ACCORDING to the Doing Business Study 2019, the average time for registration of a property is about 16½ days in Malaysia. While in Singapore, the average time for registration of a property is only 4½ days.
The ease of registering of a property is the direct correlation of ease of doing business in a country which is an essential factor to attract foreign investors and enhance national economic growth.
Admittedly, the foregoing may not be a fair comparison by virtue of the complexity of land matters in Malaysia (which will be further discussed below), nevertheless, this by no means an excuse for us no to strive to be on a par with global competition.
Previous initiative such as the “one day land title transfer registration” implemented in January 2010 with the aim of accelerating land title transfer registration process and elevate Malaysia’s world ranking in relation to ease of registering property and ease of doing business by the World Bank had proven to be effective.
In 2009, the average time for registering a property stood at the staggering figure of 146 days as opposed to 16½ days in 2019.
In Malaysia, pursuant to Article 74 of the federal constitution, land is an independent matter of state and each state has control over its own land except for Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya.
Although the National Land Code 1965 somehow consolidated the uniformity of land law, however, unification of land rules and policies between all states is virtually impossible.
The planning and control of development of land is within the purview of the local and state authorities.
The Town and Country Planning Act 1976 provides the responsibility for state authority to plan the use and development control of land. Each state is allowed to develop to its own set of rules, procedures and policies.
As a result, this produces the side effect of converting land dealings into a convoluted Morse code, seemingly impossible to be fully grasped by a layperson.
Understandably, the discretion of state authority over the land is necessary to customise appropriate land policy measures in accordance with the specific needs and conditions of the respective state.
Nevertheless, to the extent possible, consensus between states should be properly carved out when it comes to basic standard operating procedures to avoid confusion and enhance consistency and efficiency.
Once certain basic coordination and concurrence have been established between states, it would be easier for a universal e-Tanah system to be rolled out in every state in a synchronised manner.
The e-Tanah system is an integrated electronic land administration system developed for the purpose of improving land administrative procedures and processes in Malaysia.
Currently, the e-Tanah system is only available in few states, such as Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Perak and Penang. However, due to absence of proper coordination between states, some states have more advanced system than the others.
While it is commonly acknowledged that the Kuala Lumpur Land and Mines Office has the most sophisticated e-Tanah system where on its portal, services such as registration of title or charge is available and land search can be conducted online and information is ready to be retrieved instantly, its system has been operating in isolation.
The asynchronous and asymmetrical land administration system between the states creates discrepancies in terms of the efficiency in land dealings and adds further confusion among the public.
A universal e-Tanah system, if properly implemented by incorporating cyber-physical system (CPS) could be a game changer in the effort to modernise land administration in Malaysia. The CPS is an engineered system or mechanism controlled or monitored by computer-based algorithms and tightly integrated with both the internet and its users.
The utilisation of which in the e-Tanah system is in line with the objective of the National Policy on Industry 4.0 to attract stakeholders to shift towards the Industry 4.0 applications and create a holistic ecosystem to support its adoption.
With the proper utilisation of technology, e-Tanah would be able to provide a wide range of services and full-fledged online applications for registration of title/lease/charge, altering categories of land use, application of state consent for transfer, entry of caveat and issuance of electronic paperless land title.
Currently, most of the land dealings still require the physical presence of a person at the land office counters and there are specific counters designated for each dealing.
The online digitisation of which would make land dealings a more direct, simpler, time-saving and cost-effective process for everyone.
In long term, mass data can be collected which in turn facilitates more effective land use and town planning strategies by the state authorities.
Perhaps the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with the implementation of movement-control order (MCO) halting almost all economic activities, including land dealings for the past few weeks have served as a strong reality check to us on how much we are lacking of a robust and efficient platform in place for land dealings.
In the “new normal”, we have to evolve and adapt to new changes.
The time has come for us to leverage on and rethink all possibilities technology has to offer. In the midst of global economic slowdown, we must pick up the pace and play the catch-up game bridging the gap between Malaysia and other developed nations. – May 14, 2020.