Saturday, April 5, 2008

Still Bullish On Singapore Property

Source : The Business Times, April 5, 2008

DESPITE the US subprime crisis, which will have a cyclical impact, Liew Mun Leong remains bullish on Singapore’s property market in the medium term.

‘Main street America is suffering from the sins and mistakes of Wall Street,’ he says. ‘And when main street gets hit, that will affect Asia, we can’t run away from it.’

However, Singapore’s property market has some strong underpinnings, he maintains. Most importantly, the drivers of Singapore’s property market have changed in recent years. ‘The rise in property prices since 2002 is no longer due to domestic policy changes such as the liberalisation of CPF and the HDB sub-sale policy.

‘It is driven by the remaking of Singapore. Singapore as a global city, as a gateway to Asia, the integrated resorts, plus the displacement demand from en-bloc sales.’

The change in the number and profile of foreign buyers is also notable, he points out. ‘In the past foreign buyers were mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia. But now, there are big buyers from at least 12 countries.’

The proportion of foreign buyers for private properties has also risen from 13.7 percent of the total in 1996 to 25 per cent in 1997. And the number of foreign professionals coming to live in Singapore has tripled over that period, as has foreign direct investment.

At the same time, the affordability of private residential properties as measured by mortgage payments as a percentage of household income has improved, going from around 46 per cent to 36 per cent.

And then Mr. Liew points to the big picture: ‘Singapore has 700 sq km, with 4.5 million people. The population is projected to grow to more than 6 million, but the city cannot grow. If we reclaim another 11 per cent we’ll be in international waters already.’

‘Another point, I tell foreigners. Compare putting $5 million in a house in Singapore with putting $5 million in a house in, say, Bangkok or Jakarta. In Singapore, the government provides so much support in the form of infrastructure. What infrastructure support would you get in Bangkok or Jakarta? This is an important issue when you buy property. Investors realise this.

‘So, if you analyse all the fundamentals, Singapore as a global city is a winning formula. And I’m not saying this because I’m selling property.’

Plot Ratios May Change In Certain Local Conditions: Mah

Source : The Business Times, April 5, 2008

WILL plot ratios go up in the draft Master Plan 2008?

‘There will be changes in certain places to reflect certain local situations, local conditions,’ National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said yesterday without elaborating.

But there will ‘not be a major review across-the-board’ of plot ratios for the draft Master Plan 2008, he said. Plot ratio is the ratio of maximum gross floor area (GFA) to site area, so the higher a site’s plot ratio, the more the GFA that can be built on it.

The draft Master Plan 2008 is expected to be unveiled in late May and exhibited for a month for public feedback before being finalised and gazetted by the year-end.

Mr Mah last year ruled out massive, across-the-board islandwide increases in plot ratios for Master Plan 2008 to cope with a long-term population planning parameter of 6.5 million. Yesterday, he said: ‘We will do our Master Plan review every five years. As we go forward, as the situation changes, we will make the appropriate decision then.’

A study by Jones Lang LaSalle published by BT earlier this year said undeveloped state sites within walking distance of Circle Line MRT stations, particularly those that intersect with existing MRT lines, will be among the top candidates for higher plot ratios in Master Plan 2008.

The study highlighted areas near Paya Lebar MRT Station and Buona Vista MRT Station, where the Circle Line will intersect with the existing East-West Line, and HarbourFront MRT, where the Circle Line crosses the North-East Line.

Mah Disagrees With Suggestions On Land Sales, Deferred Payment Scheme

Source : The Business Times, April 5, 2008

NATIONAL Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday disagreed with suggestions by property tycoon Kwek Leng Beng on the need for the government to review its first-half 2008 land sales programme and rethink its decision to scrap the deferred payment scheme.

Mr Mah said the government can be nimble on state land sales because the programme is reviewed every six months, depending on changes in the market.

But the H1 2008 programme will not be changed midstream, he said. ‘We should be careful of knee-jerk reactions. You can’t adjust it just because something is happening yesterday and then we change things today. We’ve got to take a longer-term view.’

Mr Mah was speaking at a media briefing after he delivered the keynote address at Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Corporate Plan seminar at Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel.

In an interview published by BT this week, Mr Kwek had urged the government to review its H1 2008 land sale programme, which was fixed last year when the property market was buoyant compared with today.

On the decision announced in October last year to scrap the deferred payment scheme, Mr Mah said yesterday it was carefully considered, taken ‘after a lot of thought, deliberation’.

‘The objective was two-fold,’ he said. ‘One, to remove excessive speculation from the market. And two, to make sure there is financial prudence - that people make decisions and don’t over-commit themselves.

‘These are two very important objectives and they are still relevant today - in fact, probably more so in today’s kind of market. I don’t see any need for us to change our decision on that.’

Mr Kwek had suggested the deferred payment scheme could be revived, but this time with a higher initial payment of 30 per cent instead of 20 per cent previously. He also said that if a developer wants to extend a deferred payment scheme to a buyer, perhaps the developer’s bank might be in a better position to assess viability, while keeping an eye on prudence.

Mr Kwek also made a suggestion he said could make housing more affordable for young Singaporeans, including singles. The government could build more public housing units and lease them to young first-time buyers with an option to buy the flats within 10 years at fixed prices, he said.

Responding yesterday, Mr Mah said he disagreed with the premise that young couples cannot afford to buy an HDB flat.

‘The average amount of money they need to put up for monthly mortgage payments is well within their means, something like 20 per cent. This is quite affordable,’ he said.

‘If you were to rent, they will probably be paying as much, if not more, in rental, than to buy the flat. It doesn’t make sense to rent when you can buy using your CPF. You rent, you can’t use your CPF.

‘When you buy, you actually buy a place you can call your own. It’s an investment. When you rent, it’s not yours.

‘Our home ownership policy with all the generous housing subsidies that we have given actually allows most Singaporeans, young couples, to be able to buy their own homes.

‘If you look at the numbers, you’ll find that suggestion (by Mr Kwek) does not quite make sense.’

URA’s Jurong Gateway Plan Draws Mixed Response

Source : The Business Times, April 5, 2008

Consultants and developers hail alternative hub, but fear over-supply in medium term

PROPERTY consultants and developers have given a mixed reception to the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) plan for Jurong Gateway, which will have about 5.4 million sq ft of gross office area over 10-15 years.

While they welcome an alternative commercial hub that will provide lower-cost office space, some are worried about the timing that yesterday’s announcement - made at a point when there is sufficient confirmed mid-term supply - will have on sentiment.

Others are worried the announcement may scare foreign investors from the local office market because of potential over-supply in the not-too-distant future.

First, the positive views.

Jones Lang LaSalle’s Singapore country head Chris Fossick welcomed URA’s plans for the new commercial hub around Jurong East MRT Station, comparing it to Changi Business Park in the east, which has attracted backroom offices of financial institutions.

Both locations are similar - close to transport hubs and a substantial labour pool, Mr Fossick noted. ‘Singapore is in need of such facilities to provide an alternative to more highly-priced real estate in the CBD (central business district) for companies that don’t need to be in the CBD.

‘From a macro perspective, we can be more competitive as a country when it comes to office space. We can go to banks, IT firms or any MNC and say: ‘You have two choices in Singapore: CBD office space or good-quality office space in Jurong or Changi.’ We can say Singapore has office space that is expensive as well as space that’s inexpensive.’

Another advantage of decentralisation is preventing congestion in the CBD from getting worse, Mr Fossick said.

Giving a more cautious view, CB Richard Ellis executive director Moray Armstrong said: ‘The launch of the vision for the area comes at a time when there seems to be ample supply of office space catered for.

‘I wonder how strong interest will be in developing the new office space in Jurong because there is already quite a healthy level of confirmed office supply on the island, the bulk of which is a product of the government’s policy reaction in the past two years of releasing greater volume of land.

‘Office space in the Jurong Gateway location is untested, but if the government is taking a long-term view, it’s not unreasonable to envisage this location emerging as a Tampines equivalent.

‘Nonetheless, the target they have set looks pretty ambitious in terms of the overall quantum of space, even for a 10-15 year time-frame. After all, Tampines has existing and new office developments in the pipeline with a total net lettable area of about two million sq ft, and that would be over a span of 12-13 years.’

City Developments group general manager Chia Ngiang Hong also voiced concern about the timing of the release of office sites at Jurong Gateway.

‘Hopefully, the government will study the market situation carefully before it starts tendering out new office sites,’ he said. ‘Otherwise, it won’t be healthy to cause a massive over-supply in the market again.’

Jurong Lake Will Be Transformed Into Waterfront Playground

Source : The Business Times, April 5, 2008

4-5 new attractions planned; Science Ctr site to be developed

THE area around Jurong Lake has been earmarked as a waterfront playground lined with four or five new attractions.

As part of the revamp, the Singapore Science Centre will also be relocated next to Chinese Garden MRT Station and its present site carved into a third island within Jurong Lake and developed into Lakeside Village.

The village, surrounded by a new waterway, will offer alternative shopping and dining, with food & beverage, retail and entertainment outlets and boutique hotels on the lakeside. It will be connected to the new commercial hub at Jurong Gateway through a network of walkways.

The existing Chinese and Japanese gardens - which occupy the two existing islands in the lake - will have added new facilities and activities to boost their attraction.

The plans were revealed in the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) draft Master Plan for the area, released yesterday. The plan will guide development over the next 10-15 years.

The four or five new attractions will cater to families with young children. They could include edutainment that rides on proximity to the new Science Centre, nature-based activities that leverage on the lake, as well as attractions with hotels, F&B and shopping.

URA said the new attractions will complement those Jurong already has, such as Jurong Bird Park, the Science Centre and Singapore Discovery Centre.

‘The attractions at Jurong Lake will be differentiated from others at Marina Bay, Southern Waterfront and Mandai,’ URA said.

URA will work with the Singapore Tourism Board to encourage investors to develop the attractions, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said yesterday.

A new public park will be developed on the western edge of Jurong Lake next to Lakeside MRT Station. Water activities like kayaking and dragon-boating will be introduced on the lake by end-2008. And boardwalks, fishing points and wetlands will be introduced along selected stretches by end-2009.

URA chief executive Cheong Koon Hean said URA may include its plans for Jurong Lake District in its overseas marketing efforts.

The authority’s draft Master Plan for the district - comprising the Lakeside precinct as well as the area around Jurong East MRT Station, dubbed Jurong Gateway - has drawn kudos from industry players.

Park Hotel Group director Allen Law said a business hotel could work in the Jurong Lake District. ‘A tourist hotel will depend on the phasing of the new attractions,’ he added.

Nature Society president Geh Min said: ‘I am happy to hear the mention of wetlands. I don’t think there will be an issue with the loss of natural environment.’

UOL Group chief operating officer Liam Wee Sin said of URA’s plans for the district: ‘I’m quite impressed. There’s a big opportunity to do an eco-city, not just sky gardens and terraces - but with conscious planning, policy, design and usage.’

DP Architects’ Tai Lee Siang reckons the Jurong Lake District will have an edge over Tampines Regional Centre because it has the lake as a natural asset.

Colliers International said URA’s blueprint for the district will boost the popularity and value of property there in the mid to long term.

‘It’s exciting because it will inject a new lease of life to an area that has struggled for many years to shrug off its image as an industrial location,’ said Colliers’ director Tay Huey Ying.

The West Also Rises With Jurong East Makeover

Source : The Business Times, April 5, 2008

360-hectare Jurong Lake District will marry offices and retail outlets with waterfront playground

With malls, hotels, offices and entertainment outlets, the sleepy charms of the area around Jurong East MRT Station are poised for a stunning makeover. The place - called Jurong Gateway - will be turned into the biggest regional centre on the island.

Add to this the land and water development around the nearby Jurong Lake - with kayaking, dragon boating and a lakeside village - and the transformation that melds business opportunities with leisure pursuits will be complete.

Jurong Gateway will provide 5.4 million sq ft gross floor area of new office space and 2.7 million sq ft of retail, F&B and entertainment area - more than 2.5 times the current size of Tampines Regional Centre, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan announced yesterday.

The time frame for development will be about 10-15 years and sites in the location are likely to be tendered out for private sector development based on market demand and pace of take-up.

The 70-hectare Gateway will also have at least 1,000 new private homes as well as 2,800 hotel rooms - roughly the same quantum as the Singapore River hotel belt.

Meanwhile, the Lakeside precinct around the Jurong Lake has been earmarked as a new waterfront playground spread over 220ha of land and 70ha of water. It is envisaged as a major leisure destination for Singaporeans and tourists, with about four or five proposed new attractions.

Jurong Gateway and Lakeside together make up Jurong Lake District, the blueprints for which were revealed by Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday.

The 360ha total potential area for development is close to the size of Marina Bay.

In his speech at URA’s corporate plan seminar, Mr Mah stressed the importance of decentralisation as a key planning strategy to maintain balance between supporting economic growth and a high-quality living environment.

While Marina Bay and the city remain Singapore’s main commercial centre, new commercial hubs like Jurong Gateway will be developed outside the city centre to provide more choices of attractive business locations and bring jobs closer to homes. URA has also earmarked the area around Paya Lebar MRT Station for development into an alternative business hub.

URA said Jurong Gateway will be ideal for company headquarters, business services as well as companies in the science and the research and development (R&D) fields. Such companies will be able to tap a large labour pool from a one million-population catchment in Jurong East and West, Clementi and Bukit Batok, enjoy proximity to a cluster of over 3,000 companies in the International Business Park and Jurong and Tuas industrial estates. Jurong Gateway is also a major transport hub, with Jurong East MRT Station and a bus interchange. The area around the MRT station is designated for development into an integrated commercial and transport hub with white use - allowing office, retail, residential and hotel use. A short distance away, at Jurong Town Hall Road, sites have been designated for high-rise office use.

The tallest buildings in Jurong Gateway will be 35 storeys high but building heights will step down towards Jurong Lake, allowing most developments to have panoramic views of the lake.

A new big-box retail format incorporating consumer electronics, furniture and hypermarket being developed by TT International will add about 34,000 sq m of retail space when completed by end-2009.

Mr Mah also stressed that Singapore’s long-term approach to planning - encompassing the Concept Plan and Master Plan process - is a fundamental part of the republic’s sustainable development effort. He noted that Singapore’s physical resources, especially land, are able to support a long-term population planning parameter of 6.5 million.

The minister also touched on how the influx of foreigners is making some Singaporeans uneasy. ‘They find the competition for jobs and school places tough. They see themselves priced out of the housing of their choice.’

Highlighting the contribution of foreigners to various tiers of the Singapore economy and society, Mr Mah said: ‘We must . . . convince our people that at the end of the day, if we want to have a good life, we must learn to accept the foreigners in our midst.’

National Development Minister Responds To Property Issues

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 5, 2008

On rental housing:

‘Our strategy is two-pronged… We are looking to increase the supply from 43,000 today, to go up to about 50,000. So that’s another 7,000 - an increase of about 20 per cent.

‘We are also relooking the eligibility criteria to make sure they cater to the really needy.

‘As an article mentioned today, a lot of people in the queue really shouldn’t be in the queue. They already enjoyed a housing subsidy…and cashed out, and are now coming out to join the queue. So while they are eligible today, strictly speaking, there are other people much more in need of a rental flat.

‘There are other alternatives in place - whether it’s a studio apartment, smaller flat, or the lease buyback scheme that we will roll out next month. All these are ways to monetise their flats.

‘Joining the rental flat queue is not the way and I think we have to relook our criteria.’

On withdrawing the deferred-payment scheme:

‘It was a very carefully considered decision…The objective was twofold: remove excessive speculation from the market and make sure there is financial prudence so that people…don’t over-commit.

‘These are still relevant today. We don’t see a need to change the decision.’

On City Developments chief Kwek Leng Beng’s suggestion that the Government remain ‘nimble’ in a changing property market and review the land sales programme:

‘It’s a point of view a developer will take, but there are many players in the property market; they all have their own views… They represent different, conflicting interests.

‘We can be nimble, but we have to bear in mind that we have to take a longer-term view about things…We should be careful about knee-jerk reactions.

‘We can’t adjust because something happens yesterday and we change things today.’

On increasing Singapore’s population:

‘We don’t know what will happen, what the numbers will be in 10 to 20 years.

‘But if we do need to increase our population to 6.5 million in the future…it is comforting to note that our physical resources, especially land, are able to support this.’

HDB Reviewing Application Process

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 5, 2008

THE Housing Board is in the process of reviewing its current application process, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan disclosed yesterday.

This follows recent public concerns that the thousands of applications that pour in for an HDB project bear little relation to the actual take-up rate of flats.

HDB’s latest condo-like flats, City View @ Boon Keng, for example, sold only 250 or so out of 714 units, despite receiving 3,500 applications.

Eligible buyers pay $10 to enter a ballot for HDB’s sales exercises. This assigns them a queue number to select a flat in a particular sales project.

Mr Mah acknowledged it was frustrating for some couples in the queue - who might have missed out on selecting a flat because of the high numbers - and said there was a need to address it.

‘I’ve asked HDB to study this to discourage people from giving up their flats, or chance, so easily.’

The idea is to have a queue that ensures that when buyers get to the front, they book the flat, said Mr Mah.

‘That will be fair to people in the queue, and good for HDB, to get some certainty about the supply and demand situation.’

More details on the review will come at a later date, he said.

Over 1,000 Private Homes To Be Built

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 5, 2008

PROPERTY hunters looking to buy a stake in the newly revamped Jurong Lake District will be happy that more than 1,000 private homes will be built there.

But no more new Housing Board flats are planned for Jurong, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday.

TARGETING YOUNG FAMILIES: View of Lakeside park. New private housing will be coming up close to the area.

This is also partly because the focus is on building up Sengkang and Punggol towns, said Mr Mah.

‘There is sufficient public housing in Jurong so the next phase will be… on private housing,’ he added.

However, if demand is strong for the private homes, more land can be re-allocated for condominiums.

That is why the sites around the MRT stations are mostly white sites, said Mr Mah.

‘But all this ultimately has got to depend on the market and how it responds, whether the emphasis is more on office or housing.’

The Urban Redevelopment Authority said yesterday that the residential buildings at Jurong Gateway are likely to be 35 storeys at most, and building heights will gradually step down towards the lake to enable good views.

Colliers International’s director of research and consultancy, Ms Tay Huey Ying, said it was timely for the Government to make early plans to accommodate and tap on any spillover in demand from the Central Business District.

This could occur from the office, hotel and residential sectors when mega projects, such as the two integrated resorts and Marina Bay Financial Centre, are completed and up and running, she said.

Largest Commercial Area Outside Town

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 5, 2008

MOVE over, Tampines. Jurong is set to be the next big suburban commercial hub.

About 70ha around the Jurong East MRT station have been set aside for the new Jurong Gateway, which will be the largest business district outside of town.

BIG DRAW: Jurong Gateway will host offices, shops, homes, hotels, restaurants and entertainment centres.

Offices, shops, homes, hotels, restaurants and entertainment centres are just some of the facilities earmarked for the site, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday.

Jurong Gateway will provide about 8.1 million sq ft of office and retail space - more than double Tampines’ and more than three times Novena’s, Mr Mah said.

About two-thirds of the space will be set aside for offices, while a third will be for retail, restaurant and entertainment outlets. There will be a mix of large, modern malls and low-rise shops in a ‘village setting’.

Jurong Entertainment Centre, part of CapitaLand’s CapitaMall Trust, is also being revamped and will house an Olympic-size ice-skating rink next year.

Mr Mah also said more than 1,000 new private homes will be added around the MRT station, and up to 2,800 hotel rooms in the area.

The spate of development will make Jurong Gateway ‘an attractive location for company headquarters, especially those from the business services and science and technology sectors’, he said, adding that Jurong East is ‘already a thriving business hub today’, with more than 3,000 companies in Jurong and Tuas.

Property consultants welcomed the plans. ‘Making plans now would prevent a possible repeat of the supply crunch we are experiencing,’ said Ms Tay Huey Ying of Colliers International.

New Waterfront Playground

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 5, 2008

THE Lakeside area will be transformed into a major leisure destination in the next 10 to 15 years, with existing attractions enhanced and new ones added.

WATERSIDE FUN: The lakeside village will feature a host of food and retail outlets as well as boutique hotels.

First up is the new ‘world-class’ Singapore Science Centre, which will involve expanding the existing attraction and relocating it next to Chinese Garden MRT station. This will allow it to make use of the nearby Jurong Lake and surrounding green spaces to extend the learning environment, said National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday.

New facilities will also be added to key attractions in the area, like the Chinese and Japanese Gardens.

Jurong Lake itself will be spruced up, turning the area into Singapore’s new ‘waterfront playground’ and bringing it closer to the new Jurong Gateway office hub.

The Government is also exploring ways to make the lake more accessible, such as by building new waterways or a landscaped walkway.

By the end of the year, the lake will host new water activities such kayaking and dragon-boating, thanks to the PUB. By the end of next year, the agency will also set up more public amenities around the lake, such as boardwalks, fishing points, wetlands and water features. To cap it all, a public park and a lakeside village will be built along with four or five other attractions near the water targeted at families with young children.

These may have ‘edutainment’ or nature themes, and could even include hotels, restaurants, or shops.

The lakeside village will offer more shopping and dining options. It will be linked to Jurong Gateway by a network of walkways, making the two precincts just a 10-minute walk apart.

Jurong Ulu No More

Source : TODAY, Weekend, April 5, 2008

Suburb to become commercial, leisure lakeside heaven

DUSTY. Industrial. Out of the way.

Such words may spring to your mind when asked about Jurong. But come 2020, the home of the Bird Park and the Science Centre will evoke a whole new vocabulary.

Try on for size: Lakeside haven. Billion-dollar business buzz. Holiday hub.

This will be the new Jurong Lake District, after it undergoes an ambitious transformation into the largest commercial hub outside of the Central Business District (CBD) - complete with 2,800 new hotel rooms, a number which rivals that of the entire hotel belt at the Singapore River.

At the heart of the district - bounded by Yuan Ching Road, Ayer Rajah Expressway and the MRT line running through the Jurong East, Chinese Garden and Lakeside MRT stations - will be the 70-hectare Jurong Lake and its sprawling greenery.

Tourists will be enticed with a laidback experience at the lakeside F&B village and hotels. The lake itself will be deepened for water activities such as kayaking and dragonboating, and new waterways carved out and an elevated walkway built to “bring closer” the MRT station and bus interchange. Visitors taking the 10-minute “seamless” walk can stop and shop at retail and F&B outlets along the way.

Another old neighbourhood icon will be revamped, too - the Singapore Science Centre will be relocated next to the Chinese Garden MRT station.

This leisurely atmosphere will also have a cutting-edge buzz to it.

Equalling the size of Marina Bay, the new commercial hub is expected to attract investments worth billions of dollars. It incorporates the Jurong Gateway precinct, a high-rise commercial and a retail hub around the Jurong East MRT station that will boast offices, hotels, food and beverage outlets and entertainment venues.

Within the district, land to build 1,000 private homes will be available as well.

Describing Jurong as “a gem that has yet to be uncovered and refined”, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan acknowledged that Jurong - earmarked from its birth in 1961 as an industrial estate - has struggled to shake off the unflattering associations.

“Many of us still see Jurong East as a suburban residential area, far away from the city centre - quite ‘ulu’ (remote), in fact. It is rarely thought of as a major leisure destination,” he said.

But in truth, it has plenty of potential, with a population catchment of more than a million residents, including those from nearby towns Clementi, Bukit Batok and Jurong West.

Moreover, the area is home to more than 3,000 companies. Its proximity to the tertiary institutions and research hubs means Jurong East is “an ideal place for businesses dealing with research and cutting edge technology”, said Mr Mah.

He announced the Jurong makeover on Friday as part of the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Draft Master Plan. Since 1991, the URA has embarked on projects to build regional centres in areas such as Tampines and Woodlands, to ease congestion in the CBD. Plans are in the pipeline for Bugis and Kallang also.

Even as the Government has deferred $2-billion worth of construction projects, Mr Mah said the Jurong makeoever was given the go-ahead after taking into consideration the effects on the construction crunch.

Residents need not fear major disruptions to their daily routines, but there will be “some inconveniences”. “We are not going to close the entire lake to people but will do it in stages,” said Mr Mah.

They can also look forward, in the next few years, to the redevelopment of the Jurong East Entertainment Centre, which will house Singapore’s first Olympic-sized ice-skating rink.

Already, Propnex chief executive Mohd Ismail expects prices for both public and private housing in Jurong East to go up by five to 10 per cent in the next two years.

Traditionally, the area’s flats command prices similar to those in suburban Hougang and Choa Chu Kang, but pale in comparison to mature estates — a 5-room flat there costs $90,000 and $135,000 less than a similar flat in Bishan and Toa Payoh respectively.

Resident Liang Guet Keow, 49, said she looked forward to a more vibrant Jurong East offering the same facilities as estates such as Bedok and Ang Mo Kio. “It’s about time,” said the accounts executive.

Member of Parliament (MP) Halimah Yacob told TODAY that she and her fellow Jurong GRC MPs have been pushing for Jurong to be redeveloped.

She said: “It would greatly enhance the living environment. Jurong is in need of rejuvenation — that part is clear.”

And while some residents continue to worry about air quality down the road, Mdm Halimah reiterated that the air in Jurong is not hazardous to health. “It’s just that because Jurong has a lot of industries, people may have the sense that the air quality is poorer compared to other estates. But if you look at it from the safety point of view, it is not worse than other parts of Singapore.”

Be ‘Nimble’ In Uncertain Times

Source : TODAY, Weekend, April 5, 2008

Inflation may not yet have peaked, warns Finance Minister

Singapore’s inflation rate, already at a 26-year high, may not have peaked and policy-makers must be ready to respond to unexpected economic developments, Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Friday

“It’s too early to say that inflation has peaked,” Mr Shanmugaratnam told reporters at a meeting of finance ministers from the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) in Vietnam.

“We want to watch the situation carefully and be nimble in our overall economic strategy.”

Singapore’s consumer prices rose 6.6 per cent from a year earlier in January, the fastest rate since 1982, as costs of food and energy soared.

OCBC economist Selena Ling told Today she expected year-on-year inflation to hit 7 per cent within one to three months.

“In the next few months and quarters, things like airline surcharges and electricity tariffs will creep in. Food is a medium-term structural issue, so it is not going to go away overnight,” she said.

“A lot of Asian countries are imposing export limits and obviously we are going to feel the impact of food prices going higher.”

“The Government’s point is that there will be continued supply but we must be prepared to pay more.”

UOB economist Ho Woei Chen is more sanguine, expecting inflation to average 5.2 per cent this year, comprising a first-half average of 6.4 per cent and a second-half average of 4 per cent.

Mr Shanmugaratnam’s comments came less than a week before the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s semi-annual policy statement. In its last policy statement issued in October, it projected inflation of 3.5 per cent for the first half of this year and between 2 and 3 per cent for the second half.

The central bank faces conflicting needs, as inflation remains high and difficult to predict even as export-dependent Singapore is vulnerable to the weakness in the United States economy.

“The possibility of a deeper recession in the US and a more prolonged one is something that every prudent policy-maker should not rule out,” said the Finance Minister. “There is great uncertainty about how the credit cycle will evolve and what its impact will be on the real economy.”

However, Mr Shanmugaratnam said the likelihood of a US recession had already been factored into the Government’s economic growth forecasts. The Singapore economy is expected to grow between 4 and 6 per cent this year, slower than the 7.7-per-cent expansion recorded last year. The Government will issue an advance estimate for first-quarter economic growth next week.

“We will have to expect some slowdown in the second quarter and going beyond the second quarter in Singapore,” Mr Shanmugaratnam said.

On the expected slowdown, UOB’s Ms Ho said: “Even if there is a slight negative growth in the US in the first quarter, it’s not going to be very bad. The US government’s stimulus policy and fiscal spending will work through the system in the second half of this year.

“The Asian economies seem to be holding up quite well.”

Singapore's Very Own Lake District

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 5, 2008

Jurong is set to shed its industrial image with a stunning makeover

JURONG tends to conjure up unflattering images of factories and sleepy suburbia, but the area is slated for a stunning makeover that will transform it into Singapore's only lakeside destination.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan yesterday unveiled a vision for a revamped Jurong, starting with a new name: the Jurong Lake District.

POLISHING A 'GEM': Set around the Chinese Garden and Lakeside MRT stations will be new tourist attractions and parks, complemented by water activities. -- ST PHOTO: FRANCIS ONG

The ambitious plan, to be implemented over the next 10 to 15 years, involves building new waterways, 1,000 private homes, 2,800 hotel rooms and adding 750,000 sq m of office and retail space.

The Jurong Lake District, which at 360ha is the size of Marina Bay, will consist of two precincts.

One is the 70ha Jurong Gateway, which will boast swanky new offices, condos and entertainment features, including an Olympic-size ice-skating rink, all set around Jurong East MRT station.

The other is Lakeside, which is being targeted as a hang-out for young families.

It will feature a bold new science centre, tourist attractions and parks complemented by water activities, all set around the Chinese Garden and Lakeside MRT stations.

Mr Mah told a 500-strong audience at an Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) seminar yesterday that many Singaporeans saw Jurong as a suburban residential and industrial area 'located far away from the city centre'.

But he described it as a 'gem', with compelling reasons singling it out for redevelopment. It is near established towns, with a large labour force and a population catchment of more than one million residents.

It is also a thriving business hub, with more than 3,000 companies - from multinationals to tiny operations - two universities and research centres such as one-north in the vicinity. That made it an ideal business location for cutting-edge technology, said Mr Mah.

Existing transport links - the PanIsland and Ayer Rajah expressways and two MRT lines - also connect Jurong East to the city quickly.

Mr Mah pointed to another benefit of the plan: the proximity of jobs to homes in the area, which reduced the need to commute and eased pressure on transport services.

Jurong's rejuvenation is part of a broader URA decentralisation strategy to balance economic growth, reduce commuting and provide a high quality of life with many leisure options.

It will announce its plans next month to redevelop Paya Lebar. Both initiatives are part of its 2008 Draft Masterplan Review.

URA chairman Alan Chan said the ideas for Jurong were the result of consultation with a wide spectrum of public and private industry players.

Market watchers welcomed the news, saying it would inject new life into Jurong, which has struggled for years to shed its industrial image.

Colliers International's director of research and consultancy Tay Huey Ying said the plan 'would lift the popularity and value of property in the mid- to long-term'.

PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail predicted that home prices could increase by five to 10 per cent in the next two years.

Madam Halimah Yacob, an MP for Jurong GRC, said the rejuvenation was a welcome move.

The Chinese and Japanese gardens, for example, were under-utilised and could do with a makeover, she said.

Residents are also excited.

Manager David Lim, 49, who owns a four-room HDB flat at Lakeside, said he hardly stays in Jurong for his weekend recreational activities.

'But to have all these amenities so close to home will really be a bonus,' he said.

Jurong's Massive Makeover

Source : The Straits Times, Apr 5, 2008

Area the size of Marina Bay will be transformed with homes, hotels, shops, eateries and offices linked to MRT via walkways and waterways

EXTREME makeovers do not come more dramatic than this.

In an ambitious plan unveiled yesterday, a large swathe of Jurong will be redeveloped and rebranded the Jurong Lake District.

The 350ha area affected is similar in size to Marina Bay, and will boast all the elements of a vibrant mini-metropolis.

That means new high-rises, hotels, apartments, shops, food places and offices as well as no end of water-related recreational pursuits, with everything linked to MRT stations via walkways and waterways.

Unveiling the plans yesterday, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan described Jurong as somewhat under-recognised, 'a gem yet to be uncovered and refined'.

Among Singapore's public housing estates, Jurong has been something of an ugly duckling, its factories giving the place a decidedly industrial-town feel. This is an image it will shed in the next 10 to 15 years as the new plans come to life.

Reinventing Jurong is a challenge, Mr Mah acknowledged. 'But we want to show that this is not pie in the sky, it's something real,' he said.

Jurong Lake District Plans Timely But Timeline May Be Too Short

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 04 April 2008

The government's plans for the Jurong Lake District have been widely well-received by market watchers.

They noted that it is important to re-brand Jurong away from its industrial estate image to a more vibrant one. However, on the other hand, there are concerns that the government may be moving too fast for the market.

Some analysts said the proposed 10- to 15-year time frame may be a little tight, especially given the amount of projects in the pipeline, and a dampened global economic climate.

It is going to take some effort imagining the Jurong area as a bustling entertainment, business and residential area.

Analysts said that is one of the main challenges the government will face.

Grace Ng, Deputy Managing Director, Agency and Business Services, Colliers International, said, "Jurong has been known as an industrial area, so it has been less successful in attracting commercial and residential activities in the area compared to newer towns like Tampines.

"We need to erase the industrial image of Jurong and convince Singaporeans to make it their workplace and place of residence. As for developers, we need to convince developers to actively participate in the tender of the sites."

Ku Swee Yong, Director, Marketing and Business Development, Savills (Singapore), said, "The government authorities, Singapore Tourism Board, Urban Redevelopment Authority, Jurong Town, will still have to put in a little bit more effort to shake off the long-held views that Jurong has been a industrial area."

However, analysts said that once this hurdle is cleared, the potential is vast.

They pointed out that some investors have already starting sniffing out opportunities in the area.

Mr Ku said, "We are very positive about it. (We've) been saying for the past two years that the West side of Singapore has been neglected by the investment community. We see very strong growth in household income and wealth, given the high growth in electronics, pharmaceutical, oil and gas industries, and there are households there that are actually doing a lot better than what may appear on the surface.

"We have been seeing quite a strong take up from home users, plus some investors who are buying units to rent out to academics, engineers and expatriates."

Vacancy levels for office space in Jurong has been tight, so the promise of more commercial space in the area will be welcome.

But even with so much going for it, many said the government might need to temper their growth plans for the area, and work on building up even more demand to match its planned dramatic increase in capacity.

Over the past few months, the government has delayed several public projects to help rein in rising construction costs.

And property watchers said the plans for Jurong Lake could further stretch resources.

Mr Ku said, "I think that it is rather ambitious to try to put all this work together to build a 5 million square foot of office space, another 2 million of retail and F&B space. All this in next 10-15 years may be a little fast. But (if it is) 15, 20 or even just a little beyond 20 years, I'm sure the market can absorb it."

Ms Ng said, "It's scheduled to have 2,800 hotel rooms which seems like quite a high number given that Jurong has not been established as a tourist area."

But from the 'big picture' point of view, analysts agreed that these plans will put a sheen on the property market in Jurong.

Prices can be expected to start inching upwards over the next two to five years when developers start actively tendering for the sites. - CNA/ms

Strategic Review Of MMP REIT Still Ongoing

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 05 April 2008

The strategic review of Macquarie MEAG Prime REIT or MMP REIT is still ongoing.

This is according to a filing with the SGX on Friday.

It said that key shareholder Macquarie Real Estate continues to support the review.

In February, Macquarie Pacific Star, the manager of MMMP REIT, announced that it was conducting a strategic review to maximise value for its unitholders.

This was after unsolicited offers were received for Macquarie Real Estate's 26 percent beneficial interest in MMP REIT.

The review will consider proposals on both the corporate and asset levels, including proposals to acquire 100 percent of the units in MMP REIT.

It also aims to close the gap between MMP REIT's net asset value and its traded unit price.

MMP REIT has been trading at a substantial discount to its net asset value of S$1.61 a unit.

In trade on Friday, MMP units closed unchanged at S$1.23 each. - CNA/ms

Minister Mah Assures There Is No Shortage Of Housing In S'pore

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 04 April 2008

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan has said there is no shortage of housing in Singapore.

He said, "Based on all the BTO (Build-To-Order) projects that we've had so far, (for) all of the projects, all of the developments for the last year - except one - there've always been flats left over, even after everybody in the queue has been offered."

Mah Bow Tan (file pic)

But some home buyers often decline the opportunity to pick their flats, if the choices do not meet their expectations.

So the Housing and Development Board (HDB) is looking at new measures to limit this.

But Mr Mah assured that it is unlikely HDB will raise the administrative fee.

He said, "I don't think increasing it from S$10 to S$100 all round is going to work, because people will only say, 'Oh, you're now trying to collect more money, the government's trying to make more money from me'.

"I am asking HDB to study this, to find a way to discourage people from giving up their flats, or giving up their chance so easily. Yes, some people will say 'It's my prerogative to give it up, I don't want it, I can give it up'. Fair enough, but then you will have to suffer some penalties."

Mr Mah also responded to calls for the deferred payment scheme on property purchases to be brought back amid signs of a slowdown in residential property sales.

He said: "The decision to remove the deferred payment scheme was a very carefully considered decision. The objective of it was twofold. One was to remove excessive speculation from the market and two it was to make sure that there is financial prudence.

“These two objectives are still relevant today, probably more so in today's market, so I don't see any need for us to change our decision on that."

There have also been hopes for plot ratios to be increased but the minister said that changes will only be made when necessary.

For now though there won't be a major review across the board. - CNA/ms/vm

Orchard Road's 10-Month Facelift To Start On 28 April

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 04 April 2008

Orchard Road is set to undergo a facelift from 28 April. The revamp is expected to be completed next February.

Orchard Road, Singapore (File Picture)

The S$40 million makeover will include state-of-the-art lighting to highlight Orchard Road's tree-lined boulevard, new creative spaces for events and a new pedestrian mall.

Key events such as the annual Great Singapore Sale and Christmas In The Tropics will continue to be held in Orchard Road.

The Singapore Tourism Board has given the assurance that customers can shop as usual, and that building owners and tenants will only be affected for an average of ten weeks throughout the ten-month development period. - CNA/so

Government Announces Plans For Jurong Lake District

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 04 April 2008

Jurong is set to be home to the largest commercial hub outside the city centre.

The Jurong Lake District – made up of two precincts, Jurong Gateway and Lakeside – will offer a potential development area of 360 hectares or about the size of Marina Bay.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan announced this when he unveiled part of the government's ‘Draft Master Plan Review 2008’. The blueprint will guide Singapore's land use over the next 10 to 15 years.

Artist's impression of Lakeside Village

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said that some 750,000 square metres of land will be set aside at Jurong Gateway for offices, hotels, food and beverage, and entertainment uses.

Jurong Gateway will be nearly 2.5 times the size of the Tampines Regional Centre and is expected to attract billions of dollars in investment.

Related Video :-

Speaking at the annual corporate plan seminar, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan said decentralisation will be a key planning strategy. This will help bring jobs and recreational options closer to home.

Artist's impression of Jurong Lake District

Under the proposed plan, 1,000 new private apartments will also be built at Jurong Gateway.

Mr Mah said: "That is the initial estimate, but some of the sites around there are white sites. If there is more demand, we will certainly be able to reallocate.

"But all this ultimately will have to depend on the market as well - how the market responds and whether the emphasis of more housing or more office. I think we will have to be guided by the market."

Some 2,800 hotel rooms will also be added in the new district in anticipation of more visitors.

Night view of Jurong Gateway from Japanese Garden

And what will get them coming is a slew of nature-themed and edu-tainment attractions, which will spring up at Lakeside. A new world-class Science Centre will also be built next to the Chinese Garden MRT station.

Visitors can also look forward to lush greenery and water-based activities.

Urban planners said there is a lot going for Jurong as investors will be able to tap into a population catchment of over one million residents living in nearby housing estates, as well as leverage on some 3,000 companies already operating in the area.

In addition, the new district will be served by three MRT stations and two major expressways.

Apart from Jurong, Paya Lebar is also expected to be developed into a sub-regional centre. The URA will release more details in May.

十里广场Ten Mile Junction住宅地段 两方人马标价近年最低

《联合早报》Apr 04, 2008

武吉班让的十里广场(Ten Mile Junction)招标地段,获得两方人马出手竞标。同黄祖耀家族有关联的Peak Green公司,出价6100万元(即容积率每平方英尺162元),成为出手较高的一方。


分析师认为,除了上个月11日因投标价格(容积率每平方英尺78元)太低,而没有颁发的裕廊西西林道(Westwood Avenue)地段外,这是近几年来出现的最低标价之一。