Sunway Group commits to lifelong community development in Malaysia

"We build communities and relationships by creating jobs and opportunities", says Sunway Group founder Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah

February 19, 2016

Malaysia has played a key role in the rise of Asia as a global economic powerhouse. One of the foundations of its growth: the country’s robust property and construction sectors. Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah, founder and chairman of property and construction developer Sunway Group, explains his vision of Sunway as a developer of communities – not just townships.

World Finance: Malaysia has played a key role in the rise of Asia as a global economic powerhouse. One of the foundations of its growth: the country’s robust property and construction sectors. I’m here with Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah to discuss how the industry is moving forward.

Tan Sri, first: Malaysia’s set an ambition of becoming a developed nation by 2020: how are the property and construction sectors supporting this?

Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah: As a fast developing economy, the construction and property sectors contribute significantly to Malaysia’s GDP which is set to grow four to five percent this year, and create millions of jobs that support the socio-economic development of Malaysia.

Last year I believe we will grow about five percent. And the construction and property sectors also have strong multiplier effects that cut across many industries in the country.

Our construction arm, for instance, contributes to nation building through infrastructure projects including the light rail transit (LRT), the mass rail transit (MRT), and the bus rapid transit (BRT) that help promote connectivity and accessibility in the country.

Our property arm continues to build communities that enable people to live, learn, work and play in a healthy, safe and connected environment.

Both sectors work hand-in-hand to promote better living and support the country’s vision of becoming a developed nation by 2020.

World Finance: And what makes Malaysia a particularly attractive destination for foreign investment compared with your ASEAN neighbours?

Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah: Malaysia is a multicultural, multi-ethnic nation with a relatively young population. Malaysia is also the gateway to ASEAN due to our participation in the ASEAN community, and in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

We have competitive tax rates at only 25 percent. We have a wealth of natural resources from palm oil, to rubber, to oil and gas industries; a flourishing domestic market, and a globally competitive workforce.

We are the world’s top location for manufacturing, and we are listed in the top 20 for competitiveness by the World Economic Forum.

Despite a temporary slowdown in the global economy, I am confident that Malaysia remains as an attractive investment destination within the region.

World Finance: Tell me about Sunway Group then; what makes you stand out from the other property and construction developers in Malaysia?

Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah: It is our unique business model, Build-Own-Operate. And because we operate on the full real estate value chain, this diversifies our earnings base for our shareholders from our construction, property development, property investment and REIT divisions.

At the same time, this translates into a lifelong commitment to communities in our townships and sustainable growth for the Malaysian society. We are hoping to reach out to international communities in this part of the world as we expand our presence across Asia.

World Finance: You style Sunway Group as a Master Community Developer: what do you mean by this?

Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah: We build communities and relationships by creating jobs and opportunities, while fostering affordable and healthy lifestyles throughout the country.

In each of our flagship townships we remain the largest stakeholder. This way our communities are ensured a lifelong commitment from Sunway to continue growing and developing the townships.

Sunway Resort City is our first flagship township in Central Malaysia, where we have transformed 800 acres of wasteland into a wonderland that attracts some 42 million visitations every year. It is also the country’s first fully integrated green township as recognised by Malaysia’s Green Building Index.

World Finance: You’re not just building Malaysia’s communities, you’re also committed to building Malaysia’s education system. Why is this important to you?

Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah: My life’s philosophy is “I aspire to inspire before I expire,” and I believe that an investment in knowledge and education, in any society, always is the most powerful weapon to change the world, as Nelson Mandela says.

This is why I decided to set-up the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation: in perpetuity transferring the ownership and equity rights of Sunway Education Group’s 12 learning institutions into the foundation. This makes it the largest education-focused social enterprise in Malaysia to bring quality education to all.

We have forged academic ties with some of the world’s most renowned institutions. These partnerships allow a two-way flow of scholars and researchers between world-class institutions and the Sunway Education Group, to develop and elevate the standards of teaching and research in Malaysia.

As of 2015, the JCF has disbursed in excess of MYR 210m in scholarships to thousands of high-achieving and deserving students. We have also donated more than MYR 15m towards upgrading the learning environment of six of our adopted schools nationwide.