Monday, May 26, 2008

Global Inflation Risks Are Being Ignored: Merrill

Source : The Business Times, May 26, 2008


Rising food and energy prices threaten to spark inflationary spiral in emerging economies

(NEW YORK) Policymakers and investors are ignoring the risks of surging food and energy prices, which threaten to spark an inflationary spiral in emerging economies and restrict growth in developed countries, according to a Merrill Lynch report.

'For the first time in our memory, inflation, not growth, is the primary macro driver at the global level,' write Merrill Lynch's global economics team in a research report released last Friday. 'The inflation shock has already happened,' they write.

Last week, US crude oil surged to records above US$135 per barrel, sparking a bond market sell-off that drove benchmark US Treasury note yields near their highest levels year-to-date.

'What matters now is how persistent it (the inflation shock) is and how markets and policymakers react; at a global level, this begs for an accident that will awaken markets and policymakers to the risks,' an event that is likely to happen in the second half of 2008, write the Merrill analysts.

Merrill has sharply raised its 2008 forecast for global consumer price inflation to 4.9 per cent from its prior forecast of 3.4 per cent last November.

Investors should purchase protection against the danger of inflation accidents, one reason being that 'bond yields globally should adjust higher as these risks unfold', the Merrill economists write. 'Inflation supports commodities, inflation- linked fixed income, appreciating currencies and emerging market infrastructure.'

The report suggests that by and large, investors and central banks are only just starting to face the possibility that the current climb of energy and food prices may now become a sustained trend that will change the long-term inflation outlook.

Among the biggest risks from higher global inflation is the likely acceleration of wage growth in emerging markets. In countries which are heavy importers of commodities such as Japan, or face high consumer debt such as the United States, the risk is of unexpectedly higher inflation without a simultaneous increase in wage growth, Merrill expects. -- Reuters

S'pore Still Expects Inflation To Ease In H2: Hng Kiang

Source : The Business Times, May 26, 2008

Inflation in Singapore, running at a 26-year high, is still expected to ease in the second half of this year, despite the record price of oil and sharply higher food costs, the country's trade minister said on Monday.

Speaking in Singapore's parliament, Trade Minister Lim Hng Kiang said that he expected the sharp run-up of food prices to ease in the second half of the year. -- REUTERS

Hersing In JV Talks To Buy Up To $300m Storage Facilities

Source : The Business Times, May 26, 2008

Property-related Hersing Corporation on Monday said it is negotiating with a leading global real estate fund regarding a possible joint venture (JV) in the self-storage business.

The purpose of the proposed JV is to acquire and develop properties worth up to $300 million (US$221 million) in order to expand StorHub's selfstorage facilities in Asia Pacific.

Hersing provides professional real estate brokerage, valuation, consultancy, property management, money transfer and storage facilities services through ERA, RIA, Coldwell Banker, Western Union and StorHub Self-Storage.

The proposed JV remains subject to, among other things, the fund's satisfactory due diligence, the negotiation and execution of definitive agreements in relation to the proposed JV and the acquisition of new sites, other customary conditions precedent to completion and approval by Hersing's shareholders.

The directors emphasized that no binding agreement in relation to the proposed JV has been entered into, and the proposed JV may or may not materialise. -- BT newsroom

Temasek's Mapletree In US$320m China project

Source : The Business Times, May 26, 2008

Mapletree, a real estate unit of Singapore state-owned investor Temasek, said on Monday it is developing property worth US$320 million in China's Guangdong through its private real estate fund.

The Mapletree India-China Fund will have an 80 per cent stake in the project, which includes seven blocks of serviced apartments and a mall, while Guangzhou Southern-Donald Scientific Technology Co owns the remainder, Mapletree said in a statement.

Mapletree said the newly launched fund has raised US$1 billion so far, half from Mapletree and the other half from an unidentified international institutional investor. The targeted fund size is about US$1.5 billion, it said.

The 33-hectare project in the Nanhai district of Foshan city is the fund's third in China, and also includes a business park. Named Nanhai Business City, it will be built over five to eight years.

The two earlier investments are a US$144 million residential and retail development in Xi'an and the US$121 million acquisition of an office block in Beijing's central business district, it said. -- REUTERS

KSH In JV To Develop Mergui Rd Site

Source : The Business Times, May 26, 2008

Property-linked KSH Holdings Limited on Monday said it has entered a joint venture with Multi Wealth Singapore Pte Limited and LBH Pte Ltd to develop a freehold site at Mergui Road.

The 74,355 sq ft site with a plot ratio of 2.8 was bought by Mergui Develpment Pte Ltd -- a unit of KSH -- last November for $120 million.

Under the agreement, KSH will own 35 per cent stake in the JV, Multi Wealth 53 per cent and LBH 12 per cent.

Multi Wealth is a unit of Malaysian-listed IOI Properties Bhd. -- BT newsroom

‘Both Sides Have Won’: Ministers

Source : TODAY, Monday, May 26, 2008

WHEN the next annual bilateral games between their foreign affairs officials are hosted in Malaysia soon, Ministers George Yeo and Rais Yatim already have a rendezvous point in mind.

Said Mr Yeo: “Minister Rais doesn’t play golf; I don’t play badminton, so we thought we will go fishing. Maybe, we will go fishing between Pedra Branca and Middle Rocks.”

This light-hearted quip exemplified the positive tone of their media doorstop yesterday in Yangon, with both ministers calling the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) decision on Friday a double victory.

“To use Minister Rais’ description, both sides have won and that is good,” Mr Yeo said. Both men are now bent on pushing bilateral ties “to a higher level”, he said, adding: “I remember the song in the movie 881, that when both sides get something, it is easier to keep relationships.”

Dr Rais said: “What has been an issue for almost the past three decades is now no more an issue. It is just to work out how the judgment ought to be translated and understood.”

The ICJ awarded Pedra Branca to Singapore while Malaysia got Middle Rocks, and the South Ledge outcrop goes to the state in whose territorial waters it is located.

At a community event yesterday, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong described this as a “fair and best outcome” for both neighbours, and said the judgment had “a hint of Solomon” — a reference to the biblical king legendary for his wisdom.

“A tricky knot has been untied,” he said, commending the calm reaction in both countries.

Mr Goh — who as Prime Minister had, in 1994, decided with his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamed to bring the Pedra Branca dispute to third-party arbitration — expressed personal disappointment that Singapore was not awarded Middle Rocks.

But he was confident the matter of South Ledge would be settled “amicably”, with both sides drawing up the respective boundaries in accordance with international law.

Mr Yeo said a committee involving officials from both sides will meet in two weeks to “go through the judgment in detail and to work out the transitional arrangements”.

In the meantime, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has advised Malaysians to stay away from Middle Rocks until further advice. “Otherwise, there will be some confusion on the ground,” he said, in response to conflicting reports on whether local fishermen could now operate freely in the waters off Middle Rocks.

Not everyone was sanguine about the ICJ’s judgment. Johor Menteri Besar Abdul Ghani Othman thought the ICJ’s decision might lead to more overlapping territorial claims between Singapore and Malaysia.

Pedra Branca And A Photo-Finish Ending

Source : TODAY, Monday, May 26, 2008

LET us say the tussle for the ownership of Pedra Branca was like that of a marathon. How then would one describe the end of the race?

At first flush, it was a straightforward victory for Singapore, especially after the country was awarded the main trophy: Pedra Branca, the biggest of four pieces of disputed land in the Straits of Singapore.

As the verdict sinks in and as one notes the reactions from both sides of the Causeway, it can be seen as a photo-finish victory. A split decision, as Ambassador Tommy Koh described it in an interview with the Singapore media two days before Friday’s verdict by the International Court of Justice at The Hague. It was one of the four possible outcomes Mr Koh was preparing Singaporeans for.

Photo-finish endings in athletics are always subject to intense scrutiny because the victory is not neat, clear and absolute, especially to the naked eye. What does a similar ending for a dispute that goes back 28 years — and was fraught with diplomatic, political and sovereignty issues which threatened at one time to doom relations between two neighbours — mean?

If common sense and friendly neighbourly relations prevail, as official reactions from both sides indicate they will be, well and good. The Malaysian media, especially the hardline Malay language media, took a subdued approach to reporting the findings.

Saturday’s Page 1 of the New Straits Times (picture) had this even-handed headline: Singapore Gets: Pulau Batu Puteh. Malaysia Gets: Middle Rocks. Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian had somewhat similar headlines. Both said: Singapore gets Batu Puteh.

NST’s Page 1 also had a large map showing readers the distance from Pulau Batu Puteh (that’s what Malaysians call Pedra Branca) to Singapore, Johor and Bintan. Singapore is the furthest away (65km); Indonesia the nearest (9.9km) and Malaysia in between (10km).

Distance is not the issue, Singapore has insisted and the Court concurred on Friday. Singapore has all along argued that the issues revolve around strategic, economic and sovereignty interests. The Court didn’t really need these arguments to be convinced. It based its decision on Pedra Branca on a key legal plank: That an official letter from Johor in 1953 handed over the island to Singapore.

With Middle Rocks given to the Malaysians and South Ledge left in noman’s land, the Court has left what former Ambassador to Kuala Lumpur K Kesavapany astutely called “sensitive management” of issues such as the navigation of commercial and naval vessels, to the sensibility of both countries.

That sensibility will be put to a test as officials from both countries sit down for their post-verdict sessions. Although official goodwill on both sides exists to make the verdict work, photo finishes like this one will surely put the bilateral commitment and goodwill expressed so far under some pressure.

Pedra Branca Goes To S'pore

Source : The Electric New Paper, May 25, 2008

# International court rules on island dispute

# But M'sia gets nearby outcrop called Middle Rocks

IT wasn't a clean sweep.

But Singapore did land the biggest fish in its long-standing sovereignty dispute with Malaysia.

Yesterday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Pedra Branca, a tiny island about 40km east of Singapore, belonged to Singapore. But Malaysia did not go home empty-handed.

At stake in the dispute were also Middle Rocks and South Ledge, two outcrops that lie within three nautical miles of Pedra Branca. Malaysia got Middle Rocks.

As for South Ledge, it was a stalemate as the feature falls within 'overlapping territorial waters'. So the court ruled that it 'belongs to the state in the territorial waters of which it is located'.

A former law lecturer, who declined to be named, told The New Paper that under international law, a country's territorial waters stretch 12 nautical miles offshore.

'So if (the territory) falls within 12 nautical miles of the coast line of a country, it should theoretically belong to that country.'


But it was Pedra Branca that was at the core of the territorial dispute that was sparked in 1979 when Malaysia first laid claim to the island that Singapore had controlled since the 1840s. Singapore's administration for more than 150 years and Malaysia's silence for most of these years were what turned the judgment in Singapore's favour.

While the ICJ found that the Johor Sultanate had held the original title to Pedra Branca, it noted that Malaysia had taken no action with regard to the island for more than a century.

So, 'by 1980 (when the dispute crystallised) sovereignty over Pedra Branca had passed to Singapore', the court said. As for the two outcrops, Malaysia had claimed that they had always been under its sovereignty, while Singapore said that sovereignty over the features went together with sovereignty over Pedra Branca.

The ICJ decided that Middle Rocks, which consist of some rocks that are permanently above water, should belong to Malaysia.

'The particular circumstances which led (the court) to find that sovereignty over Pedra Branca rests with Singapore clearly do not apply to Middle Rocks,' the court said.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that though the judgment was 'not totally in Singapore's favour', it was pleased that sovereignty of Pedra Branca was given to Singapore.

The judgment ends a 29-year dispute. The ministry said that both sides had agreed to respect and abide by the court's ruling.

Kallang Property Prices Set To Go Up?

Source : The Electric New Paper, May 25, 2008

URA Draft Masterplan 2008 to turn Kallang Basin into mini Sentosa Cove

A BUSTLING beachfront precinct with waterfront homes, offices, hotels, shopping malls and entertainment outlets.

Think Sentosa Cove, but on a smaller scale. And perhaps, not so pricey.

That will be the new face of Kallang Basin in years to come.

--Picture: Desmond Ng

This makeover is one of the initiatives of the Draft Master Plan 2008, launched by Minister of National Development Mah Bow Tan yesterday.

For property speculators and homeowners in that area, this makeover can spell only one thing -higher property prices.

The one thing some residents want to know is: how much is the value of my place expected to rise?

There are two small Housing Board (HDB) estates with less than 20 blocks in that area, and both overlook Kallang Basin.

The Riverine, a 96-unit apartment project which was launched a year ago, will be the first private residential project to be completed in Kallang Riverside.

Auditor Justin Lee, who lives in a four-room HDB flat there, said: 'The redevelopment sounds exciting. At last, they're going to spruce up this area. I think this place has potential, since there's a beach here and it's near to town.

(Top) A view of the Kallang Basin, from a nearby flat. (Above) An artist's impression of the revamped Kallang Basin. --Picture: URA
'It'll be a while before the whole place is revitalised and, by then, I'm sure the value of my place would have gone up.'

Mr Lee, who is in his 30s, paid more than $200,000 for his place some two years ago.

Property-watchers we spoke to agreed that property prices in that area will certainly head up once construction there starts.

But it's still early days yet, especially for those hoping to cash in now.

PropNex's chief executive Mohamed Ismail said: 'There won't be any immediate impact on prices today. If anything, the value of homes there will hold well now because of the news.


'We may not see the price increase today, tomorrow or a few months to come. But in a few years' time, this place will command a premium because of the transformation.'

He reckoned that when construction begins, buyers can be expected to pay a premium of 10 to 15 per cent above its usual price.

The proximity to town, the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort, and the new Sports Hub will bode well for homeowners there, he said.

'People who want to invest in that place now will not be wrong in the long run. When things start coming up, such as the Sports Hub, the new MRT station and basic infrastructure, rentals and prices in that area will go up too,' he added.

Mr Eugene Lim, an assistant vice-president with ERA Realty Network, also believes that one can expect a run-up in terms of property prices there.

But don't expect a 10-per-cent increase in price now because nothing is concrete yet, he said.

'It's a 10 to 15 years' project and will not happen straightaway.

'But when plans are more concrete, land parcels are sold and developers start to announce their projects, prices in that area will increase. In 15 years' time, prices there could even double what it is today.'

The Kallang Riverside area today is a quiet neighbourhood, home to a few flatted factories and a hangout for wakeboard enthusiasts.

While some are relishing the thought of a mini Sentosa Cove by their doorstep, others are not so hot about it.

Fishball noodle seller Tan Boey Khim, who lives in a four-room HDB flat just opposite the Kallang Basin, would prefer the area to remain status quo.

Mr Tan has been selling his noodles in a market there for the last 30 years.

The 66-year-old paid about $190,000 for his flat two years ago.

Right now, he enjoys an unblocked, picturesque view of the Kallang Basin all the way to Tanjong Rhu, the Marina Bay area, East Coast Park and even the Singapore Flyer.

For him, redevelopment means more noise, dust and traffic inconveniences from the construction.

Mr Tan said in Mandarin: 'The plans don't matter to me. I don't even know if I will still be around when this whole area is redeveloped. Anyway, it's still too early for me to think about selling this place for a profit.

'I like the area, the view and proximity to town. I just hope it doesn't become too crowded.'


The changes

# More than 4,000 private homes withwaterfront views west of Kallang River.

# Office, hotel, retail and entertainmentspace.

# Hotel cluster with some 3,000 rooms.

# Old Kallang Airport conserved, sold and adapted to new uses.

# Promenade along Kallang River andRochor Canal to be upgraded.

# Kallang Riverside Park to the west ofKallang River will be upgraded withabeachside lagoon.

# Integrated second-storey linkway from Kallang MRT station to the new Sports Hub, with shops lining the way.

# Sports Hub will have new National Stadium, Aquatic & Water Leisure Centre, Multi-Purpose Indoor Arena, the Singapore Indoor Stadium.


The Draft Master Plan

# More homes

Punggol and Sengkang to be further developed.

New housing options in Queenstown, Bukit Merah, Bedok, Clementi and Yishun.

# A business magnet

New growth areas in Tanjong Pagar, Beach Road/Ophir-Rochor corridor to be developed.

Commercial hubs outside the city to offer alternatives for businesses and provide jobs closer to homes.

This includes Jurong Lake District, Kallang Riverside and Paya Lebar Central.

# An exciting playground

The Leisure Plan showcases a range of facilities, including a150km round-island route forjoggers and cyclists.

The Draft Master Plan 2008 is open for public viewing and comments from 23 May to 20Jun 2008.

The exhibition is at the URA Centre on Maxwell Road.

'There Is A Bright Future'

Source : The Electric New Paper, May 25, 2008

Malay Village to be torn down in 2011, but stallholders remain upbeat

THE Malay Village is to be torn down in 2011, but some of the current stall holders were upbeat about the changes.

Malay Village Pte Ltd's general manager Jeffrey Chan told The New Paper that he welcomed the news.

In a report in The New Paper on 12 Apr, Mr Chan, 35, said he had submitted a $50 million plan to the Housing Board (HDB) to revamp the village.

-- ST File Picture

He said: 'The plans we submitted to HDB last month seems close to what the URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) wants. We are happy to hear that there will be a civic centre and space for cultural performances because it goes with what we plan to offer.'

He said his company wants to amend and resubmit its plans within two weeks to HDB.

When asked if he is confident of getting an approval, he would only say that he 'remains positive'.

This despite being aware that the commercial use of the land might be shelved, which means that his plans may not be usable.

Mr Chan said that URA's plans are not set in stone yet. 'So we hope that when a decision on usage of the space is finally made, HDB will approve our commercial plans.'

The Malay Village was set up in 1989 to showcase traditional Malay village life but, over time, it has been labelled a white elephant.

Presently, its tenants are an odd mix of shops selling anything from traditional Malay clothes and woodcraft to frozen meat and fruits.

Despite the news that she has only three years left for business, Ms Siti Suhaila Yahya of Wayan Retreat Balinese Spa said that she is hopeful of remaining in the area beyond 2011.

The spa owner spent $250,000 to renovate her spa and hire more employees early this month.

The 30-year-old said: 'I look forward to making the best use during this period, but I would like to assure the Malay community that we will retain our presence in Geylang Serai.'

She has another branch in Bussorah Street, off Arab Street.

She said: 'I hope that URA will engage the existing tenants and give us priority (to be involved) in their redevelopment plans.'


Other tenants expressed similar interest in staying on.

One of them is Mrs Ramlah Karim, 63, who shifted her bridal outfit shop to Malay Village in January due to lower rents there. Her shop used to be at Jalan Pisang off Arab Street.

She said: 'True, there's not much walk-in traffic and I get by on my regulars, but the place is growing on me... I like the richness of culture here and I believe there is a bright future for business when the new market and mall are ready next year.'

Nigerian tourist Lawal Musawa, 46, who was shopping with his wife at a boutique selling traditional clothes, felt the Malay Village was a 'natural setting' that the Malays should be proud of.

When told it will be torn down, he said: 'This is one of the places in Singapore to see what a Malay settlement is like. If it looks too new, I don't think tourists like me will appreciate the culture, even if there are performances.'


The Changes

UNDER the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Draft Masterplan 2008, the estimated 2.2-ha area of the Malay Village:

# Will be incorporated as part of a larger Paya Lebar Central area.

# Will be transformed into a civic centre, a plaza and a pedestrian mall, but will keep the culture and heritage of the area.

# Will house a community club, a Community Development Council office and, maybe, a community library in he civic centre.

# Will have more space for stalls during the Hari Raya bazaar at the pedestrian mall.

# Will have open spaces for stalls and activities in front of the civic centre, about the size of HDB Hub in Toa Payoh.

Live, Work, Play At A Neighbourhood Near You

Source : The Business Times, May 24, 2008

The Urban and Redevelopment Authority's (URA) Live, Work and Play mantra has been so successful in the Downtown Core precinct - as evidenced by the rapid development of offices, condos, hotels and leisure hotspots - that plans are now underway to export the concept to outlying districts in earnest.

The URA has already rolled out ambitious plans to transform Jurong East into a bustling sub-metropolitan hub of parks, offices, hotels, edutainment centres and homes.

Now, with the launch of the Draft Master Plan 2008 yesterday, it has included similar blueprints for Kallang and Paya Lebar as well.

The three new hubs - Jurong Lake District, Kallang Riverside, and Paya Lebar Central - all have one objective in common, and that is to balance the elements of Live, Work and Play.

Speaking at the launch of the Draft Master Plan 2008 exhibition at URA Centre yesterday, Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan highlighted three key objectives of the latest Master Plan. Of these, it was the need to 'enhance accessibility and reduce commuting by bringing jobs closer to home' that underscores the need for the three new hubs. Not surprisingly then, Mr Mah added that public transportation has been 'prioritised'.

The other two objectives are to 'ensure that we have enough land to support economic opportunity', and to 'provide quality housing and leisure options for our people'.

Currently, the three areas have the potential to be sub-metropolitan hubs as they are, or will be, transportation nodes with the completion of existing and future rail, bus and road networks.

However, looking at each area reveals that at least one of the three important ingredients of Live, Work and Play is missing.

In the current Jurong East, for instance, there lacks a central office zone even though it has a relatively large population catchment area. As such, URA has designated 500,000 square metres of office space, 250,000 sq m of retail and entertainment space, 2,800 hotel rooms, but just 1,000 units of new homes for Jurong Lake District.

Also bringing jobs closer to home is Paya Lebar Central, which is in the centre of another large population catchment area.

Here, URA is planning for 294,000 sq m of office space, 200,000 sq m of hotel and retail space, but no new housing.

Kallang Riverside, which is on the fringe of the city is, however, relatively under-populated and will have space for 4,000 new waterfront homes and 3,000 hotel rooms. Being a much larger area and close to the new Sports Hub, it will also have 300,000 sq m of office space and 300,000 sq m of hotel, retail and entertainment spaces.

So, will it work?

City Developments Ltd (CDL), which helped kick-start Marina Bay with The Sail, had initially planned the project as being half-commercial. Even then, many market watchers thought that only a complete office would work. Going against conventional wisdom of the time, it was eventually designed as two residential towers in 2003.

Looking back, CDL managing director Kwek Leng Joo, says: 'Ultimately, we strongly believed that developing the very first residential development in the vicinity - a truly iconic one for that matter, would be most synergistic and truly reflect the 'Live' component of URA's vision.'

That Marina South remains largely untouched in the Draft Master Plan 2008 suggests that there is more emphasis on decentralisation compared to the previous Master Plan which emphasised the Downtown Core.

Knight Frank managing director Tan Tiong Cheng said: 'With the new Master Plan, there is a drive to develop areas with potential that have not been previously emphasised.

'Marina South will be quite easy to roll out because it sits on vacant state land. And when sites are available, they should sell quite fast.'

URA's decentralisation strategy was first adopted in 1991, with the Concept Plan that maps out the long-term 40-50-year vision.

The Master Plan, which translates the Concept Plan strategies into detailed statutory land use plans to guide development over periods of 10-15 years, is reviewed every five years and may have different priorities.

The Master Plan 2008 also goes some way in addressing the widening gap between high-end and mass market homes.

Jones Lang LaSalle's head of research (South-east Asia), Chua Yang Liang, said: 'The strategy is really a bi-polar one.'

He explained that the Master Plan has to deal with planning issues that involve communities revolving around manufacturing in the north, and wealthier communities who are choosing to move downtown, especially to waterfront homes in the south. And recently, the disparity between high-end waterfront homes at Sentosa Cove and those in the heartlands has widened.

As such, Dr Chua notes that much of the new housing that has been highlighted in the outer regions all face the water.

'This emphasis on providing more waterfront homes would greatly enhance social equity by making such homes more affordable to the regular guy on the street and not limited to just the affluent,' he added.

If water is the new social glue, then the Rail Transit System (RTS) is its life blood.

Industry players are perhaps a little disappointed that not much has been done by way of increasing plot ratios, a move that usually adds zest to the property market.

But Savills Singapore director (marketing and development) Ku Swee Yong notes that property values, and possibly even plot ratios, tend to rise around new MRT stations.

And with the RTS already reported to be doubled from 138 km today to 278 km by 2020, with an addition of over 40 new stations, Mr Ku is hopeful that the next Master Plan review could see more plot ratio goodies. 'I think URA might just be waiting for the new infrastructure to be completed,' he added.

Central Bank Actions Easing Global Credit Crunch: US Treasury

Source : The Straits Times, May 26, 2008

TOKYO - AN assistant US Treasury secretary said on Monday the global credit crunch is gradually easing following efforts by the US Federal Reserve and other central banks.

Mr Clay Lowery, assistant secretary for international affairs at the US Department of the Treasury, said the Fed and other central banks have coordinated their actions to protect the financial system since the US subprime mortgage crisis surfaced last year.

As a result, the availability of credit has improved 'modestly,' Mr Lowery told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.

'Already, we have seen some indication that this combination of actions is beginning to have the desired effect,' he said.

He also urged Japan to do more to prove its openness to foreign investment. Japan still lags behind other industrialised nations in encouraging investment from overseas, he said.

'It is therefore important that Japan sends a clear message that it is open to foreign investment,' he said.

The Japanese government recently rejected a request from British hedge fund The Children's Investment Fund to boost its stake in a major utility, Electric Power Development Co, or J-Power. -- AP

Crater Filled And Water Supply Restored

Source : The Straits Times, May 26, 2008


WHEN Cornwall Gardens resident Holly Amiri returned home on Saturday night after a week-long holiday, she was shocked to see her quiet street transformed into a busy construction site.

Men in hard hats were furiously filling in a 3m-deep crater in the road, the result of a Saturday morning cave-in. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that underground tunnelling work on the upcoming Circle Line had loosened soil on that stretch.

PUTTING IT RIGHT: Restoration work was in full swing at Cornwall Gardens yesterday. An excavator was used to remove loose soil, so that power cables that had collapsed during the cave-in could be repaired. Water supply was also restored to the area yesterday. -- ST PHOTO: LIM CHIN PING

The accident, which did not leave anyone injured, cut off the water supply for at least four homes. One home also lost phone, Internet and cable television links.

Mrs Amiri, an American housewife in her 50s, said: 'I tried to turn the tap on and nothing came out. Then my neighbour told me what happened.

'I got on the phone with my husband and told him, 'Guess what, we're living over a sinkhole.''

The water supply was restored by yesterday morning, but telecommunication lines had yet to be fixed when The Straits Times visited the scene in the afternoon.

The crater had been filled, and workers had dug two holes to fix the telecommunication problem.

Residents who had moved out temporarily have been trying to return to their homes and cope with the disruption.

The Sperlings, who live at No.14 and were put up at the Shangri-La Hotel over the weekend, wanted to check out yesterday.

However, they were told by the LTA to stay put until tomorrow. That is when the LTA hopes to finish repairs and reopen the road.

But that did not deter housewife Jane Sperling from returning home briefly twice yesterday to check on the water supply and pick up extra clothes for her family.

Residents are resigned over the disruption, but take comfort in the LTA's round-the-clock efforts to fix the situation.

Despite the fact that she had moved into her home just six months ago, Mrs Sperling said she was not angry about the incident.

'I think this was something they couldn't control,' she said, giving LTA the thumbs-up for being responsive and helpful.

Just across the road at No.15, the Chesters were preparing to move back into their home.

The family of five had spent the night with relatives who live in the nearby Holland Road area.

Mr Julian Chester, a 36-year-old banker, had witnessed the crater forming on Saturday morning when he stepped out for an early morning jog. The initial hole quickly expanded to twice its size before his eyes.

'Bits of the road were just falling into it. The hole was full of water gurgling along.

'It was quite scary. It was huge,' he said.

Like the Sperlings, his family has been provided with a hired car as the crater has marooned their vehicle in the driveway.

'The hole has been a bit inconvenient, but I guess there's nothing we can do about it,' said Mr Chester with a shrug.

When asked about the possibility of another crater developing in the area, the LTA said it was unlikely.

Ahoy! New Water Taxis To Cruise S'pore River Soon

Source : The Straits Times, May 26, 2008

THE first batch of new water taxis run by Singapore Ducktours will take to the Singapore River in a matter of days.

Currently undergoing water trials, at least three of these 14m-long, 56-seater aluminium vessels, known as HiPPOboats, should be licensed for river cruises by the end of this month.

RIVER VIEW: At least three of the 56-seater vessels, known as HiPPOboats, should be licensed for river cruises by the end of this month. -- ST PHOTO: ALAN LIM

'By mid-June, we will have at least eight HiPPOboats in the river,' said Ms Agnes Shew, assistant director of Singapore Ducktours. The company also operates the DHL Balloon and city sightseeing tours on open-top buses and amphibious vehicles.

Over the next three years, this home-grown tour operator will launch 20 boats, costing about $7 million, on the river.

Some of these vessels will be outfitted with banquet tables for dinner cruises, and others with sofa seats for parties.

This new service is part of a large-scale rejuvenation plan by the authorities that aims to make the Singapore River a tourist magnet.

The new Ducktours boats replace bumboats formerly operated by tourism and leisure company Singapore Explorer, which ended at the end of last year. Another company, Singapore River Cruises & Leisure, continues its bumboat service on the waterway.

In accordance with national water agency PUB's regulations, all the new boats will operate with a hybrid system of batteries and solar panels.

Trained guides will provide live commentaries on historically significant spots as passengers glide past a route that includes the Esplanade and Clarke Quay.

US Already In Recession, Says Warren Buffet

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 25 May 2008

BERLIN : While economists quibble, the world's richest man has decided: the United States is already in recession. So Warren Buffett tells German magazine Der Spiegel in an interview to be published on Monday.

"It is perhaps not a recession in the way that economists would understand it... but people are already feeling the effects and it will be deeper and longer than people think," Buffett said on a visit to Frankfurt.

Buffett, the 77-year-old chief of the Berkshire Hathaway holding company, blamed financial institutions for introducing instruments "they can no longer control" and said the "genie can no longer be put back in the bottle."

Buffett, who overtook Bill Gates this year as the world's richest man, said he believed the financial markets should be more tightly regulated.

According to the Forbes annual billionaire's list published in March, Buffett saw his wealth jump from 52 billion dollars last year to 62 billion, pushing Microsoft co-founder Gates into third position after 13 years at the top.

US economic growth has slowed dramatically in recent months and a growing number of economists believe the world's largest economy will experience a recession during 2008 amid a housing slump and related credit crunch. - AFP /ls

Committee To Look Into Judgement On Pedra Branca To Meet Within 2 Weeks

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 25 May 2008

A joint committee between Malaysia and Singapore to look into the details of the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) judgement over Pedra Branca could meet within two weeks, said Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim.

Mr Rais disclosed this when he and Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo met the media on the sidelines of the ASEAN-UN International Pledging Conference in Yangon on Sunday.

Earlier, Mr Yeo and Mr Rais Yatim had congratulated each other, saying both sides had won in the International Court of Justice's decision over Pedra Branca.

Last Friday, the ICJ in The Hague had ruled Pedra Branca in Singapore's favour, while Middle Rocks went to Malaysia.

Mr Yeo said a joint committee will go through the judgement in detail and work out the transitional arrangements.

He said: "Our officials will now sit down. They have a joint committee to go through the judgement in detail and to work out the transitional arrangements. In fact, that joint committee has already been at work before the judgement, in order that all scenarios are anticipated and that there will be no friction on the ground.

"Our bilateral relationship is very good and we can be more relaxed now about safeguarding our claims, about the intensity of patrols and so on." - CNA/so

Water Supply Restored To Homes At Cornwall Gardens

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 25 May 2008

Water supply has been restored to the homes affected by the road cave-in at Cornwall Gardens off Holland Road.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said no fresh cracks have been found in the area.

While the crater left by the cave-in had been filled, digging works are still ongoing to complete some utility works, including the restoration of telecommunications services.

Residents at Cornwall Gardens would probably have to put up with the inconvenience for another 48 hours.

The LTA has ensured that any disruptions caused by the road cave-in are looked into, including providing temporary water supply to some of the homes affected by the incident.

Related Video :-

The cave-in was caused by works on the MRT Circle Line off Holland Road. LTA's engineers and contractors had been preparing to stabilise loose soil when the cave-in happened on Saturday morning.

The LTA expects to re-open the road to traffic on Tuesday. -CNA/so

SM Goh Commends Calm Reaction Over Pedra Branca Judgement

Source : Channel NewsAsia, 25 May 2008

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has commended the calm reaction that has prevailed in both Malaysia and Singapore over last Friday's judgement on Pedra Branca by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of a fundraising golf tournament on Sunday, he said it shows a level of maturity in relations between Malaysia and Singapore and that augurs well for the future.

The ICJ in The Hague had ruled Pedra Branca's sovereignty in Singapore's favour, while Middle Rocks went to Malaysia.

Describing it as a tricky knot that has been untied, Mr Goh said that after almost 30 years, both sides can look forward, instead of being bogged down by the issue.

It was Mr Goh – then prime minister of Singapore – and former Malaysian prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamed, who had decided to bring the Pedra Branca dispute to third party arbitration, back in 1994.

Related Video :-

However, Mr Goh expressed disappointment that Singapore was not awarded the Middle Rocks as he had thought the judgement would be all or nothing since the rocky outcrops are so close to one another.

Describing the ICJ decision as having a 'hint of Solomon', he said it is perhaps the best outcome for both sides.

On the issue of South Ledge, the senior minister said the boundaries would have to be drawn according to international law. Given the goodwill shown by both sides, he is confident this would be settled amicably.

Asked if Malaysian fishermen would be allowed to pass through the waters of Pedra Branca, Mr Goh said this would be left to the technical committees of both countries to work out the details.

He also did not want to speculate if the same third party process could be used to settle other outstanding bilateral issues between Singapore and Malaysia. -CNA/vm/so

Kallang River Surroundings Poised For Boom Time

Source : The Sunday Times, May 25, 2008

Waterside district with lush greenery has potential to be leading residential enclave, say analysts, pointing out its proximity to town and good public transport

Finally, a bit of news to cheer the ailing housing market: The drab, neglected area north of Kallang River is to be Singapore's next lifestyle hot spot.

Four thousand new waterfront homes, all to be built by private developers, are slated to come up in the area in the next 15 years.

Walking, jogging and cycling are just some of the outdoor activities that residents of the 4,000 new homes in the area can enjoy. -- PHOTOS: THE NEW PAPER, NATIONAL PARKS BOARD

They will offer cool green living in a lush park setting, as well as resort-style beachfront housing near the water's edge.

Kallang Riverside will also be transformed into a lively commercial hub and leisure destination, with enough space for 400,000 sq m of offices and shops and 3,000 hotel rooms.

All this was announced by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Friday as part of its latest Master Plan, which guides Singapore's land use policy in the medium term.

Property consultants say the new Kallang district, bounded by Lavender and Kallang MRT stations on the northern corners and the Kallang River to the south, has the potential to become a premier residential enclave.

'The area is near town, yet next to the beach, it reminds me of places like the Gold Coast,' said Mr Danny Yeo, the deputy managing director of property firm Knight Frank.

He lauded the exclusivity of the area, which is bounded by waterways on all sides except for Kallang Road to the north.

'It's resort living on the fringe of the city. Many people will want to live there.'

Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL)'s head of South-east Asia research, Mr Chua Yang Liang, called the area 'a hybrid of the current two waterfront areas, Marina Bay and Sentosa'.

Over the last couple of years, demand for waterfront homes has strengthened and the limited supply of such properties has led to their prices surging to a level beyond the grasp of many Singaporeans, he said.

'This new district may help make similar projects available to the man in the street.'

Mr Karamjit Singh, the managing director of property consultancy Credo Real Estate, drew a comparison with Novena, another prime city-fringe area, instead.

He highlighted the fact that Kallang is served by two MRT stations, making it a very desirable residential and office location.

'Kallang has the potential of becoming the new Novena, purely because it's that close to town.'

Lots to choose from

A range of housing options will be available in Kallang Riverside, if all goes according to the Master Plan.

Most of the homes will be set on the western bank of the river in an area called The Green, which will have a park running down the middle.

Low-rise apartment blocks will face the park, with high-rise condominiums soaring behind them.

The Government has set aside several plots for high-density housing here, with varying plot ratios for different building heights, noted Mr Li Hiaw Ho, the executive director of CB Richard Ellis Research.

This will allow for a 'step-down' range of storey heights that descend towards the waterfront, enabling residents in the top floors of each building to enjoy views of the water.

Homes that are directly fronting the park or the river will also be encouraged to go 'fenceless' to create a seamless blend of parkland, beachfronts and buildings, said the URA.

Landed homes may also make an appearance nearer the beaches, said JLL's Mr Chua.

City-fringe prices

Kallang may sound like a first-class place to live, but expect to pay top dollar for homes there.

Property values are expected to soar in the area, especially for the planned new homes. The surrounding residences will not feel any impact for the next few years, but prices may rise once the area starts taking shape, predicted property experts.

Most of the housing estates nearby are made up of HDB flats.

Currently, the only condominium in the area is the upcoming Riverine by the Park, along Kallang Road near the river. Nearby is Citylights, at Jellicoe Road near Lavender MRT station.

Units were recently sold at Riverine for $1,600 per sq ft (psf) and at Citylights for $1,000 to $1,300 psf.

Across the river, condos in Tanjong Rhu have been sold for as low as $750 psf at Tanjong Ria Condo and for more than $1,600 psf at Casuarina Cove.

Knight Frank's Mr Yeo believes home prices in the new Kallang will be 'a shade below those in Orchard, and probably comparable to those in Newton and Novena', with waterfront homes costing even more.

Mr Chua expects prices to be about 10 per cent to 15 per cent lower than those currently commanded by Marina Bay and Sentosa, which range from $1,700 psf to $2,700 psf.

'The plans will bring the population back into Kallang and increase demand for the surrounding properties,' he said.

Already, buyers are being drawn to HDB flats in the area because of the high prices of private homes and the conservation charm of Kallang, Mr Chua said.

'It's still a little sleepy town now, and there won't be much short-term impact, but in the medium to long term, we should see price movements there.'


# Under the URA's latest Master Plan, Kallang Riverside will be transformed into a lively commercial hub and leisure destination, with enough space for 400,000 sq m of offices and shops and 3,000 hotel rooms.

# Knight Frank's Mr Danny Yeo likens the area to city-fringe resort living, as it reminds him of Australia's Gold Coast, with the district being near town and yet next to the beach.

# Jones Lang LaSalle's Mr Chua Yang Liang calls the area 'a hybrid of the current two waterfront areas, Marina Bay and Sentosa'.

Circle Line Work Causes Cave-In Off Holland Road

Source : The Sunday Times, May 25, 2008

When the Sperling family went to bed on Friday night, a steel sheet had been laid across cracks in the street just outside the driveway of their bungalow, off Holland Road.

A stretch of Cornwall Gardens disappeared into a 3m-deep crater caused by 'loose ground'. While no one was hurt, water supplies to three homes were cut off and phones, computers and cable TV links were also out at one of the homes. -- COURTESY OF ELIOT SPERLING

By dawn yesterday, a 8m by 7m stretch of Cornwall Gardens had disappeared into a 3m-deep crater.

No one was injured, neither were any homes in the area damaged when the ground sank at about 4.45am, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday.

But water supplies to three homes were cut off as the pipes snapped when the road crumbled. Phones, computers and cable TV links were also out at one of the homes because of damaged cables.

By yesterday evening, most of the crater had been filled in by contractors and repairs to affected utility lines are expected to start soon. -- ALBERT SIM

The LTA said it arranged for the homes to be supplied drinking water and provided temporary telecommunication links.

The Sperlings, whose driveway was blocked by the repair work, have been put up at Shangri-La Hotel and provided two rental cars.

Yesterday's cave-in was linked to tunnelling work taking place 22m below ground for a section of the Circle Line, connecting new stations at Holland Village and Farrer Road.

All tunnelling work has been stopped as repairs are carried out, the spokesman added.

The cave-in happened because of 'loose ground', said LTA. Its engineers and the contractors for the tunnelling work had been preparing to stabilise the soil in the area when it sank.

Residents in the area say they have experienced vibrations as tunnelling work moved through the area in the last two months.

The Sperlings, who moved into 14 Cornwall Gardens six months ago, said they could hear a constant 'low rumble'.

Housewife Jane Sperling, 46, who resides in the bungalow with her investment manager husband and three sons, said the rumble was sometimes strong enough to throw open the ceiling vents.

There were other signs.

Another resident in the area, Mr Stephen Wisely, 46, who works in an oil and gas construction company, spotted a small sinkhole in his driveway two months ago, which was later filled in by LTA contractors.

More recently, Ms Mhel Bueno, 35, a domestic help who lives at No.12, had noticed water overflowing from a pipe near the cave-in site.

The LTA said its 'engineers inspected monitoring instruments that had been installed at the houses and on the ground in the vicinity, and are satisfied that the houses and surrounding area are safe'.

By yesterday evening, most of the crater had been filled in and work was being carried out to strengthen the ground. Repairs to affected utility lines would also start soon.

The LTA apologised for the inconvenience to residents and motorists and said that the stretch of Cornwall Gardens is expected to reopen to traffic by Tuesday.

The sinkhole is the latest setback for the project, the most severe being the 2004 cave-in at the Nicoll Highway tunnel, which killed four.

Last year, four stop-work orders were issued, including for a stretch of a tunnel in Telok Blangah, when part of the road sank.

The LTA said the Cornwall Gardens repairs are not expected to delay progress of the Circle Line which is expected to be completed in stages from 2010 onwards.

Road Sinks At Cornwall Gardens Road, Creating Massive Hole

Source : The Straits Times, May 24, 2008

A STRETCH of road at Cornwall Gardens sank on Saturday, creating a massive hole that measured 8 metres by 7 metres, with a depth of 3 metres.

The road subsidence occurred above the tunnel boring machine where tunnelling works for the MRT Circle Line were being carried out.

In a statement on Saturday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that its engineers and contractors have assessed the hole and said 'there is no risk to residents in the vicinity'.

It added that 'works to backfill the hole is in progress'.

In the meantime, Cornwall Gardens Road has been temporarily closed to traffic to facilitate the repair works.

Members of the public are advised to avoid the road.

Trunk Service

Source : The Straits Times, May 24, 2008

This award-winning home has taken a step further when it comes to bringing the outdoors indoors - it has trees inside

TREE'S COMPANY: When the gate of the tallest and most modern-looking house (below) on this stretch of the road is open, passers-by are treated to a view of trees growing inside the home up to a bedroom on the second level. Further in, the living room (above) features even more trees as well as ferns grown on the putty walls. -- PHOTOS: ALBERT LIM KS

THIS is one special tree house.

It's actually a terrace house nestling amid Orchard Road high-rises, but it's been transformed into a jungle oasis, complete with trees growing up into and out of the floor and ceilings of the kitchen and living room.

Yes, that's right - where you'd have a breakfast table and chairs, there are slender tree trunks popping up through holes in the timber floor.

Instead of wallpaper, there are real ferns. A two- storey waterfall anchors the end of the living room.

No wonder this natural wonder scooped a top prize at the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) awards announced on Wednesday.

It won a design award, and also a new prize launched this year: Best Project Below $1 Million Construction Cost.

The 230 sq m house cost just $390,000 to build in 2006. Another $100,000 was spent on greenery and interior works. A house of a similar size today would cost about $700,000.

SIA president Tai Lee Siang notes: 'It is not true that good architecture has to have a high price.'

The Architectural Design Awards - being held for the ninth time this year - are handed out once every two years to projects of architectural merit.

'Projects that contributed new ideas or expanded on existing repertoire were awarded,' says jury member and renowned architect Mok Wei Wei.

The three-storey intermediate terrace in Jalan Elok off Mount Elizabeth Road was designed by local architect Chang Yong Ter, 38.

Home owners Richard Wong and Clara Yue's brief to him was simple. 'To have as much green as possible in the home,' says Mr Wong, 41, an Australian investor who is now a permanent resident here.

The couple, who have three teenage children, say they do not like houses that are hot, so having greenery would help keep the home, which has five bedrooms and a roof garden, cool.

Squirrels and toads visit, too

And Mr Chang, who started his own firm, Chang Architects, about seven years ago, clearly rose to the challenge.

When Life! went to check out the house, it was easy to spot which one it was on the street - a canopy of trees sprouted like green plumes through concrete and glass.

At the entrance, once past the car porch, you are confounded by the sight of, not the living room, but a kitchen.

And looking out over the breakfast bar, you see eucalyptus and tower trees, as if you are in a park.

The kitchen leads to the dining room, then to the living room. Furniture may be sparse - there are just sofas and no coffee table - but as well as a waterfall, there is a shallow pond.

It is not just the family who enjoys the green oasis. Mr Wong says: 'We've seen squirrels running across the walls and toads enjoying a dip in the pond.'

Living here is much like being in a jungle. There's green everywhere.

The master bedroom on the second storey looks out onto the green wall in the living room. 'It's amazing to wake up to greenery,' says Mr Wong.

The family spends most of its time in the living room. Instead of a television set, a huge projection screen lowers from the ceiling.

'Once we heard toads croaking, and found it funny as it wasn't part of the movie we were watching,' says Ms Yue, 47, a freelance consultant.

Cool water

ARCHITECT Mr Chang reveals that his first step in designing the house was to work out where the trees would go.

As for how he hit upon living walls of ferns, he says: 'Ferns are suitable here because they do not require much sunlight.'

The ferns and trees are watered via an automatic irrigation system and require little maintenance, except for the occasional trimming.

And he notes of the living room's pond: 'Having water in the living room also cools the area.'

To encourage cross-ventilation, a light and wind channel was also created at the back of the living room, and this opens out to the back of the house.

The couple say the greenery has certainly helped in keeping the home cool.

During March when it was cooler, Ms Yue says: 'It was so chilly, I needed a jacket at night.'

Occasionally, when it pours, rain comes into the kitchen where the trees are. On a recent visit, Ms Yue's mother commented that she used to keep the rain out of her kitchen.

'She finds it unusual that we now welcome the rain to come in,' says Ms Yue.

STEPPING UP THE GREENERY: Even more plants dot the space beneath the stairs leading to the rooms on the second and third storey and the roof garden. It's a hassle to climb so many steps, but the owners have come to regard it as a form of exercise.

COOL SET-UP (above): The master bedroom looks out to the green wall while its bathroom has a view of the pebbled feature wall. The set-up enhances the area's ventilation, hence reducing the need for air-conditioning.

COOKING IN THE RAIN: The kitchen, which adjoins the car porch so that cooking fumes will not get into the living areas, has eucalyptus and tower trees. When it pours, rain seeps into the home through the holes that the trees grow through.

'She finds it unusual that we now welcome the rain to come in'
Ms Clara Yue on her mother who, after seeing her kitchen which has openings where rain can enter, commented that she used to keep the rain out of her kitch

ALL NATURAL: A skylight allows natural light to fall freely into this bathroom.

NO WINDOWS? NO PROBLEM: Instead of a television, a projector screens images on a wall opposite the daughter's bedroom. There are no windows in the space but there's still a touch of the outdoors, thanks to the plants-and-stones feature.

Cool Haven For Seven

Source : The Straits Times, May 24, 2008

These award-winning homes prove that it is possible to meet diverse needs and still have style

ALL UNDER ONE ROOF: The home owners live on the topmost floor of this three-storey bungalow, while their daughter and her family live in the basement, which looks out to the garden and pool. The middle storey is for their inter-generational gatherings. -- PHOTOS: CHAN SAU YAN ASSOCIATES

The entrance from the road leads to the second level of the home, and the kitchen, living and dining rooms.


By Chan Sau Yan Associates

Fitting in three generations under one roof, and providing everyone with privacy while allowing for interaction is no easy task.

But in this three-storey bungalow off Jervois Road, veteran architect Sonny Chan, 66, met the needs of his clients, and also won a design award for it in the residential category at this week's Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) Architectural Design Awards.

His clients are an elderly couple who live with their daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren. They declined to be named.

The house, completed last December, is over 1,000 sq m in floor area. The two families have their own private areas, but there is also a common level for get-togethers.

The entrance from the road leads to the second level of the home, and the kitchen, living and dining rooms.

The daughter and her family live in the basement, which looks out onto the pool and garden. This area has four bedrooms, and its own kitchen, living and dining areas.

The home owners live on the top floor.

Mr Chan, who declined to reveal construction costs, used concrete for the facade and roof, and says this makes the home look outstanding and creates a presence in the neighbourhood.

To reduce trapped heat, the interior has high spaces and there are adjustable glass louvred windows at the end of the roof that allow heat to escape.

Large windows provide unblocked views of the surrounding lush greenery and also provide cross-ventilation.

Pet-friendly home

CUTTING-CAGE: A feature of this home is the cage-like structure that is both a home to aparrots and the facade of a shower.


By Formwerkz Architects

This intermediate terrace house at Opera Estate is just 250 sq m in size, but it doesn't feel small at all.

It was designed by Formwerkz Architects for an undisclosed sum for Andrew Foo and his family, who declined to be interviewed.

Formwerkz's director Gwen Tan, 33, said her firm faced the challenge of fitting many features into a small plot.

The two-storey house - which won an SIA design award in the residential category - has four bedrooms and an attic, and comes with plenty of large windows for cross-ventilation.

The architects did away with a main door and put in a metal gate that allows the breeze in. Through such features, the house stays cool without air-conditioning.

Another challenge was accommodating the owners' parrots. These now live in a special two-storey cage in the living room.

But while the caged area on the first level is for the birds, the structure, with the addition of curtains, becomes a shower area for the owners on the second storey.

A bird stand in the cage serves as a perch for the parrots, and doubles as a cover for a water pipe.

Concrete was used for the flooring, which not only keeps the house cool but 'is also easy to maintain', said Ms Tan.

As well, the owners' dogs have free run of the house and with concrete flooring, it doesn't matter if they scratch it.

Property Prices Expected To Moderate

Source : The Straits Times, May 24, 2008

THE Singapore property market has peaked and prices can be expected to moderate in the next two years, the Government said yesterday.

Prices had surged in the past two years because of a supply-demand imbalance, said Mr Ravi Menon, the Second Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

'The market has been tight across various segments as supply was slow to respond when demand surged in the past couple of years,' he said yesterday.

However, he felt that the market had already reached its peak.

'There is supply coming online in the next few years that will offset some of the demand, and expectations are for moderation over the next one or two years.

'This will provide some relief in terms of cost pressures, which is important when it comes to controlling inflation.'

Bukit Sembawang Profit Soars To $74.87m

Source : The Business Times, May 24, 2008

BUKIT Sembawang Estates has recorded a net profit of $74.87 million for the year ended March 31, up 124 per cent over $33.42 million a year ago.

Turnover for the property developer came to $75.6 million, up 30.4 per cent over $57.97 million previously.

The substantial increase in profit for the year ended March 31, compared with the previous year, was due mainly to a one-time capital gain of $46.7 million from the sale of shares.

The company has recommended a final dividend of seven cents per ordinary share. The proposed dividend, if approved by the shareholders, will be paid on Aug 7.

Bukit Sembawang's net profit for the fourth quarter, meanwhile, came to $3.5 million, down 77.6 per cent from $15.7 million a year ago.

Q4 turnover was down 25 per cent at $11.89 million from $15.86 million previously.

The company's development profit for Q4 and the year ended March 31 consists of the recognition of revenue (based on percentage of completion method) for the housing units sold at Mimosa Terrace Phase 4 and Phase 6, Parc Mondrian and Paterson Suites.

Looking ahead, it expects profit for the current year to be lower, given that the current sentiment in the residential property market remains cautious.

Yesterday, Bukit Sembawang shares closed unchanged at $9.30.

Growth Looks On Track Despite Hike In Inflation Forecast

Source : The Business Times, May 24, 2008

Govt raises 2008 inflation estimate to 5-6%

Inflation has hit 7.5 per cent and may average 6 per cent for the year, but economists believe the rising prices will not derail Singapore's growth.

The government yesterday raised its forecast for 2008 consumer price inflation by half-a-point to 5-6 per cent, following a spike in the rate to 7.5 per cent in April - a 26-year high.

The revised forecast by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) overshadowed the release of first-quarter GDP growth: at 6.7 per cent, Q1 growth is below market consensus and below the early official flash estimate of 7.2 per cent, though up from the preceding 2007 Q4's 5.4 per cent.

MTI is maintaining the official GDP growth forecast of 4-6 per cent for the year, noting that the external slowdown is panning out pretty much as expected.

'The critical uncertainty remains the US economy,' MTI second permanent secretary Ravi Menon said at a news conference yesterday. 'We're looking at a recession or near-recession scenario that is not unlike the 2001 and 1991 experiences - may be close to about three quarters of weak or negative growth followed by steady recovery.'

The bottom line is: the US is already in a significant slowdown. While the worst seems over for US financial markets, a recurrence of Bear Stearns-type 'financial accidents' cannot be ruled out, MTI says. Another bout of financial turmoil would deepen and prolong the US economic slump.

Singapore faces both growth and inflation risks, 'though probably the balance of risks has shifted towards inflation', Mr Menon said yesterday.

'Going forward, there remains a high degree of uncertainty on global food and energy prices,' he added. 'There could be some moderation in food prices towards the end of the year. On the flip side, unforeseen supply disruptions could just as well trigger a second round of increases in food prices.'

MTI's latest forecasts see oil prices averaging US$110 per barrel over the year, up from US$94 in March and US$87 in February.

Over the next 2-3 months, Singapore's inflation rate is expected to remain high - probably around current levels - but should start to ease in the second half of the year as the impact of the higher Goods and Services Tax (GST) wears off. At the same time, underlying inflation momentum appears to have plateaued, MTI notes.

And Singapore's exchange rate policy - which Mr Menon described as 'the main policy tool right now in our arsenal' to fight inflation - will have a moderating effect. If not for the appreciation of the Sing dollar - which rose about 11 per cent against the US greenback last year, and a further 4-5 per cent so far this year - Singapore's 2007 inflation rate would have been 2-2.5 points higher, MAS deputy managing director Ong Chong Tee told reporters yesterday.

Economists said the official GDP growth forecast remains intact, even as growth estimates of non-oil domestic exports have been pared to just 2-4 per cent.

They reckon, however, that inflation could exceed the official estimates - and warn of a wage and business cost spiral. Overall unit labour costs surged 8.8 per cent in Q1, and manufacturing unit business costs rose 3.3 per cent.

According to estimates by HSBC's Asian economists, if the CPI continues to rise just 0.6 per cent every month between May and December in seasonally-adjusted terms, inflation would average 7.5 per cent for the year.