National

Malaysia's second-home program losing its allure with Japanese after 3/11

by Teo Boon Kiat

Nna/kyodo

Fewer Japanese are migrating to Malaysia under the Southeast Asian nation’s second-home scheme now that Japan has made progress recovering from the 2011 mega-quake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.

Immigrants who left under the Malaysia My Second Home Program (MM2H) peaked at 816 in 2012 before dwindling to around 200 this year, about the pre-disaster level, due partly to lack of promotion, said Sharifah Ikhlas, senior assistant director of the program.

Malaysia has topped the list of countries favored by Japanese for long stays for 11 years straight, according to All Nippon Airways Co. This is credited to its lower living costs, warm, year-round climate and the MM2H tax privileges bestowed on those with the proper visas.

Japanese approved under the program stood at 4,295 in June, second after Malaysia’s 9,280 Chinese immigrants, according to its Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

“We had seen a surge in visa applications as people wanted to escape the risks (posed by the nuclear disaster) and get in on the property investment boom in Malaysia prompted by the higher yen,” said Naoki Nakamura, director of N.S. Vision Marketing Sdn. Bhd., an officially appointed MM2H agent.

The recent drop, however, stems partly from fading fears about the nuclear crisis, Nakamura said.

But Sharifah blamed a significant reduction in Malaysia’s promotional budget for the program, the disappearance of Malaysian Airline flight MH370 in 2014, and heightened terrorism concerns.

To attract more Japanese, the ministry is collaborating with Japanese firms and nongovernmental organizations on publicity, such as seminars and advertising.

Immigrants 50 or older account for 55 percent of those drawn in by the program, Sharifah said. “Overseas long stays can be one of the ideal options for their second life.”

Kaoru Fujimoto, 53, moved from Osaka to Malaysia with her husband in July 2014. Its perpetual summer is “not as hot as in Japan,” she said, adding that she enjoys the cultural, racial and linguistic diversity.

Her husband, Masami Fujimoto, 58, bought an apartment in Putrajaya, a new administrative capital under development south of Kuala Lumpur, and plays golf more often than he did in Japan. The city provides a better living environment with rich greenery and poses fewer security concerns than elsewhere in the world, he said.