Tuesday, 30 September, 2003

Malaysia opens giant retail park

By Jonathan Kent
BBC, Kuala Lumpur

The Times Square Mall, which was opened by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, is claimed to be the largest single phase building project of its kind in the world.
With the prime minister due to retire on 31 October, the Times Square Mall is surely the last great building to be launched in the Mahathir era, one defined by such so-called mega projects.
The Times Square Mall includes Asia's largest indoor theme park
Times Square caters not just to Malaysian shoppers, but also to the country's love of breaking records.
It boasts the largest indoor theme park in Asia and the second longest indoor rollercoaster in the world - somehow appropriate given the rollercoaster ride that Malaysia's economy has taken over the last decade.
The plan for Times Square was conceived during the boom of the mid-1990s, but seemed doomed to crash in the regional economic crisis of 1997.
However, the project's originator, the Malaysian tycoon Vincent Tan, bailed it out from his own fortune.
Though only about 10% of the 1,000 shop units are ready to open, the owners say they expect the mall to be three-quarters full by the end of the year.
Its performance is sure to be closely watched as an indicator of the health of the Malaysian economy.
Kuala Lumpur is still struggling to dispose of a glut of commercial space left over from the 1997 crisis.
However, many analysts say it has a good chance of success.
Malaysians' love of shopping comes second only to their passion for food.
When fully let, Times Square will offer them 100 different choices of places to eat.