THE retail and high-rise building industry is in urgent need of government assistance to reverse its flagging performance.
Malaysia Association for Shopping and Highrise Complex Management (PPK) president Richard Chan said since the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), traffic flow in shopping centres nationwide had fallen by 30%.
The industry had not fully recovered from the economic downturn of 1997 and now is taking another severe beating following the SARS outbreak, he told StarBiz.
Chan said with an asset value of nearly RM30bil, the industry was here to stay but despite being seriously affected by the economic downturn, it had not received much government assistance.
It had been rather resilient in fending off many challenges but some form of assistance would certainly go a long way to cushion it from further harm, he added.
Chan said the industry's operating costs had escalated over the years, with salaries amounting to some RM1.5bil a year, utility costs RM500mil and bank interest charges more than RM100mil.
He said PPK had prepared a memorandum to the various authorities to seek incentives for the industry.
While we support the government's call to turn Kuala Lumpur into a Garden City of Lights, we urge it to intervene to adjust current subsidies from Tenaga Nasional Bhd to more significant levels. Payment towards electricity charges amount to RM426mil a year.
Shopping centres also pay out about RM37mil in annual water charges, some RM18mil in gas charges and RM14mil in sewerage treatment bills.
Chan said a significant portion of the utility bills was for the provision of amenities used by patrons and any savings via subsidies could be re-directed into refurbishments and other new viable projects.
With the high number of people employed in the industry, we would like to urge the Human Resources Ministry to incorporate the shopping industry under the auspices of the Human Resource Council.
This could promote the quality of human resource through proper training, he said.
PPK on its part had introduced a certificate course in shopping and high-rise complex management over three segments commencing July 2002.
Chan said there was also need to recognise and ratify the status of employees in the shopping and property industry following amendments to the Valuers, Estate Agents and Appraisers Act 1981 which stated that only valuers were allowed to manage such properties.
The outlook is rather gloomy unless help is forthcoming. The market glut is being worsened by the arrival of hypermarket-cum-shopping centres which have a low investment upstart of about RM40mil, against a much higher investment for traditional shopping centres. They actually pose severe competition to the shopping centres, he said.
Of the 180 shopping centres nationwide, about 30 were hypermarket centres, he said, adding that in the next two to five years, another 150 such centres were expected.
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