Monday, August 27, 2007

Tougher Regulations In The Pipeline For Construction Industry

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 27 August 2007

SINGAPORE : The construction industry could soon face tougher laws to improve its safety, quality and professionalism.

These provisions are contained in the Building Control (amendment) Bill tabled in Parliament on Monday by National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan.

The proposed changes include several safety measures recommended by an inter-ministry Manpower Review Committee on Construction Safety.

The joint committee was set up in response to the Committee of Inquiry's report on the Nicoll Highway collapse in 2004.

If the amendments are passed, only licensed builders will be able to carry out building works requiring approval of plans as well as specialised structural works.

There will have to be adequate supervision of structural works during construction.

Developers will also be legally required to report contraventions to the Building Control Act.

Temporary earth retaining structures and major geotechnical works will be regulated as well.

The amendments were drawn up after consultation with industry stakeholders.

Mr Mah will elaborate on the amendments in the Second Reading of the Bill at a future sitting of Parliament. - CNA/ms

Singapore Keeping Tabs On Rising Business Costs: Lim Hng Kiang

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 27 August 2007

SINGAPORE : The Singapore Government is keeping a close tab on business costs as rising costs could hurt Singapore's competitiveness.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Minister for Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang said that while consumer prices still remain low, inflation is expected to pick up in the second half of the year.

In recent months, businesses have expressed concern over rising property prices, rentals and wages.

And the government is reiterating once again that it is keeping a close eye on the impact on business costs.

Mr Lim said: "In recent quarters - we've seen increases in property prices and rentals, and wages. We have to maintain vigilance over our costs, as excessive cost increases will dampen our growth prospects. We have taken a proactive approach so far. To address space constraints, we have introduced interim office space supply, and HDB flats for rental."

The Ministry of National Development and the Urban Redevelopment Authority have also started to release additional information on property prices and rents to help the public make informed decisions.

Mr Lim said his ministry has released ample supply of land into the market with more than 42,000 residential units, and 630,000 square metres of office space to be completed by 2010.

Speaking in Parliament, he also noted that inflation has remained low although it is expected to pick up.

Mr Lim said: "We do expect inflation for the second half of this year to go up, partly reflecting the global inflationary trends. Then of course we have the one-off impact of the GST. But our experience shows that when we had similar increases in GST, this is a short term impact.

"And over time, the impact on costs will be mitigated. Overall we still look at an inflation of between 1 and 2 percent this year, which is a little higher than our previous years, but still very reasonable, considering that this is already more than 16 quarters of growth."

Singapore's consumer prices rose by a higher-than-expected 1.5 percent in July from the previous month mainly due to the hike in GST and surging property prices. - CNA/ch

More Water Sports Could Be Held At Marina Bay

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 26 August 2007

SINGAPORE: WaterFest 2007 saw 18,000 people throng the floating platform at Marina Bay for performances like the aqua acrobatics of the "Stars of China" to regular events like banana boat rides.

One sport, known as 'Rail Jam' or 'wakeboarding on land', brings the moves closer to fans.

Amidst the fancy moves, at stake was a spot in the upcoming Wakeboard World Cup for some Singaporean wakeboarders, including rising star, 16-year-old Matthew Christian.

"I will be training a lot. I will be trying to win regional competitions and maybe after winning them, I will go international and see where I stand from there," said Matthew.

This year, despite the lack of a title sponsor, the Wakeboard World Cup will be staged at Bedok with big names competing.

Paul Fong, general manager of Singapore Waterski and Wakeboard Federation, said: "We are also going to explore a new venue as well. Maybe we can explore this fine venue with this fine city skyline. The Wakeboard World Cup is here to stay – we have partners on board who really believe in it and we have a big wakeboarding community. We are very lucky that the Singapore Sports Council believes in this particular sport."

Related Video Link -
More water sports could be held at Marina Bay

Organisers are also confident that a move to Marina could help gain a main sponsor.

Another plus point is, the sport is seeing growing popularity, especially at the universities.

Jetski, too, is set to take off, especially with the introduction of the Jetsports Supercourse Team Challenge.

The endurance race uses the more powerful four-stroke machines, capable of hitting 100 kilometres per hour.

Justin Lee, president of the Singapore Powerboat Association, said: "We already have One Degree 15 Marina Club wanting to run a series. It's very good to know that the Association is getting that kind of support, (as it fits) the profile of their clientele. All of them are business people and they have taken jetski in a first place as a recreational sport. Now we have this format to cater to them, so it will be a wonderful thing to get them into the sporting scene."

Marina Bay is deemed to be the place for water sports, more so when it is turned into a freshwater lake in 2008. - CNA/so

Govt Keeping A Close Eye On Inflation: Lim Hng Kiang

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 27 August 2007

SINGAPORE : The Government is keeping a close eye on the inflation rate in Singapore, Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang said on Monday.

Speaking during question time in Parliament, Mr Lim pointed out that the inflation rate here has remained low by global comparison.

Inflation rates in the first half of this year were just between 0.5 to 1 percent.

But in July, the rate went up to 2.6 percent over the same period last year.

Mr Lim said he expects the inflation rate in the second half of this year to be higher, in line with global inflation trends due to rising cost pressures in the US, Europe and China.

Dr Lily Neo, MP, Jalan Besar GRC, had earlier commented, "May I ask him whether he's concerned of the recent very high inflation rate in the last quarter, and how would it affect Singapore and Singaporeans on the whole if this should continue? And are there measures that you plan to take to contain this inflation rate?"

In response, Mr Lim said, "We're watching this closely of course. We expect generally in the second half, costs to go up higher than in the first half. Then of course we also have the one-off impact of the GST. But our experience shows in the past, when we had similar increases in GST, that this is a short-term impact, and that over time the impact of course will be mitigated.

"So overall we still look at an inflation path of between 1 (and) 2 percent this year, which is a little higher than what we had in the past years, but definitely still very reasonable, considering this is already more than 16 quarters of growth." - CNA/ms

A Road-Worthy Fix For Jams

Source : The Straits Times, Mon, Aug 27, 2007

Motorists gripe about the lack of lane discipline among those with whom they share the roads. They complain about the lack of on-road courtesy and the belief among too many drivers that turn signals are entirely optional. But they are united on one thing. The ERP. No one likes it. Now, that feeling is set to worsen:

Gantries are going up in new areas, and one toll station will have its operation hours extended. However, enmity towards the system is misplaced. For if it weren't for the Electronic Road Pricing system, streets would be jammed. 'But', goes the common refrain, 'traffic is getting slower despite the ERP'. That, in fact, is precisely why the ERP has to be expanded and tweaked. People have become used to the charges. Though they complain, they aren't so bothered that the charges factor too much into their road-usage pattern. In short, existing payments no longer sufficiently cause adjustments to primetime road use.

From London to New York, cities with dense populations are having to apportion road space according to market principles. Or at least for some, begin to think about it. With a head start over the rest, Singapore roads are far less crowded than the case in similarly dense urban centres. In normal situations - when there isn't an accident or a stalled vehicle - drivers don't expect to spend long periods immobile. Traffic moves. Of course, that movement is slowing. But having a road-pricing infrastructure already in place lets Singapore make subtle changes to ensure continuous motion.

Road pricing is a necessary trade-off. If the population wants to own more cars, these need space. However, road building (and widening) cannot continue to be the main solution, and in fact must be scaled down - as is planned - if the city is to maintain its quality of life and aesthetics. No one wants to live next to an expressway. So the ERP network eventually will need to be widened even further and charges rise more so that roads are more efficiently used. This, of course, is likely to renew grumbles that the ERP only fattens government coffers. This isn't true. While the ERP soaks up about $90 million a year from motorists, vehicle registration taxes have gone down - to $1.7 billion last year from $3.4 billion in 1997, before the introduction of the ERP. Motorists have benefited.

Still, many will continue to grouse. But they might want to try a little thought experiment. Imagine a Monday morning. Now think about driving into the central business district without the ERP. Not a pleasant picture. Without road pricing, motorists would be listening to a lot more radio in the car.

Singapore Expects Inflation To Rise In Second Half Of 2007

Source : AsiaOne News, Aug 27, 2007

SINGAPORE (AP) -- Singapore expects inflation in the second half of this year to be higher than the first half amid strong economic growth, a senior official said Monday.

Last week, the city-state reported that consumer prices rose at their fastest pace in 12 years in July as soaring rents combined with the impact of a sales tax hike.

"In the last 16 quarters we have been enjoying highly robust growth and so one would expect inflation to pick up, and indeed it well may pick up," Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang told Parliament. The economy has grown more than 6 percent over the last three years.

He said the government expects costs in the second half of this year to be higher than the first six months, partly reflecting global inflationary trends.

The consumer price index rose 2.6 percent in July from a year earlier, the fastest increase since January 1995. Prices rose 1.3 percent in June from a year ago.

"Overall, we still look at an inflation forecast of between 1-2 percent this year, which is a little higher than our previous years but definitely still very reasonable," Lim told lawmakers.

"In recent quarters, we have seen increases in property prices and rentals as well as wages. We have to maintain vigilance over our costs as excessive cost increases will dampen our growth prospects," Lim said.

The increase in the goods and services tax to 7 percent from 5 percent July 1 was widely expected to boost food and transport prices, and July marked the first month that a long-watched surge in real estate prices finally hit headline inflation.

Lim was responding to questions by parliamentarians on the impact of recent increases in prices, wages, and rentals on the city-state's attractiveness to foreign investors.

Singapore's housing prices have surged in recent months as a boom in the luxury segment began to filter into the mass market.

Higher Inflation Forecast Of 1-2% For 2007: MTI

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 27, 2007

'We look at an inflation forecast of between 1 to 2 per cent this year, which is a little higher than our previous years, but definitely still reasonable, considering that this is more than 16 quarters of growth,' said Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

SINGAPORE'S inflation rate is expected to rise to between 1 and 2 per cent for the whole of 2007, compared to 0.5 to 1 per cent for the first half of the year.

But the expected rise, announced by Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang in Parliament on Monday, is not a cause for alarm.

'We look at an inflation forecast of between 1 to 2 per cent this year, which is a little higher than our previous years, but definitely still reasonable, considering that this is more than 16 quarters of growth,' Mr Lim told MPs.

And with such robust growth over the past 16 quarters, Mr Lim said he was 'quite surprised our inflation numbers are as low as they are'.

While the recent increase in the Goods and Services Tax may have had an impact on the inflation rate, Mr Lim said that based on previous increases of GST, 'this is a short term impact, and over time, the impact will be mitigated'.

Despite strong growth, Mr Lim said Singapore has been operating on an overall low inflation environment. In the last three years, Singapore's Consumer Price Index (CPI) has only increased at an average annual rate of 1 per cent.

Overall unit labour cost has also declined at an annual average rate of 2.2 per cent.

Related Video Link -
Expect a bigger pinch from higher costs of living- but no need to panic

As Singapore enjoys one of its best economic booms in decades, Government statisticians are also telling telling Singaporeans- expect to fork out a little more for goods and services.

Trade and Industry minister Lim Hng Kiang announced in Parliament today that the inflation rate is expected to rise to between 1 and 2 per cent this year- up from the 0.5 to 1 per cent range for the first half of 2007.

In recent quarters, Mr Lim said the MTI has seen increases in property prices and rentals, as well as wages.

Property prices
He said pro-active approaches have been taken to address immediate space constraints. For example, the Government has introduced more interim office space supply and HDB flats for rental.

Additional information on property prices and rents for both private and public homes, as well as for the residential and office sectors, have also been released by the National Development Ministry.

This is to help the public and businesses to make more informed choices on property purchases and rentals.

Another 42,000 private residential units, and 640,000 sqm of office space, to be completed by 2010, will add to the property supply.

Mr Lim said the Ministry would be looking into ways for Singaporeans such as older workers and women to take advantage of the strong labour market, and rejoin the workforce.

Reskilling efforts will also continue to help Singaporeans obtain better paying jobs.

Despite increased costs, Mr Lim said Singapore has already outranked 53 other countries to become the second most competitive country in the world, according to the World Competitive Yearbook this year.

The United States was ranked first.

But Mr Lim said Singapore cannot afford to be complacent.

Going forward, he said : 'The Government will continue to keep a tight watch on business costs, and strengthen competitive advantage and value creation, for Singapore to remain on it's growth path.'

En Bloc Sales Process To Become More Transparent

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 27, 2007

HOMEOWNERS will get added protection with proposed changes that will make the en bloc sales process clearer, fairer and more transparent, with the introduction on Monday of the Land Titles (Strata) (Amendment) Bill.

Among the enhancements are a requirement for a sales committee to be formally appointed and for a five-day 'cooling off' period after the collective sales agreement is signed, in case owners change their minds.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Law Professor S. Jayakumar first outlined some of the changes in March.

But in moving the new Bill, he told Parliament on Monday that more proposals were added after a public consultation exercise as well as group discussions with industry experts like lawyers, property consultants and academics.

The public consultation was held from April 2 to May 12, during which more than 400 suggestions were collected from more than 100 respondents.

In all, there are more than 30 proposed amendments, most of which aim to tighten the collective sale process.

A key move will see owners' voting rights in a collective sale decided by the area of their flats, in addition to the share value of their flat.

The sales committee must be also be formally appointed to conduct the collective sale agreement.

Another new requirement - every home owner must have a lawyer to explain their legal rights in the agreement.

Another change will give the Strata Titles Board the power to increase the amount minority owners can get from sales proceeds if, say, they spent a lot to renovate their home not too long before the en bloc sale.

'The proposed amendments are to provide additional safeguards and to ensure more transparency for all owners, i.e. the minority and majority owners, but in a way that does not make it unduly onerous to bring about an en bloc sale,' said a spokesperson from the Law Ministry.

The new Bill is expected to be debated next month, with the enhancements scheduled to take effect in early October.

TBWA's Family Pitch Is Winning Factor

Source : The Business Times, August 27, 2007

'Chemistry' also helps it land Resorts World at Sentosa account: MD

Mr Paris: 'What we do for our clients is we look at what's holding them back. We're looking to access that slip between conventions and vision'

DAN Paris is clearly a family man.

The managing director of advertising agency TBWA Group Singapore whipped out pictures of his son with obvious pride during an interview with BT. His irrepressible enthusiasm was equally apparent when he talked ebulliently about TBWA recently beating four other agencies to land the Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS) advertising account, estimated to be worth $70 million over the next three years.

'Clients look for certain things. If you're taking a long-term partnerd, you need someone for the long journey, it's a marriage. Building trust right from the start is critical,' said Mr Paris, citing 'chemistry' as one of the main factors that helped the firm land the account. 'It's really important for the client to buy into an agency they believe in. This is about creating a brand that's going to live for a long time.'

Talk of family and relationships proved to be a recurring theme. The pitch for RWS - which Mr Paris described as an attempt to capture the imagination of a family audience - clearly struck a chord, especially since, as he put it, 'families, the world over, have the same motivation'.

The advertising campaign will be targeting countries in the region such as China, India, Malaysia and the Philippines, but TBWA is also eyeing emerging markets such as the Middle East and Russia.

The RWS campaign will focus on both traditional and digital channels and Mr Paris highlighted the importance of the digital world in marketing today. 'The online domain is a great place to explore. I'm quite interested to see what kind of work we're able to do in that area,' he said.

TBWA, which also clinched the Singapore Airlines (SIA) account in April, is a part of Omnicom Group Inc and the Singapore set-up is one of 258 offices in 75 locations such as New York, London and China. TBWA Worldwide recently opened an office in Vietnam last year and has been expanding rapidly in China and India.

TBWA Singapore counts M1, Standard Chartered and of course, SIA, among its clients, which begs the (multi) million dollar question: Is the Singapore Girl going to undergo a complete makeover? 'There's lasting timeliness and glory to the way the Singapore Girl represents the airline. I don't see anything wrong with it. There's nothing broken,' he said with a laugh.

TBWA's role will be to help SIA stay in the forefront, not 'only in terms of emotional space but delivery and brand performance as well', he said. With SIA's first commercial flight of the A380 coming up in October this year, the freshened-up Singapore Girl might be making an appearance soon enough. 'I would expect us to look at some sort of support around the launch,' he said.

Looking forward, one of the biggest problems that Mr Paris expects to face is finding the right people. 'We're always on the lookout for the very best. I want the very best people working on the right clients so they're all enjoying themselves and so the client loves their team.' Still, he reckoned that the flourishing economy will prove a powerful draw with regards to attracting talent to Singapore, but he also emphasised that the company will continue to groom talent from within.

TBWA works on the philosophy of disruption and connection, not just in Singapore but in their various offices across the globe. 'We live in a world of conventions. What we do for our clients is we look at what's holding them back. We're looking to access that slip between conventions and vision,' he said. The firm's recent wins suggest they are on the right track.

Horizon Owners Have 2 Weeks To Decide Their Fate

Source : The Business Times, August 27, 2007

Majority sellers seek individual legal advice in face of potential lawsuit

(SINGAPORE) Two weeks - that's all the time the majority sellers of Horizon Towers now have to find a way to salvage the botched collective sale of their development.

Horizon Towers poser: The sellers need to decide if and how they should revive the pact with the buyers

If they fail to do so - by the ominous deadline of Sept 11 - each of the 255 owners who signed off on the en bloc sale, along with the sales committee members, will be sued for some $4 million each.

Faced with such a prospect, each majority seller is now understood to be seeking individual legal advice as to how to defend himself against the lawsuit.

Collectively, the sellers also need to decide if and how they should revive the agreement inked with the intended buyers - Hotel Properties (HPL), Morgan Stanley Real Estate-managed funds and Qatar Investment Authority - for the sale of Horizon Towers.

This comes as HPL and its partners make good on their threat to sue the majority sellers for failing to hold up their end of the deal.

Documents obtained by The Business Times show that the majority sellers, represented by Tan Rajah & Cheah, had received a letter last Thursday from HPL's lawyers, Allen & Gledhill (A&G). The letter alleged that the sellers are in breach of their agreement, for failing to 'do everything in their power' to obtain a collective sales order from the Strata Titles Board (STB) approving the sale of Horizon Towers.

STB had on Aug 3 thrown out the sellers' application for a collective sales order, on the grounds that it was defective. STB said the sellers had failed to include certain documents in their application and, hence, failed to comply with requirements laid out by the law. The board's decision meant the en bloc sale of Horizon Towers could not be completed by the agreement deadline of Aug 11.

HPL and its partners then asked the sellers to extend the en bloc sale completion deadline by four months - to Dec 11 - during which time, they wanted the sellers to appeal the STB's decision and file a fresh application for a new sales order, if necessary.

The sellers said they needed time to consider what steps they should take - but have not reverted since.

The lack of response has now prompted HPL and its partners to take action. 'Our client is not prepared to wait indefinitely for (you) to extend the (deadline),' A&G's letter to the sellers said.

HPL and its partners commenced proceedings in the High Court on Thursday, declaring that the majority sellers are in 'repudiatory breach of contract'. The buyers are demanding that the sellers extend the original deadline and 'do everything necessary to obtain the collective sales order'.

HPL and its partners have given the sellers until Sept 11 to do so - failing which, they would sue each of the sellers, for a total of between $800 million and $1 billion. With more than 255 owners - of 173 units who agreed to the sale - being named as defendants, it means each of them could be sued for up to $4 million each.

But should the sellers do as demanded - and a collective sales order is eventually obtained - HPL and its partners will honour their end of the bargain, that is, they will buy the 99-year leasehold Horizon Towers for a total of $500 million.

For their part, the majority sellers have denied allegations that they breached the sales agreement. They have also refused to extend the deadline by four months. But, they have appealed to the High Court to review the STB's decision.

The sellers, however, declined to say what their next move would be.

Some sellers whom BT spoke to said they would now be reviewing the various options ahead of them, and seeking legal advice as to how to defend themselves against the lawsuits they each face. They will meet on Sept 7 to discuss their fate.

The majority sellers - who make up some 84 per cent of the owners of Horizon Towers - had in February agreed to sell the development en bloc to HPL and its partners.

The $500 million price tag would have meant that the owners of the 199 apartments would have pocketed about $2.3 million each and the owners of the 11 penthouses at least $4 million each.

Still, it's believed some of the sellers later regretted agreeing to the en bloc sale, when the likes of The Grangeford estate nearby sold subsequently for more than double the Horizon Towers price, on a per sq ft basis.

Some minority sellers - those who didn't agree to the sale - also filed their objections to the sale, on various grounds.

It was after listening to some of the objections filed that the STB decided not to grant the collective sales order.

The minority sellers are not being sued, since they did not ink the sales agreement with HPL and its partners.

Iskandar Development Region-US$1.4b Investment Set To Kickstart Project

Source : The Business Times, August 27, 2007

Mid-East investors, Khazanah in special purpose vehicle

A SPECIAL purpose vehicle comprising majority Middle Eastern interests and Malaysian state investment agency Khazanah Nasional is poised to jump-start the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) with an initial US$1.4 billion development of a nucleus 'Rim City' in events that could be announced as early as Wednesday.

While government officials have been tight-lipped about the project, they concurred that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will be making a visit to Johor on Wednesday to make a 'major announcement'.

The project - done through a masterplan on a greenfield basis - is apparently very ambitious in scale, with one official telling BT that 'this will make the KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre) look like peanuts'.

According to some estimates, the project could be anything between US$4.5 billion and US$6 billion over a period of 10 to 15 years.

The identities of the investors have been kept under wraps although they are said to include Dubai-based Jumeirah Capital and three other parties from Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait.

According to the officials, Khazanah will bring land as its portion of its equity in the special purpose vehicle. The rest of the equity will be held by the Middle Eastern investors who will end up with majority control of the company.

The land will be on a 99-year lease, which means it will ultimately revert to government hands, a feature presumably aimed at avoiding any political backlash.

'Giving them control will commit them to the project and give them a certain comfort level after all the pledges made on the IDR,' one of the officials said. 'But they are very tough negotiators and up until now, the talks are still going on in Singapore. Things are still fluid.'

The IDR project signals a sea change in the attitudes of Middle Eastern investors who have traditionally opted to place their excess funds in the US and Europe. But after the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in the US, more and more have cast their eyes towards South-east Asia.

Recently, the Middle Eastern investment spree in Malaysia swelled with Saudi Telecom paying US$3 billion for a stake in Maxis Telecommunications. But the latest round of Middle East investments in the IDR will dwarf even that.

The IDR project is also expected to radically change the way of doing business in Malaysia, especially for big projects. Given that the Middle Eastern investors will have control of the project, all contracts are likely to be based on open and international tenders to ensure best prices and quality. In that sense, politically-connected companies hoping to ride on the boom through negotiated awards are likely to be disappointed.

Moreover, the presence of the Middle Eastern investors is a shrewd political move as it is likely to quell criticisms about Malaysia selling 'its sovereignty' to foreigners, especially Singaporean interests. The officials said that there would be less to carp about when the foreign investors are Islamic interests.

Finally, the announcement of the project is likely to renew foreign interest in the IDR, which has been criticised as 'all talk and no action'. Indeed, the officials said that a series of announcements was likely in the coming months with many investors already lined up. 'But this will provide the spark,' they said.

Exclusive First Look At Sentosa's IR - Party Strip To Rival Las Vegas

Source : The New Paper, August 27, 2007

24-hour Festive Walk to include world-class dining performances 3 ZONES OF FUN

THINK Sentosa and sun, sand and theme park come to mind.

But shopping? Yes, that will be one of the attractions when the Resorts World at Sentosa opens in 2010.

It will have a collection of flagship concept stores, including swanky fashion outlets, The Universal Store and London's famous toy shop Hamley's that is known to draw about five million customers annually.

The shopping belt will be located at the Festive Walk, the 'spine' of the integrated resort (IR), which is about the size of 50 football fields.

Giving The New Paper on Sunday an exclusive preview of project, MrTan Hee Teck, Resorts World chief executive, said: 'The Festive Walk is what we call the 'spine' of the resort. This is where our guests congregate to dine, shop and watch some of the world's best public performances for free. It will be Sentosa's very own 24-hour Strip.'

The Strip refers to the famous 6.7km entertainment district in Las Vegas, where the hotels, casinos, shows, nightlife and the shopping belt are located.

At the Festive Walk, visitors will be treated to an array of audio-visual performances. When they stroll along the walkway, they will be enthralled by music from the waterfront.

(Above) You can watch some of the world's best public performances for free at the Festive Walk.

The skies will be set ablaze with fireworks and two animatronic cranes will dance in a multi-media show.

Near the waterfront, roving acts will entertain diners at more than 20outlets offering choices from fast food to gourmet cuisine by world-class chefs. Not far away, a parade of street performers will welcome visitors at what will be called the Bull Ring, when they arrive by coach.

As in Las Vegas, the festivities will continue into the night. At the Festive Walk, a variety of nightspots will draw the party crowd till the early hours.

The New Paper on Sunday understands that the resort has been in talks with potential business partners, including nightlife operator Dennis Foo, 54, CEO of St James Power Station.

During the day, visitors will be able to chill-out at the waterside cafes and watch the street performances.

The Walk will host seven daily performances developed by Jeremy Railton, an Emmy-award winner who was behind the 2002 Winter Olympics Games ceremonies in Salt Lake City.

And among the world-class shows at Resorts World will be Le Vie (Life) produced by Mark Fisher, a member of the core team that created Cirque du Soleil's blockbuster, Ka.

There will be no admission charge to the Festive Walk, said a Resorts World spokesman. And there will be an array of non-gated shows at Imagineering, a 1,714-seat theatre featuring water, lights and pyrotechnics.


Mr Tan added: 'The action never stops at the Festive Walk. In the day, you can lunch, shop and catch the performances. When the sun sets, visitors can watch the breathtaking light shows and unwind at one of the many watering holes.'

The Festive Walk cuts through the tropical-themed resort, dividing it into the East and West Zones. There will be more than 10 attractions, including four gated ones - Universal Studios, Marine Life Park, Equarius Water Park and the Maritime Xperiential Musuem.

The East Zone will be taken up by the Universal Studios theme park. When completed, it aims to draw five million visitors annually to 22 attractions. At least 16 rides will be designed for Singapore.

Aquamusement: Equarius Water Park will have a water flume winding around the treetops.

In the West Zone, the Equarius Water Park will feature a 450m flume winding round the treetops. There will also be the Marine Life Park, the world's largest oceanarium and the six-star Espa spa and wellness retreat.

The Central Zone, where the Festive Walk is located, covers the largest area.

There will be a total of 1,800 rooms in six hotels, four of which will be built here. And the casino will be in one of these - Maxims Residences. The other two hotels will be in the West Zone.

Mr Tan of Resorts World said: 'Not all the hotels are positioned in the premium tier. We expect Maxims Residences, Hotel Michael and Espa Villas to serve guests who demand luxurious accommodation.

'The others - Hard Rock Hotel, Festive Hotel and Equarius Hotel - will have rooms for those who want comfortable and affordable themed-accommodation.'

Built at a cost of over $5 billion, Resorts World at Sentosa is expecting to draw about 15 million visitors annually from 2010. And with the opening of the Marina Bay IR in 2009, Singapore is on track to reach its 2015 target of 17 million visitors and $30 billion in tourism spending annually.

Mr Tan said: 'We are now building the resort's foundation and substructure that will house a basement carpark for 4,100cars. This phase is on track for completion in mid-2008.

'We are on schedule and we expect to open in the first quarter of 2010.'

Brains Behind IR Construction Is Beauty Queen

Source : The New Paper, August 27, 2007

AMID the rubble at the construction site, a red jacket stands out.

As you turn your gaze upon it, you realise it belongs to a woman.

Meet Mrs Gretna Yen.

She is the only woman among three deputy project directors overseeing the construction of Resorts World at Sentosa.

And this mother of five children - one aged 25, another 17, and a set of triplets who are 15 - is also a beauty queen.

At 51, she is the reigning Classic MrsSingapore Worldwide 2007.

All-rounder: (Top) Mrs Gretna Yen overseeing construction as deputy project director at Sentosa's Resorts World. (Above) The mother of five as the reigning Classic Mrs Singapore Worldwide 2007.

In November, she will take time off from work to represent Singapore in the International Classic Mrs Worldwide Pagaent in Minnesota.

Mrs Yen told The New Paper on Sunday: 'Some of my colleagues tease me when we meet people. They say, 'You must meet Gretna. Do you know that she is our beauty queen?'

'They always crack me up.'

But behind the girlish laughter is a sharp, articulate woman.


Mrs Yen, who has been an engineer for more than 30 years, earlier worked on One Raffles Quay and the Marina Bay Financial District projects before she took on the job at Resorts World at Sentosa this year.

With 20 others in her team, the pint-sized beauty queen is overseeing the construction phrase at the Central Zone of Resorts World, which will house four hotels and the Festive Walk.

She said: 'This project is challenging because of the size. We are also on a fast track as those on site are working 24/7.

'The other challenging factors include the shortage and cost of materials, depending on the current economy.'

As we stood near the main entrance of what will be Hard Rock Hotel in the Central Zone, she also explained the excavation process in detail.

But has she faced any form of discrimination in the male-dominated industry?

Mrs Yen laughed and said: 'Oh yes. When I started in the '70s, I was a civil engineer. There weren't many women in this line then. At that time, I was working on tunnels, sewage plants and anything underground.

'During one site visit, I was stopped from entering the tunnel while my male colleagues went in.

'I suspect it had a lot to do with superstition. From then onwards, I decided to build everything above ground. Besides, it is more satisfying to see the fruits of one's labour.'

It is a different story today.

'Women in this industry get equal respect,' she said. 'We know the job like the back of ourhand.'

She works a 10-hour shift, but weekends are strictly reserved for her family. Her husband is a 52-year-old IT consultant.

The family lives in a terrace house in Hougang.

She joked: 'My kids will not let me answer my Blackberry phone over the weekends. They want to spend more time with me.

'My husband, on the other hand, does most of the cooking. He's much better in the kitchen than I am.'

Despite her hectic schedule, Mrs Yen has managed to squeeze in some time for charity work.

She hosted a Chinese New Year party for elderly residents at the Henderson Senior Citizen Home in 2005.

In the same year, she was also a volunteer and organiser for the Women's and Children's Healthcare Foundation.

Asked if she is an over-achiever, Mrs Yen responded with a laugh: 'Well, you may say so. But it's a good feeling when you set out to do something and you do it well.'

Wary Of Sub-Prime Ghost

Source : TODAY, Monday, August 27, 2007

Continued market volatility ahead, caution analysts

SINGAPORE shares are expected to trade cautiously this week on persistent concerns that the effects of a crisis in United States sub-prime credits are far from over, dealers said.

Shares regained their bearings following sharp falls last week, but analysts autioned volatility will remain with concerns over whether more sub-prime-related problems might surface, and whether global economic growth might be hurt.

At home, strong July factory output data may bolster sentiment, but news late on Friday that the Singapore Exchange would look into DBS Group Holdings’ $1.1-billion of extra exposure to collateralised debt obligations than it had previously reported could renew pressure on banking stocks.

The Straits Times Index soared 238.74 points, or 7.63 per cent, to finish at 3,369.45 on Friday.

Average daily volume totalled 2.19 billion shares valued at $2.54 billion last week, compared with 2.67 billion shares worth $2.79 billion the week before.

“The risk of a US recession is always there,” CIMB-GK Research regional economist Song Seng Wun said.

“We won’t be immune to the effects of an economic slowdown in the US but we (in Asia) are able to absorb it a bit better now.”

Standard and Poor’s said on Friday that Asian economies should weather any fallout from the current turmoil in global financial and stock markets sparked by the US subprime credit problems. Most regional economies appear to have learned their lessons from the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and 1998, it said.

Lehman Brothers said in its latest Global Weekly Economic Monitor issued over the weekend, that it cut its global growth outlook — a view it had kept since December. The US housing recession has turned out worse than it had expected, and is likely to stretch through to the third quarter of next year, the report stated. Meanwhile, the risks of a gloomier world economic outlook have risen as the sub-prime mortgage crisis continues to unfold.

For Asia, excluding Japan, economic growth is now forecast at 8.3 per cent this year, versus its earlier 8.4 per cent, Lehman said. “The main channel is weaker global demand for Asian exports, but the global capital market sell-off may also hurt the region’s real economies through financial linkages — net capital outflows, negative wealth effects and higher external borrowing costs,” the bank said Singapore’s manufacturing sector continued to do well. Last month, it expanded faster than forecast as pharmaceutical production grew at a robust pace and the electronics sector showed signs of a turnaround.

The positive news, however, was marred by DBS confirming that it has $2.4 billion worth of exposure to collateralised debt obligations, more than the $1.3-billion exposure it had initially disclosed on Aug 7. — AGENCIES

Are ERP Hikes The Only Way?

Source : TODAY, Monday, August 27, 2007

Govt can build more ‘multi-level’ expressways

I WAS puzzled to hear the Government’s planned course of action to ease traffic congestion — raise ERP charges and build more gantries. These measures seem to place the burden of tackling these traffic congestion woes on road users.

How was the decision to hike ERP charges made? It would have been helpful if the Government had shed more light on its research that was conducted before this decision was made.

This would enable everyone to better understand the problems at stake and possibly chip in to offer solutions to ease the bottlenecks on our roads.

I believe that there are some options we can still explore, before we decide to build more gantries and increase ERP charges. Here’s my take on how we can help to ease congestion on the roads:

First, explore the idea of building more multi-level tiers on our existing expressways, similar to those we see in the United States. I imagine having an overhead expressway above the CTE, from Ang Mo Kio Ave 1 to Yishun, would alleviate congestion. Vehicles exiting the CTE from Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, 3 and 5 may benefit from this.

Second, train Singaporeans to be better drivers. Many of the bottlenecks on the roads actually stem from drivers who excessively reduce their speeds in their overzealous attempts to observe the speed limit!

The Government and road users have a mutual obligation to work out a solution together. I am confident that citizens would not mind paying the additional ERP charges, if the decision-making process had been more transparent.

Cost isn’t just to the wallet

Letter from LOKE YUE CHONG

I AM somewhat disappointed that despite the resources available to the Government to conduct in-depth studies on traffic problems over many years, it seems the only “solution” is still higher ERP charges, extended ERP hours and more gantries.

Besides the burden of the ever-increasing cost of motoring, there are two other less obvious, but worrying, consequences.

First, some gantries will be operational from 7am. This would force many people to set off for work earlier. With many already working longer hours, one wonders whether this would deprive more of sufficient rest.

What is the long-term impact of reduced rest on the health of the working population?

Will there be a higher risk of road accidents, if many of the drivers are not fully rested?

Second, with more people starting earlier and returning home later, they will have less time to spend with family. They may be more tired and less likely to be in the best frame of mind for quality family time.

Flexible, Basic And Cheap Annuity Scheme

Source : TODAY, Monday, August 27, 2007

Committee will ensure scheme is affordable to all in Singapore

Flexible, basic and cheap — this is what the compulsory annuity will be — promised Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

To ensure this, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is setting up a committee comprising unionists, social workers, insurance industry experts and other financial figures.

This was announced by Mr Lee at a dialogue with members of Young National Trades Union Congress at the Ang Mo Kio Hub on Saturday.

Annuities have become the talking point among Singaporeans since the National Day Rally, when PM Lee announced that the Government would introduce a compulsory scheme for those under 50 years old.

Annuities involve a person investing a lump sum with an insurer, who then pays him a monthly sum for life. Here are extracts of what Mr Lee said during the dialogue:

When you are young, it is very hard to imagine that one day you will be 80 years old. In fact it’s quite hard to imagine that one day you will be 50 years old.

But I assure you many, many of you will be 50 years old and quite many of you will one day be 80 years old. I’m worrying now for that day when it comes.

I don’t want you to say: “50 years ago the government just switched off, now I’m left with nothing.”

I don’t want to have anybody who is 85 or 90 years old say: “My CPF is finished, I have no insurance and now I need to live and nobody will look after me, medical care, house, food, everything. Then what happens? That’s the problem. Therefore we have to deal with this.

What happens after you reach 85, what happens when you reach 90 or 95? I think you will have a problem.

If it is your problem and you say: “Okay, this is my problem, I sign down here that when I’m 90 years old if I have no money I won’t look for the government, I won’t look for my MP, I won’t do anything, my family will look after me,” then maybe that’s a private problem.

But … if you are 85, 90 years old and you are unable to take care of yourself or to provide for yourself, it’s not just your own problem, it’s also the society’s problem and we have to help to look after you, or rather the society will have to look after us.

Your CPF has 34.5 per cent now and you got to buy the house, you got to pay for medical care, how can you afford to put aside enough money for retirement?

For that to happen, you will have to pay CPF 50, 55 per cent. Then maybe I can put away enough money for the future. If I don’t use the CPF, if you say: “The Government will pay,” what you mean is your children, your grandchildren when they work, they will pay taxes.

But if I belong to that generation of children or grandchildren and I have to pay taxes for the senior citizens in Singapore, I think I’ll be looking for other places to work where the taxes are less and the burden is less, I will be gone.

There are two ways. One, I can take the CPF minimum sum and take longer to pay it out. Instead of 20 years, 25 or 30 or 35 years, to make sure that it lasts long enough. But the amount will be smaller.

The other way is I take the minimum sum, say 20 years, this is drawn down, the balance I buy insurance. If by chance I live long enough to be 85 years old, after 85, the insurance company will pay me or CPF will pay me every month so many dollars as long as I live.

If I didn’t make it to 85, I don’t need that money, so what I have contributed will go to others, because it’s an insurance pool. Those who live longer will get the money. You don’t know if you will live longer when you join, but if you are the one who lives longer, you will be okay.

That’s the idea of the longevity insurance.

I think we want to allow as much flexibility in the scheme as possible, keep it basic, keep it cheap, low cost.

I don’t want to design the scheme now because I’m not an insurance agent but I think we should study this and then get people to work on this and come to some conclusion. I talked to Ng Eng Hen, the Minister, and he suggested MOM will form a committee to look into this.

We’ll get people involved from the unions, from the industry who do the insurance business, we’ll involve social workers who know what the old folks’ requirements are. We’ll involve financial types, they know how to structure these schemes and come up with some workable proposals, how we can make this idea of longevity insurance or annuity scheme work, with as much flexibility in it as possible.

Extending ERP: Other Solutions Needed

Source : The Straits Times Forum News, Aug 27, 2007

THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) has decided to put put up more gantries and alter Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) hours to manage traffic congestion.

But how does the LTA expect motorists to remember what times each gantry's operation begins and ends, with wide variations in times from 7am to 10.30pm depending where you drive?

More HDB estates are being built along the Central Expressway (CTE) and other expressways - so naturally the car population on these highways will escalate.

Hitting motorists in the pocket is both unfair and heavy-handed.

The three Hobson's choices given to us are sadly lacking and dismal - alternative roads, unreliable public buses and elusive taxis.

Lim Boon Hee

I READ with astonishment the measures taken by the LTA to curb peak hour traffic on expressways. For many years now, the LTA has decided the only way to prevent congestion on expressways is to charge higher and higher ERP rates. Apparently, this measure has not succeeded, yet the LTA has again decided to raise ERP rates, extend operating hours as well as put up new gantries.

I hope the LTA will come up with other innovative solutions which will be more successful in curbing peak hour congestion rather than rely on the tried, tested and unsuccessful ERP system.

Joshua Lim Boon Yew

I HOPE the LTA will plan the new gantry on the northbound CTE carefully. As reported in the media, this new gantry is to manage congestion caused by motorists using the northbound CTE to exit onto the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE).

If this is the case, the new gantry should be located only at the exit point to the PIE and not across the whole northbound CTE. Otherwise motorists not exiting onto the PIE will be charged twice, once at the new gantry and again at the existing gantry at the Braddell exit.

Tan Jiann Ching

US Recession Risk Highest Since 9/11: Summers

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 27, 2007

WASHINGTON - FORMER US Treasury secretary Larry Summers said on Sunday it was too early to declare the financial markets crisis over and said chances had risen sharply of an economic downturn in the United States.

Despite interventions by the US Federal Reserve last week which appeared to reverse heavy selling pressure over the collapsing US housing debt market, Mr Summers said the risk of recession was its highest since the immediate aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.

'We certainly saw some repair and some return to normality this week, but I think it would be far premature to judge this crisis over for at least two reasons,' he told ABC television.

'First, we can't yet know that there aren't more shoes to drop in the financial area,' he said, referring to the massive loss of confidence in securitised housing loans as US real estate prices sag.

'Second, we haven't yet had the time to observe what all this is going to mean for the real economy and for the actual process of job creation in our economy.

'I do not think we yet have ... a basis of making a prediction that there will be a recession, but I would say that the risks of recession are now greater than they've been any time since the period in the aftermath of 9/11.'

Mr Summers, who headed the US Treasury from 1999 to 2001 and then was president of Harvard University until a year ago, criticised the administration for not using government-backed mortgage lenders to help homeowners facing default on their loans.

He said policy should not be targeted at protecting investors or corporate lenders in the risky 'subprime' sector, which targets borrowers with patchy credit records.

'You know, the substantial majority of the firms that were in the subprime mortgage business have already gone out of business. Many of the firms that remain have seen their stock prices fall by half or more,' said Mr Summers, now with the New York investment bank DE Shaw & Co.

'But the focus shouldn't be on those firms. The focus should be on the homeowner. The focus should be on the guy who bought a mortgage,' he said. -- AFP

Bad Credit Tops Terrorism As Biggest Risk To Economy: Nabe

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 27, 2007

NEW YORK - BAD credit has supplanted terrorism as the gravest immediate risk threatening the economy, a key national research group reported on Monday.

Borrowers' withering ability to pay their bills and the subsequent fallout in the credit markets this summer topped the list of short-term risks on peoples' minds, according to a survey of 258 members conducted by the National Association of Business Economics.

Nabe, a Washington-based association, said 32 per cent of its surveyed members cited loan defaults and excessive debt as their biggest near-term concern.

Only 20 per cent of members cited defence and terrorism as their biggest immediate worry, down from 35 per cent when the survey was last conducted in March. Credit risk also topped gas prices, inflation and government spending.

'Financial market turmoil has shifted the focus away from terrorism and towards subprime and other credit problems as the most important near-term threats to the US economy,' said Carl Tannenbaum, president of Nabe and the chief economist at LaSalle Bank/ABN Amro.

Market tumble
The market turmoil began earlier this year, when mortgage lenders like New Century Financial Corp. and H&R Block Inc.'s Option One Mortgage Corp. unit reported their clients were missing payments on their home loans more frequently.

This led the Wall Street banks that finance the mortgage market to ultimately pull much of their money out. With cash draining rapidly from the industry, more than 50 lenders have gone bankrupt and a number of investment funds have gone under.

Victims of this flare-up include two of the 10 biggest mortgage lenders in America and two hedge funds managed by Bear Stearns Cos.

Loan brokers say it has become more difficult for some people to line up mortgages. Subprime loans, or loans to people with spotty credit histories, have all but disappeared as lenders scale back or shut down completely.

The shakeout in the subprime mortgage market forced investors around the world to reassess how much risk they were willing to stomach. This led to an exodus of cash from investments like securities backed by home loans, short-term corporate bonds and stocks whose values were inflated because they were perceived as takeover targets.

In the past five weeks, the stock market has lost 5 per cent. The US dollar fell to an all-time low versus the euro. A number of companies have had to cancel bond sales because of an absence of buyers.

And, the Federal Reserve has lent billions of dollars to banks from its 'discount window,' normally associated with bailouts for struggling financial institutions. The Fed this month issued a statement that the risks to the economy have risen considerably and traders ramped up their expectations the Fed would cut targets for interest rates this year.

The tumult in the financial markets has led businesses to revisit their interpretation of the housing boom earlier this decade and the easy credit that fuelled it, Nabe said. The proportion of surveyed members who call it a 'serious national bubble' more than doubled from two years ago to 29 per cent, the group said.

Nabe said the market turmoil is considered a short-term risk because the five-year outlook for housing is still strong. More surveyed members expect home values to appreciate in the next five years than fall. Very few expect a serious drop in home prices in the next five years.

The greatest long-term risk facing the economy is still health care costs and the medical needs of an aging population, Nabe said. -- AP

Strong US Data Helps Asian Stocks Rise

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 27, 2007

Asian stocks rose on Monday, taking their cue from a Wall Street rally triggered by surprisingly strong economic data.

The solid US housing and durable goods numbers on Friday helped quell fears about the impact of the worst credit market turmoil of the decade on the outlook for global growth and corporate profits.

This renewed investors' appetite for riskier assets but weighed on Japanese government bonds.

'Investors will certainly welcome the sense of relative calm returning to global financial markets,' said Guy Hutchings, chief executive officer at MFS Investment Management.

'Investors should still prepare for further uncertainty in weeks ahead and until such time as losses related to the subprime crisis become apparent,' he added.

Japanese share prices closed 0.32 per cent higher on Monday as early gains shrank in late trading amid growing caution ahead of new US housing data, dealers said.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange's benchmark Nikkei-225 index of leading shares rose 52.42 points to close at 16,301.39, off the day's high of 16,413.79 touched in early afternoon trade.

The broader Topix index of all first-section shares closed up 1.91 points or 0.12 per cent at 1,587.76.

The market was up more than one per cent in morning trade after solid gains on Wall Street on Friday following surprisingly strong US housing data.

But dealers said the market grew cautious looking to further housing data due out later on Monday in the United States.

Dealers said the market was not overly impacted by reports of new members in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet as it already saw the premier as weak following a crushing election defeat last month.

China's main stock index surged 1.40 per cent to a fresh record high on Monday, buoyed by the blue chips favoured by mutual funds, although most stocks fell on profit-taking.

The Shanghai Composite Index ended the morning at 5,179.009 points, off an intra-day high of 5,192.061. But losing Shanghai stocks outnumbered gainers by 493 to 341.

Turnover in Shanghai A shares climbed to 94.0 billion yuan (S$18.9 billion) from Friday morning's 84.3 billion yuan because of funds' aggressive buying of banking and steel blue chips in particular.

Hong Kong share prices finished the Monday morning session 1.97 per cent higher as index heavyweight China Mobile hit a record high on its strong gains in the United States, dealers said.

They said the stock was also boosted on hopes that it would be a major beneficiary from mainland individual investments in Hong Kong under Beijing's eased overseas investment rules.

The Hang Seng index closed the morning up 450.5 points at 23,372.39, off a high of 23,467.39 and a low of 23,285.71. Turnover was heavy at HK$67.43 billion(S$13.1 billion).

The Hang Seng China Enterprises index was up 553.14 points or 4.2 per cent at 13,731.23.

Share prices on Bursa Malaysia were firmer at mid-morning today led by gains on selected counters like Bumiputra-Commerce after announcing stronger half-year financial results last Friday.

At midday the benchmark Composite Index rose 7.77 points to 1,281.29. -- REUTERS, BERNAMA, AFP

M-East Investors Set To Pump $1.5b Into IDR

Source : The Straits Times, Aug 27, 2007

Agreement on first large foreign deal in Johor region may be reached this week

KUALA LUMPUR - A GROUP of Middle Eastern investors, including Saudi Arabia's diversified Hariri Group, is set to plough an initial investment of over US$1 billion (S$1.53 billion) into the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) in Johor.

The deal would be the first large foreign investment into the IDR and could provide a boost for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's pet economic project, analysts say.

Government officials say talks between the foreign investors and state investment arm Khazanah Nasional are in the final stages. An agreement could be reached as early as this week.

Officials say the other investors were groups from Abu Dhabi and Dubai which have established themselves as builders of new cities. The total amount of Middle East investments could be as much as US$6 billion in coming years, they say.

The IDR is a 2,217 sq km area in southern Johor that Malaysia has targeted as its next fast-growth area by attracting foreign investors, including those from Singapore.

Financial executives close to ongoing negotiations say the development will be a joint venture between Khazanah and the Middle Eastern groups.

The foreign investors will own a more than 50 per cent stake in the planned project, which will include a financial centre, a medical city and an entertainment enclave.

Khazanah's equity in the project will be in the form of the land that it will provide.

The size of the land and its valuation have yet to be ironed out, the executives say.

'This will mark a huge turning point for Iskandar because this is the economic component for the infrastructure that will be pumped into the project,' said Mr Manu Bhaskaran, regional director of the Washington-based Centennial Group, a strategic advisory firm.

The IDR is the cornerstone of Datuk Seri Abdullah's national economic agenda and represents a major shift away from the infrastructure and heavy industries strategy pursued by his predecessor Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

A key feature of PM Abdullah's economic plan is the creation of so-called economic clusters to spread growth throughout Malaysia.

The IDR is also meant to be a template for developing two other growth centres covering the east coast states, and the north-west states of Peninsular Malaysia.

And unlike past undertakings, such as the Johor's Tanjung Pelepas Port which was built to claw away business from Singapore, government planners say the IDR is aimed at leveraging on Singapore's economy.

The planned investments underscores the growing trend among Middle Eastern investors to look for new destinations to plough their excess oil incomes outside traditional centres such as the United States.

Financial executives involved in the IDR say the project is also drawing interest from Middle Eastern investors because of the competitive nature of companies from that part of the world.

They say the interest from Abu Dhabi and Dubai investors is partly because Singapore has been successful in attracting investments from Qatar, particularly the Al-Thani family.

Analysts also say that Singapore's economic boom which has led to a rise in the cost of doing business in the island state could give the Iskandar region a boost.

'Iskandar could become the natural outlet for businesses in Singapore,' said Centennial's Mr Manu. 'But Malaysia must ensure there is a seamless access between Iskandar and Singapore. That will be the main challenge.'

Floating Condo Takes Opulence To High Seas

Source : The Straits Times, August 27, 2007

S'pore buyers can preview luxury liner as marketing drive makes stop here

GLAMOROUS LIFE: The 219m luxury vessel will offer lots of entertainment, including four restaurants and a casino. Each suite of The Four Seasons Ocean Residences will come with floor- to-ceiling windows, living room areas and master bedrooms with walk-in dressing rooms and bathrooms. -- PHOTOS: FOUR SEASONS OCEAN RESIDENCES

DO YOU feel like you have been living too long in one place and are now longing and pining for life on the high seas? Then try splurging some of that hard-earned money on a plush home onboard a luxury liner.

It is a simple - albeit opulence-laden - concept. Your multimillion-dollar home is part of a lavish vessel that plies the world's oceans, calling at exotic ports along the way.

As the shipboard homes are mega-pricey, there is no chance of being stuck at sea with any of the great unwashed with their sub-prime mortgages - and you can always count on a great ocean view.

Singaporeans can check out the concept next month, when Savills International unveils The Four Seasons Ocean Residences - 112 private residences on a 219m luxury vessel with staff and high-end services - at the Four Seasons Hotel here.

The homes range in size from 797 sq ft to nearly 8,000 sq ft. Most are two- and three-bedders, with features that include floor-to-ceiling windows, living room areas, master bedroom suites with walk-in dressing rooms and bathrooms en suite, kitchens, and staff entrances.

Prices range from 2.885 million euros (S$5.97 million), or about 3,500 euros per sq ft, for a 797 sq ft one- bedder to 30 million euros for a 7,860 sq ft four-bedroom, three-storey penthouse.

The liner - due for completion in 2010 - will offer plenty of entertainment, including four restaurants, an 11,000 sq ft spa, a style casino, a supermarket, a wine cellar and a driving range.

There will also be concierge service and an excursion coordinator to arrange for those exotic and expensive tours. Yearly service charges start from 72,000 euros.

The liner will average about 250 days in port a year and sail to places like Antarctica and events such as the 2012 Olympics in London and the F1 Grand Prix in Monaco.

Developer BV International Ocean Holdings, a joint venture between Bayview Financial and Ocean Development Group, picked Singapore as one of the centres to promote the floating condo.

'We are focusing on a very select group of people at the highest socio-economic level,' said Mr Danny Warman, vice-president of Bayview Financial, a privately held United States-based real estate investment and mortgage finance company.

'Singapore definitely has a significant amount of wealth. It's one of the most important financial centres in the world,' he said.

The marketing campaign started in London in May and then moved to New York and South Africa. Singapore will be the first Asian stop.

However, keen buyers can select units only at four global sales events, starting in Hong Kong on Sept 11 to 12. The other ones will be in a city in Europe, the Bahamas and the US.

'The beauty of it is that owners of the residences would be able to travel and explore the world without having ever to leave their home,' said Mr Warman.

Because the developer wants to have 'global diversity' on board, it will also be marketed in places such as Tokyo, Moscow and Mumbai.

There is only one other floating condo liner - The World of ResidenSea, which set sail from Oslo in 2002 with about 70 residents on board. There were reports at the time that it had trouble selling its residences.

More than a decade later, the market has changed, and more of these floating residences are likely to come. Mr Warman said they are selling a new product with strong branding. 'As soon as we sell out this one, we will do another one,' he said.

Japanese Building Firm Bags Award For Worksite Safety

Source : The Strait Times, 27 August 07

NOT a single major accident, sinkhole or stop-work order over four years. That is the safety record of Japanese construction firm Taisei.

Last week, the company was awarded the Land Transport Authority (LTA) Contractor Challenge Shield for safe worksite practices.

The award was for its Circle Line contract 853, to build the Marymount station and tunnel.

Taisei also won the authority's inaugural Construction Environmental Excellence Award for achievements such as keeping the construction area totally free of dengue breeding sites during the recent dengue outbreak.

The awards, given out at LTA's annual safety award convention, were based on site visits by a panel of judges as well as an oral presentation.

Taisei encourages all workers to report unsafe work practices and conditions by setting up a 24-hour hotline.

The company also regularly conducts emergency exercises and drills.

Taisei's head of safety, health and environment, Mr T. Suresh Kumar, said: 'The company's top management sets a high bar for safe work practices, and that percolates down to all the staff.'

The convention's safety theme this year - 'heavy lifting operations' - focused on areas such as preventing cranes from toppling.

Over the past decade, there have been 28 cases of cranes toppling in LTA worksites, due to mechanical failure and human error.

Speaking at the event, Minister of State for Transport Lim Hwee Hua also announced a new biennial award to recognise individuals and organisations that contribute to the land transport industry.

The Land Transport Excellence Awards will recognise areas such as provision of land transport services and best use of technology in land transport systems.

Individuals can be nominated too. Nominations open next month until Oct 12. The awards will be given out next February.

LTA May Replace Circle Line Contractor

Source : The Strait Times, 27 August 07

New contractors called to finish 2 stations, a project secured initially by Swedish firm NCC

SWEDEN'S NCC International may become the first Circle Line MRT contractor to be replaced midway through a project, following disputes with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and a concrete supplier.

The LTA has called for new contractors to finish the MacPherson and Tai Seng stations - two of five in Stage 2 of the 33km Circle Line.

In a tender which closed earlier this month, the LTA described the job as 'major outstanding works' at the two stations.

The project was initially secured by NCC and Singapore's Econ Corp in 2002 for more than $300 million. Econ dropped out in 2005 because of financial troubles.

The fresh tender for 'major outstanding works' attracted bids from three local companies: Chye Soon Construction, which made a bid of $17.48 million; Hock Lian Seng Infrastructure ($17.91 million); and KTC Civil Engineering and Construction ($20.97 million).

An LTA spokesman said the winner will be appointed next month.

She said NCC was informed late last year that it was 'not fulfilling'' its contractual obligations. LTA followed up with a formal letter early this year.

She did not elaborate on what NCC failed to do.

'LTA has a right to appoint another contractor to carry out part or whole of the work specified in the contract if the contractor fails to carry out the work within the terms of contract,'' she said.

But she added that NCC 'is expected to work with the new contractor to complete the remaining works for the two stations''.

NCC, a Swedish construction giant with sales of 56 billion Swedish kronor (S$12.4 billion), would not comment beyond saying it would see to the completion of the stations.

Asked why NCC would stay to work with the new party if it was found to be wanting, and how much NCC would be paid, the LTA spokesman would only say 'we are unable to disclose the details as the contract terms are privy to parties bound by the contract''.

Industry players said NCC, a relative newcomer to LTA work, may be the first casualty of cost overruns which have besieged Circle Line projects since the Nicoll Highway collapse in 2004.

The problem worsened when concrete prices nearly trebled to $200 per cubic metre after Indonesia imposed a ban on land sand exports and detained barges shipping granite to Singapore early this year.

Two months ago, NCC's lawsuit against concrete supplier Alliance Concrete Singapore came before the court. The judge asked the two parties to submit the case for arbitration instead.

NCC is not the only builder having difficulties with the Circle Line. Since the Nicoll Highway tragedy in 2004, construction and safety standards have become far more stringent, resulting in delays and higher costs.

Unexpected soil conditions in the western half of the line - which Japanese contractor Taisei noted had made work 'profoundly challenging'' - have aggravated the situation.

The Straits Times understands that Circle Line contractors are submitting several hundred million dollars worth of claims to the LTA.

One industry source said: 'Almost every contractor on the Circle Line is having a cash-flow problem. Cash flow is a contractor's lifeline.''

The LTA spokesman said all claims 'are being evaluated and considered under the provisions of the contract''.

She added that 'issues related to the cost of sand are being handled in accordance with the Government Compensation Framework''. The Government had said it would bear up to 75 per cent of construction cost increases arising from Indonesia's ban.

'The total impact of the cost increase is still being assessed,'' she said.

Despite all the problems, the LTA said 'our plans to open the Circle Line from 2010 have not changed''.

Underpass job also affected

THE Land Transport Authority will next look for contractors to build an underpass on Upper Paya Lebar Road - a project that was part of NCC International's Circle Line MRT contract.

The underpass will allow motorists in the Paya Lebar and Upper Paya Lebar areas to bypass traffic lights at the Bartley Road junction.

It is one of two traffic improvement schemes to alleviate jams in the area.

The other is a viaduct linking Bartley Road to Tampines Avenue 10, which was due for completion last year.

It was delayed when the previous contractor L&M Prestressing ran into financial difficulties.

A new contractor, Hock Lian Seng, is scheduled to complete the viaduct in 2009.

'We are making arrangements to appoint a contractor for the underpass,' an LTA spokesman said.

What's In A Condo Name? More Than You Can Imagine

Source : The Strait Times, 27 August 07

IF PROPERTY developer Lippo Group had its way, the condominium it is building in Kim Seng Road would be called Trinity rather than Trillium.

But the group's original application for 'Trinity Towers' was deemed too 'religious' by the authorities, revealed Lippo's executive director Thio Gim Hock.

'It was rejected because it had religious connotations. They even said not to bother to appeal,' he said. The three-tower project was renamed Trillium, after the name of a three-petal flower.

Now, as Lippo and other developers gear up to launch a slew of new condos, they are cracking their heads over what to name them. It may seem like a small problem, but unexpected rejections such as the one Lippo received can make the task surprisingly knotty.

Indeed, the name game is so important that Mr Simon Cheong, head of luxury developer SC Global, personally names each of his projects - from the iconic The Boulevard Residence to the latest Marq on Paterson Hill.

Larger developers, such as Frasers Centrepoint and City Developments (CDL), pick names from proposals that sometimes number in the hundreds.

At CDL, the final say for condo names lies with executive chairman Kwek Leng Beng. But suggestions are pooled from all sources, including an occasional staff competition. Even Mrs Kwek reportedly put in her two cents' worth for CDL's latest project, Cliveden at Grange.

The main reason naming a condo is not as easy as just calling it The ABC lies in a surprisingly strict set of rules for building and estate names, outlined by the Street and Building Names Board (SBNB).

For instance, condo names, according to a fairly recent rule change by SBNB, must not end with 'park' - in case the project is mistaken for an actual park.

But more than 100 condos already have that word in their names, including older estates Bedok Park and Clementi Park. To get around the rule, developers have recently taken to using the French word 'parc' instead and putting it in front of the name, such as in Parc Emily.

SBNB also advises against using 'place' and 'link' because the terms are also used for road names. 'Tower' can be used only for buildings of at least 30 storeys, and 'villa' only for landed houses. And 'city' - such as in the 910-unit City Square Residences or the 600-unit Citylights - is applicable only for developments 'on a grand scale', says SBNB.

With more and more words struck out over the years, it is no wonder many developers now find it easier to come up with a whole new one.

This has led to the latest rage in condo-naming: coined words, such as in The Lumos in Leonie Hill and The Marq.

'It's partly because developers are running out of names, and partly because of the new guidelines on naming projects,' said Ms Diana Kuik, executive director of Sim Lian Land. 'It is now a very 'in' thing to do as it gives the project a modern feel.'

Sim Lian's Viz at Holland is a good example. 'The condo is near Holland Village, and there's a lot of buzz and activity in the area,' said Ms Kuik.

'So we combined 'village' and 'buzz' to get 'Viz'. It's short, easy to remember, and hip-sounding.'

But newly coined names are only one of the current trends in a market where condo names appear to come and go in waves of fashion.

In fact, Ms Kuik said it is often possible to distinguish a condo's age from its name.

'If you look at a name, you can tell which era the development was built in,' she noted. 'Anything with 'garden' or 'view' is likely to be in the 1980s. If it's 'vale', probably the 1990s, and if it starts with 'The', it's after 2000.'

Other current naming fads include the almost ubiquitous '@' sign - officially known as the 'commercial at' and unofficially used in every attempt to be trendy. At least 30 condos in Singapore boast this symbol. Almost all are new projects that surfaced after the boom.

Property watchers have also observed that the recent boom in high-end condos has led to aproliferation of names using 'residences'. Indeed, about half the 50-odd condos in this category - including Marina Bay Residences and The Orchard Residences - are located downtown or in the prime districts of 9 to 11.

A more longstanding trend is foreign words. These have long been de rigueur among developers, who seem to think they add a certain je ne sais quoi (meaning 'an indescribable attribute') to a moniker.

For instance, there are 34 condos here with names that start with 'Casa', the Spanish word for 'house'. Another 21 begin with 'Le' or 'La', the French words for 'the'.

Some projects are named after actual foreign locations, such as Cote d'Azur in Marine Parade, which sits uncomfortably on the tongues of most Singaporeans.

But while foreign names might sound more chi-chi, they are also more chancy.

One developer related the story of how SBNB once rejected a French name for a condo because the word sounded like 'danger' in English.

'We wanted to name the condo 'Perle', which means 'Pearl' in French,' the developer said. 'But the board said it sounded too much like 'peril', so we had to change it.'

Interestingly, while SBNB is sticky on grammatical accuracy in the use of 'Le' and 'La' - they refer to male and female nouns respectively in French - it appears unconcerned about condo names that begin with 'De' or 'D'.

'De' is a French proposition that usually means 'of' or 'for'. It is used as 'D' only if followed by a word starting with a vowel.

But Singapore's condos include such grammatical eyesores as D'Dalvey and D'Hillside Loft. The Straits Times understands that these are considered to be coined words, rather than foreign derivatives, and thus allowable.

As developers try to stay on SBNB's good side, straightforward combinations of road names and numbers are also getting popular. The latest trend is names beginning with 'One', such as One Shenton, which 14 condos have adopted.

But this does not mean developers have no room for creativity, as shown by the unusual 2 rvg and 66 OGR, which stand for River Valley Grove and Orange Grove Road, respectively.

Even if a name does not meet with contention by SBNB, other unexpected circumstances may force it to be changed at the last minute.

Industry insiders, for instance, know that Pharos on the Waterfront was the original name for the CDL condo near the Singapore River that is now called Tribeca. But what they might not know is that the name was changed mere weeks before the condo's launch because CDL discovered that Pharos referred to a lighthouse that had been destroyed by an earthquake.

'We didn't want anyone to make the association,' said CDL general manager Chia Ngiang Hong with a laugh.

At the end of the day, however, a project's name is probably one of the lowest factors on a buyer's list of priorities, said Mr Ku Swee Yong, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore. 'The product quality and returns potential are the top things people look at. In the final evaluation, buyers almost never consider names.'

CDL May Seek Partners To Expand Overseas

Source : The Business Times, 27 August 07

But it remains steadfast in being the proxy to S'pore property market

Active in Korea: Besides the 5-star Millennium Seoul Hilton Hotel, CDL developed and sold 3 commercial projects. It's set to embark on a commercial project in Incheon

CITY Developments Ltd (CDL) is looking for opportunities to expand to regional markets like Korea, and could be seeking new partners in the process.

CDL announced earlier this month that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Korea's DC Chemical Company Limited (DCC) to develop a large scale integrated commercial centre in Incheon, Korea.

CDL also said that it was looking to invest between US$150 million and US$300 million in equity in the development together with 'affiliates'.

CDL declined to name its affiliates, but a possible partner could be the Dubai investment company, Istithmar.

In June, CDL and Isthimar each took 40 per cent stakes in Tune Hospitality Investments to develop 30 budget hotels across South-east Asia.

It was also reported earlier that Istithmar is planning to buy Asian property assets worth at least US$250 million and expects its real estate portfolio in the region to double in size by year end.

A spokesman for CDL said that the group already has overseas investments either directly or through joint ventures, foreign real estate funds and its hotel investment, and will continue to explore property investments overseas.

It added that it has 'mobilised its resources to focus on those markets that it knows best'.

CDL is already active in Korea. Besides the five-star Millennium Seoul Hilton Hotel, it developed and sold three commercial projects there. Other non-hospitality projects in Asia include the Umeda Pacific Building in Osaka and The Exchange Tower in Bangkok.

The Incheon site that it is eyeing measures 1.55 million sq m and is mostly owned by DCC and its affiliates.

DCC is a producer of carbon black, soda ash and pitch.

The anchor facility on the 1.55 million sq m site is an integrated commercial centre on a 281,850 sq m parcel of land which will comprise a five-star hotel, a Grade-A office tower, a serviced residence, a retail podium and other mixed-use facilities.

CDL said that another 380,000 sq m parcel of land north of the integrated commercial centre has been slated for residential development.

Development work is scheduled to begin in 2009.

Although the property developer is looking overseas, CDL's spokesman said: 'Given the strong rising domestic market, the group remains steadfast to its strategy of being the proxy to the Singapore property market.'