KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (eTN) – Malaysia’s pull of exotic “eastern promise” along with generous incentives to participants under its “Malaysia My Second Home” program (MM2) has put the country as the top destination in Asia for retirees and those seeking for affordable second homes, according to a new report by International Living (IL) magazine and a Japanese foundation.

Malaysia has been rated the top destination for retirement homes by the Long Stay Foundation in 2007, while the International Living magazine has rated Malaysia as the top country in Asia and seventh in the world.

A unit run under Malaysia’s Ministry of Tourism, the country is now ranked on level terms with traditional destinations such as Spain in Europe, and South Africa on the African continent.

“Our Malaysia My Second Home” program is now a hit with foreigners, ” said Deputy Tourism Minister Sulaiman Taib. “It’s a recognition of what Malaysia can offer.”

The program, which provides generous incentives, allows participants to not only live a comfortable life in the country, but contributes to the country’s economic development.

“Successful applicants initially receives, what is in effect, a five-year visa with unlimited entry/ exit privileges,” added IL. “While you are not guaranteed permanent residency, if you continue to meet the conditions, you can expect automatic renewal of your original visa.”

Under its survey of Quality of Life Index for 192 countries in categories ranging from the cost of living to culture and leisure activities, health, safety risk and climate, IL has ranked Malaysia at par with another Asian economic giant, Singapore. Only Japan (with a score of 74) and Taiwan (62) has been ranked higher in Asia.

Within six months of their arrival in Malaysia, participants are allowed to bring in household effects duty-free, import or purchase one vehicle locally tax-free.

Participants are granted exemption from Malaysian income-tax on pension and other income remitted into the country, in addition to interest on any fixed deposit made under the MM2H program.

“The program has contributed to the country’s housing, banking, education and medical sectors,” added Sulaiman.

Malaysia recorded a total of 1,503 participants in 2007, with the United Kingdom providing the largest number of arrivals at 240 participants, followed by Japan (198) and South Korea (152).