Mahathir Mohamad. File picture: REUTERS
Mahathir Mohamad. File picture: REUTERS

Forest City/Kuala Lumpur — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says foreigners will not be granted visas to live in the giant Forest City real estate project on the country’s southern tip, a major threat to the marketing strategy for the development.

It is not his first broadside against the plan by Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings to create a new city envisaged to eventually house 700,000 people on reclaimed land near Singapore, but it could be his most damaging. The company has been targeting foreigners more than Malaysians for sales of the apartments.

A top official at the project told Reuters last week that in the weeks immediately after the 93-year-old Mahathir came back into power, through a shock election victory in May, demand for the apartments had weakened, and that the uncertainty remained a concern. His latest comments will probably worsen those concerns.

"One thing is certain, that city that is going to be built cannot be sold to foreigners," Mahathir said at a news conference on Monday in Kuala Lumpur. "We are not going to give visas for people to come and live here."

Mahathir, Malaysia’s leader from 1981-2003, said the government’s objection was "because it was built for foreigners, not built for Malaysians. Most Malaysians are unable to buy those flats."

Country Garden did not immediately comment.