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Fiabci World Congress called off due to H1N1 threat

KUALA LUMPUR: The A(H1N1) influenza epidemic has “infected” the real estate industry, taking the International Real Estate Federation (Fiabci) as its latest victim.
The 60th Fiabci (International Real Estate Federation) World Congress that was to be held from May 19 till May 23 at the Beijing Hotel in Beijing, China has been called off at the eleventh hour.
More than 600 Fiabci members from around the world had been expected to attend the Congress this year.
The Chinese government, host to the Congress and the organising committee led by the China Real Estate Association, cited concerns over the spread of the A(HINI) flu pandemic as the reason for the decision.
Fiabci Asia Pacific secretary-general Kumar Tharmalingam, when contacted by The Edge Financial Daily, said Fiabci chapters around the world had been informed of the move to call off the Congress by the host city just three days before the Congress.
“Some of our members have already flown into the capital ahead of the congress. We were surprised by the move that came so close to the date of the event.
“The host offered to compensate delegates and suggested that the Congress be postponed to a later date after the A(H1N1) epidemic is cleared but we have not decided on that,” said Kumar.
In a letter of apology to registered delegates, the organising committee said it took only one suspected case of A(H1N1) from among the delegates to affect the entire Congress.
Hence, “to ensure the health of all the delegates, their families and accompanying persons as well as the quality of the congress, we proposed to postpone the congress,” it stated in the letter.
Delegates were to have witnessed the installation of Lisa Kurass, chairman of the Real Estate Connection International, a property management and real estate brokerage company based in Houston, Texas as Fiabci World’s first female president.
Replacing Luis Fernando Correa Bahamon of Fiabci Colombia, Kurass was elected to the top post in June last year and was slated to assume the position at a ceremony in Beijing.
A number of Fiabci members from the United States would have flown in to witness this historical event. The transfer of the presidency will now be carried out during one of Fiabci’s board of directors’ meeting.
Another highlight of the Congress was to be the Fiabci Prix d’Excellence Awards 2009 presentation ceremony on May 21.   
“We will now announce the winners of the Awards in the media and winners can arrange to have their own private presentation ceremonies,” said Kumar.
Last year’s Prix d’Excellence Awards saw Mulpha International Bhd coming out top in the Residential Category for its Pinggiran Bayou Village Homes, part of its Leisure Farm Resrt development in Johor, while four other Malaysian developers the clinched runner-up positions.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), as of May 17, 39 countries have officially reported 8,480 cases of the A(H1N1) influenza infection. WHO has not recommended travel restrictions related to the outbreak of the influenza.
The Paris-based Fiabci is a global organisation of real estate associations in 60 member countries and is affiliated with the United Nations.
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