Saturday, August 9, 2008

No Better Time To Be In Singapore

Source : The Business Times, August 9, 2008

How well Singapore delivers on the ongoing iconic projects will influence its ability to attract more investments and events

THE nation may be celebrating its 43rd birthday today, but for many Singaporeans, National Day came exceptionally early this year - nearly six months ago on February 21, to be exact.

On that day, thousands thronged City Hall as they became part of history when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) - in a 'live' satellite feed from Switzerland - announced to the world that the Republic would be the host of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2010.

The euphoria that ensued afterwards was unlike anything I had seen before. Watching the festivities unfold on TV, I saw the Padang explode with joy as Singaporeans young and old - most clad in red and white - jumped and hugged one another, never mind if they were total strangers.

The BT newsroom, meanwhile, was all hushed as nearly everyone left their desks and crowded around the TVs, only to erupt in cheers as the good news was announced.

The celebrations, singing, dancing and fireworks that lasted long into the night could give any National Day Parade a run for its money. It's hard to describe the cocktail of emotions that I was feeling in the moments that followed the birth of the YOG as Singapore's newest icon.

Pride, for being chosen as the first host of such a prestigious event. Relief, for finally seeing off the tough challenge of fellow finalist Russia and nine other countries. Satisfaction, in knowing that the seven months of hard work of all involved in the bid process had been duly rewarded.

But then came the first chink in the armour. Last Saturday, in a surprise announcement, the YOG organising committee said that the highly anticipated Games village would no longer be housed at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) upcoming University Town campus in Clementi.

Instead, the village will now be relocated to the Nanyang Technological University off Jalan Bahar, in a bid to save costs due to rising construction and fuel prices. It's a blow, to say the least, to have to go back on the assurances made just weeks ago that the original village plan was on track. To have to resort to making such an about-turn, barely six months after clinching the hosting rights, did little for our image and adds to the pressure for us being the very first hosts of the YOG.

What Singaporeans now want to hear and see is a unified 'can-do' spirit, that we can bounce back from any setback and prove that we can more than hold our own against our more experienced counterparts in putting together a world-class sporting event.

For many of us, being part of the YOG will be as close as we can get to embracing and feeling the Olympic spirit first-hand, seeing as how the Republic is unlikely to ever get the chance to host the Summer Games. Already, hundreds of volunteers have put their names in the hat, willing to contribute to the organising and execution of the two-week event in one form or another.

The YOG is but just one on a growing list of new Singapore icons over the past year or so that have helped put Singapore on the world map. Coincidentally, also in February this year, the Republic made headlines when the world's largest observation wheel, the 165m-high, $240-million Singapore Flyer made its maiden flight.

Some 700 lucky people became the first in history to go up and take in the sights of Marina Bay. Just last week, the Flyer management reported that over a million people have visited the Flyer, putting it on track to achieve its target of 2.5 million visitors in the first year.

However, there have been some grumbles that ticket prices are out of reach for many families, costing over $100 for a family of two adults and two children for a single flight.

On its part, the Flyer management has gone some way to reach out to the less fortunate and disabled by arranging special visits for them to enjoy the attraction. Tourists, meanwhile, make up half of all its visitors so far. The Flyer is also one of the top weapons in the Singapore Tourism Board's arsenal to help reach the goal of bringing in 17 million tourists by 2015.

But perhaps no single event has generated more buzz this year than the upcoming Formula One next month, which has captured the world's attention for being the first race to be held at night.

All this, and there's still the small matter of the opening of even more iconic structures - Gardens By The Bay and the two upcoming Marina Bay and Resorts World integrated resorts by 2010.

We also cannot afford to ignore the multi-million dollar makeover that Singapore's most famous shopping belt is undergoing - with new walkways, malls refurbishing their exteriors, more al fresco dining options and daily midnight movies - to help make Orchard Road build its reputation as the equivalent of the Champs-elysees in Paris or New York's 5th Avenue.

Orchard Road is also gearing up for the opening of its latest crown jewel next year - the iconic Ion Orchard, the first major retail development there in over a decade, and one that will redefine the retail landscape.

Even in this economic downturn, local retailers are already champing at the bit to secure prime units at the 40,000 sq ft mega-mall to capture the attention of shoppers. It's safe to say that there's no better time to be in Singapore than the present, with so much to look forward to in the next couple of years.

This is a crucial period for the Republic, as this is the first time in recent memory that the eyes of the world will be on us as these large-scale and world-class projects and events gear up for their opening, and in quick succession too. How well we deliver on them will undoubtedly influence the country's ability to attract more investments and global events to these shores in future.

7 Commonwealth Dr Blocks Marked For Sers

Source : The Business Times, August 9, 2008

Owners can register for replacement flats around Q3 2009

THE Housing & Development Board (HDB) has identified seven blocks at Commonwealth Drive for its latest Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers).

The 10-storey blocks are 44 years old and comprise 669 sold flats. The flat owners will be offered replacement flats (up to 40 storeys high) that HDB is building at a nearby site, conveniently located near Commonwealth MRT Station.

HDB will build about 730 units of new two, three, four and five-room replacement flats to rehouse affected flat owners.

Eligible Sers flat owners will be invited to register for their replacement flats around Q3 2009. The new flats are expected to be completed around end 2012/early 2013.

This is the 72nd site to be identified for Sers since the scheme was implemented in August 1995. The latest site, involving Blocks 74 to 80 Commonwealth Drive, was announced last night by Baey Yam Keng, adviser to Tanjong Pagar Grassroots Organisations during the Queenstown National Day Celebration Dinner.

The latest Sers plan will also involve 24 rental shops and two rental eating houses at Blocks 74 to 80 Commonwealth Drive. The eligible shop/eating house tenants will be given an ex-gratia payment of $60,000 per tenancy and a 10 per cent discount on their successful bids for other HDB rental commercial properties. HDB will hold an exhibition from Aug 14 to 20 to give residents a better understanding of the Sers plan and its benefits.

Rehousing benefits for eligible Sers flat owners include compensation for their existing flats based on the prevailing market value; purchase of replacement flats at subsidised prices frozen as at the date of Sers announcement; and 20 per cent discount (up to $11,000, $22,000 and $30,000 for singles, joint singles and families respectively) if eligible, for the purchase of the replacement flats.

Eligible Sers flat owners who do not wish to take up the new replacement flats can choose to sell their existing flats with the rehousing benefits to buyers who are eligible to buy flats directly from HDB. With the sale proceeds, which will include a premium for the rehousing benefits, they can then buy a resale flat in their preferred location.

Anther benefit for the Sers flat owners is that they will be exempted from payment of resale levy for the existing flats.

All Eyes On IRs Now

Source : The Business Times, August 9, 2008

Apart from a surge in tourism, jobs and tax receipts, Singapore's two integrated resorts could bring in new investors

WITH expectations of a big boost to the economy, more buzz and the promise of thousands of jobs, it is no wonder we are all a little anxious to see Singapore's two integrated resorts (IRs) completed.

Citi analyst Chua Hak Bin believes that the biggest challenge facing the IRs now is 'probably to contain costs given the run-up in building material prices and completing the resorts on schedule'.

'Getting the resorts up and ready by late 2009 or early 2010 would be regarded as a big success,' added Dr Chua. 'The greenlight for the integrated resorts was an important turning point for the economy and property market. Investors could see the potential upside given the stunning growth seen in Macau and Las Vegas,' notes Dr Chua.

Will the IRs deliver?

Dr Chua believes that the impact from the IRs will come in two phases. 'The first phase comes from construction spending and improved sentiment, particularly from enhanced property values,' he says. 'The gains in the second phase comes from the surge in tourism, jobs and tax receipts,' he adds.

Many have already benefited from 'enhanced property values' especially those who bought property around Marina Bay and Sentosa in 2005 and 2006. But as investors now know, this 'sentiment' driven boost has not really been sustainable.

Dr Chua also notes that recent tourism figures suggest that visitor arrivals are being hit by a global slowdown, stronger Singapore dollar, and higher travel costs. 'Annual visitor arrivals could rise sharply from the current 10.4 million, but may fall short of the government's target of 17 million by 2015,' he adds.

In 2006, before the sub-prime crisis set in, it was estimated that Marina Bay Sands (MBS) and Resorts World at Sentosa (RWS) could each generate about $2.7 billion of value-add - about 0.8 per cent of Singapore's GDP - by 2015.

Dr Chua believes the IRs will still be a stimulus and expects GDP growth of about 0.3-0.5 percentage points in 2010-2015. In this light, the casinos will have to perform.

The casino licence was very much the sweetener for both IR operators to pump in over $10 billion to build the resorts. But now, even the outlook for gaming is not so certain with gaming revenues in Las Vegas expected to fall this year.

Jonathan Galaviz of Globalysis, a Las Vegas-based boutique travel and leisure sector strategy consultancy, says that while the casino gaming industry has been traditionally recession resistant, 'it is not recession proof'.

'This is especially the case when an industry, such as airlines, indirectly inhibits the ability of tourists to visit a destination like Las Vegas due to higher airfares,' he adds.

And this does not bode well for other gaming capitals. 'If East Asia were to experience a significant economic downturn, then Macau would surely be affected, the question would only be by how much,' says Mr Galaviz.

Singapore's IRs are also very much modelled after the mega resorts of Las Vegas and the new developments in Cotai, Macau. And the success of this model is still pending. 'It will take a long period of at least 5-10 more years to see whether the integrated resort model of entertainment in Macau has been a successful strategic endeavour,' Mr Galaviz says.

In the mean time, work on the IRs here continues. With barely a year to go, MBS says that, 'a great majority of construction works have been awarded'.

RWS said it has given out more than $2 billion worth of contracts. It added that rides and attractions for Universal Studios Singapore are currently being designed and pre-fabricated off-site in places such as the US and Europe.

When the IRs are up, the much anticipated 'second phase' economic euphoria can begin. Savills Singapore has analysed the impact of new gaming resorts on property markets and concluded that while Singapore has undergone major structural changes, with new concepts such as waterfront housing, integrated hotels and new retail formats, some of the impact has already been priced in.

Still, Savills director (marketing and business development) Ku Swee Yong says: 'The publicity and attention from tourists and high rollers could bring in new investors and many more jobs. With Singaporeans almost fully employed, the foreign talents needed to fill these jobs add to demand for residential units and office space.'

But Mr Ku adds: 'The period and degree of sustainability will depend on the money spent by the tourists, MICE groups and the spin-off they create for the economy and the financial services and tourism sectors.'

The good news is that both are scheduled to open on time. MBS maintains that it will be completed by December 2009 and RWS confirms it will open in early 2010. 'As our resort is massive at 49 ha with varied offerings, we are indeed opening in progression, starting with Universal Studios Singapore, Hotel Michael, Maxims Residences, Hard Rock Hotel, Festive Hotel, FestiveWalk, as well as the casino in early 2010. The rest will open progressively,' adds RWS assistant vice president, (communications) Robin Goh.

One of the bigger challenges at the IRs is labour. Mr Goh says: 'Finding talent, training them, and then retaining them - is no walk in the park.'

MBS managing director George Tanasijevich adds: 'We are working closely with the Singapore government and relevant government agencies to ensure there is a proper balance in the labour pool in order to maintain a stable and competitive labour market overall. Priority will be given to Singaporeans for all roles.'

That the IRs are projects on a national scale is not lost on the operators either.

RWS's CEO says: 'Singapore's founding fathers built this country into what it is today, with very little and within a very short time. Resorts World at Sentosa strives to replicate her success, and make Singapore proud with a destination that will rank as Asia's No 1 leisure spot when it opens in 2010.'

Challenges For Property Sector

Source : The Business Times, August 9, 2008

New engines drive Singapore's property market but pitfalls remain

THE Singapore property market has weathered the storm from the US sub-prime crisis, soaring oil prices and overall inflation, pretty well.

Runaway increases in property values in the high-end residential and prime office sectors seen in the past couple of years, for instance, have started to ease. But they have not dived, and panic has not set in, at least not so far.

Strategic: Singapore's decision to break from the past and go ahead with developing two integrated resorts as well as its efforts to position itself as a leading contender in the race among global cities to attract wealth and talent have boosted the island's prominence on the radars of international property investors

Knight Frank managing director Tan Tiong Cheng says: 'To some, this is a welcome breather from the breakneck pace of increases recorded in the last 24 months.'

CB Richard Ellis chairman (Asia) Willy Shee too observes: 'The overall market has displayed some resilience. In the office market, there's still demand for office space with occupiers still looking to pre-commit office space in yet-to-be completed buildings.' While the private housing market is not as buoyant as last year, transaction volumes have picked up in second quarter this year with encouraging sales from mid and mass-market projects, he adds.

Prospects: Some industry leaders say the MBFC (above) can be truly considered a success if the movement of tenants into the development does not create a vacuum in existing office buildings.In the residential property market, a price correction to the tune of 5 to 10 per cent is expected in the second half of this year

Market watchers feel that in the short-term, property values could head south, driven by near-term fundamentals. However, the mid-term prospects for Singapore's real estate sector are generally considered sound. As a major developer puts it: 'Population growth, global and regional wealth creation, sustained government investment in infrastructure, the perennial sharpening of Singapore's competitive edge, limited land, security and political stability, internationalisation of the property market - all these must be good for Singapore real estate prices in the long run.'

The Remaking of Singapore has helped create sound fundamentals for the local property market. The government's decision to break from the past and go ahead with developing two integrated resorts with casinos as well as its efforts to position Singapore as a leading contender in the race among global cities to attract wealth and talent have boosted the island's prominence on the radars of international property investors.

New engines for growing the Singapore economy have also been put in place and this to some extent may also help shield the island and its property market from the full impact of what's happening in the US.

Investments and job creation from the IRs, Sports Hub, expansion plans for rail network and other infrastructure projects, Singapore's policy of welcoming foreign talent to its shores, and the strategy of positioning Singapore as a hub for various industries - financial industry/wealth management, tourism, education and healthcare - are expected to provide momentum for Singapore's economy.

'The IRs, F1, Sports Hub and Youth Olympic Games surprised observers who think that Singapore is only a clean and safe place to do business but never a place where you can let your hair down,' observes Knight Frank's Mr Tan.

'What do these initiatives mean to savvy investors? They mean that we are perceptive in discerning changes in the global world, have the will to question old assumptions and have the courage to move a population to accept initiatives that can be potentially divisive.

'That the government and its people can move together to tackle challenges ahead demonstrates the inherent strength of the country as a global city to do business and a place to live,' Mr Tan added.

DTZ executive director Ong Choon Fah said: 'Wealth management industry is still a very big thing here. Wealth from high networths in Asia - China, India - is flowing into Singapore. With IRs and the F1 race, Singapore is being marketed as a playground for the rich and famous. Family offices and philanthropy are fast being added to the suite of services offered by private bankers.

'The removal of estate duty has been a major boost to Singapore's ambitions to be a wealth management hub.'

New challenges

But the road ahead for the local property market is paved with challenges. Colliers International director of research and advisory Tay Huey Ying argues that the 'mid-term optimism for the Singapore property market is underpinned by the IRs and the Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC). 'If these projects do not deliver, confidence may be shaken,' she warns.

To be considered successful, the IRs will have to be able to continuously attract visitors year after year and not fizzle out after the initial novelty wears off. Similarly, the MBFC can be truly considered an achievement for Singapore's aspirations to be a leading financial centre if the movement of tenants into MBFC does not create a vacuum in existing office buildings that can't be filled within a short span of time; otherwise, it may just show there's not that much depth in Singapore's financial industry, Ms Tay reckons.

In the residential property market, a short-term challenge that could materialise is if substantial numbers of home buyers who've purchased private homes on deferred payment schemes in the past few years begin to panic and dump their properties as the projects' completion dates loom closer. That would be the time when these buyers have to pay the bulk of the purchase price to developers, and if some of them think they may have difficulty finding home loans, especially if they are still holding on to several such units, they may panic and dump their properties at lower than current market prices.

Such a scenario would be a house hunter's dream, but could destroy wealth for the majority of Singaporeans who already own their own homes.

'Instead of subjecting themselves to panic selling, these property owners may wish to bear in mind Singapore's mid-term prospects and should try to hold their properties by securing a financing package or a tenancy for their property,' Ms Tay suggests.

Escalating construction costs

Escalating construction costs are another big concern going ahead. 'The high construction costs could translate into high purchase cost for buyers and investors of private property assets as well as contribute to inflationary pressure for end-users of public infrastructure,' says CBRE's Mr Shee.

'The high construction costs would also eat into developers' profit margins and hence reduce the incentive for developers to undertake new projects or acquire sites from the Government Land Sales programme,' he adds.

On the macro political front, Knight Frank's Mr Tan says an immediate challenge is the confluence of unstable political situations in three neighbouring countries - Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia (which will have a election next year). 'Put simply, we're a good property in a bad neighbourhood,' he said.

CBRE predicts that office rentals are approaching a peak. The average monthly Grade A rental value rose to $18.80 per square foot in Q2 this year, an increase of 43.5 per cent from the same period last year. With completions of major office projects from 2010, including MBFC Phase 1 and 50 Collyer Quay, the property consultancy group predicts the average Grade A office rental will ease to $12-15 psf post-2010.

On a more optimistic note, it highlights that with all the new office developments coming up, a significant amount of future office stock will constitute world-class modern Grade A buildings. 'Around 64 per cent of the office completions in the next five years will be Grade A quality,' Mr Shee says.

For the private residential sector, CBRE has said a correction of residential prices to the tune of 5 to 10 per cent in the second half of this year is likely as the global economy suffers the continued onslaught from the sub-prime mortgage meltdown and inflation.

Riding the turbulence

Colliers' Ms Tay highlights the importance of a sound government land supply policy - 'not just short-term reactions' - will help the local property market to ride out the challenges ahead.

'For individual home buyers and sellers, they should arm themselves with the right information instead of succumbing to herd instinct or following their emotions,' she adds.

Knight Frank's Mr Tan says: 'Demand for real estate is dependent on economic prospects. With strong economic fundamentals, I have no doubt that interest in real estate in Singapore by local and foreign institutional investors will return once the current market turmoil blows over.

In similar vein, CBRE's Mr Shee says: 'Fundamentally, the long-term development of the office, retail, residential and hospitality sectors will not change in spite of the present global financial worries.

'It was all these government initiatives that attracted a fresh wave of foreign investment into Singapore in the last 24 months, and it will be these developmental drivers that will continue to attract investment from various parts of the world to Singapore.'

Fourth Uni Will Rise In Changi, Says PM

Source : The Business Times, August 9, 2008

First batch of students to start classes in 2011

The Republic's new publicly funded university will be located in Changi, with the first batch of students set to begin classes just three years from now in 2011.

This was revealed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his annual National Day Message last night.

The yet-to-be-named university will be the Republic's fourth publicly funded one, after the National University of Singapore (NUS), the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore Management University (SMU).

This would also be the first such university to be situated in the eastern part of the island. NUS and NTU are both in the west, while the SMU campus is in the heart of downtown.

Six weeks ago, Senior Minister of State for Education Lui Tuck Yew had let on that the fourth university would be housed in either northern, eastern or north-eastern Singapore.

Since the idea of a fourth university was first mooted in August 2007, there have been calls for the varsity to be built in these areas, as it would significantly reduce the travelling time for students, some of whom spend an hour or more taking the bus or train to campus.

In his message yesterday, Mr Lee spoke of the government's commitment to investing in people, especially through education, in order to upgrade the economy.

'We are improving our polytechnics and ITEs (Institutes of Technical Education), where most of our students go. We are also expanding university places. The government has approved plans for a new publicly funded university. Its campus will be in Changi, with good bus and train access from around the island,' he said.

He added that the new university would 'open up more opportunities for Singaporeans to develop themselves and to advance'.

One of the chief reasons why the government is building this latest varsity is to increase the number of university places to 30 per cent of each year's cohort by 2015, up from 25 per cent currently.

That works out to about 2,400 more places, which will be equally split between polytechnic graduates and junior college students.

In June this year, the high-level International Academic Advisory Panel endorsed Singapore's proposal for a fourth university and other moves to increase the number of university places.

The new university will be able to take in up to 2,500 students a year and offer three main disciplines - business, design and engineering.

Global Commercial Property Sales Halved: Study

Source : The Business Times, August 9, 2008

NEW YORK - World sales of major commercial properties fell 49 per cent to US$306 billion in the first six months of 2008 from the same period last year, as sales in developed countries were hit hard by the credit crisis and slowing economies, a report released on Friday said.

In the first half of 2008, Tokyo overtook London and New York as the most active sales market

Real Capital Analytics said dramatic shifts in the capital flows for commercial property became evident in the first half of 2008 as Tokyo overtook London and New York as the most active sales market and investors began favouring Asian markets.

Sales activity fell sharply in many developed Western economies while Brazil, Russia, India and China, and most other emerging markets posted gains.

Emerging markets accounted for 25 per cent of all property sales in the first half of 2008, up from 10 per cent in the same period a year ago, according to the report that tracks transactions worth at least US$10 million.

Development sites were the only type of property to see a rise in sales, up 11 per cent and led by a record US$2.3 billion paid for Chelsea Barracks in London.

'However, with new developments in Europe being delayed and new regulations limiting land sales in China, this sector may soon experience the same declining investment other property types have,' the report said.

Overall office sales were down 60 per cent in the first half of the year versus a year ago, and sales of hotels were off 68 per cent.

Sales of shopping centres were down 54 per cent in the first half of 2008. Industrial property, comprised of warehouse and distribution centres, fell 38 per cent. Apartment building sales were off 34 per cent.

Of the 84 countries the report tracks, 35 posted higher property sales in the first half of 2008. All but five were emerging economies.

Indian sales doubled, Brazil rose 40 per cent, Russia was up 19 per cent, while China's previous robust growth slowed to 7 per cent.

Among developed countries, US sales dropped 63 per cent.

UK sales were off 57 per cent and Germany slid 65 per cent. -- REUTERS

Bumpy Road, But S'pore Has Shock Absorbers

Source : The Business Times, August 9, 2008

PM Lee trims growth forecast to 4-5% but says Republic is holding its own

Brace for a bumpy year ahead, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Message issued yesterday. Yet, the latest economic figures he unveiled yesterday were not as bad as some had feared.

Growth forecast for the full year has been trimmed as expected, but only by one percentage point at the top-end - from 4-6 per cent to 4-5 per cent. Less upbeat economists in the private sector had said it might be revised to the 3-5 per cent range.

For the first half of the year, the economic growth was actually 4.5 per cent, higher than the earlier flash estimate of 4.3 per cent.

'Considering the external challenges, Singapore's economic results are good,' Mr Lee said.

Still, the revised growth forecast underlines the fact that the weakening American and global economy has finally hit Singapore. And Mr Lee predicted that the US difficulties sparked by the housing crisis would 'probably drag on well into next year before getting better'.

Mr Lee's message came a day after Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam warned that growth is unlikely to rebound 'anytime soon'.

Sounding more downbeat than the official position so far, Mr Tharman said: 'I don't think we're near the bottom yet, it's something we're all watching, especially the American economy. The American economy is in a much more perilous state now compared to just three or six months ago. The risk facing the financial system, which is a global system . . . is still very substantial.'

In his National Day Message yesterday, Mr Lee said that Singapore's economy has so far not taken the full blow of the US economic slowdown, thanks to the vibrancy of the Asian region.

'But Asian economies are starting to feel the impact of America's problems, and so are we,' he said. 'We must therefore prepare ourselves for a bumpy year ahead.'

Mr Lee said that Singapore was in a strong position, but it must work together as a group with Asean to keep the region on the radar screen of investors, who are eyeing more the opportunities in China and India.

Singapore must also maintain its reputation in a turbulent region 'as an economy that is competitive, a society that is cohesive and a government that is honest and competent', according to him.

Mr Lee said that Singapore should look beyond immediate problems to discover new opportunities and tackle longer-term challenges. He listed three challenges - develop the economy, reproduce Singapore's population and keep evolving Singapore's system to stay in touch with the changing world.

'Unless we create wealth, we will not have the resources to do anything else,' he said. 'Because we have pushed hard over the last few years when conditions were favourable, we can now look forward to many major projects: the Formula One Grand Prix, the integrated resorts and huge manufacturing investments like the world's largest solar cell plant. These projects will create many good jobs, and keep our momentum up despite the uncertainties ahead.'

Mr Lee conceded that some government policies - like the goods and services tax and electronic road pricing hikes - contributed to the current inflation, but he defended them as essential.

'Otherwise, we would not do them: the GST allows us to finance Workfare and other schemes to help lower-income Singaporeans over the long term, and the ERP keeps our roads free flowing,' he explained.

'I know that Singaporeans wish that prices did not have to rise, or that these policies were not necessary,' Mr Lee said. 'Unfortunately this is not possible. But we are doing the next best thing: to put in place effective relief measures, and provide the poor and needy with the help they need.'