NB: This press statement was released on 26.10.2012.

I read with disbelief the recent reports published by The Star on property prices in Penang. In particular, the reports titled “Properties in Penang only for the rich, says Chua” on 24 October 2012 and “Guan Eng denies Penang house prices increased 400%” in the 26 October edition today.

In these reports, it is claimed that Penang real estate has seen a “drastic increase in the price of condominiums/apartments (by 411%), flats (339%), low-cost flats (157%) and detached units (103%) within the span of a year.”

Today, The Star further reported assertions that “according to the Penang Institute, the price of apartment/condominium went up from RM450,286 during the first quarter of last year to RM2.7mil during the corresponding period this year. It was reported that the price of detached unit [sic] increased from RM1.7mil to as high as RM3.5mil, low-cost flats from RM68,000 to RM175,000, flats from RM132,000 to RM580,000 during the corresponding period.”

I would like to congratulate both Dr Chua Soi Lek and The Star for their obviously stellar ability in manipulating statistics. What they have very mischievously done is to take last year’s average price of property, and then compared it to this year’s ceiling or maximum price for each property type, as published by the Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH).

Furthermore, the statistics used are for certain districts in Penang and not reflective of the whole state. For example, the average price of an apartment/condominium in the North-East district as of Q1 2011 was indeed RM450,286 as reported by the Penang Institute’s paper, “Housing market trends and affordability”, published in October 2011. This price is then used by The Star in comparison to the latest Property Stock Report by the JPPH, which states that the price of apartments/condominiums in the North-East District of Penang Island as of Q1 2012 ranges from RM170,000 to RM2.7 million. To compare this year’s ceiling price to last year’s average price is completely asinine and outrageous.

To make matters worse, some of the comparisons made are between two different districts. For example, the data for low-cost flats and flats as quoted by The Star is actually a comparison between the South-West and North-East districts of Penang. Such utter disregard for ethical reporting is confounding.

The Penang Institute regrets that such absurd and malicious manipulation of data has been linked to our institution and used to malign the Penang state government, and demands that a correction is made immediately to ensure that the public is not mislead.

Zairil Khir Johari, Penang Institute CEO