Sunday, September 30, 2007

Medical Cluster Among Proposals To Transform Yishun Estate

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 30 September 2007

Yishun estate is set for a major makeover, with proposals to turn its town centre into the hub of the north over the next few years.

Land has been set aside in Yishun for medical specialty centres or a university.

Yishun residents are also among the first to pilot HDB's new upgrading schemes that are aimed at middle-aged estates which are over 20 years old.

Tampines is another area that is designated for these schemes.

Related Video Link -
Medical cluster among proposals to transform Yishun estate

The pilot – called the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) and Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) – will allow homeowners to choose from a menu of optional improvements that cater to their needs.

Seventy three percent of some 47,000 households in Yishun are currently eligible for HIP, which covers only improvements within the flats.

New toilets and door grilles are among the choices offered to homeowners.

An estimated 300,000 flats across the island, built in or before 1986, come under the HIP programme.

Residents could also decide on common facilities such as barbeque pits and street soccer courts under the NRP.

Around 200,000 flats in Singapore, built in or before 1989, are eligible for the scheme.

In Yishun, some 46 percent of households are eligible for NRP.

Three-quarters of the total number of households in the area have to give the go-ahead before HIP or NRP will be carried out.

HDB said upgrading would be rolled out in Yishun over a 20-year period.

One of the residents said: "My unit is getting very old already, so this programme comes at the right time."

"While the cost may be alright for some, for others I hope the government could subsidise them more on a case-by-case basis," another resident said.

Residents pay between 5 and 12.5 percent of the total bill on home improvements, depending on the size of their flats.

The government pays for the rest and will also foot the bill for new facilities in the neighbourhood.

One of the plans for Yishun is a new shopping complex that will include integrated private apartments.

Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who is also the MP for Sembawang GRC, said land that has been set aside could be used for a medical cluster around the new Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, complete with specialty centres and hotels.

He said: "Eventually when the north's population grows, the healthcare needs will certainly expand. The possibility of a cluster is highly feasible. Let's reserve the land to form a land bank, so that when market needs are expressed, we have the land to support it."

Mr Khaw also did not rule out the possibility of using the land for a future university. - CNA/so

Hot Pick: Upper Thomson Road

Source : Property Report "October 2007"

Savills Singapore predicts and reasons for its latest ‘Hot Pick’

Within 18 months, we predict that the following prices will be achieved for condominiums on Upper Thomson Road:

* S$1,000-$1,400psf from the traffic junction of Sin Ming Avenue and Venus Drive, to the junction of Braddell Road and Lornie Road

* S$800-$1,200psf from Yio Chu Kang Road to Sin Min Avenue junction

* S$600-900psf for the stretch between Mandai Road junction and SpringLeaf area to the junction of Yio Chu Kang Road

Prices for developments along the Marymount Road and the Shun Fu Road areas, like Thomson 800 and Thomson V Two, have already surpassed the key S$1,000psf psychological mark. We’ve also noticed that units at Sky@Eleven, which exceeded the S$1,200psf mark during its launch, are now transacting between S$1,400-$1,600psf in the sub-sale market. We believe the current price gap between condominiums along the 6-8km stretch of the Upper Thomson Road is not tenable. We believe the gap will soon start to narrow. The main contributing factor will be the opening of the Marymount MRT Station when it’s completed after 2010. Another plus, the area is also home to many top tier schools, including the Raffles family of schools including Ai Tong and Catholic High.

Prices in the middle stretch, between Yio Chu Kang Road and Sin Min Avenue, which is just 2km away from Ang Mo Kio Central, will appreciate in due course. The opening of AMK Hub has added vibrancy and prestige to the aging Ang Mo Kio Central. This has also led to Far East Organization paying S$601psf per plot ratio for the adjacent plot of condominium land. FEO could launch the condominium for sale sometime in the second half of 2008 at a minimum price of S$1,100 psf. The higher-floor units could enjoy panoramic of golf courses, reservoirs and the city skyline in the distance.

Values at the northern tip of Upper Thomson Road, around the Mandai Road and SpringLeaf area, will grow as home owners realise the price differential and start pushing up north. The quiet beauty – serenity of the greenery, early morning mists, fresh air and gentle rolling slopes – are often overlooked by urbanised Singaporeans.. By the end of 2008, new prices from several small project launches, including land sales in Sembawang, will re-rate the base price of this stretch upwards.

This area is attractive because it offers a slightly different lifestyle where space and landed properties are still abundant. And the area has undergone a complete 360-degree facelift since the early 1990s for upcoming boutique landed developments which are not in any way inferior in design compared to its counterparts in Districts 8, 9 and 10. For all the ‘greenies’ out there, this area is perfect.

Ritz-Carlton Joins Hayden For First Asia Residence

Source : Property Report "October 2007"

The Ritz-Carlton has selected Singapore for its first private residential property in Asia, with Hayden Properties developing the high-profile project at 65 Cairnhill Road, close to the vibrant Orchard Road shopping district. The Ritz-Carlton will train and manage the residence’s staff, who will deliver an array of services including housekeeping, a 24-hour dedicated concierge, sommeliers and doormen.

Situated on almost 60,000sqft of elevated land, the 36-storey Ritz-Carlton Residences will have 56 apartments and two penthouses. Each unit comes with designer fittings and appliances, such as Sub-Zero refrigerators, and all bedrooms have ensuite bathrooms.

Recreational facilities include swimming pools, a barbecue area, tennis courts and a manicured maze garden on the ground floor. An eye-catching feature will be three sky terraces featuring a lap pool, hydro pool, gym, coffee shop, library, wine cellar, and an open kitchen and entertainment area, managed by The Ritz-Carlton.

Hayden Properties, a joint-venture set up last October between KOP Capital and Emirates Tarian, first made headlines in Singapore as the developer behind the much-anticipated ‘car porch condo’ at 37 Scotts Road. This latest alliance with a world-renowned hospitality brand is further testament to the company’s eye for boutique, high-class developments.

“We’re pleased to work with The Ritz-Carlton and proud that The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Singapore is the first of its kind in Asia,” said Leny Suparman, Director and Head of Real Estate of Hayden Properties (pictured far left, with Ong Chih Ching of Hayden, Shawn Hill of Marriott International and Ritz-Carlton’s Simon Manning).

“This shows Singapore is recognised as a global market,” she added. “We’re confident this development will be very appealing to many who have been waiting for such a product in the market.”

Since The Ritz-Carlton Company opened its first residence in 2000 in Washington, DC, an additional 15 have since opened, and 16 more are under construction. While Singapore marks Ritz-Carlton’s first residential project in this region, the company opened the first of its 11 hotels in Asia in Hong Kong in 1993.

“The choice of Singapore as the place in Asia to launch indicates our confidence in the country as a highly desirable and sought-after location for distinctive residential projects,” said Herve Humler, President, International of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.

“The Ritz-Carlton Residences aims to up the ante in high-end living by providing the legendary Ritz-Carlton experience to residents, who will enjoy the same gold standard of hospitality, encompassing the finest personal service and facilities.”

Fine Living On Four Seasons’ Floating Flagship

Source : Property Report "October 2007"

Singapore was a recent stop on the ongoing global tour for the unveiling of the Four Seasons Ocean Residences, exclusive private apartments aboard the world’s first ‘branded’ ship.

The private preview and off-plan sales of the 719-foot Four Seasons, which is being developed by BV International Ocean Holdings Ltd, took place in mid-September at an invitation-only event at the Four Seasons Hotel, organised by sales agent Savills International.

Savills, which previously helped sell units in the only comparable ship sailing today, The World managed by ResidenSea, said the response in Asia to the 13-deck, 48,600-tonne Four Seasons was staggering.

“The response in the Far East is about 10 times what it was five years ago (for sales of The World). The increasing wealth in the region is amazing,” David Vaughan of Savills told Property Report. “To get the name of Four Seasons, the top hotel operator in the world, is quite the most amazing achievement for the developers. The ship will be a moving flagship for the Four Seasons.”

Built by the Aker shipyard in Finland and set for completion in 2010, the ship will feature 112 private residences and 70,000sqft of public space, featuring four restaurants, bars, a Monte Carlo-style casino, designer retail outlets and a gourmet market.

Leisure facilities include a stunning swimming pool, a lavish 11,000sqft Four Seasons Spa and fitness centre, a jogging track, driving range and putting greens, and watersports ‘toys’, including a Riva speedboat. There will also be a business centre, tutoring facility, medical facility with a full-time doctor and an operating room, and a helipad that can be used for emergencies, as well as standard passenger transfers.

All of the residential units are fully furnished and available in three design schemes: traditional, contemporary and maritime. Notably, Four Seasons will be the first ship in which every single bedroom has an outside deck, with wall-to-ceiling windows offering grand views of the stunning scenery, which will include everything from tropical Caribbean islands to Antarctic icebergs.

The residences are definitely for the well heeled. The majority are located on decks 6-10 and range in price from just under US$4 million for a one-bedroom apartment (797sqft) to over US$12 million for a three-bedroom apartment (2,418-2,899sqft).

On the upper decks, 11-13, there are six penthouses (2,914-7,860sqft), with prices ranging from just over US$15 million to over US$40 million for a four-bedroom triplex.

“This ship has been set up for the wealthiest people in the world,” Vaughan said. “Buyers will come from all the major areas from around the world, and will represent both old and new money, as well as everything in-between.” Ownership of units is via a 50-year leasehold, which is transferable and can be resold, while the Resident’s Association will have the right to renew at the end of the 50-year term.

The Four Seasons, which can accommodate 550 guests and 220 crew (who each have their own cabin), is scheduled to start sailing on June 1, 2010. There are hopes that Queen Elizabeth will be able to officially launch the ship later that month in Greenwich, London.

Already there is a day-by-day global itinerary planned for the first two years, with the ship in port for about 250 days a year. The ship will spend three months in Europe, followed by 11 months around the American continent, before crossing the Pacific via Hawaii to the Pacific islands, Australia and New Zealand.

From January 2012, the ship will head north to Asia, with stops in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives. It will then spend the April and May in the Seychelles and mainland Africa and finally Spain.

“The route has been planned meticulously to follow all the ocean currents. The ship will stop at all the major sports and cultural events, like the 2012 Olympics in London, Rio carnival, Monaco Grand Prix, America’s Cup, and so on,” Vaughan said.

“We expect most owners to typically use their residence for two to three months a year, although older owners, perhaps retired, may use it for six months or so. Some will live on the ship all year round. Owners can stay in touch with anyone around the world, all the time, as the communication facilities onboard are mind-blowing.”

Buyers of each apartment can nominate five people who may also use their residence. However, the policy for renting out apartments will not be finalised until all the residences have been sold and the association of owners decide on a common policy. It has already been confirmed that no outside rentals will be for less than 30 days.

“It’s a lifestyle choice, not an investment. Of all the people we’ve talked to, nobody’s mentioned income [from rental],” added Vaughan, who expected buyers to range in age from 35 to 75. “Buyers of such an apartment are more concerned with security and staying in the company of like-minded owners. There’s no desire to see many strangers aboard.”

Savills Singapore is handling all local enquiries, while the ‘unveiling’ road show will continue around the world, including an exhibition booth at Cityscape Dubai from October 16-18.

GCBs Looking Good Long Term

Source : Property Report "October" 2007

By Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop

Good class bungalows (GCB), Singapore’s most prestigious homes, are now enjoying record asking prices. In August, Glencaird, a conservation property, was sold for S$28.8 million, at S$1,308psf, well above the previous record for a GCB of S$1,091psf, which had been set in March.

But while prices for GCBs have nearly doubled over the last three years, they’re still trailing behind those of landed properties on Sentosa as well as units in high-end condominiums, which are both benefiting from the strong interest of foreign buyers. The GCB market could boom if restrictions on foreigners were ever eased. However, even without foreign buyers, professionals believe such rare properties will always offer good long-term investment prospects.

GCBs are defined as bungalows that sit on at least 1,400sqm of land within one of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) 39 designated GCB areas. There are an estimated 2,500 GCB units in Singapore, with either 999-year or freehold tenures.

Buyers of such properties are by and large Singaporeans, with only about 10-15% of plots sold this year going to Permanent Residents with special consent from the government, explains Steven Ming, Head of Investment Sales and Prestige Homes for Savills Singapore.

Not only must Permanent Residents seek consent from the Land Approval Dealing Unit (LADU) to buy any landed property but they’re also restricted by only being able to buy a property on a plot no more than 1,400sqm (the smallest size for a GCB) and cannot rent out the property.

In a June report, Goldman Sachs pointed out that the average price for a constructed top-end bungalow with a land area of 15,000sqft (about 1,400sqm) was about S$17 million. That’s 35% below that of a comparable condominium, such as a 7,500sqft unit priced at S$3,500psf, which sells for about S$26.3 million.

Slow risers
GCBs are usually viewed as a barometer of the residential property market in Singapore and it was the first residential property segment to enjoy a recovery in transaction activity back in 2003. Yet by mid-2004, the average price of land of GCBs, at S$367psf, was still down 45% from the previous peak of S$670psf in 1997 and down 24% from the average of S$479psf in 2000.

Prices started to pick up gently in 2005, rising to an average of S$395psf in the second half of the year, with some top addresses such as Bishopsgate, Jervois Hill and Cluny fetching S$550psf, up 20% on the year but still well below their 1996-1997 peak.

In 2006, prices rose further to an average of S$500psf as the market moved significantly. According to CBRE data, there were 119 transactions last year, up 40% on the year before, while the total value of transactions stood at S$1.23 billion last year, a 70% jump from 2005.

“Prices started to recover in 2005 at the time when Sentosa Cove started to release land to foreigners. This was ahead of the recovery in condominium units,” recalls Douglas Wong, Director of Grandeur Homes, PropNex Realty, who has been in the GCB market for over 10 years.

However, Wong points out that prices for bungalow plots on Sentosa surpassed those of GCBs in 2006, led by the strong demand from foreigners, assured of fast-tracked approval from the Land Dealings (Approval) Unit (LDAU). This was despite the fact that Sentosa plots are smaller and have only a 99-year leasehold tenure compared with typical freehold tenure for GCBs.

“Obviously if foreigners were allowed to buy GCBs, which are generally larger, prices would shoot up like Sentosa,” Wong says.

The last seafront bungalow plot at Sentosa Cove to be released was sold for a record S$1,473psf in May, surpassing the previous top price of S$1,308psf for plots bought in November 2006. Comparatively, a freehold bungalow on 15,075sqft of land at 63 Dalvey Road was sold in March for S$1,091psf by land area, at a total cost of S$16.45 million, the highest unit price for a GCB since 2000.

Asking prices for bungalows in coveted areas such as Nassim Road, Dalvey Estate, White House Park and Cluny Park now average S$900-$1,000psf and are expected to rise further following the sale of Glencaird.

Ming estimates that as of early September, the average GCB land prices this year was about S$675psf. “I think prices have the potential to rise another 10% before the end of the year and another 15% within the next 18 months,” Ming said.

“In general the property market is still on the move and with GCB land so scarce, I believe GCBs still have great potential for appreciation,” he added. “GCB pricing has not hit the peak yet, compared with the condos. If you consider that you’re paying $4,000psf for a condo and only S$1,100-$1,200psf for a GCB, it still holds very good potential.”

Quick turnaround
According to CBRE Research, 67 deals for GCBS were been completed to the tune of $850 million by August.

Although some buyers have been able to clock in quick resale profits, by and large, speculative activity is fairly rare in the GCB market, according to Ming. He estimated that about 10% of recently transacted GCBs have been bought and resold within a year.

One such property was 5A Bishopsgate, transacted at just under S$12 million late last year and recently resold at S$18 million. Another was 20B Nassim Road transacted for S$18.37 million in January and resold recently for S$24.1 million

“GCBs should not be viewed as a short-term investment,” Wong argues. “While some buyers have been able to flip their properties quickly and make a tidy profit, quick resales are generally more limited given that the potential pool of buyers is much smaller than for condos.

“GCBs are really a long-term investment which should give you better return and stable than equity. Ultimately, you’re buying a piece of land and there are only 2,500 GCBs, so it will always be a sought-after asset for its investment value and status.”

Although GCBs are not immune to the ups and downs of the property markets, the sector is a little bit more resilient than other property assets, notes Ming. “When you consider the profile of the buyers of these high-end properties, they can usually still afford to buy GCBs and hold them regardless of whether the stock market is falling.”

Should You Invest Your CPF Savings Elsewhere?

Source : The Straits Times, Sun, Sep 30, 2007


CHANGES to Central Provident Fund (CPF) rules have left Singaporeans with a key question about their cash - do they take it or leave it?

Taking it means trying to invest it somewhere else in the hope of better returns. Otherwise, they could leave the money with the Board.

Financial advisers and insurance agents are naturally pushing the first option, and they are stepping up efforts to persuade Singaporeans to invest their CPF savings.

Under the new rules, which will take effect on April 1, a CPF member will not be allowed to invest the first $20,000 of his CPF Ordinary and Special accounts savings under the CPF Investment Scheme (CPFIS).

Money already invested through the CPFIS will not be affected. A member can still use Ordinary Account (OA) funds for housing, CPF insurance and education schemes.

This explains why financial advisers and insurance agents are keen to get Singaporeans to invest their CPF savings with them.

And the campaign has been intense.

Intensified efforts

SECONDARY school teacher Shirley Phua, 40, said: 'My adviser has been trying to convince me to invest my CPF savings. He says his recommended unit trusts will give a better return than the CPF guaranteed rates.'

Ms Phua might be in safe hands if she takes a medium- to long-term view and her adviser constructs a diversified investment portfolio.

Other CPF members might not be so lucky if they encounter unscrupulous advisers and agents employing tactics such as the promise of 'instant cash' if CPF money is invested in unit trusts.

Classified newspaper advertisments are offering 'instant cash' of 1 per cent, or $1,000, for every $100,000 invested. One such ad reads: 'Fast cash. Use CPF to assist you.'

Market observers say the ads are a clear sign that some unscrupulous agents are still trying to make a quick buck by inducing CPF members to make unsuitable investments using cash that is earmarked for their retirement.

It is estimated that 10 to 30 per cent of advisers and agents are offering cash rebates - a practice that contravenes CPF policy.

Cash rebates or freebies are in effect a premature withdrawal of CPF savings and a violation of CPF Board rules.

Not surprisingly, the topic of higher interest returns was one of the most controversial during the recent Parliament debate.

It also made its rounds in Internet chatrooms and forums. One popular website, for example, had this comment: 'Once the money is in CPF, it is considered gone. There is no flexibility, you can't invest elsewhere to take advantage of opportunities.'

It was referring to the first $20,000 of a CPF member's savings in the OA and Special Account (SA).

Key changes

LAST month, the Government announced changes to the CPF that are aimed at ensuring Singaporeans will have sufficient lifetime savings.

CPF members will receive additional interest of 1 percentage point on the first $60,000 in their accounts.

This means an interest rate of 3.5 per cent will apply to the first $20,000 in the OA; a rate of about 5 per cent will apply to the next $40,000 in the Special, Medisave and Retirement accounts (SMRA).

Other changes include delaying the drawdown age for the Minimum Sum to 65 in 2018 and a new longevity insurance scheme.

From Jan 1, there will be a new interest rate on CPF savings. While the OA rate, which is pegged to bank rates, has been a guaranteed 2.5 per cent, the SMRA rate has been 1.5 per cent higher at 4 per cent.

Under the new system, the SMRA rates will be pegged to the previous 10-year Singapore Government Securities (SGS) rate plus 1 percentage point.

The average SGS rate is now 3 per cent, so the SMRA rate would be 4 per cent - the SGS rate of 3 per cent plus 1 percentage point.

To help members adjust to the floating rate, the Government will pay out a minimum of 4 per cent on the SMRA for the next two years.

This 4 per cent floor will also apply to the first $60,000 in the combined CPF accounts that enjoy a higher interest rate.

After two years, the 2.5 per cent floor rate will apply for all accounts as prescribed under the CPF Act.

Expert views

MOST financial advisers, such as Mr Leong Sze Hian, the president of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, recommend that people should invest in higher-return assets to maximise their nest eggs.

Mr Leong said a diversified global portfolio has a 'very high probability' of achieving annual returns of 6 per cent over a five- to 10-year period.

'The longer one's time horizon is, the higher the probability is and the lower the risks are,' he pointed out.

The chief executive of wealth management firm dollarDEX, Mr Chris Firth, told The Sunday Times that, for long-term investors, 2.5 per cent or 3.5 per cent a year is not a good return.

'Even 5 per cent can be beaten in the long run with a good balanced fund or diversified portfolio without too much risk,' he said.

'Depending on the client's situation, I would advise investing CPF money in approved equities and bonds, regardless of the floor rate. Still, clients need to recognise the risks involved.'

Ipac financial planning's senior vice-president, Mr Scott Mitchell, said that if a member would need his savings in the short term, say, five years, then it made more sense to leave the funds in the CPF account.

Mr Firth said that for low-risk clients or those with short-term needs, the CPF floor rate returns could be seen as a risk-free investment.

Mr Joseph Chong, the chief executive of financial advisory firm New Independent, noted firmly that CPF members should leave the first $20,000 of their OA and SA savings with the Board.

'The Government is giving very good, risk-free rates, essentially protected against inflation. At 3.5 per cent, it's the real rate of return plus 1 per cent. Let this form a crucial part of your bond portfolio,' he said.

Ms Anne Tay, OCBC Bank's vice-president for group wealth management, noted that CPF members need to find an investment that pays at least 3.5 per cent - the CPF rate - for the first $20,000 in OA savings if they plan to take the cash from the Board.

'If you can find an investment that has a good track record of consistently beating the 3.5 per cent return mark, invest your money. Make it work harder for you,' Ms Tay advised.

As for the next $40,000 in the SMRA, she said it made sense to invest this money in products with consistent performance records that beat the hurdle rate of 4.5 per cent.

She is assuming that even if the 10-year Singapore government bond falls to 2.5 per cent, the new SMRA formula would give you 2.5 per cent plus 1 percentage point plus 1 percentage point - for a total of 4.5 per cent.

Ms Tay calculated that if the first $60,000 is left with the board, it will grow to $92,000 based on the new changes and a 10-year horizon.

If a member is prepared to take on the risks associated with higher returns, say, 7 per cent a year over 10 years, the amount will grow to $118,000. This means a difference of $26,000.

Over a 20-year period, the difference between leaving the amount with the Board and investing at 7 per cent a year would snowball into $93,800.

Potential risks

AS WITH most financial investments, there are risks involved in investing CPF savings.

Statistics showed that between 1993 and 2004, nearly three out of every four people who had invested under the

CPFIS ended up worse off than if they had just parked their money in their CPF accounts.

It is believed that these Singaporeans got burnt because of a lack of financial education.

Mr Patrick Lim, the associate director of financial advisory firm PromiseLand Independent, highlights some potential risks and concerns:

* Investing in products that are not diversified and not tailored to a CPF member's risk profile.

* Investments that come with high fees and sales charges. High fees will eat into returns.
One reason for the poor returns of unit trusts in the past has been the high cost of investing. That is why the front-end sales charge for CPFIS-approved unit trusts has been capped at 3 per cent since July this year.

* The investment time horizon of CPF members.

* Other changes to the CPF that could affect investments.
Investing a lump sum now could mean timing the market wrongly.

Mr Lim says: 'This might be significant if we remember that many CPF members invested at the peak of the bubble in 2000.

'Many of their investments are still 'deeply under water'.'

Prices And Rentals Rising Fast In Upper East Coast

Source : The Straits Times, Sun, Sep 30, 2007

THE buzz in the property market these days is all about the price recovery in the suburban areas.

Cheaper private homes on the outskirts of town are seeing a rebound in prices and rentals, as the strong market sentiment at the top end filters down.

PRICES FOR AQUARIUS BY THE PARK (left) at Bedok Reservoir and The Summit along Upper East Coast Road have risen by more than 30 per cent since January. -- ST FILE PHOTO
Homebuyers have started turning out in force for these entry-level condominiums. Many have sold en bloc and are seeking replacement units.

Apart from the central Orchard Road area, a popular collective sale district is the East Coast, which has seen nearby Upper East Coast Road become one of the biggest hot spots for home seekers.

Some projects in the district, which stretches from Upper East Coast Road to Bedok North Avenue 4, have rocketed in price, by up to 65 per cent, since January.

Figures from consultancy Savills Singapore show that overall home prices in the area climbed by 20 per cent to 65 per cent between January and August, depending on the specific street.

This compares with a rise of about 10.3 per cent for all suburban areas in the first six months of this year, according to the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

But Savills' director of business development and marketing, Mr Ku Swee Yong, was quick to add that some of the Upper East Coast projects have seen such large jumps in price because of 'collective sale rumours'.

'The general price increase is nowhere near 65 per cent overall,' he said.

Rentals in the Upper East Coast have also soared, supporting the price increases. Average asking rents jumped 13.7 per cent in July and August, on top of a 4.7 per cent rise in the previous three months, said Savills. They average $3.07 per sq ft (psf), or about $3,000 for a 1,000 sq ft unit.

Mr Ku noted that the Upper East Coast is benefiting from a spillover in demand from nearby Districts 14 and 15, which include Marine Parade, Katong and Telok Kurau.

Several estates there have gone en bloc, forcing the sellers to seek new homes. Many of them have been priced out of the increasingly expensive East Coast properties, so they have shifted their focus to cheaper homes further east.

This situation is similar to that in town, where city-fringe areas such as Newton and Novena have benefited from the record number of collective sales in the Orchard Road area and its surroundings, said Mr Ku.

He added that even more developments in the vicinity are expected to go en bloc soon. These could include Ocean Park, Rich East Gardens, Bagnall Court and the two Eastern Lagoons.

Apart from the collective sale draw, Mr Ku noted that the Upper East Coast profits from its proximity to Changi Airport and East Coast Park, as well as various golf courses, including Tanah Merah Country Club and Laguna National Country Club. All these are attractive to 'mobile professionals', he said.

He predicts that by the end of next year, new benchmark prices will be achieved for the area. These could go up to $1,100 psf for the Bedok South Avenue 3 and Bedok Camp areas, and up to $1,700 psf from Siglap Centre to Bedok South Avenue 1.

One Degree 15 Marina Club At Sentosa Officially Opens

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 29 September 2007

Dubbed as Asia’s finest Marina, One Degree 15 Marina Club located at Sentosa was officially opened on Saturday in a colourful ceremony attended by Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang.

A sculpture was unveiled to mark the occasion which symbolised a new beginning for the club as it would be helping to steer Singapore into becoming the hub for recreational boating.

The Club has berthing facilities for mega yachts, and will complement the nearby Sentosa Cove's integrated Marina residential lifestyle.

Two days of festivities will be held to herald the occasion.

"I am sure that this upscale Marina and waterfront residential enclave will serve as magnet to those from around the world who have a passion for premium oceanfront and boating lifestyle. In time, we will see a thriving Sentosa Island complemented by the developments across the cruise bay at the HarbourFront and Mount Faber.

This unique blend of new and refreshed leisure offerings will enliven and generate greater buzz in the entire southern waterfront precinct, making it a great resort destination to live, work and play," said Mr Lim. -CNA/vm

Bayshore Park Holds EOGM To Elect En Bloc Sales Committee

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 29 September 2007

Bayshore Park condominium, a 21-year-old estate with over 1,000 apartments, is exploring the possibility of an en bloc sale.

It took a formal step on Saturday by holding an extraordinary general meeting to elect an en bloc sales committee.

With changes to the Land Titles Strata Act expected to kick in next month, what happens to potential en bloc sale properties that are caught in-between these changes?

After the two-hour meeting, an 11-member en bloc sales committee was confirmed by residents at the development.

But will such processes hold when the amended Act is enforced?

Related Video Link -
Bayshore Park Holds EOGM To Elect En Bloc Sales Committee

Lee Liat Yeang, Partner, Rodyk & Davidson, says: "I think it is advisable for an estate which is contemplating an en bloc sale to wait till the new legislation is fully enforced before they proceed, because it is necessary for them to understand the intricate processes that the government has prescribed in the new legislation."

But according the law firm Khatter Wong, the formation of the en bloc sales committee on Saturday by the residents is lawful and will comply with the amended act.

The changes to the act, which are aimed at providing more safeguards and transparency for all owners, will come into effect next month.

And there is a reason why residential properties like Bayshore Park are not waiting until the amended act is enforced.

Mr Lee says: "They are rushing for it. It could be because from a commercial point of view, they're concerned there could be many other projects in the vicinity who may also be thinking of going for en bloc sale. And perhaps they want to kick-start the process quickly."

And its newly-formed en bloc sales committee will no doubt be busy getting the necessary 80 percent support it needs for the en bloc sales process to move forward. - CNA/ch

Saturday, September 29, 2007

130,000 May Get To Watch Singapore GP, 3 Other Races

Source : The Business Times, September 29, 2007

Corporate packages, hospitality suites to go on sale in Nov

It is all systems go for Singapore's Formula One Grand Prix street circuit which has received in-principle approval from the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), a green light that will see construction on the circuit beginning as early as next month.

And gathered around that circuit when the event roars to life a year from now will be a possible 130,000 spectators, who will get to enjoy three supporting races apart from the main fare. The announcements came yesterday at the one-year countdown to the Singapore Grand Prix 2008 being held by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) along with race promoter Singapore GP Pte Ltd (SGP).

Singapore's 5.067-km-long circuit will host the first street race in Asia. It is also one of only three circuits in the world to run counter-clockwise. It can be granted a full circuit licence only during the final FIA inspection in the week of the race itself.

Another highly anticipated announcement involved corporate hospitality suites and packages, which will go on sale in late November. Members of the public will be able to purchase three-day passes from December. Single-day passes, if any, will be issued just before Chinese New Year.

SGP and STB are hoping to garner 125,000-130,000 spectators for the event. 'Where we may not be able to put seats because of the limitations of the terrain, we will have options for people to be standing and watching the race,' said Leong Yue Kheong, director of F1 Projects for STB.

In addition to the 26,000-person seating gallery opposite the floating platform, there are provisional plans to build additional grandstands at the Padang, opposite the pit lane near the starting grid and at the War Memorial Park, among others.

'There are several options being examined by the race promoter together with the various agencies to see how we can maximise the spectators value,' he added.

F1 fans can also look forward to three supporting races - GP2, saloon cars and BMW Junior Championships - which are slated to start at 2pm - in the run-up to the main event.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will be in charge of managing the modifications to existing infrastructure such as the widening of roads and the removal of road curbs and traffic islands along certain areas of the circuit. A 1.2-km road which will constitute the start and finish straight of the track will also be built alongside the pit building.

LTA announced yesterday the award of three contracts for the road works totalling $18.014 million to Or Kim Peow Contractors (Pte) Ltd, Sato Kogyo (Singapore) Pte Ltd and Works Infrastructure Pte Ltd. Over $50 million is expected to be invested in public road works and infrastructure changes.

What remains pending now is confirmation of whether the 61-lap street race will be a night one. If so, it will set a precedent in F1 history. Minister of State for Trade and Industry S Iswaran said feedback from trials conducted in Europe in recent months has been positive. 'We are in the last mile,' he reckoned, acknowledging that the outlook was optimistic. He also launched the countdown clock on the official F1 Singapore website - - which will enable F1 afficionados to be privy to regular updates and insider tips.

Two Reasons Why Scheme Will Not Be Received Well

Source : The Straits Times, Sept 29, 2007

IN PRINCIPLE, the concept of a compulsory annuity scheme is good for the people.
However, I strongly believe that two areas of this scheme will not be well received by annuitants.

First is the withdrawal age of annuitants at 85 years old. Many will not expect to live to this age and beyond. I took a simple survey. Randomly I took out an issue of The Straits Times (Sept 25, 2007) and turned to the obituary page. Of the 26 advertised, only one - Madam Eng Pheck Kheng, aged 91 - managed to pass the 85-year-old mark. Nine with ages stated were below 85 years old. The rest, whose ages were not published, looked like they were between 40 and 75 years old.

Also my late mother, the youngest among her 10 brothers and sisters, lived the longest at the age of 84. All of them were born in China, suffered extreme hardship both physically and mentally in China as well as during World War II in Singapore, and yet none could live up to the age of 85.

It is difficult to believe that many of the annuitants of this generation doing mostly sedentary work can live up to 85 and receiving their annuities.

Secondly, on the withdrawal sum of about $300 in 30 years' time, this is a pathetic amount. Taking into consideration an average inflationary rate of 2 per cent annually, this amount will shrink to $180.

The $180 annuity may be just enough to buy three meals, some clothing and footwear and a haircut. There will be no roof over their heads, nor any money left for transport, not to mention medical treatment.

Raymond Lo Wan Mou

Compulsory Annuity Scheme Unfair To The Poor, Sick And Those Without Longevity Ggenes

Source : The Straits Times, Sept 29, 2007

AS SINGAPOREANS begin to live longer and as our society begins to age, there is this fear that this would put a great strain on the taxpayers and other resources.
To alleviate this problem, the conventional thinking is that the aged should have enough money to take care of themselves. Hence, the idea of a compulsory annuity scheme has been mooted where a pooled contribution would allow any survivor beyond 85 years of age to draw out a monthly sum of income.

Though the Government does not believe in giving out handouts because this would mean having to tax the people more, a compulsory annuity or compulsory longevity insurance would actually be doing just that. Once we strip off the veneer of fanciful names, we will see that as long as it is compulsory and non-refundable, such a scheme would, in fact, be a kind of taxation to finance a handout that will be given to those who have managed to live beyond 85 years old.

A scheme like this would have been laudable if it is not so inequitable. Statistics have shown that the poor, the people with chronic illnesses and those in the lower social class and without a family tend to die earlier than those in the higher social class.

This means that such a compulsory annuity scheme, which pays out only to those after the age of 85, would be depending on the poor, the sick and those without longevity genes to support the healthier and better off.

Furthermore, many of those who live beyond 85 are likely to be those who really do not need the 'handouts'.

The problem of a bulging population of dependents is not something new. After World War II, a baby boom did give governments such a headache. The pressure on governments then was even greater, given the depleted resources of a post-war economy. There were no reserves to fall back on.

In Singapore then, the rate of unemployment was high. Half the population was illiterate and there were not enough schools for the young. Living conditions were appalling. In other words, the majority of the population lived in poverty and filth and always under threat of disease and crime.

The government then had to build standpipes for people to have free water to bathe, wash their clothes and cook their food. It had to provide free health care, free mass vaccinations, free mobile X-rays and free hospitalisation for the poor. Money was not only spent on building schools, it was also spent on free milk to nourish the children who were suffering from poor nutrition and free textbooks for those who could not afford them. Cheap housing had to be built to provide decent living quarters for a growing population and recreation facilities for youths to keep them off the streets.

The problem then, if not more, was no less severe than what we will be facing in future. Statistics projected to 2030 showing only four people who are able to support one aged person are often quoted to show the gravity of the future problem. Is this figure any worse than the number of dependents that had to be supported by one provider in the period after the war?

These same baby boomers who had given governments problems when they were growing up are now part of the elderly boomers who are growing old.

What are the issues facing the governments then and now? Is the problem going to be greater in future than then?

In the past, the need for employment, housing, education, health care, utilities, transport and social facilities was urgent. They were all major items. Now the only big-ticket item is health care. There is no reason why with sensible health-care policies, the high cost of health care could not be overcome. In the past, the Maternal and Child Health Clinics and the School Health Clinics provided very good health care to both the growing baby boomers and their mothers. There is no reason why a similar basic health-care system could not be developed to care for the elderly. Good health care does not necessarily mean executive-class health care.

One of the reasons why many elderly boomers do not have enough money for their retirement is that a lot of their savings was eaten away by expensive health care, some of which may merely be adding a bit of quantity to life without giving it any quality.

Thus, the approach that was used to tackle the problems of the baby boomers should be transposed to tackle the problems of the elderly boomers. We cannot expect a paltry monthly annuity payout to do this. There is no way to avoid government interventions, the involvement of the state agencies and society to deal with the problem.

We need to rationalise health care, especially for chronic diseases and end-of-life care, so as not to make health care a burden to the patient, the family or the state. We have to develop greater social support for the elderly. As with child care, we now need government-subsidised day-care centres, nursing homes and community hospitals. We need to introduce parent-care leave and no-pay leave for people who want to take time off to look after an ailing parent. Instead of the Baby Bonus scheme, we can have elderly-parent bonus scheme and exemption of maid levy for the totally-dependent elderly. A similar scheme like health education and home visits that nurses used to do for rural Singapore could be used for home-bound elderly.

A compulsory annuity scheme that is non-refundable is not only inequitable. By implicitly telling the very old that they have to take care of themselves, we are giving out the signal that the old aged no longer need the family and the society to take care of them. What kind of society would we be if families and society try to wash their hands off the old elderly?

There is no reason why we cannot overcome that problem of the elderly boomers if families, society and the Government put their shoulders together against the wheel. Even if some money is spent, it is worth every cent if what we get in the end is a more compassionate and enlightened society.

After all, with all the prosperity generated by the elderly boomers during their prime, whatever programme would merely be a gesture of gratitude from a country to the people who have served it well.

Dr Wong Wee Nam

Govt Investments De-Linked From CPF Funds

Source : The Straits Times, Sept 29, 2007

IN 'CPF finances: Clarity needed to clear the cloud of confusion' (ST, Sept 20), Ms Chua Mui Hoong questioned whether the CPF provides a cheap source of funds for the Government's investments. Subsequent Forum letters also raised the matter of how the return on CPF funds is calculated, and what constitutes a fair return.

The interest members receive for their CPF money should reflect what they could earn by investing in the financial markets, in investments which have comparable risk and duration. All CPF balances are guaranteed by the Government and hence free of risk. Hence the Special, Medisave and Retirement Account (SMRA) interest rates will now be pegged to long-term government-bond yields. Furthermore, the first $60,000 of each person's CPF balances, to be held for the long term, will attract an extra 1 percentage point in interest. This means that they will always earn at least 3.5 per cent interest.

No commercial bank or fund manager offers more generous terms on such investments. Members seeking higher returns can take out their funds to invest through the CPF Investment Scheme (CPFIS). However, 83 per cent of CPF members who invested their OA savings in the CPFIS from 2002 to 2006 realised less than 2.5 per cent returns - the base rate of the OA. Half of all members who invested experienced negative returns, losing some part of their capital sum.

The CPF Board invests members' savings in special securities issued by the Government, which pay the CPF Board the same interest rates that its members receive. The Government pools the proceeds from issuing these securities with the rest of its funds, and invests them professionally for long-term returns. This is completely de-linked from the CPF Board and CPF members. Were this not so, CPF members would be exposed to the investment risks and could not receive guaranteed minimum interest rates.

Up to now, both GIC and Temasek Holdings have earned returns that exceeded CPF interest rates, on average over the years. But this does not mean that the Government is making use of the CPF as a 'cheap source of funds', or earning a 'spread at people's expense'.

First, the Government does not need more funds to invest. Even if it did, it could raise funds more cheaply by issuing treasury bills and government securities, instead of using CPF funds.

Second, Temasek and GIC achieve higher returns on average only by taking on more investment risks. Hence these returns are volatile - they can be low or even negative in some years. Furthermore, we cannot assume that GIC and Temasek will do as well in future. The past two decades have been an exceptional period for global financial markets. Looking ahead, we cannot rule out protracted market downturns, lasting several years. Most CPF members have small balances and will not welcome these risks. Neither will older members waiting to withdraw their retirement funds.

Third, Singaporeans benefit when GIC and Temasek investments do well. Every year, the Government draws part of these investment returns to fund the annual Budget. The revenue is spent on worthwhile investments and social needs, including subsidies for housing, education and health care. And from time to time, the Government distributes accumulated budget surpluses to citizens through CPF top-ups and other schemes.

The Government does not rule out the possibility of introducing private pension plans for those with balances above $60,000 and a higher capacity to take risk. However, it would be unwise for members with low balances to take excessive risks on their basic retirement savings.

The current arrangement thus enables all CPF members to earn fair and risk-free returns on their retirement savings, while benefiting from the good performance of GIC and Temasek through the annual Budget. This is the right way to help Singaporeans save for their old age, and enjoy peace of mind in their golden years.

Jacqueline Poh (Ms)
Director (Special Duties)
Ministry of Finance

F1 Street Race - 1 Year & Counting...

Source : The Straits Times, Sept 29, 2007

With exactly one year to go for the Singapore Grand Prix, preparations for the F1 race has shifted into a higher gear as the world motorsport body, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), has given the street circuit the go ahead.

But as Jermyn Chow reports, local race promoters are still awaiting confirmation as to whether it can stage a night race - a first in F1 history

Related Video Link -
F1 Street Race - 1 Year & Counting...

Related Video Link -
Drive through S'pore F1 circuit in 3D!

CPF Changes A Fair Deal, So Why The Hesitation?

Source : The Straits Times, Sept 29, 2007

ACCORDING to a certain fortune teller, I will live to 103.

That's the age an online longevity test,, spat out after quizzing me on my medical history and lifestyle.

That would mean I have over 61 years left. Despite the stories of contented centenarians one sometimes reads, I confess the prospect filled me with dry-throat dread.

My sense of trepidation was so overwhelming, I momentarily entertained thoughts of picking up smoking so the computer would shave a few decades off my life expectancy.

Like many other Singaporeans, my unwillingness to contemplate old age is connected to fears about what my health will be like, how to deal with loneliness that will envelop me if my loved ones die first, and how to cope financially.

The announcement of the latest changes to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) ran up against a natural resistance to confronting such difficult facts. The Government's announcements were as welcome as someone forcing you to stare into a photograph that has caught you with a particularly unflattering expression.

The instinct is to deny the person in the image represents you.

Similarly, many do not want to connect with the picture the Government is presenting, of people who will grow old and who risk real suffering unless they are forced to start saving more now.

People have been reluctant to embrace the obvious. The facts are that many will live longer than their parents did, with fewer young people to support them.

The other set of facts has to do with just how much savings people have put aside in their CPF. In a recent Straits Times Insight survey, seven in 10 said they knew their CPF would be inadequate for retirement. They also listed as other options for financial independence - continuing work, tapping on other savings or their family.

Judging by this survey, certain realities have actually sunk in. Singaporeans know they do not have enough for old age. Whatever they have set aside has, for the most part, gone into their home, not an inconsiderable asset they can monetise later.

So why has the debate witnessed an undercurrent of tension between Government and people?

Some attribute the unhappiness to the longevity insurance. If that is so, one suspects it is over the modification of the CPF system from one of forced savings to incorporate the element of risk pooling.

When it is forced savings, the understanding is, it is my money and it will be returned to me or my beneficiary.

When it becomes an annuity that premises its continued funding on risk pooling, I am contributing to a pool. Yes, I am betting on a long life and someone else underwriting it but I do not like the fact that if I exit too early, I 'lose'.

But the extra one percentage point members will get from their CPF balances will pay for the annuity, as the Government has explained. Hence, they will not be out of pocket by taking up an annuity.

Seen that way, it is a pretty fair deal.

However, what complicates the matter is the other issue being debated, which is whether the Government ought to give better rates of returns.

Why can't it match the returns made by Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) and Temasek Holdings, which invest on its behalf?

The reasons it has given are compelling. First, this is as good as it gets for a product that is virtually guaranteed. Put simply, for the majority of CPF account holders - seven in 10 of them who have balances of less than $60,000 and stand to gain the most from the changes - this is a sure-win proposition.

It must be flattering to GIC fund managers to hear that Singaporeans have such confidence in their abilities, but as the saying goes, past performance is no guarantee of future returns.

GIC investments certainly seem like a good bet, but they are not guaranteed, and it would be irresponsible of the Government to claim it was.

Second, exposing CPF members to higher risks may not be something they can live with. The ST Insight survey found that nearly half of those polled did not know how much interest they earned on their CPF.

That surely is an indication that many are not financially savvy and would probably be better off leaving it under a risk-free, guaranteed scheme.

Indeed, most of those polled were largely risk-averse. Asked about investment choices, close to four in five would opt to invest their CPF Ordinary Account savings in those with no or low risk.

Beyond these reasons, there are two lessons from other countries worth paying heed to.

One is that pension funds by companies are untenable and national pension funds are in a fiscally calamitous state. In the United States, for example, the social security system has gone from a worker-to-retiree ratio of 16 to one in 1950, to three to one today, and is expected to be at two to one by 2030, at which point spending on old-age entitlements will make up two-thirds of the federal budget.

Italy is faring even worse, with a mere 0.7 worker for each retiree, which means there are more people collecting benefits than paying taxes.

The second lesson is this: Financial strategists in the West have come to the conclusion that with longer life expectancies, annuities to hedge against longevity make sense. The latest issue of the magazine, Financial Planning, makes this case that the elderly should have 'at least some fraction of their nest egg' annuitised.

Perhaps, these concerns over longevity insurance and interest rates hark to a larger underlying issue, which is over the question of subsidies and just how much direct subsidy the Government is prepared to commit upfront to fund the people's retirement needs.

It is ideologically opposed to the pay-as-you-go system of other social security funds, which end up burdening future generations. It is also against dipping into past reserves.

As of now, it says these are non-negotiable issues. But the pressures it will face on this front will only grow and the hard reality is that it will need to continually explain and defend its position to new generations of retirees.

As Second Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam set out on the previous page, there is a chunk of assistance given over the course of a low-income worker's life through Workfare, housing grants and so forth, that amount to one-third of his retirement savings.

Another step the Government is taking is in the redefining of net investment income or NII, which will unlock more money than is traditionally put away. This, if anything, signals that it is putting its money where its mouth is.

It is unfortunate that the Government's sincerity is sometimes obscured by its zealous emphasis of the anti-welfare, self-reliance message, as well as the coincidence that its biggest give-aways seem serendipitously to match the electoral calendar. As a result, the level of trust in the latest moves is surprisingly low for a Government with such a strong record.

All in, it has its work cut out for it. Singaporeans will probably take longer to be convinced, which is a pity.

The sooner the country hunkers down to map a realistic strategy for its ageing population, the better off it will be.

And that should be obvious even without the aid of a fortune teller.

It'll Bring A Buzz To The Bay Area

Source : The New Paper, September 29, 2007

Ex-STB director joins property developer to jazz up Collyer Quay waterfront

SHE is a familiar face on the party circuit and society magazines and can sometimes be spotted spinning downtempo music or singing jazz numbers at the nightspots.

The double-storey Customs House will be equipped with berthing facilities and will be transformed into a dining zone with five upscale restaurants.

Now, Ms Sulian Tan-Wijaya, 42, is the face of The Fullerton Heritage, a strip of waterfront properties that will feature hip entertainment outlets and more.

This month, she joined property developer Sino Group after a 3 1/2-year stint with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

'I was enticed by the opportunity to work on this beautiful waterfront project. This is one of the most exciting integrated waterfront developments in the world,' she told The New Paper.

Next September, when the Formula1 race cars roar to life on the streets, the race will also take you past a different landscape along Raffles Quay.

The tranquil waterfront will be transformed into an exciting lifestyle precinct in the next two years.

There will be a 24-hour entertainment zone, a new luxury retail cluster, a 100-room boutique hotel and world-class restaurants located along The Fullerton Heritage.

Ms Tan-Wijaya, who is a mother of two, added that One Fullerton, a two-storey complex by the waterfront, is now undergoing a revamp, with trendier food and beverage (F&B) and entertainment outlets coming up.

The renovation at One Fullerton is in various phases as there are existing F&B tenants whose lease will expire next year.

Each unit at One Fullerton ranges from 417 sq ft to 5,420 sq ft.

To enhance the waterfront experience, a boardwalk featuring art installations will also be built there.

One Fullerton's revamp will be completed next August, together with Clifford Pier.

The pier, a historical landmark with 15,000 sq ft of commercial space, will house eight upscale watch, fashion and jewellery brand-name shops.

Next to it will be a floating platform that will house a nightspot, taking up to 7,000 sq ft.

In 2009, another two projects will be realised: The 100-room Fullerton Bay Hotel, managed by the Fullerton Hotels & Resorts, and the double-storey Customs House that will be transformed into a dining zone with five upscale restaurants.

The Customs House will be equipped with berthing facilities.

Ms Tan-Wijaya, who has a law degree, looks after the marketing, public relations and leasing of retail, dining and entertainment spaces at The Fullerton Heritage, which also covers The Merlion Park and The Fullerton Waterboat House.

(Above) An artist's impression of how the new Fullerton Heritage will look like once construction is completed. -- Pictures: SINO GROUP, CHOO CHWEE HUA

The former corporate banker and general manager of Wisma Atria would not reveal the development cost.

Well-known waterfront destinations around the world include Sydney's Darling Harbour and the Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.

For The Fullerton Heritage, Ms Tan-Wijaya said to picture yourself dining while overlooking such Singapore icons as The Esplanade, the floating stadium, the Singapore Flyer, Garden by the Bay, and the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort.

An Urban Redevelopment Authority spokesman said the waterfront heritage development at Collyer Quay, which includes Clifford Pier and the Customs House, is expected to be 'the cosmopolitan centre of Singapore'.


The Formula 1 Grand Prix from next year will also benefit nearby hotels like The Fullerton Hotel and Fullerton Bay Hotel.

Ms Caroline Leong, STB's director for travel & hospitality business, told The New Paper that the new Fullerton Bay Hotel will inject 'new buzz' in the Marina Bay area.

'With the Formula 1 circuit near The Fullerton Hotel as well as the new hotel at Collyer Quay, these will be key hotels for tourists to stay,' she said.

But whether we will see Ms Tan-Wijaya behind the DJ decks at the waterfront bars, well, she's keeping mum.

China Firm Wins Resorts World Steel Deal

Source : Weekend TODAY, September 29, 2007

China Jingye Construction Engineering Contract Company was yesterday awarded a $60-million contract to supply, fabricate and deliver structural steel to Resorts World at Sentosa.

The contract covers the supply of 23,000 tonnes of structural steel, with the first batch to be delivered in February next year.

The rest of the steel is to be delivered over the next 18 months.

The resort, slated to open in 2010, will use the steel to construct its hotels and attractions, including Universal Studios Singapore.

Mr Michael Chin, senior director of projects, said: “Although price was a criterion in awarding the contract, China Jingye’s ability to handle the size of this project and its commitment sealed the deal.” — ESTHER FUNG

Don’t Withhold The Hay

Source : Weekend TODAY, September 29, 2007

Keep empowering S’poreans at 55


I DON’T think that “What’s missing in the CPF debate” (Sept 26) is the dichotomy between what Singaporeans expect from the Government and what it is willing to give.

Rather, I think it is the Government’s selective empowerment and disempowerment modus operandi that rile Singaporeans.

When the Government liberalised the use of the Special Account for Central Provident Fund members to invest in low-risk financial instruments, the narrative was to empower them to earn better returns for their future: Go ahead, make as much hay in the sun as you can.

But once Singaporeans reach the age of 55, the disempowerment mode kicks in, from an increasing Minimum Sum to a later retirement age and longevity insurance: Sorry, mate, we worry that you will squander away your hard-earned largesse, so, staggered release and a to-the-grave annuity is the way to go.

Ditto for official exhortations for citizens to be more entrepreneurial and develop a more gung-ho, can-do attitude. Extend that freed spirit with reverent cognizance of those who helped create this Third-to-First World miracle in record time.

At the heart of the annuities debate is the back issue of a person’s money and his right to do what he pleases with it. If 55 is not a mature and responsible age, I do not know what is.

F1 Works To Hit The Road

Source : Weekend TODAY, September 29, 2007

Street circuit gets FIA nod, LTA awards $18m contracts

SINGAPORE'S street circuit for next year's Formula 1 race has gotten the green light from the world motor sport body, and this is a signal for work to begin next month.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has awarded a total of $18 million of contracts for three major works around the 5-km circuit, the design of which has received in-principle approval from the Federation Internationale de L'Automobile (FIA).

The road along Raffles Boulevard, from Nicoll Highway to Temasek Avenue, will be widened by one lane. Existing roads in the city centre along the F1 track will also be modified with road kerbs and traffic islands removed.

A new 1.2-km road off Republic Boulevard will also be built. It will form part of the start and finish straights on the track.

After the races end, a section of the new road, linked to Republic Boulevard, will open for daily traffic use.

The promenade, fronting the seating gallery of the Marina Bay Floating Platform, will also be widened, and a new road added.

Marking the one-year countdown on Friday to the race start next year, Minister of State for Trade and Industry S Iswaran said all government agencies, including the LTA, are committed to "minimising the disruption" for road users.

The LTA said information on traffic diversions will be provided and road works carried out during non-peak hours, where possible. The road works are expected to be completed next May.

The FIA will make several inspections in the coming months and issue the full circuit licence after the final inspection on the week of the race itself.

According to Singapore Tourism Board (STB) director Leong Yue Kheong, organisers expect between 100,000 and 130,000 ticket-holding spectators on each race day. Several spectator stands are being planned at the Padang facing City Hall, and at the first turn of the circuit at Republic Boulevard.

But organisers are also drawing up plans in anticipation of crowd sizes surging beyond 130,000. Plans include designating drop-off points for public transport, and staging post-race events that will stagger movements out of the area. The STB is looking into concerts headlined by top acts as part of the fringe activities.

The Singapore Grand Prix — one of only three race circuits with Istanbul in Turkey and Sao Paulo in Brazil on next year's F1 calendar to run anti-clockwise — will be the 15th stop on the 18-leg calendar.

Mr Iswaran told reporters that organisers were approaching "the last mile" in finding out whether Singapore's race will be the first night race in F1 history.

The organisers have begun lighting trials at overseas circuits. If given the approval to run a night race here, they will start conducting lighting trials here next May on the start and finish straights.

An estimated 1,000 people will be involved in ensuring the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix will run smoothly, and you could be part of the action. Trials to select volunteers for the Sept 28 event will be conducted soon.

“We’re looking at training about 1,000 people, including race marshalls,” said Singapore GP director (media and communications) Jonathan Hallett, 45.

“The trainers could come from Australia, and we want to train them not just for next year, but for subsequent years as well.”

Details of the training programme, conducted by the Singapore Sports Council, Singapore Motor Sports Association, and Singapore GP, are expected to be announced early next month.

It is likely to last at least two months, and could include stints at current F1 stops, such as Malaysia, China and Japan.

Said Mr Hallett: “It is important that Singapore develops its own pool of qualified race marshalls and other officials to run races, and train new ones.”

Singapore will host the event for five years from next year. Those interesting in helping out as volunteers can email Visit for details

Horizon Towers : Court Or Circus?

Source : Weekend TODAY, Saturday, September 29, 2007

Shanmugam remark sums up Horizon Towers owners’ day in court

EVEN before the main event got underway, the sideshow — with its sparks, spats and conspiracy theories — proved no less intriguing.

On Friday, the sale committee of 210-unit Horizon Towers took the minority owners to court in an appeal against a Strata Titles Board (STB) decision to throw out an en bloc attempt, after the board found three pages missing from the sale order application.

The legal tussle between the two parties seemed relatively straightforward — until Horizon Partners Private Limited (HPPL), the consortium buying over the development, and a splinter group of majority owners threw their hats into the ring. They made separate applications asking their cases also be heard by the High Court.

Add a mix of acerbic heavyweight lawyers, a rowdy public gallery and suspicions all around, and even the usually mild-mannered Justice Choo Han Teck, who presided over the hearing, had to assert himself several times to keep the courtroom in order.

While some 70 Horizon Towers residents packed the public gallery, extra seats had to be brought in for the lawyers — who included prominent Senior Counsels K S Rajah, K Shanmugam and Chelva Rajah — and their legal assistants from six different law firms.

Before the main proceedings could begin, Justice Choo had to rule on the applications by HPPL and the splinter group. Arguments on all sides were peppered with sharp exchanges and insinuations.

At one point, Mr Shanmugam wanted to interject but was stopped by Justice Choo. The crowd cheered: “Yes, sit down!”

This prompted Mr Shanmugam to remark: “Perhaps, the people at the back should be reminded that this is not a circus.”

Mr Shanumugam also responded to Mr K S Rajah’s remarks that the court should not grant the applications for “all and sundry to do this and that”.

Said Mr Shanmugam: “Firstly, I am not all and sundry. Next, I’m not doing this and that. I’ve a graver interest in the matter than he does.”

Lawyer Ramesh Kannan, representing three minority owners, said that as far as HPPL was concerned, it was “purely an issue of financial gain or loss”.

And the reason why HPPL wanted to be involved, he added, was due to its concern over a “change in strategy” by the majority owners and the suspicion that the current sale committee was “infiltrated” by owners who were against the sale.

Since the majority owners have already resolved to extend the sale order deadline to Dec 11 — as required by the buyer — the latter has no basis for such a suspicion, Mr Ramesh argued.

But Mr Shanmugam countered: “What’s the purpose of the appeal? To get a ruling … and use that in a breach of contract.”

The drama did not end with the hearing, which began at 11am and was adjourned at 2pm with Justice Choo saying he would give his ruling on Monday — after which the actual hearing for the appeal would proceed.

Outside the High Court, the majority owners, who have engaged a public relations firm, gave a statement through one of the unit owners, Mr Victor Ow.

A real estate developer, Mr Ow said: “It was very clear that HPPL was trying to say that the consenting owners are trying to breach the contract. But in fact, we are not.”

On a personal note, he pleaded with the public not to see him and his neighbours as “greedy”. There were “many discrepancies” in the current en bloc legislation, he said, and they were merely fighting for their “individual rights”.

“In fact, we suffer. We are quite prepared to abide by the contract but … do not push us around and cast fear into our lives,” Mr Ow added.

My HDB Flat’s A Condo

Source : The Straits Times, Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dawson Estate in Queenstown will be the new face of public housing - flats done condo-style by top home-grown architects

GARDEN TWIST: Surbana International Consultants plans to extend a linear park so that it becomes a rising, winding landscaped path around the blocks. -- PHOTO: HDB

UNDER ONE ROOF: Flats under SCDA Architects' housing concept will be designed such that they can be easily joined to let different generations of a family live together.

'It's not going to be expensive housing, just smarter in design'- Woha Architects founding director Richard Hassell. His firm's concept lets owners customise their homes' facades

GROUND-LEVEL parks extend to the doorsteps of residents’ homes and flats come with ceilings tall enough for lofts to be built.

These perks are not the latest offerings of swanky condo projects but new ideas for public housing in Queenstown.

Conceived by top local architects and unveiled at the Housing Board’s (HDB) ongoing Remaking Our Heartland exhibition, the new concepts also promise to bring high-rise communities closer and promote an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.

At the heart of all this future action is Dawson Estate, a 60ha district in Queenstown bounded by Margaret Drive, Tanglin Road, Alexandra Road, Commonwealth Avenue and Queensway.

This former housing and entertainment hot spot was developed in the 1950s by the HDB’s predecessor, the Singapore Improvement Trust.

It now has just 3,000 flats and tracts of land ripe for redevelopment after blocks of flats were cleared in the 1980s and 1990s.

It is expected to house about 10,000 more apartments in the future.

To bring a fresh spin to public housing, the HDB took the unprecedented step of commissioning Surbana International Consultants, Woha Architects and SCDA Architects earlier this year to conceptualise three separate precincts comprising 3,100 homes.

The brief: to introduce flats with seamless access to greenery, waterscapes and surrounding facilities, and promote closer ties, all on a tight budget.

While the HDB was tight-lipped about the construction budget it gave the architects to work with, SCDA’s design principal Chan Soo Khian estimated that he had to design flats that could be built with roughly half of what it would cost to put up luxury condos fully fitted with items like wardrobes and cabinets.

Most HDB flats do not come with fittings.

The HDB said it will work closely with the private architects to develop a cost-effective design.

Each firm had its own ideas: Surbana extended a future linear park into a winding landscaped path around the blocks; SCDA gave the bigger flats enough vertical space for lofts; and Woha envisioned a block facade reflecting individual home owners’ tastes.

Said Mr Chan: ‘Doing a public-housing project means you have to work within tighter constraints. It means, in a modern way, your design is purer.

‘You don’t depend on embellishments to make it a good project. You’re not worried about the inside, what kind of fitting is going where. In some (private) projects, you spend so much time just worrying about the kitchens and fittings.’

But certain private-housing elements are likely to pop up in the Dawson projects.

Woha, which recently won a prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture for its private project 1 Moulmein Rise, wants to offer the monsoon window it introduced there as one of the options for Dawson home buyers.

This contraption is a bay window with a horizontal opening that lets the breeze in but keeps out the rain.

Woha’s founding director Richard Hassell said: ‘It’s not going to be expensive housing, just smarter in design.’

Work on the first of these Dawson flats is expected to begin in the next three to four years.

The upcoming estates will give new families a higher chance of living near the city centre, said head of HDB’s urban design unit Kathleen Goh.

Currently, new flats near the central areas tend to be built only when existing residents in the vicinity are being resettled, leaving a limited number for newcomers.

The upcoming 3,100 homes in Dawson are likely to be fully available to new families.

Ms Goh revealed that families buying separate homes in the same housing estate would be able to buy adjoining units.

These units could also be combined sideways or even vertically to encourage different generations to live together. Their layouts will be flexible so that families can make adjustments if their needs change.

So far, the exhibition has drawn 62,000 visitors. One of them is architect Khoo Peng Beng, who designed the first 50-storey public-housing blocks here, now under construction in Tanjong Pagar.

Back in 2002, when his firm ARC Studio Architecture + Urbanism proposed having high-rise gardens and sky bridges link seven towers for the international design competition for that project, such ideas were still relatively novel.

He said: ‘HDB has come a long way. For a long time, the evolution of HDB design was very functional. This time, I think there is a more emotional and integrated approach to how we look at public housing.’

If the Dawson proposals are well-received, the HDB will consider inviting private architects again to conceptualise future public-housing projects.

The Remaking Our Heartland exhibition is held at various housing districts until Oct 3. Check out for details.

‘It’s not going to be expensive housing, just smarter in design’

Woha Architects founding director Richard Hassell. His firm’s concept lets owners customise their homes’ facades

Lofty Ideas

SHADES OF STYLE: The perforated concrete covering central staircase cores lets sunlight cast changing patterns on the block at different times of the day, and provides shade for pedestrians and privacy for residents living in flats around the stairs (Left). -- PHOTO: HDB

WHO: SCDA Architects
Where: Off Dawson Road
Number of flats: About 800 on 2.2ha of land

Tall ceilings in living rooms with enough space for lofts can be found in the bigger flats in this project.

SHADES OF STYLE: The perforated concrete covering central staircase cores (Left) lets sunlight cast changing patterns on the block at different times of the day, and provides shade for pedestrians and privacy for residents living in flats around the stairs. -- PHOTO: HDB

They are stacked in an interlocking manner with smaller flats so that entrances between them can be created easily if owners want to join the units. This makes it easy for different generations of a family to live together or near each other, or for people to run home offices.

Central staircase cores covered with perforated concrete shield users from the sun while giving privacy to residents living in flats clustered around them.

As the sun moves throughout the day, its light will cast changing patterns through the perforations in the wall.

Carpark space for the five blocks will be provided under a green deck and lit by natural light to save energy.

The cascading landscaped terraces are designed to merge seamlessly with a linear park in front of the project.

Rent a 'shed' for business

VIEW FROM THE TOP: Flats will be built such that residents can look into the sky villages, which come with facilities like playgrounds.

WHO: Woha Architects
Where: Dawson Road
Number of flats: About 1,000 units on 2.7ha of land

Communities of about 70 to 80 households each will share a high-rise space called a 'sky village' with greenery and other facilities like playgrounds.

Homes in each cluster will get a clear view of that communal space, so parents can keep an eye on children at the playground.

Within this village, there will be about 10 'sheds' the size of a master bedroom each that flat owners can rent to run small businesses or jam with their garage band.

Buyers get to choose the facade of their flats in the precinct's six blocks, so the buildings start 'showing the personality of people living in it', said Woha's founding director Richard Hassell.

They get their pick of balconies, planter boxes as well as Woha's special monsoon window, which consists of a bay window with a horizontal opening at its base, which can be left open even when it rains.

Woha also proposes its housing blocks be covered with solar cells so that the buildings can generate enough energy to run themselves and even feed power into the national energy grid in the future.

Market gets new lease of life

DOUBLE DUTY: Surbana's proposal has service-related outlets on the ground floor of the market and a multi-purpose hall will occupy the upper level.

WHO: Surbana International Consultants
Where: Commonwealth Avenue
Number of flats: 1,300 on 3.3ha of land

You will never know where the park ends and where this neighbourhood begins.

An upcoming linear park near the site will be extended six storeys upwards via a gentle ramp covered with greenery.

This green link will meander 600m in a figure-of-eight shape around the lower levels of the 12 48-storey blocks, giving visitors a tree-top experience of the old angsana specimens in the area.

The site incorporates the central part of the old Queenstown town centre, a bustling location in the 1960s and 1970s where three cinemas, a bowling alley and the Emporium and Golden Crown Restaurant once stood.

Most of the facilities have been phased out or demolished but the market with its distinctive parabolic-shaped roof still stands.

In Surbana's proposal, the market will get service-related outlets on the ground floor and a multi-purpose hall on the upper level which can be the venue for dances, weddings and art exhibitions.

An alfresco dining area will be created by the old market where residents can relax under the shade of the many mature trees.

Why Higher Fees For Empty Flat?

Source : The Straits Times, Saturday, September 29, 2007

MY LATE grandfather, who was the sole owner and occupier of a three-room HDB flat, had been paying $38 a month in conservancy fees to the town council. His estate now has to pay $55 a month (a 45 per cent increase) for the vacant flat, the reason being that the $38 concessionary charge no longer applies as it is now unoccupied.

This explanation seems to be counter-intuitive: an unoccupied flat produces little or no detritus, compared to an occupied one.

As the flat cannot be sold or rented out during the period of extraction of the grant of probate, which takes about nine months at the earliest, this may cause undue difficulties for some estates which face a liquidity problem.

Maria Loh Mun Foong (Ms)

More Parties Fight To Get In On Horizon Towers’ Appeal

Source : The Straits Times, Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hearing delayed as judge has to decide if HPL, fresh group of owners can take part

IT HAD all the elements of a classic courtroom drama - big bucks at stake, anxious owners and more lawyers than you could poke a stick at - but yesterday’s Horizon Towers hearing was far from a stirring showdown.

The owners had gone to the High Court in a bid to overturn a Strata Titles Board (STB) ruling that aborted the collective sale of their Leonie Hill estate.

But lengthy argument involving a scrum of legal eagles - at least four senior counsel and six law firms turned up - over who could actually be involved in the proceedings threw a hefty spanner in the works.

Two groups wanted to be included but four other parties protested.

After about three hours of legal to and fro, Justice Choo Han Teck is expected to rule on Monday whether these groups can take part, which will mean the actual appeal hearing can start.

It centres on the STB’s Aug 3 ruling that the sale application for the 210-unit condo was defective due to procedural errors.

The majority owners who signed the sale deal, represented by senior counsel Chelva Rajah from Tan, Rajah & Cheah, want that decision overturned.

But two other parties said they wanted to have their say as well.

One is a group of individuals - including pop star Ho Yeow Sun and her husband, Kong Hee - who own 13 units. All signed the sale deal and said they wanted to participate in the hearing to ensure the sale goes through.

The other is the consortium led by Hotel Properties (HPL) that signed the $500 million deal in February to buy the estate.

It maintains that the appeal outcome could affect the breach of contract suit it filed against the majority owners last month claiming lost profits of $800 million to $1 billion from the botched deal.

It had that suit adjourned on Thursday after the owners extended the sale deadline to Dec 11 but it is still ‘alive’.

Its lawyer, Mr K. Shanmugam from Allen & Gledhill, argued that if the court ruled that the STB was wrong, it could be used by majority owners to ‘white-wash’ their alleged breach of contract.

‘We, the purchaser, are the only real parties interested in seeing this contract through,’ he said.

This rankled Mr Rajah, who argued that the majority owners were trying to get an appeal against the STB decision in order to fulfil the contract.

The consortium’s application irked the group of more than 30 owners at court. At one point, murmurs of discontent rose from the gallery when Mr Shanmugam rose to speak.
Meanwhile, three separate lawyers for the minority owners who did not sign the sale agreement argued against the two groups joining the proceedings. They said it was unnecessary and would raise costs for everyone.

An owner, 53-year-old real estate developer Victor Ow, said later that he had not expected things to get so complicated.

‘All of us like to be treated fairly…We shouldn’t, as owners, be known in the market as greedy and as villains.’