Tuesday, August 21, 2007

3 Bungalow Land Parcels On Sentosa Put On Sale

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 21 Aug 2007

Sentosa Cove is inviting bids for three bungalow land parcels through an expression of interest.

The plots range from 644 square metres to about 1,000 square metres.

Two of them will allow the owners to moor their yachts in the backyard.

Sentosa Cove achieved an average price of about $1,100 per square foot at its last exercise in July.

Interested homeowners can submit their highest offer to Sentosa Cove’s Sales and Information Centre.

The decision will be based solely on price. - CNA/ir

Revamped Dawson Estate Seen To Hit New Public Housing Benchmark Of $500 PSF

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 21 Aug 2007

Picture : New Development in Queenstown such as market will retain character of old estate

Queenstown’s Dawson area looks set to be the first public housing estate to hit the $500-per-square-foot mark, according to property analysts.

The assessment comes as analysts comment on various public housing upgrading projects announced by the Prime Minister during the National Day Rally.

Analysts say the new upgrading programmes will benefit other HDB housing estates, although the capital upside will be limited.

Brand new HDB flats in popular central areas like Toa Payoh and Redhill sold for just under $400 per square foot in recent balloting sessions.

But analysts believe Dawson Estate will achieve an unprecedented $500 per square foot after its revamp.

PropNex CEO, Mohamed Ismail, said: “In terms of location, Dawson beats Holland, even if you talk about Tiong Bahru or for that matter Redhill, because it’s really at the doorstep of the hinterland that is all surrounded by good-class bungalows. We’re talking about less than two kilometres to Orchard Road.

“Talking about resale prices for five-roomers, for some good units, (they can fetch) $600 per square foot. So far, for a brand new HDB flat, I don’t think we’ve crossed the $500 mark. Dawson will be the first to reach, and even with such prices, there will definitely be great demand.”

This is considering the fact that a few choice resale units in nearby Tiong Bahru recently changed hands at about $600 per square foot.

In his National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also announced that the Main Upgrading Programme (MUP) will be replaced by a new scheme, called the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) which will cover many estates.

Property analysts say the HIP will also help to raise the values of homes further away from the city centre.

However, since the new programme is aimed at casting a wider net, the gains will not be as substantial, say analysts.

PropNex’s Mr Mohamed Ismail said: “MUP does not just include a room, it also includes the entire landscape, the lift upgrading and there’re so many other tangible and intangible benefits, because the entire estate looks brand new. That’s why the MUP estates tend to get anything in the range of close to about 20% more than its previous value. HIP will help, in terms of price, but it will be marginal because there isn’t an added space to start with.”

Analysts say the HIP is targeted at basic upgrades catering to convenience, comfort and safety — which is why it is expected to cover more homes. - CNA/ir

Residents In Dawson Estate Looking Forward To New Facilities

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 20 August 2007

Artist impression of a park in revamped Dawson estate

SINGAPORE: Many residents at Dawson estate in Queenstown are thrilled at the prospect of living in a revamped township.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday, revealed that the sleepy neighbourhood will be given a new lease of life.

He said that there is enough space to build some 10,000 HDB and private flats there.

The estate will also have new facilities and entertainment options.

For businessman Eric Toh, he hopes a rejuvenated Dawson estate will bring him more customers.

The owner of E.S. Electromart Superstore says his business has been manageable in the past three years, but he hopes to expand his customer base, 80 percent of which comes from the Dawson area.

Related Video Link : http://tinyurl.com/2y56kk
Residents in Dawson estate looking forward to new facilities

"Business will be better, if they make transportation more convenient.....more people will come," says Mr Toh.

For resident Annie Yeo, she hopes re-development means more convenience.

Annie, who has been doing much of her shopping outside Dawson estate, said she likes the idea of having bigger shopping malls nearby.

She also hopes a revamped Dawson area will help to push up the price of her flat.

Other residents say they like the idea of having more greenery in the estate.

"When we moved here, we missed the park.....at Clementi.....My husband like to jog at the park," says Jiennywati Nitisastro, who last stayed at Clementi.

Though many residents are excited about the future developments in Dawson estate, some hope that the tranquillity there will not be disturbed.

The two MPs in charge of the area say there will be feedback sessions for residents to have a say on what to be included in the upgrading project.

They add that planners need to be careful so as to avoid duplication.

"There have been other developments in regions like Buona Vista and Holland Village. They also serve different purposes and different activities are there. They have to take into consideration whether there could be an oversupply of such retail and commercial activities," says Baey Yam Keng, an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC.

"PM gave the big picture and as it is with details, sometimes there can be confusion. So when the details are released, it is important for grassroots leaders and the MPs to meet with the elderly and explain to them so that they know what are being provided for them," says Indranee Rajah, an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC.

The HDB is also expected to conduct road shows on its upgrading plans around Singapore. - CNA/ir

500,000 Flats To Benefit From HDB's Latest Upgrading Programmes

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 21 August 2007

Public Housing Estate after NRP

SINGAPORE: A total of 500,000 flats are expected to benefit from the HDB's latest upgrading programmes, the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) and the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP).

The major make-overs will cover public housing estates around Singapore - from Ang Mo Kio, Bishan, Serangoon and Hougang to Bukit Merah, Jurong, Tampines, Yishun and Woodlands.

Costs for essential works within flats will be fully borne by the government when carried out on units owned by Singapore citizens, while the optional works will be subsidised by the government.

As for the wider-scale neighbourhood works, these will also be fully funded by the government. Both the works will only go ahead if those living in the estates vote in favour for them.

The two programmes announced by the Prime Minister in his National Day Rally speech will cover public flats built in 1986 or earlier and which have not undergone upgrading works.

Related Video Link : http://tinyurl.com/2rqfpn
500,000 flats to benefit from HDB's latest upgrading programmes

HDB, in giving details of the programmes, says the initiatives - introduced following recommendations by the HDB Heartware Forum panel - are to offer greater flexibility in the choice of improvement works.

HIP, which replaces the Main Upgrading Programme, is aimed at addressing common maintenance problems in ageing flats like spalling concrete and ceiling leaks.

It comprises two components - namely Optional Improvements and Essential Improvements - and is targeted to address essential but common maintenance problems in a systematic and comprehensive manner.

Flat owners can also choose for Optional Improvements like toilet upgrading, replacement of entrance doors and a better refuse hopper.

Residents will be able to opt out of these improvements with a corresponding reduction of co-payment.

Essential Improvements include items deemed necessary and compulsory, such as repair of spalling concrete and replacement of waste pipes and will be carried out if 75% of residents vote for the HIP.

The government will subsidise a major portion of the cost of the Optional Improvements for Singaporeans.

On average, a full range of optional improvements items will cost between S$550 and S$1,375 for each unit, depending on the size of the flat.

This is much lower than the cost of S$2,490 and S$6,225 under the MUP Standard Package.

The HIP will be piloted in Tampines and Yishun.

Another new programme, the NRP, seeks to upgrade precincts on a larger scale, which will allow resources to be pooled to build more costly facilities.

The NRP will replace the existing Interim Upgrading Programme.

HDB says 22 estates are eligible for NRP, including the opposition ward of Hougang.

Selection will be based on criteria like age, condition of the flats, geographical spread and support for government programmes.

Residents affected by NRP will be invited to provide feedback and views on facilities to be built and they can suggest "non-standard" items like skating parks, soccer hardcourts and tennis courts.

The NRP will be fully funded by the government, but approval for items will be subject to budget and maintenance considerations.

The precinct and block-level improvements will be carried out in two or more neighbouring precincts to ensure that facilities will complement rather than duplicate one another. This approach will also allow resources to be pooled together to provide facilities that would otherwise be too costly to build.

A series of public exhibitions will be held so that the public can view details of the new upgrading programmes and the rejuvenation of Punggol and Dawson estates. The first exhibition will be held at the HDB Hub Mall from September 1st. - CNA/ir/sf

Thumbs Up For Higher Interest Rates

Source : The Straits Times, Tue, Aug 21, 2007

TECHNICAL officer Subhas B. spoke for many polled yesterday when he welcomed the proposed 1 percentage point increase in Central Provident Fund (CPF) interest rates.

'It means my CPF money will grow bigger as I keep working,' said the 42-year-old.

Beyond keeping the money for retirement, he plans to use part of his CPF savings to fund his three children's tertiary education.

For young Singaporeans like equity analyst Geraldine Seah, 26, the increase means she will have more in her CPF Ordinary Account (OA) when the time comes for her to buy a home.

The duo's cheery response to the higher CPF interest rates announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday, was typical among the 20 people polled yesterday. Almost all hailed the change.

The rates will rise from 2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent for OA balances, and from 4 to 5 per cent for Special, Medisave and Retirement Account balances.

However, these higher rates will be given for only up to $60,000 of a CPF member's combined balances.

Still, more than half the population of active CPF members will benefit, said PM Lee at the National Day Rally.

He later noted that half of those who are still working have $45,000 or less in their CPF accounts.

What they stand to gain is not small beer.

A 21-year-old earning $1,700 a month, for example, can expect to get $20,000 more in interest when he reaches age 55, even after using CPF savings to buy a four-room flat over the course of his work life.

It is a prospect that pleases childcare teacher Siti Zaheerah Mohd Zaaba, 23, who earns below $1,500 a month.

'I would like to buy a flat when I get married, so it's helpful to have more money in my CPF. Also, I don't know much about investing so I'd rather leave the money in there and let it earn interest.'

Financial planner Mahendran Janarthan said older people can also gain from the new rates by shifting spare funds from their OA to their Special Account to get a risk-free 5 per cent rate of interest.

The Government's move to pay more interest is in response to longstanding calls for better CPF returns.

It will cost the Government about $700 million a year, and is aimed at helping lower- and middle-income Singaporeans to build a bigger retirement nest-egg.

Mr Lee said the change must receive President S R Nathan's stamp of approval. '[It] must be properly justified and must pass muster and inspection by the Elected President, which is the way we have done it. And we've briefed the President.'

As part of the change, CPF members will not be able to invest their first $60,000 in stocks, unit trusts and other investments under the CPF Investment Scheme.

This left civil servant Benedict Luo, 26, slightly miffed.

'The Government should give people the flexibility of deciding whether they want to play it safe or take some risks. I'm confident I can earn more than 3.5 per cent by investing on my own.'

However, the president of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, Mr Leong Sze Hian, advises the lower-income to be more circumspect. He warned against committing too much in property, once thought to offer sure-fire better returns.

'The right strategy for the lower-income group is to buy a three-room flat. Don't upgrade; let the rest of your money stay in your account and earn interest.'

By doing so, they can gain from a new scheme that lets specified elderly home owners monetise their HDB homes. The Government will shorten the lease on their homes to 30 years and pay them cash for the lease value foregone.

Financial Giant HSBC Tries Yet Again To Buy A South Korean Bank

Source : AsiaOne News, Aug 21, 2007

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- HSBC has tried three times to buy a bank in South Korea, one of Asia's biggest economies, with a financial industry emerging from a 10-year shakeout.

HSBC's target for a fourth try, Korea Exchange Bank, may be its last and best chance, though South Korean sensitivity to foreign acquisitions could still thwart its plans, analysts said Tuesday.

HSBC Holdings PLC announced Monday that its Hong Kong-based subsidiary Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp. was in talks to acquire a 51 percent controlling stake in KEB from U.S. private equity group Lone Star Funds.

Europe's biggest bank, HSBC under Group Chairman Stephen Green has been turning its focus toward emerging markets. And while acquiring KEB can be seen as part of that strategy, the bank's long-term quest for a bigger presence in Asia's fourth-largest economy is just as important a factor, analysts said.

"KEB would be one of the last, if not the last, sizable banking franchises up for sale" in South Korea, said Simon Ho, head of Asian financial research at ABN Amro Bank in Hong Kong. "It's a rare opportunity."

South Korea's financial industry has evolved dramatically over the past decade since the Asian economic crisis swept through the country. Foreign acquisitions, once virtually unthinkable, are now a vital - yet controversial - part of the banking sector.

Acquiring KEB, the country's sixth-largest bank, would catapult HSBC past foreign rivals Standard Chartered and Citigroup. Both have bested HSBC in the past in purchasing local banks during the post-Asian crisis turmoil.

HSBC, which has 11 retail branches in South Korea, has made three attempts since 1998 for two South Korean banks, but lost out due to an unwillingness to make aggressive bids. This time, the bigger challenge may be getting regulators to sign off on the deal.

"At the end of the day everything is up to the approval of the (South) Korean government," said Kim Jin-sang, a banking analyst at Nomura International Ltd. in Seoul.

Lone Star bought KEB in 2003 when the bank, which specializes in foreign exchange, was in deep trouble. The Dallas, Texas-based buyout fund's attempt to sell its stake, however, has run into trouble amid a series of investigations and allegations of wrongdoing regarding the KEB purchase.

That, combined with pressure from nationalistic political and media circles in South Korea suspicious of the role of foreign capital in the country's economy, has so far left the sale in limbo.

Last year, Lone Star dropped plans to sell its KEB stake to Kookmin Bank, South Korea's biggest lender, citing the probes. The fund has vehemently denied all allegations, including that it deliberately underestimated KEB's financial strength to facilitate the purchase.

The sale would have yielded Lone Star a handsome profit. The fund bought its stake for US$1.5 billion in 2003. The sale to Kookmin was valued at more than US$7 billion.

Regulators so far have been silent on the HSBC-Lone Star talks.

A deal would hand HSBC KEB's 327 domestic and 26 overseas branches and its 73.5 trillion won (US$77.9 billion; €57.8 billion) in assets.

HSBC, with an apparent eye on political sensitivities, says that if the deal is successful, KEB would maintain its separate listing and name and that the "protection of employment will be regarded as a significant sector."

Lone Star Chairman John Grayken, who has lashed out at what he says are "groundless" and "politically motivated" accusations against his fund, said Tuesday that the time has come for KEB to be sold.

"KEB is now one of the top performers in (South) Korea and it is now time for Lone Star to sell its share to a strategic investor which can bring the bank to a new level of competitiveness," he said in a statement, confirming the talks with HSBC were under way.

Sunil Garg, an analyst at JPMorgan in Hong Kong, said that despite its failure to acquire a local bank, HSBC has never lost its interest in one of the region's largest consumer banking markets.

"It's an important economy in Asia where you need to have a presence," he said.

Facelifts For Old, Middle-Age HDB Flats

Source : AsiaOne News, Tue, Aug 21, 2007

Some 500,000 older and middle-age Housing Board estates and flats will soon be given major facelifts under two new upgrading programmes to be introduced by the HDB.

These are the Home Improvement Programme (HIP), which focuses on improvements within the flat, and the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP), which focuses on the precinct- and block-level improvements, as announced by the Prime Minister at the National Day Rally last Sunday.

Some 300,000 flats will be eligible for the HIP, and around 200,000 flats will qualify for the NRP, said the HDB in a statement today.

The two new programmes are introduced in response to the recommendations of the Forum on HDB Heartware, which has called for greater flexibility in the provision of flat improvement works and precinct facilities, optimisation of facilities across adjoining precincts, and greater consultation with residents.

The HIP, which comprises two components - the Optional Improvements and the Essential Improvements - aims to address common maintenance problems in older flats, such as spalling concrete and ceiling leaks.

Compared to the Main Upgrading Programme (MUP), it is a more targeted programme to address these problems in a systematic and comprehensive manner. In addition, it also offers lessees a host of other useful improvement items within the flat, said an HDB statement today.

Optional Improvements are items that lessees are likely to value, such as toilet upgrading, replacement of entrance door, grille gate and refuse hopper.

The Government will subsidise up to 95% of the cost of the Optional Improvements for Singapore Citizen lessees, depending on the size of the different types of flats. This is about half of the corresponding cost-sharing ratio under the MUP which is about 10% to 25%.

If the full range of the Optional Improvements is selected, the subsidised cost to a 3-room and Executive flat lessee is estimated to be about $550 and $1,375 respectively, which is substantially lower than the $2,490 and $6,225 under the MUP Standard Package.

Lessees can pay their share of the Optional Improvements in one lump sum using their CPF savings, cash, or a combination of both. They may also pay by monthly installments over five or ten years at the prevailing HDB concessionary interest rate.

If lessees wish to opt out of Optional Improvements, they will be allowed to do so with a corresponding reduction in co-payment, unlike the MUP. However, in the case where lessee wishes to opt out of toilet upgrading, the toilet must pass the water test for leaks. This is to prevent the leaking toilet from causing ceiling leaks for the unit below.

Essential Improvements are items that are deemed necessary for public health, safety or technical reasons, such as repair of spalling concrete and structural cracks, replacement of waste pipes and pipe sockets ("bamboo pole holders") or installation of laundry rack and upgrading of electrical supply.

These items will be compulsory for the lessees if the HIP is polled successfully. The Government will fully fund the items for Essential Improvements for Singapore Citizen lessees.

Similar to the MUP and LUP, lessees who are Permanent Residents will not be eligible to poll and thus would need to pay the full cost for the HIP. However, they can claim for reimbursement of the upgrading subsidy if they obtain Singapore citizenship within one year of the date of billing and the claim is made within one year of obtaining their citizenship.

The NRP, on the other hand, will be fully funded by the Government. Unlike the Interim Upgrading Programme Plus which is carried out on a single precinct basis, the NRP will be carried out on a larger scale, for two or more contiguous precincts.

This will ensure that facilities provided in adjoining precincts complement rather than duplicate one another. This approach will also allow resources to be pooled together to provide facilities that would otherwise be too costly to build.

These ideas were derived from participants during the discussions of the Forum on HDB Heartware. The participants have raised the need for greater local consultation on the design of the precinct and its facilities. Under the NRP, affected lessees will be invited to provide feedback and views on the facilities to be built.

In addition to the block/precinct upgrading items provided under the IUP Plus such as new letterboxes, covered linkways and playgrounds, residents will have the flexibility to suggest "non-standard" items for their neighbourhoods under the NRP, such as skating parks, soccer hardcourts and tennis courts.

Approval for these items will be subject to budget and maintenance considerations. This include block level items such as letterboxes, Residents' Corners, Senior Citizens' Corners, new tables and seats and repainting, and precinct-level items such as drop-off porch, covered linkways, playground, footpaths, fitness corner, jogging track, barbeque pits, skating park, soccer hardcourt, tennis court and block security/ surveillance system.

Flats that are eligible for the HIP and the NRP are flats built in 1986 or before and 1989 or before respectively, and have not undergone any of the programmes such as the MUP, IUP or IUP Plus.

Examples of flats and precincts eligible for these programmes are Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Geylang for the older estates and Tampines, Yishun, Bukit Panjang for middle-aged estates. In total, around 300,000 flats will be eligible for the HIP, compared to around 100,000 flats previously eligible for the MUP and around 200,000 flats will be eligible for the NRP, compared to around 80,000 previously eligible for the IUP Plus.

In his National Day rally address on Sunday, PM Lee said that estates such as Sembawang, Chua Chu Kang and Sengkang, are not included in the upgrading programmes as they are too young "but their turn will come". In the future, they too will be be upgraded, provided Singapore continues to grow has the resources and the surpluses to continue the programmes.

PM Lee also assured Singaporeans that the Lift Upgrading Programme will continue to be carried out to provide lift access on every floor for all eligible blocks by 2014.

While the HIP will be piloted in Yishun and Tampines in which details of the pilot precincts will be announced over the next few months, HDB is still studying the list of neighbourhoods suitable for the NRP.

Both the HIP and NRP will proceed if at least 75% of the eligible lessees in the block and in the neighbourhood respectively indicate are in favour of it. Similar to the MUP and LUP, lessees who are Permanent Residents will not be eligible to poll.

In each of the HIP and NRP precincts, there will be a Working Committee to oversee the project, chaired by the Adviser to the GRO and comprising representatives from the residents, grassroots leaders, and officials from HDB and the Town Council.

The public can view the details of the new upgrading programmes and the rejuvenation proposals for Punggol and Dawson in a series of public exhibitions, the first of which will be held at the HDB Hub Mall from 1 - 8 Sep 07.

Asian Stocks Extend Recovery As Global Gloom Eases

Source : The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2007

Picture : Stock Exchange in Thailand

MOST Asian stock markets rallied for a second straight day on Tuesday as fears of credit crisis jeopardising global economic growth continued to recede, dealers said.

But several bourses lost ground as investors remained on high alert for fresh signs of trouble in credit markets due to problems in US subprime mortgages to high-risk borrowers.

Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 2.82 per cent or 93.72 points to 3,228.66 at closing time.

European stock markets meanwhile struggled to maintain their recovery in early trade despite declining fears of a full-blown credit crunch after the Federal Reserve slashed the lending rate it charges commercial banks on Friday.

Malaysian shares closed lower in cautious trade. They fell 1 per cent on the eve of a policy meeting by the Bank of Japan (BoJ), dealers said.

The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (KLCI) inched down 11.91 points to 1,231.48.

In Asia, many markets clawed back more of their hefty recent losses, with the region's largest market in Tokyo closing up 1.07 per cent.

Japanese Finance Minister Koji Omi said there were signs that financial market conditions were improving.

'We still cannot say the situation is completely resolved, but it has been stabilising for a while,' he told reporters after agreeing with US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson by telephone to monitor the financial markets closely.

Chinese share prices rose 1.03 per cent to close at another record high on Tuesday as the market continued to focus on strong corporate earnings following a huge rise the previous day, dealers said.

Hong Kong ended up 0.6 per cent but off its earlier highs following Monday's announcement that mainland Chinese will soon be able to invest directly in the bourse as the economic powerhouse further integrates into the global economy.

Too soon for celebration
Analysts said it was too soon to say markets are out of the woods.

'Although fears about the health of the US financial system receded somewhat in the wake of the Fed's monetary action, worries about subprime mortgage problems will persist, making the US stock market volatile too,' said Shinko Securities strategist Tsuyoshi Segawa.

'But once the volatility eases, the market may start focusing on economic fundamentals,' he said.

Elsewhere in the region Philippine share prices rocketed 9.8 per cent higher in the biggest single-day gain in seven years as investors jumped back into the market after Monday's holiday, anxious not to miss a recovery.

Seoul added 0.3 per cent, 'suggesting that the panic seen last week was ebbing,' Samsung Investment Management fund manager Suh Duck-Shik said.

But trading remained volatile because investors were cautious for fear of more bad news from credit markets, he said, adding, 'Foreign investors keep on selling, which worries me.' Sydney closed up 1.0 per cent and Wellington rose 1.14 per cent.

But some markets missed the party. Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 2.82 per cent lower, Kuala Lumpur fell 0.8 per cent and Jakarta shed 1.8 per cent, while Taipei fell 0.43 per cent.

'I think investors see that the turbulence in the global equity markets driven by the credit market crisis is not over yet,' said Panin Capital analyst Luki Aryapama in the Indonesian capital. -- AFP

HDB Lessees To Pay Less For Flat Upgrading

Source : The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2007

Simulation of possible improvements under NRP -- PHOTO: HDB

SOME 300,000 HDB flats can be upgraded under the Home Improvement Programme (HIP), the Housing Development Board (HDB) said in its news release on Tuesday.

The new programme was first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally on Sunday.

Under the Optional Improvements component of the HIP, lessees will be able to choose the items that they would like to improve, such as toilet uprading and replacement of entrance door and refuse hopper.

Simulation of possible improvements under NRP -- PHOTO: HDB

Lessees can 'opt out of the Operational Improvements with a corresponding reduction in co-payment'. In the earlier Main Upgrading programme, lessees did not have such a choice.

Lessees will pay about half of what was required under the MUP. The cost-sharing ratios will be 5 to 12.5 per cent instead of the MUP's 10 to 25 per cent.

In the other part of the HIP called Essential Improvements (EI), the items such as repairing spalling concrete and replacement of waste pipes and pipe sockets, are compulsory for the lessees if the programme is polled successfully.

The improvements are 'deemed necessary for public health, safety or technical reasons', according to the HDB.

The government will fully fund the items for Singapore citizens under EI.

The HDB also gave details of the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) which focuses on precinct- and block-level improvements.

About 200,000 flats will be elgible for NRP.

Photographs of possible improvements under HIP -- PHOTO: HDB

Compared to the current Interim Upgrading Programme, it will be carried out on a larger scale, for two or more contiguous precincts.

'This will ensure that facilities provided in adjoining precincts complement rather than duplicate one another. This approach will also allow resources to be pooled together to provide facilities that would otherwise be to costly to build.'

Lessees can also suggest new items such as skating parts, soccer hardcourts and tennis courts to be built.

Related Video Link : http://tinyurl.com/3ypro6

Upgrade your door but not your toilet? Now you can choose

HDB residents can now vote yes for upgrading and still choose which items they want or not want to come under the scheme - up to a point.

This is a key enhancement under the new Home Improvement Programme (HIP) which replaces the Main Upgrading Programme (MUP).

HIP aims to address common maintenance problems in ageing flats.

The HDB today also announced that it's studying a list of suitable precincts for its Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP), which replaces the Interim Upgrading Programme (IUP) to improve general facilities.

These two programmes were formed based on the recommendations from the public during the Forum on HDB Heartware, which aims to provide greater flexibility for homeowners to upgrade their flats.

Related Link : http://www.straitstimes.com/STI/STIMEDIA/sp/adhoc/upgrading.html
HDB Press release

MOM Reveals More Details Of CPF Changes

Source : The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2007

AS A follow up to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally Speech last Sunday, Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen has elaborated on the coming CPF reforms and other measures to help Singaporeans improve retirement adequacy and work longer.

These changes included improving CPF returns, implementing compulsory annuities for younger CPF members, and delaying the draw-down age (DDA) for Singaporeans.

Improving returns on CPF savings

PM Lee had announced that the CPF Board will pay a higher interest of one percentage point more on the first $20,000 in the Ordinary Account (OA), and up to a total of $60,000 on combined Accounts.

On top of this, the CPF Board will also re-peg the SMRA (Special, Medisave, Retirement Accounts) interest rates - which is now four per cent - to an appropriate long-term bond rate.

This bond rate will be dependent on the market and so fluctuations are expected - but not as volatile as equities.

So Dr Ng says expect a lower SMRA rate at the start, but over time, he expects the rate to do better than four per cent.

The CPF changes will take effect by January 2008.

Compulsory Annuities for younger CPF members
On annuities, which will be made compulsory for members aged 50 and below, Dr Ng explained the CPF member pays a basic premium which goes into a general pool that will start giving out monthly payouts after the member turns 85.

However, if he lives less than 85 years, the premium goes towards supporting others in the pool who are still alive.

The Minister, however, said that the actual premium amount has yet to be decided.

After turning 85, the monthly payouts to members will start off with a subsistence figure of around $250 to $300 per month.

For members who want some or all of the unused premiums to be returned to their loved ones instead if they die before reaching 85, they will have to pay a higher premium for the same payout.

Similarly, if a member wants a higher payout than the subsistence payment, they would have to fork out a higher premium as well.

Re-employment Legislation
By 2012, MOM will require employers to offer re-employment to workers reaching 62 up to the age of 65, and eventually, 67.

The change will precede the raising of the Draw-Down Age, the age at which you can start withdrawing your CPF retirement funds.

DDA will be raised gradually to age 65 by 2018 - offering workers and employers time adjust to work to this legislation.

Related Video Link : http://tinyurl.com/3anqrt
CPF changes: Mixed reactions to an emotional issue
Clearly, the most emotive, some would say controversial, aspect of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech had to do with bread-and-butter issues - Singaporeans' livelihoods, retirement savings and financial future.

Although many in the audience welcomed Mr Lee's announcement of a higher CPF interest rate and higher Workfare payments, his disclosure of a later draw-down age for the Minimum Sum and of plans to make annuities compulsory were met with somewhat mixed reactions.

Increased Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) for older workers

The WIS payout will be doubled, to offer those aged above 55 and above 60 an added incentive to stay working.

That means, an older low-wage worker aged 61, earning $1,000 per month, will get $200 per month of WIS.

Out of this additional $200, $143 will go to their CPF, and $57 will go to his take home pay.

The higher WIS for older workers will cost the Government an additional $83 million a year, bringing the total WIS budget to $432 million.

The Government hopes the combined effects of higher WIS, working longer, later DDA and higher CPF returns will make a big difference in helping both old and young workers.

More details will be unveiled when Dr Ng addresses Parliament in September.

Residents Look Forward To 'Punggol 21-Plus'- 21st Aug

Source : The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2007

An artist's impression of the new 'Punggol 21-plus', as Mr Lee called it, boasts features like a freshwater lake - and a waterway running through the estate with homes and a town centre built on both banks. -- PHOTO: HDB

PLANS announced by the Prime Minister for Punggol 21 have revived residents' hopes that the estate will finally get the amenities and infrastructure it desperately needs.

Mr Lee Hsien Loong said in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday that Punggol 21 is 'back on track'.

The new 'Punggol 21-plus', as Mr Lee called it, boasts features like a freshwater lake - and a waterway running through the estate with homes and a town centre built on both banks.

Related Video Link : http://tinyurl.com/36bokm
Punggol to be the 'it' HDB town?
Punggol residents have welcomed plans to build up their estate complete with a pristine waterway, shopping malls, and al-fresco dining.

The revamp of housing estates, announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally speech last night is part of an overall strategy to help low-income Singaporeans by raising the value of their flats.

But just how far will this strategy benefit those in opposition wards such as Potong Pasir and Hougang?

The north-eastern coastal suburb will also get recreational facilities like water sports, gardens and parks with jogging tracks and eateries for al-fresco dining, he said.

Residents told The Straits Times on Tuesday that they hoped the plan will bring more developments to the estate - and fast.

Punggol 21, initially launched in 1996 by former PM Goh Chok Tong, was heralded as a bold vision to transform the area - famed for its pig farms and seafood restaurants - into a resort-styled 'new concept housing' for the new millennium.

But plans were hit first by the 1997 Asian financial crisis which sent demand for flats nosediving, and then by financial troubles in the construction industry in 2003.

Many Singaporeans had excitedly signed up for a Punggol flat after hearing it 'announced with a big bang'.

But till now, Punggol Plaza remains the only shopping mall in the estate and there are no recreational facilities like cinemas or swimming pools for residents

Singapore's Q2 Wholesale Trade up 1.9%

Source : The Business Times, 21 August 2007

SINGAPORE - Singapore's domestic wholesale trade rose 1.9 per cent in the second quarter from a year ago, slower than a 4.3 per cent rise in the first quarter, as lower electronics sales eclipsed higher sales of building materials and food, data showed on Tuesday.

Related link: http://www.singstat.gov.sg/news/news/wti2q2007.pdf
The Department of Statistics' press release

The year-on-year expansion in domestic wholesale trade - a barometer of consumer confidence in Singapore - followed a contraction in the fourth quarter of last year, the first in three years.

Excluding petroleum, domestic sales rose by 6.5 per cent compared with a year ago, according to data from the Department of Statistics. Petroleum and its related products account for nearly a third of the total trade index.

Petroleum and petroleum products fell 3.8 per cent in the second quarter from the previous year, while chemicals rose 2.7 per cent. Wholesale trade of ship chandlers and bunkering was down 1.4 per cent.

Domestic sales of electronic components, which make up about 14 per cent of the index, fell 17.7 per cent in the second quarter compared with a year ago.

On a quarterly basis, the index rose 8.6 per cent in the second quarter, following a 7.5 per cent fall recorded in the first three months of 2007.

The indices record domestic sales transactions of some 810 wholesale establishments and provide an indication of retail health and future trends in consumer prices in the economy. -- REUTERS

TBWA Wins $70m Genting Ad Account

Source : The Business Times, August 21, 2007

GENTING International has appointed TBWA to handle its Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS) advertising account, estimated to be worth about $70 million over three years.

TBWA, which recently won the coveted Singapore Airlines account, estimated to be worth $50 million a year, was one of 10 agencies invited by Genting to present their credentials in March.

Five were shortlisted and invited to pitch for the account in May, with each giving a presentation covering market analysis, creative work and media strategy.

TBWA managing director Dan Paris said RWS will be 'one of the most powerful destinations in the world' and emerging markets will be important to it. An Internet portal will be one channel to reach this market, he said.

RWS will be home to a Universal Studios theme park. And RWS chief executive Tan Hee Teck pointed out that 20-30 per cent of theme park bookings are made online.

Mr Tan said that apart from China and India, RWS is counting on the booming Russian economy.

'A lot of Russians are going to places like Phuket and Hainan, but not to Singapore,' he said. 'We will work with the Singapore Tourism Board on these markets.'

Giving an update on the progress of construction work, Mr Tan said RWS is on schedule to open in early 2010.

Work is under way on the resort's concrete raft foundation, basement and associated mechanical and engineering works. The basement will have up to 4,100 parking lots - 'bigger than Suntec City', said Mr Tan.

Road diversion work will begin soon, while the authorities evaluate designs for the proposed second bridge to Sentosa.

Besides an on-site concrete plant, RWS has built jetties to allow for direct delivery of sand by barges.

RWS has said $1.6 billion of contracts will have been awarded by the first quarter of 2008, with more than $600 million of contracts already awarded.

US Fed Rate Cut Will Create More Problems: Marc Faber

Source : The Business Times, August 21, 2007

(HONG KONG) The US Federal Reserve's cut of the rate it charges banks to boost investor confidence was 'unjustified' and would create more problems, investor Marc Faber said yesterday.

Dr Faber: Intervention by the US Fed not justified

The discount rate was lowered to 5.75 per cent from 6.25 per cent last Friday, the first time the Fed cut borrowing costs between scheduled meetings since 2001.

Still, the rate is higher than the benchmark federal fund rate target for overnight loans between banks, which was kept unchanged at 5.25 per cent.

'I think it's an intervention into the market place that is not justified,' said Dr Faber from Danang, Vietnam. Injecting more money into the system will 'create an additional set of problems at a later date', he said.

Global stock markets rallied as the Fed's move helped ease concern that a rout from the US mortgage market would spread. A global sell-off had erased more than US$5.5 trillion of market value from a July 23 peak.

'They're driven by asset markets, their policies, which is a mistake in the first place,' said Dr Faber, publisher of the monthly newsletter The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report.

The housing problems arose in the first place 'because of easy monetary policies'. Should the Standard and Poor's 500 Index drop below 1,400 points, the Fed is likely to reduce its benchmark overnight lending rate, Dr Faber said. If the S&P rises above 1,500 points, it would not cut the rate, he said. The S&P 500 climbed 2.5 per cent to 1,445.94 last Friday.

US stocks are at the beginning of a bear market in which benchmark indices may fall more than 30 per cent, he said earlier this month.

Dr Faber said yesterday that the dollar was not likely to 'collapse' as money flows to US currency and yen assets.

'I believe that US assets, while they will not make a new high, they will outperform assets in emerging markets for a while,' he said. 'There's a capital outflow from emerging markets into the US and into the yen.'

Dr Faber told investors to bail out of US stocks a week before the 1987 Black Monday crash. He correctly predicted in May 2005 that stocks would make little headway that year. -- Bloomberg

CPF Special, Medisave Accounts' Rates To Be Modified Next Year

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 21 August 2007

Picture : CPF Tampines Building

SINGAPORE : The rates of the CPF Special/Retirement and Medisave accounts will be modified from next year.

It will be re-pegged to an appropriate long-term bond rate.

Manpower Minister Ng Eng Hen said more details on this will be worked out and announced next month.

He said the new rates will be lower initially than the current rate of 4 percent but it should do better than 4 percent over time.

Related Video Link : http://tinyurl.com/2nur5v
CPF Special, Medisave Accounts' Rates To Be Modified Next Year

But as the rates will be pegged to the market, fluctuations can be expected.

Dr Ng was speaking at a news conference to explain the initiatives announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally.

Giving more details on the compulsory annuities, Dr Ng said only part of the minimum sum from the CPF will be set aside for it.

A major portion of the minimum sum will still be for the members' to withdraw when they reach the Draw Down Age.

Dr Ng said this is to ensure that members are covered even after the age of 85.

He said the aim is to achieve a subsistence payout first of possibly between $250 and $300 per month.

The minister also let on that the one percent additional bonus interest for the CPF will be put into the Special account and not the Ordinary account.

He said this additional bonus will enhance the CPF's existing risk-free framework. - CNA /ls

Can Bridge To Old Age Look This Good?

Source : The New Paper, 21 August 2007

An artist's impression of an island near Sengkang, linked to mainland by a bridge.

Choo: CPF and old age are teruk (difficult in Malay) issues. But the Government is bent on tackling them.

For me, CPF has been one of the best things in my life. It got me the roof over my head without wrecking my wallet.

Plus I'm one of the less than 5 per cent 'wise ones' who bought an annuity - actually by default - and now my minimum sum's beefed up by $15,000 through interest.

So maybe I can buy 62 birthday cakes and one candle.

Ching: Well, in future, annuities will become compulsory for those aged 50 and below now.

Because the Government wants to make sure that we all have regular income in our old age.

Last night, PM told a joke about what NTUC chief Lim Swee Say had said.

'During a walkabout, I talked to a resident at the market. He was healthy-looking,' said Mr Lim.

Mr Lim: How old are you?

Resident: 72.

Mr Lim: Are you still working?

Resident: No, I retired at 55.

Mr Lim: Why did you retire so young?

Resident: Because I didn't know I was going to live so long.

Choo: Ha, ha.

Ching: CPF minimum sum pays out for 20 years. But annuities pay out for as long as you live.

Choo: If I could tell when God was going to get bored with me on earth, it would help me decide if I should live it up or be careful with my savings. Is there a surer way to spend the silver years without looking to handouts?

Ching: There is no sure thing.

As PM puts it, in insurance, the risk to the financial organisation is death; in annuities, the risk is long life.

But I think most people are not familiar with annuities and just want to leave their CPF savings as they are. And for them, the Government will pay them higher interest. One percentage point more.

Someone who starts work today at 21, earns $1,700 per month, and buys a four-room HDB flat will earn about $20,000 more interest at age 55.

Choo: I'm typical, we want more money now from our savings. After all, it is expected that everything is going to cost more, like vitamins you'll need at the new retirement age of 67.

Ching: That one percentage point hike is going to cost the Government $700 million a year initially - almost as much as the HDB programme.

So it is like the Government is spending on another new HDB programme - except the money goes to your retirement accounts.

Do you think it suka-suka hands out this money?

PM said that they did their calculations, ran it by the President and everything works out.

Choo: Everything works out.

But what concerns me more is what work there will be for me, say between 62 and 67.

Fair enough, golden oldies can be employed in lighter work and earn less pay.

I mean, we also don't want to block the young from rising in their jobs.

I know if I could teach taiji and operate karaoke machines and deliver finger food to mahjong parties, at least I can also keep Alzheimer's at bay.

Ching: Syl, you are not going to get away with pulling your weight that easily!

You write more and faster than most of us in the newsroom. The 'less work, less pay' is for those who need to 'change gears', so to speak.

The legal retirement age is now 62, so you have at least one more year.

And already you are in the minority - only two-thirds of men are working up to 62, women are even fewer.

To encourage more people to work longer, the Government is going to try and pass a new law.

Choo: Oh-oh, is this going to be one of those conditions-apply things?

Ching: Well, it's going to be one of those 'apply for a job' things.

The Government is not going to take the easy route of raising the retirement age.

It is going to legislate for re-employment. Going back to the office - but maybe with a different job.

It does not of course mean that every worker will definitely get a job - but the employer must make an offer.

Choo: So I can be offered to return to the same workplace to do something less stressful but the pay will be less as well.

Like that got any subsidy or not - wardrobe money?

We want to still look decent, lah!

Ching: Got subsidy, but you don't qualify, since your pay is too high.

For low-wage workers, the Government will have a higher tier of Workfare for older workers. Double!

For example, a 60-year-old worker earning $1,000 a month now gets $100 more a month. Under the revised scheme, he will get $200. Quite a lot!

Choo: Good news and good to know. No one will be left out, that's what I went away with from the PM's speech.

Sentosa IR Risks Cramp Genting’s Credit Rating

Source : TODAY, Tuesday, August 21, 2007

GENTING’s credit rating is constrained by the casino owner’s plan to spend $5.2 billion on the Integrated Resort it is developing here as competition increases, Fitch Ratings said. It assigned an A rating, the fourth-lowest investment grade, on Genting’s long-term foreign currency debt. The outlook is stable, Fitch said in its statement.

Asia’s largest publicly traded casino operator will compete with Singapore’s other casino being built by Las Vegas Sands, and gaming centres in Macau.

Genting International last week said it will raise US$2.17 billion ($3.3 billion) in a rights offer to fund the project. “The main constraint to Genting’s rating is the risks it is undertaking with its capital expenditure programme,” Fitch said.

Moody’s Investors Service gave a Baa1 rating, the third-lowest investment level, on Genting’s borrowings, while Standard & Poor’s gave it BBB+, an equivalent grade. — BLOOMBERG

Economic Reforms Over Last 5 Years Have Boosted Growth: MTI

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 21 Aug 2007

Singapore’s economy has the potential to grow by 4 to 6 percent annually over the next 5 to 10 years, says the Trade and Industry Ministry.

Giving this upbeat assessment a day after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke of the country’s vibrant growth, the Ministry says this reflected the effects of economic reforms over the last 5 years.

These reforms enabled actual growth to average 6.1 percent per annum, exceeding the 3 to 5 per cent estimated by the Economic Review Committee (ERC) in February 2003.

The new growth potential estimate is based on labour force growth of 1.5 to 2.5 per cent and productivity increase of 2.5 to 3.5 per cent.

This is higher than the ERC’s projected labour force growth of 1 to 2 per cent and productivity increase of 2 to 3 per cent.

The Ministry says economic restructuring in an increasingly competitive environment also helped enhance efficiency.

New high growth sectors like biomedical manufacturing and wealth management, and rejuvenated traditional sectors like marine engineering and tourism also made the economy more resilient to sector-specific shocks.

Healthy economic conditions also helped increase the labour force participation rates of women and older workers.

Meanwhile, the external environment over the next five years is expected to be favourable, increasing the likelihood that Singapore’s growth potential is realised.

While the US, EU and Japan will continue to be important external drivers of demand, the rise of China and India will provide additional boost to growth.

In addition, the Southeast Asian countries have recovered from the Asian financial crisis and are returning to a path of growth and stability.

And if external conditions remained favourable, MTI believes Singapore should be able to achieve a growth rate at the upper end of the 4 to 6 per cent range over the next 5 years. - CNA/ch

It’s Time To Dream Again …

Source : TODAY, 21 Aug 2007

Value of flats in Punggol will go up as area is developed

FOR several years, their “Punggol Dream” of waterfront living was put on hold, even as they had to contend with the lack of shopping facilities, less-than-perfect public transport and no sports stadium.

But the upgraded Punggol 21+ vision unveiled by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday has given residents not only bigger things to look forward to, but also likely gains to the value of their homes.

ERA Singapore’s assistant vice-president Eugene Lim predicts the resale value of flats could see a “moderate” increase of 5 to 8 per cent over the next three years. He said: “There is a lot of demand for flats there, but we will not likely see massive price increases since the area’s land supply is abundant.”

PropNex chief executive officer Mohd Ismail agrees that Punggol flats will gain in value eventually. Describing the new Punggol 21+ plan as an alternative to staying in a condominium, he told Today: “The pricing of existing Punggol flats will be determined by the new pricing of the Punggol 21+ flats.”

About 18,000 HDB and private flats are expected to be built, some with views of the water body that will be created by damming two rivers, Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon.

According to Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Charles Chong, some developments will be underway in the next five years.

Work on the waterfront promenade, that wraps around the coastline, could begin early next year, said MP Penny Low, who added that a golf driving range should be ready by November.

In 1996, plans to build about 80,000 units were unveiled, but the Asian financial crisis a year later slowed demand which in turn affected the original Punggol 21 vision to turn the former pig farming area into a model town for the next century.
Last year, a new five-room flat at Punggol fetched between $182,000 and $268,000 — compared to an average of $264,500 when the first batch of Punggol flats was sold in 1998.

Demand is modest compared to other areas. A five-room Punggol flat in the second quarter of this year fetched an average of $5,000 above valuation, $20,000 less than a flat of the same size in Ang Mo Kio.

But now, residents can look ahead with hope. Ms Low said her team is working with the HDB to gather suggestions from residents, starting this month.

And some are brimming with ideas. Said teacher Radziah Abdul Rahman, 37, a mother of two: “There is no fast-food restaurant here. My kids would love to have a McDonald’s at least.”

Pastor James Satchy, 37, hopes Punggol’s idyllic spirit will be retained: “I do not want it to be another Ang Mo Kio or Toa Payoh, which are too crowded and noisy for me.”

But some have become sceptical after years of waiting. Said human resource executive Mohd Suhaimi Ismail: “I hope the new Punggol 21+ will not be delayed like previously.”

And government officer Ms Elizabeth Lam, 33, is still bent on selling her five-room flat — because she cannot wait too long for facilities such as a shopping mall and a seaside village to materialise.

But Punggol-Oasis Residents’ Committee chairman Ivan Chee is keeping his head up: “The promise coming from Mr Lee at a National Day Rally is a big assurance.”
Meanwhile, shopkeepers like stationery shop owner Quek Hang Chew, 47, are worried that development will attract competition that will eat into his business.

But Mr Chong noted: “Development will also bring in more residents. I believe the impact on businesses will be positive.”

Time to keep the promise

There is no better time to deliver on “old promises”, says MP Charles Chong.

Asked why the Government had decided to announce the revival of the Punggol 21 vision now, MP Penny Low said: “This is an ambitious plan … Before any announcement, we have to ensure there is a certain degree of confidence in delivering this vision, be it technical expertise, financial resources or consultation with stakeholders.”
Mr Chong also cited economic factors such as the higher demand for flats in Punggol and the need to ease pressure on the broader property market.

Asked if the move was in anticipation of the next General Election (GE) due by 2011, he said: “It is not dependent on the GE. It will carry on regardless.”

Resort? No, It’s HDB Life By The River

Source : The New Paper, 21 Aug 2007

Ching: PM struck the right chord when he talked about our homes.

For us Singaporeans, the home is ultra important. A roof over our heads. Our nest egg. Our security.

PM said the Government will give you help to buy a flat, increase its value and even unlock its value for you if you need money for your old age. Choo, you already own a flat, right?

Choo: Yes! All my own. Five years ago it cost me $200K.

Now, every day agents are shoving paper under my door offering me more than $400K.
But have you seen the pictures PM showed of the new-look HDB heartlands? Like a resort!

Wonder if I can buy a timeshare there.

Ching: It was something amazing. PM showed an artist’s impression of Anchorvale Community Centre.

He was right when he said it should be called ‘Anchorvale Country Club’.

When these plans are in place, the whole HDB landscape is going to be transformed.

No other city in the world has public housing that is so cool - like private housing.

For new homes like Punggol 21, there are those with river views, a town centre by the water front and water activities. It will be the new face of Singapore.

When the PM was showing them last night, all those listening to him went ‘wahhhh!’ and clapped.

The older homes in Queenstown will also get a facelift.

I saw the slides which PM showed last night.

Alexandra Canal has a wooden deck built over it, with a park on top.

Quite amazing.

So, everyone can benefit from the property boom, like you, Choo.

Choo: Ah, but I’m not selling. My home is my nest egg, and from what’s been said, the egg is starting to look like a golden one, the only thing missing now is more elderly-friendly features.

Ching: Well, there is the lift-upgrading programme, which is very popular.

Putting in these kinds of facilities will help to increase the value of the flats.

Owning a flat is like ‘buying shares in Singapore’ as PM says, and when Singapore does well, it will seep into the value of the flat.

You said your flat was a ‘nest egg’.

Well, there’s a new plan for those with smaller flats, the three and two-room flats, and with elderly owners.

The Government will ‘buy back’ the tail-end of your lease.

Choo: What? You mean Government can ‘buy back’ your own flat while you continue staying in it? You don’t have to sell and downgrade?

Ching: The Government will buy back some of the lease, leaving it with 30 years. The Government will give you some of the money in a lump sum, the other bit in an annuity - something that will pay you a sum of money for as long as you live.

Choo: Wah, sounds like touch Toto big time.


Source : The New Paper, 21 Aug 2007

In his National Day rally speech yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that annuities will eventually be made compulsory. It applies to persons who are now 50 years of age and below.

Doctor Money answers common questions about this important topic.

What is an annuity? Should I or my parents buy one?

It is a lifetime income. You pay a lump sum, like $100,000 now. In return you receive an income of, say, $600 a month for the rest of your life.

As you know, life insurance pays nothing while you live and makes a lump-sum payment to your beneficiaries if you die.

An annuity is the opposite. You make a lump-sum payment to receive a constant income for as long as you live.

It is insurance to protect you from out-living your money.

Is an annuity fair? If I die early, will I lose most of my money?

Yes, many people think this way. But it applies only to one type of annuity, which I call a ‘risky’ annuity.

It makes high monthly payments which stop when you die. If you purchased the annuity for, say, $100,000 and die after $10,000 has been paid out, your beneficiaries do not receive the remaining $90,000.

A second type is much more common here. I call it a ’safe’ annuity. The monthly payments are lower. But if you die early, the remainder goes to your beneficiaries. In our example, the $90,000 balance would be returned to your beneficiaries.

A third choice is to receive payments over a fixed number of years. In our example, the $100,000 annuity would be paid over 20 years. Again, if you die early, the unpaid balance is returned to your beneficiaries. The CPF retirement account works this way.

How do annuities work?

You buy annuities from life insurance companies. To buy the risky annuity, you must use cash.

Most annuities are purchased with CPF money and CPF rules permit only the safe annuity. It pays less than the risky annuity but your beneficiaries get the unpaid balance when you die.

Annuities have not been popular. Only about 5 per cent of CPF members purchase them. The other 95 per cent take the default option of monthly payments from the CPF Board for 20 years.

At present, it works like this: If you had the minimum sum of $99,600 in your CPF account at age 55, you could withdraw $790 per month over 20 years from age 62 to 82.

The alternative is a lifetime annuity. The best deal comes from NTUC Income. Using the same numbers, it will pay a monthly income of $633 for men and $593 for women and these amounts increase yearly.

If one dies before the $99,600 has been paid out, CPF rules require that the balance be returned to the beneficiaries.

Between the two, which is the better?

All else being equal, the NTUC Income annuity is better because it is an annuity. It provides insurance against out-living your money.

All else, however, is not equal as the rates of return are different.

The CPF Board’s $790 per month for 20 years translates to a fixed return of 4 per cent per year.

NTUC Income guarantees lower monthly payments but they continue for life. The return comes to 5.25 per cent per year of which only 2.5 per cent is guaranteed.

It boils down to a trade off between a fixed return of 4 per cent for 20 years (CPF) compared to a return of 5.25 per cent for life, of which only half is guaranteed (NTUC Income).

Cautious investors would probably go for the CPF Board’s 4 per cent for 20 years as it is more certain.

Those willing to take a slight risk would want to consider NTUC Income’s higher but less certain returns.

Homemade ‘annuity’

PAYOUTS from your retirement account now begin at age 62. The starting age is to be raised gradually to age 65 and eventually to 67.

But why wait? You can raise it yourself and it will work to your benefit. It is like creating a homemade annuity.

For every one year that you defer receiving your 20-year payout, it adds two years to the total payments you receive.

For example, if you elect to receive your payouts from age 63 instead of 62, you will receive monthly payments until age 84 instead of age 82.

The longer you delay receiving your money, the more the payouts grow.

If you defer your payouts by three years to age 65, you might expect to receive two additional years for each year you defer. It seems you would get 3 x 2 = 6 added years.

In fact, you will do even better. Because of interest earned on interest, you get seven more years and your payouts continue until age 89 (82 + 7).

This is not a special incentive scheme but simply the effect of compounding your money at 4 per cent per year.

More ‘Teeth’ Needed To Rein In Errant Property Agents

Source : The Straits Times, 21 Aug 2007

YET another unpleasant experience with property agents was highlighted in Ms Laura Thornton-Olivry’s letter, ‘Signed and sealed with a handshake, yet no deal’ (ST, Aug 18).

There have been many complaints against unethical agents recently, and the only assurance given by the authorities is that there are accreditation schemes in place.

I expressed my concerns in the letter, ‘Time to regulate property agents’ (ST, July 11), calling for control of property agents. Since then, many readers have offered their views in this Forum.

My letter elicited a joint reply from the HDB and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore on July 31, and a separate one from the Singapore Accredited Estate Agencies on the same day.

At best, the responses highlighted the existence of agencies to which a property agent can accredit himself or herself with, and the qualifications needed.

But they do not address the issue of the need to have more ‘teeth’ to rein in errant agents, including perhaps licensing them through legislation.

Accreditation is merely associating oneself with an agency and the person can choose not to abide by the rules.

There is no punitive action against an agent if he were to flout the rules, except being struck off from the register of the association. This is really a non-event.
We should not allow a few black sheep to tarnish the image of the real-estate industry.

It is a ‘jungle’ out there and the professional agents - I am sure there are many - and potential buyers and sellers need to be protected from the unscrupulous ones.

Teo Cheng Peow

MTI Sees Growth At Upper End Of 4-6%

Source : The Business Times, 21 Aug 2007

The economy should be able to grow at the upper end of the newly revised 4-6 per cent trend potential over the next five years if external conditions remain good, says the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI).

Thanks to diversification and reforms, the economy now has the potential to grow 4-6 per cent over the next 5-10 years, MTI says, elaborating on what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said towards the end of his National Day Rally speech on Sunday.

Mr Lee revealed that after a review, MTI had raised its estimate of Singapore’s underlying growth from the previous 3-5 per cent range.

But the new estimate is still well below the private sector’s assessment. As BT reported last month, most economists believe Singapore’s trend growth potential has risen to 6-8 per cent, fuelled by an influx of skills and investments.

Economic growth has averaged 7.8 per cent a year in the past three years and 6.1 per cent a year in the past five years, which MTI attributes to economic reforms.

In 2003, the Economic Review Committee projected that labour force growth of 1-2 per cent and productivity increases of 2-3 per cent would drive annual economic growth of 3-5 per cent over the medium term.

But MTI now sees higher increases. It believes the labour force can grow 1.5-2.5 per cent a year, with more women, older workers and expatriate talent in the workforce.

Productivity growth is also projected at a higher 2.5-3.5 per cent because the economy has diversified into higher value-added sectors and attracted new capital investments.

‘Economic restructuring in an increasingly competitive environment has also helped enhance efficiency,’ MTI says. ‘New high-growth sectors like biomedical manufacturing and wealth management and rejuvenated traditional sectors like marine engineering and tourism have also made the economy more resilient and less vulnerable to sector-specific shocks.’

According to MTI, the external environment is likely to be favourable over the next five years, ‘increasing the likelihood that Singapore’s growth potential is realised’.

Apart from the key sources of demand in the United States, the European Union and Japan, the rise of China and India and the revitalised South-east Asian countries will boost growth.

From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, Singapore’s medium-term sustainable growth was seen at 5-7 per cent. This was later pared, officially, to 4-6 per cent as the economy ‘matured’ and subsequently to 3-5 per cent.

Private sector estimates were usually several percentage points higher.

DC Rates Seen Rising By Up To 60%

Source : The Business Times, 21 Aug 2007

Sept 1 adjustment will be on top of the recent 40% increase across the board

Picture : Collier's Director Ms Tay Heuy Ying

AVERAGE development charge (DC) rates could go up 18-60 per cent for non-landed residential use, 10-25 per cent for commercial use and 10-40 per cent for hotel use come Sept 1, property consultants said.

The forecast increases - due to rising land values - would be on top of last month’s effective 40 per cent across-the-board increase in DC rates under a change in the formula for calculating them.

According to Jones Lang LaSalle regional director and head of investments Lui Seng Fatt: ‘The Chief Valuer is most unlikely to let the earlier 40 per cent hike, which was more a policy realignment by the state to get a larger share of the appreciation in land value, influence his decision on the quantums of revision for the Sept 1 DC table, since the rates are meant to reflect the market conditions.’

Agreeing, Colliers International director for research and consultancy Tay Huey Ying said: ‘We expect the government to maintain the aggressiveness in the upward adjustment of DC rates as seen in the last (March 1) revision. It is unlikely to be deterred by the resulting large hike in DC rates that this dual exercise will cause.’
A surprise change in the DC formula on July 18 creams off 70 per cent of the enhancement in land value arising from higher use or plot ratio, up from 50 per cent. But while this effectively raised DC rates 40 per cent across the board, the July review was based on land values in the March 1 DC table.

In other words, the July 18 move was independent of the regular six-monthly DC rates reviews on March 1 and Sept 1 each year, which are based on market value.

DC, which may be payable when a site’s use is enhanced or when it is built on more intensively, is specified according to use - such as non-landed residential, landed residential, commercial and hotel, and listed by 118 geographical sectors or locations across Singapore.

Hot spot: Deals such as The Ardmore have been transacted at 80 per cent above land values

With recent transacted land values significantly above imputed values based on current DC rates for many locations and use groups, there is room for the Chief Valuer to impose steep increases in the Sept 1 revision, market watchers reckon.

They say some developers have been waiting for this before they finalise decisions on acquiring collective sale sites that have a significant DC component.

But according to CB Richard Ellis executive director Li Hiaw Ho: ‘Even without any revision in the DC rates, developers are likely to take a step back from acquiring sites through collective sales because of the high prices set by owners.

‘In addition, the possibility of losing deals because of strong opposition by minority owners is a dampener for developers. Therefore, the rate of collective sales may slow in the coming months.’

Citing other factors, Colliers’s Ms Tay said: ‘Developers are taking a cautious stance not only due to the impending DC rate revision but also because of the volatility of the stock market and possible credit tightening.’

According to her, higher DC rates by themselves would not necessarily lead to a slower collective sales market or put a stop to land price escalation. Rather, this depends more on whether developers are confident they can pass on higher costs to buyers, she said.

Jones Lang LaSalle expects DC rates for non-landed residential use to escalate 45-60 per cent islandwide on the back of collective sale transactions. Mr Lui predicts a 45-50 per cent rise in DC rates for District 9 locations, where deals such as The Ardmore and Char Yong Gardens have been done at 80 per cent and 92 per cent above land values implied by the current July 2007 DC rates.

The East Coast and Telok Blangah areas are likely to see higher non-landed residential DC rates to the tune of about 35-45 per cent and 25-30 per cent respectively, Mr Lui said.

Colliers’s Ms Tay expects the average non-landed residential DC rate to rise 18-25 per cent but reckons bigger jumps of 40-50 per cent are likely in Sinaran Drive, Telok Blangah, Bedok/St Patrick’s Road and Upper Paya Lebar/Geylang.

This is because transactions in these fringe areas since March have been done at prices that were 143-195 per cent above the land values implied by the current July 2007 DC rates.

As for landed residential use, JLL expects an average islandwide increase of 20-30 per cent, with the East Coast posting about 25-30 per cent, District 11 about 40-50 per cent and Sentosa some 20-30 per cent.

For commercial use, JLL expects DC rates to go up 20-25 per cent islandwide, while Colliers predicts the increase will average 10-15 per cent.

‘We expect DC rates for the Collyer Quay/Marina Bay locations to see the biggest adjustments to the tune of 40 to 50 per cent,’ said Ms Tay. ‘This is because the $1,540 psf per plot ratio transacted price achieved for the 60-year leasehold Collyer Quay commercial site in October 2006, in the previous review period, still reflects a 220 per cent premium on the land value inferred from the current DC rate for commercial use in this location.’

CBRE’s Mr Li expects the biggest jump in commercial use DC rates - about 40 per cent or more - to be for the Shenton Way and Tanjong Pagar micro-markets, where sites and many buildings were transacted in the past two quarters.

‘The recent award of Tampines P15 site at the Tampines Regional Centre for $622 per square foot per plot ratio in May could also result in an upward revision of the commercial DC rate for this location,’ he said. ‘The implied land value based on the DC rate for this sector is about $334 psf ppr.’

Colliers expects DC rates for industrial use to remain unchanged for all locations as there has been no clear increase in land prices, while DC rates for hotel use could rise 10-15 per cent on average.

JLL forecasts hotel DC rates will rise by an average of 35-40 per cent, given the recent sale of two hotel sites by the state in Tanjong Pagar at prices exceeding their DC rate-implied land values by about 80 per cent.

CBRE’s Mr Li said that a rise in hotel DC rates come Sept 1 can be expected because the booming tourism market has boosted interest in hotel investment.

Orange Grove Residences

Orange Grove Residences is a home afforded the luxury of aesthetic indulgence in design, and thus the sumptuous interior comes as no surprise. The incorporation of simple lines and design makes it easy for the home to play host to a variety of luxurious home decor influences. The sleek and contemporary influence within the home perpetuates an inviting and warm atmosphere throughout the different spaces.

Tucked away in the alluring ambience of one of the most prestigious neigbourhoods, Orange Grove Residences is the perfect enclave for the ones who value an exclusive retreat above all. You will find yourself the ideal escape from the pressures of the everyday. From the signature lush greenery to the serene waterscapes, here lies a picture of calm and simplicity. It promotes the idea of an abode where one's body and mind are rejuvenated and appropriately asserts a soothing, natural canvas of greenery and harmony. With 60 beautifully-crafted apartments comprising a studio apartment, 3 & 4-bedroom apartments as well as luxury penthouses, you will find comfort in an oasis you can truly call home.

The convenience and sophistication of cosmopolitan living set amidst the beautiful and lush environs at Orange Grove Residences is simply a gift to behold. Orange Grove Residences places you minutes away from the vibrant and dynamic Orchard Road, where you can exploit the perfect setting for a day out shopping or high tea and be attuned to the concept of a life that is close to exceptional luxuries and a lifestyle that pampers you more than you could ever imagine.

Location : Orange Grove Road (District 10)

Tenure : Freehold
Expected TOP : Dec 2009
Building Description : 5 storey resort style development next to Shangri la Hotel
Total Units : 60

Unit Types:
1BR ~ 1023sqft
3BR ~ 1927-2002sqft
4BR ~ 2207-2443sqft
Penthouses ~ 2928-3972sqft

Landscape / Facilities:
-Entrance Water Feacture
-Pool Deck
-Swimming Pool / Lap Pool
-Jacuzzi Pool
-Kid's Pool
-Clubhouse / Gymnasium
-Water Feature with Water Curtain
-Hot Tub
-BBQ Area
-Green Wall Feature
-Water Wall Feature
-Footpath / Jogging Track
-Sitting Area / Trellis
-Reflecting Pool with Water Cascade
-Reflexology Footpath

Tribeca By The Waterfront

Live in the heart of it all

Step into a world that bings you the beat of waterfront living. Live and be seen at the centre of it all - Tribeca by the waterfront.

Imagine your own private oasis in the heart of the city. A lush paradise inspired by clean lines and distinctive facade, realizing a perfect blend of modernity and natural serenity. A magnificient freehold property, Tribeca by the waterfront offers you the opportunity to experience riverside living at its finest. Here, the choices are always yours to make - bask in the peaceful sanctity of modern refinement and pristine greenery, or move to the rhythm and pulse of the city.

It's living in the city like you've never imagined it - a world that's always hip and happening.

Your living space between work and play

With its superb location, situated near Singapore's Central Business District, the Integrated Resort and Orchard Road, this dream abode will be a gateway to endless possibilities for your lifestyle. You'll even be spoilt for education choices with a number of top educational institutions in the vicinity, which include River Valley Primary School, Chatsworth International School, SMU and more.

Indulge in the alluring temptations of Orchard Road just minutes away. Delight in the endless array of shopping, dining and entertainment options, and live it up in all the excitement.

Enjoy every amenity within close proximity to Tribeca - from the luxury of established hotels such as Grand Corpthorne Waterfront Hotel, to nearby shopping malls like Great World City, well known food centres, such as Zion Road Food Centre, popular clubs like Zouk, chic fine dining restaurants and alfresco cafes.

Location : Kim Seng Road (District 9)
Tenure : Freehold
Expected TOP : 31 Dec 2010
Site Area : 59,011 sqft
Total Units : 175 (30 storey)

Units Types:
1 BR ~ 517 to 570 sqft (50 units)
2 BR ~ 1033 sqft (24 units)
3 BR ~ 1367 to 1378 sqft (47 units)
3+1 BR ~ 1765 sqft (24 units)
4 BR ~ 1905 sqft (23 units)
1 BR Penthouses ~ 1173 to 1195 sqft (2 units)
2 BR Penthouses ~ 2174 sqft (1 unit)
4 BR + Study Suite ~ 3186 to 3315 sqft (2 units)
4 BR Penthouses ~ 3563 to 3907 sqft (2 units)

A private enclave, near the water's edge

Get into the flow of things, with an exciting life by the riverside. Enjoy the calming, pristine view of the Singapore River or find excitement amidst many activities by the river. Take a walk along the promenade or hop onto a river taxi, which conveniently brings you to the city. From catching world-famous plays at the Esplanade, attending a meeting at the Central Business District or visiting Merlion Park, going to and from work or play will not only be easier, but faster as well with the river taxi.

Look forward to the future Integrated Resort and other developments happening soon at Marina Bay and the Singapore River such as the continuous riverside promenade, which allows pedestrians to enjoy an uninterrupted walk along the full-length of the Singapore River from the Fullerton Hotel down to Great World City. At Tribeca by the waterfront, expect to live alongside a dynamic, scenic world buzzing with activities and life.

Magnificent views all yours for the taking

Tribeca by the waterfront offers breathtaking views of the vibrant city skyline. Residents can also relax and unwind amidst the soothing views of the impressive Singapore River. With all the magnificent views that surround you, you'll always want to stay and indulge in the quiet pleasures of home.

Level One
-Guard House (24 Hours Security)
-Drop Off Plaza
-Water Feature
-Trellis over BBQ Area
-Children's Playground
-Main Pool
-Children's Pool
-Jacuzzi Pool
-Timber Deck
-Aqua Duct
-Tennis Court

Level Two
-Clubhouse (Male/Female Changring Room with Steam Room)
-40m Lap Pool
-Timber Deck
-Relaxation Corner @ Clubhouse
-Function Room