THE 1,200ha Rubber Research Institute (RRI) experiment station in Sungai Buloh, which was started in 1926, has been sold by the Federal Government to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF).
Re-development is expected to begin next month.
It will be the biggest chunk of prime real estate in the Klang Valley and its development is bound to create a huge impact on house buyers.
The government should ensure that the development benefits EPF members.
It should not take the easy way out by selling off parcels of land to developers, who are willing to pay premium prices for the land.
EPF, if it plans the development on its own, can implement the project over 10 years and the total value and profits could be tens of billions of ringgit.
This is an opportunity for EPF to enter into housing development to benefit its members.
I am sure the government did not hand RRI land to EPF to apportion the land among developers.
At a time when affordable housing is hard to come by in the Klang Valley, EPF could come to the rescue by building houses ranging from RM100,000 to RM400,000 for the low- and middle-income groups.
EPF should not go for quick and short-term profits by parcelling out the land and selling it to developers who will use the land to build condominiums, semi-detached dwellings and bungalows for the rich.
It should look at this project as its share of socio-economic engineering for its low- and middle-income members, who could use their savings in the pension fund for house purchase.
EPF could also use this project to implement government initiatives, such as the home ownership programme for young working adults and other schemes that benefit people.
It operates a large number of branch offices nationwide and costs keep increasing because of the additional workforce and facilities. One remembers the time when the sole EPF office in Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya was servicing millions of workers in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
EPF should not just concentrate on the share market but also go into housing development.
The earnings from property, especially housing development, is lucrative and if the RRI project becomes successful, EPF could use the experience gained to do this nationwide.
A good example is Sime Darby, which started off its flagship Subang Jaya housing scheme in the 1970s. It is today a premium property developer despite starting off as a plantation firm.
Due to prices of houses hitting the ceiling in prime locations because of demand and speculation, some developers engage in unethical practices with regard to bookings and allotment of houses and shoplots.
One often hears of houses and other properties having been sold even before the launch date.
This can happen only due to corruption and abuse of power. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission needs to focus more on housing developers and their errant ways.
I hope that housing regulators and associations, consumer groups and non-governmental organisations will ensure that EPF develops the RRI land for its members and that there will not be suspicious elements that plague house buyers elsewhere.
Lastly, it will not be out of place to state that when the RRI land is developed, the names of British rubber pioneers -- as well as Malaysians such as Tan Sri B.C. Shekar, Tan Sri Ani Arope and others who have contributed to the research and progress of the rubber industry -- will be chosen for roads, streets and other landmarks.
This will ensure that long after the rubber trees are gone, Malaysians will be reminded that this was the venue that once housed the world's premier rubber research centre.