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Kuala Lumpur was one of the most competitive cities in Asia-Pacific to do business in for 2004. According to a survey that was presented at the Asia-Pacific Real Estate Congress recently, rentals for office space in the city were among the lowest in the region.

Results of the survey which were released during the three-day congress held from 28 & 30 September in Osaka, Japan, placed the average rental for office space in Kuala Lumpur at USD1.05 (RM3.90) per square foot. With the exception of Kathmandu, this was significantly lower than the rentals of Tokyo and Seoul, the other two cities covered in the survey.

In the Japanese capital city of Tokyo, average rentals were pegged at USD4.53 (RM16.86) per square foot and Korea at USD3.98 (RM14.81) per square foot. Kathmandu registered the lowest average rental of USD0.56 (RM2.07) per square foot. Kuala Lumpur, however, had the highest vacancy rate of the four cities at 18 per cent followed by Japan (4.6 per cent), Korea (3 per cent) and Nepal (1.5 per cent).

Organised by the Japanese Chapter of the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI-Japan), the seminar which carried the theme Urban Renaissance and the Real Estate Industry focussed on the issues of rebuilding cities devastated by natural disasters and urban renaissance.

FIABCI World President Dato' Alan Tong Kok Mau, who delivered the keynote address at the event, said that Japan which has had a long history of coping with earthquakes and tsunamis has gained significant experience in the reconstruction of cities that have met with such devastation.

"Other Asia-Pacific countries such as Malaysia for instance, which are not within this region of geological upheaval should still draw on Japan's experience".

Dato' Alan Tong who is the first Malaysian to lead FIABCI urged other countries to adopt the country's well-honed response to such disasters which covers not only the role of the government and city planners but also property developers.

"This is something we can all adopt when faced with such unforeseen calamities in our own home countries," he added.

Dato' Alan Tong also commended the organisers of the congress for including the topic of urban renaissance which he said was timely with the increasing number of mega cities in the Asia-Pacific region. Mega cities are often defined as those with populations of 10 million and above.

"The advent of the mega city is already upon us in the Asia-Pacific. With it comes the need to consider in a new light, the issues of transportation, pollution, waste disposal, housing and such other infrastructure that becomes inherently problematic in growing cities".

Dato' Alan Tong said the Japanese are in a unique position to share their experience in managing such growth as its capital city, Tokyo, is the world's largest mega city.

"This country has developed many methods of coping with the phenomenal growth its cities has seen over the years. From transportation systems to waste management systems and urban renewal projects, there will be many lessons for us to take home," he added.

Dato' Alan Tong was inaugurated World President for the 2005-2006 term at FIABCI's premier event, the World Real Estate Congress which was held from 29th May to 4th June this year in Athens, Greece. He is also the group executive chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties Sdn Bhd (BKP), the company with which he re-entered the property market after selling his stake in a public-listed property development company in 1997 before the financial crisis hit.
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