The real estate industry must strive to achieve productivity growth and work to secure market share based on quality products and services, innovativeness, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Second Finance Minister, Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani, said this was in line with the country's progressive move towards becoming a high-income nation as competitiveness achieved by employing low-costlabourand resources would no longer be sustainable.

"I believe that the real estate industry has the potential to significantly contribute to Malaysia's economic transformation," he said at the National Real Estate Awards gala dinner here Saturday.

He said the industry has multiplier effects, with over 120 other industries relying onconstruction sectorfor their growth and sustainability.

The industry also provided significant job opportunities, employing 1.2 million people, representing 9.5 percent of Malaysia's total workforce, he said.

Johari said the construction sector, encompassing realestate, property aswell as infrastructure industries, was one of the driving forces of Malaysia's successful economic development.

"Athough the construction sector only accounted for about four percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015, or RM42 billion, it has significant forward and backward linkages with the overall economy, especially with the manufacturing and the services sectors, which together, accounted for the bulk of the share of the economy, at around 74 percent of the GDP," he added.

Meanwhile, he said, the Malaysian housing market faced unevenness across the sub-segments with demand outstrippingsupply especiallyin the affordable housing segment which was for houses priced below RM250,000.

"Only 21 percent of new housing projects in Malaysia were priced below RM250,000 in 2014 amid an oversupply of higher-end properties priced above RM500,000," he said.

He said this development has increasingly priced out more urban Malaysian households from the housing market.

Johari said to ease the problem, the government has carried out some initiatives to ensure quality affordable housing was provided for the rakyat, particularly for the first-time homebuyers.

He said one of the initiatives was the 170,000 1Malaysia People's Housing Scheme (PR1MA) units which would be sold 20 per cent below the market price.

"A total of 10,000 units are expected to be completed in 2017," he said.

Johari said other initiative included 10,000 Rumah Mesra Rakyat houses to be built by Syarikat Perumahan Nasional Bhd with a subsidy of RM20,000 for each house.

He said to address the issue required not just the commitment from the government but also the support from the private sector, including the real estate fraternity.

The award, organised by Malaysian Institute of Estate Agents, recognises the outstanding achievements and successes of real estate agents in 19 categories. -- Bernama