers. Johor is also experiencing an influx of skilled workers from other countries too. Active development is attracting expatriates from Korea, Japan, and China. In addition to these countries, Johor is also observing that Singaporeans too are slowly shifting to Johor Bahru.
KPRJ seems to be the white knight currently with the recent announcement that it will rescue the abandoned five-storey low cost flats project in Taman Setia Indah and the multiple announcements of building affordable housing in the state. What’s the business benefit for KPRJ in carrying out ‘people-friendly’ projects?
If you look at it in the short-run, a return of investment is not exactly in the picture. However, we have tremendous benefits over the long run. What we can’t get in returns, we obtain it in other forms. In the early years, we conducted a social project that rectified roads in rural areas. In return, we were awarded a piece of land by the State Government. Over the course of our existence, financial assistance was providentially secure and consistent. We continue to receive new projects and construction contracts by the state. We are deeply humbled by the generous amount of trust that is set upon us and are extremely honoured to be part of Johor’s exponential growth.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the capital control affecting the Chinese developers. As CEO of KPRJ, do you have any comments on this since KPRJ has a stake in Forest City?
Forest City is not confined to only the Chinese market. Country Garden, as the developer is strong and reputable in the industry. That in itself is sufficient to uphold confidence from various stakeholders. Country Garden’s capability and credibility is exhibited by the massive progress it has made over the past two years whereby what started from merely marine land is now on its way to becoming a full-fledged residential area.
End Financing seems to be a major issue with many property developers especially in areas such as Iskandar Puteri and Medini with buyers not being able to secure loans for their purchases. Does any of KPRJ’s projects face this problem as well? If yes, do you see a resolve on this matter anytime soon?
Unfortunately, we face the same problem many developers are currently facing. We are taking in applications for RMRJ and Jauhar Kempas, and we can see that acquiring financial assistance is very tough. The economic circumstances nowadays have caused banks to impose stricter requirements for loan approval. It makes financing more of a bankability problem, rather than problems brewing from the developers’ side. Applicants for projects that impose salary-capping and targets of low and middle income households such as RMRJ, experience more struggle in securing a loan due to the selective nature of banks. It so happens that this is a problem common across Johor and Malaysia, be it government or private housing projects.
It is undeniable that so many positive changes have transpired. Today, infrastructures in Johor are ample and have brought further convenience to us. Nevertheless, the development in Johor has not yet reached a full stop. Rather, with a bit more developmental input, Johor is poised to become one of the most advanced states in Malaysia. In the future, we are talking about Johor being the next economic powerhouse of the nation. Johor is one of Malaysia’s major contributors in GDP too. The state is envisioned to become a strong and sustainable metropolis of international standing and this can be made a reality due to the potential and rapid development that is happening even as we speak. This is also due to the progressive visions of the current leadership, under our MB, Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin. I could see that in 5 years, Johor will become one of the preferred places to live and work in, be it among locals or even foreigners, with an international standard of living.
What’s in the pipeline for KPRJ for 2017 and 2018?
I must say that 2017 and 2018 will be a hectic one for us. We have a handful of projects that we look forward to this year. We are expecting Phase 5 of the SAKJ Project to commence later this year and are currently taking in a large volume of applications for RMRJ. Since it’s official announcement last year, we have 12 ongoing projects with two units already nearing completion. For our RMMJ agenda, we will undertake additional projects in Kampung Tenglu, Kampung Sinaran, Pekan Sagil, and Yong Peng. We will also be looking at a close cooperation with IRDA to improve network within Iskandar Malaysia. We are also looking forward to constructing a workers’ integrated complex in Pengerang.
When you’re not busy being a CEO, what do you do in your leisure time?
As the CEO of a state GLC, I commit most of my time to work. It is quite a challenging responsibility leading a private company as well as heading a state department which includes attending State Government functions and the likes of it. Due to these commitments, I must say that my leisure time is quite limited. Therefore, I spend quality time with my family at any chance I could get. Twice a week, I would also make time to play badminton with my fellow peers. They say a healthy work-life balance is the key, and I couldn’t agree more.