Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin assured today that the stringent requirements for the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme would be revised but added that terms must be beneficial to the government.
The requirements, set around 20 years ago, were in need of an update, he told a press conference today.
The home minister, who has come under fire over harsher revised requirements, said about 8,000 participants out of a total of 57,478 registered under the programme, have never even resided in Malaysia.
And only 10,000 participants had bought assets in the country, Hamzah added.
Of the total of 57,478 registrants, 28,249 are principal participants, while the remaining 28,229 are dependents.
Hamzah said Putrajaya wanted to ensure the programme was of benefit to the government, which he said subsidised the participants in various areas.
“We provide subsidies for petrol, sugar, gas, and many more types of subsidies,” he said, adding that this was “very profitable” for participants.
“So, we want to have a balance between helping them (live here) and also generating income for the national economy.
MM2H was launched in 2002 to attract foreign capital, promote tourism, and develop the national economy by encouraging the long-term stay of foreigners in Malaysia with simpler procedures and more advantages, such as a visa period of 10 years.
It will be reactivated in October after being suspended for a review since 2019.
On August 11, the Home Ministry announced a host of revised conditions for the programme.
These include the participants having to reside in Malaysia for at least 90 days a year, a minimum offshore income of RM40,000 compared to RM10,000 previously, and a minimum of RM1 million in their fixed savings account.
Following this, MM2H agents had complained that the new conditions made it difficult to attract foreigners to settle in Malaysia.
Some of the foreigners already here under the programme had also complained that it was unfair for the new conditions to be imposed on them, saying that these conditions would only drive them away.
On Monday, Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar urged the government to revise the “restrictive” conditions of the MM2H programme immediately.
The sultan said the new requirements could dampen the interest of foreigners who are looking to come to Malaysia, and force existing MM2H pass holders to leave the country.
He added that this would only result in massive revenue losses for Malaysia.
“The review was supposed to make things better. But the new criteria are only going to drive investors and tourists away from Malaysia,” he said in a statement.
“This is very disappointing, especially for us in Johor, as we have a long history with Singapore and her people. The new requirements will turn them away from investing in Johor,” he added.
Sultan Ibrahim said Putrajaya should consider reverting to the original MM2H conditions, which were effective in promoting Malaysia as an international retirement destination.
He said the revisions were “very negative” and that it was ridiculous to subject even existing MM2H pass holders to these new conditions.
He also said Putrajaya should be more compassionate and lenient to foreigners who are keen to settle here and make Malaysia their retirement home.
Between 2002 and 2019, the programme generated RM11.89 billion in cumulative gross value-added income for the country.