Complete Property Market Updates of Singapore

July 24, 2008

Singapore upgrades

Filed under: About Singapore,Community Voices,General — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:16 am

Does the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Draft Master Plan live up to its ambitious vision? What do you like most about the plan, and what would you change or add?

THE URA’s Draft Master Plan focuses boldly on decentralisation, bringing buzz to the outskirts. I am positive that with this plan in place, Singaporeans will be able to enjoy the convenience of living, working and playing right at their doorsteps. The result of this plan is the creation of mini-communities within the larger community, and this will foster stronger ties among residents and improve the quality of life. With Singaporeans living longer and retiring later, this plan solves the need for convenience in housing, leisure, work and travel options. I am excited to see Singapore’s next level of development in the decade ahead.

The Leisure Plan shows foresight in planning, as it complements the housing, industry and travel infrastructure. This will further enhance Singapore’s greenery and waterfronts, and ensure the city does not become a concrete jungle – all work and no play. Consideration could be placed on a recent trend where Singaporeans are selecting homes in established neighbourhoods with ample amenities such as hospitals, schools, shopping facilities and accessibility, rather than those in the developing outskirts. By encouraging the public to be in tune with the development of infrastructure, and allowing them to monitor the process and celebrate milestones in the progress, they will be assured that Singapore as a country – and not just select neighbourhoods – is the place where they can truly live, work and play.

Deborah Ho
CEO
DBS Asset Management Ltd

THE URA’s Draft Master Plan to transform Singapore into a network of sub-metropolitan areas and a ‘live, work and play’ haven is timely.

The four redevelopments, namely, Downtown Core Precinct, Jurong Lake District, Kallang Riverside and Paya Lebar Central, must not all be more of the same. I would like to suggest that each should have its own identity and character to offer the widest range of ‘live, work and play’ options for Singaporeans.

For example, the Downtown Core Precinct can be the top nightlife entertainment centre in Singapore, building on the two integrated resorts, the Singapore Flyer and SingTel Formula One. The buzz should be permitted to flourish 24/7, much like Las Vegas.

Jurong Lake District can be transformed into a premier site for theme parks capitalising on the current tourist attractions, which can all be linked by a monorail system to enhance the visitor experience and to take in the lake and reservoirs in the area. Adding a softer touch to the existing industrial estate will certainly give it a much-needed lift. Kallang Riverside can be promoted as a centre for sea sports and other leisure activities, given the proximity of the Sports Hub. Paya Lebar Central can be developed into a vibrant entrepreneurial campus or hub much like Silicon Valley, where budding entrepreneurs can show off their innovations and inventions throughout the year. This could be the place where investors and start-ups meet to seal deals.

I interpret the Draft Master Plan as the government’s recognition of the past, present and future contributions of Singaporeans. Singaporeans work hard and deserve to enjoy a higher quality of life. Why not, when we can now afford it. That said, we must also make sure that the needs of the less fortunate are not forgotten. Singaporeans must continue to work towards being a more gracious society, if we are to reap the full benefits of the Draft Master Plan. Going forward, we have the unparalleled opportunity to work hard and play hard, befitting our status as a First World nation.

Lim Soon Hock
Managing Director
Plan-B Icag Pte Ltd

I THINK the URA has drafted a novel plan with great foresight for a tiny island with no natural resources and limited space that is facing increasing competition for business and talent from the region.

I especially welcome the plan to build more new homes, which I feel is overdue, considering the rising rental costs and foreign population. Creating quality housing at affordable prices is key to helping Singapore stay competitive and continue to attract and retain talent.

But along with providing more affordable waterfront homes, to bring people closer to nature, I think the Master Plan should also encompass plans for an eco-oriented city – much like the Sino-Singapore eco-city project in Tianjin, China. Besides bringing people closer to nature, we should also remind people to treasure and protect our resources. Including such elements as energy-saving buildings, environmentally friendly water and power supply and intelligent waste management will be the icing on the cake, and will showcase Singapore as a true model city for sustainable development.

Hans-Dieter Bott
Managing Director
Siemens Pte Ltd

THE Master Plan is indeed an exciting and ambitious vision for our city. It will position Singapore as a global, economic and cosmopolitan city, without losing its Asian and tropical uniqueness. It provides for balanced urban living with nature, green and blue, facilities for ‘live, work and play’.

While the URA’s artist impressions and videos are captivating, my concern is how much of these will tie in with our economic growth and how much will remain a paper plan. While we need to have such a vision, it must also be rooted in sound economic foundations for it to be achievable. We are in a sense competing with global cities like London, Beijing, Dubai, New York and Tokyo, and a city too can falter in its vision.

My second point is that a Master Plan is like a tapestry which acknowledges past contributions yet allows future additions. And the future must include the role of the private sector. On this note, the government needs to have a good sense of whether developers, both local and foreign, will buy into this vision.

Thirdly, lofty ideals if pitched too high could seem costly to the man in the street. He is concerned about mundane issues like accessibility, transportation, facilities, spaces, choices and, of course, cost. The plan should include cheaper and larger spaces, either public or private. An example of the latter would be loft spaces in cheaper zones (think New York) so that creative, young people without much money can thrive.

Lastly, on a pragmatic note, and because our company is in the business of protecting buildings and infrastructure, we see a need to build robustness in the city against natural hazards and terrorism. It might sound strange talking about this in relation to the Master Plan, but increasingly there will be a need to embed security and protection, just as the Master Plan needs to touch base with economics.

Liu Chunlin
CEO
K&C Protective Technologies Pte Ltd

BEING a firm advocate of family values, what I like most about the Master Plan is the wide range of leisure activities available. I can imagine Singapore being a much more interesting and exciting place to live with a round island route that offers many possibilities. Such opportunities not only encourage healthy living but also family days-out to enjoy each other’s company. This will be another step closer to work-life balance.

The plan also gives Singaporeans less reason to complain that they have nothing to do besides watching movies or indulging in the nation’s favourite pastime, shopping.

I applaud the move to create more ‘Uniquely Singapore’ experiences with the slated developments of wetlands and attractions closer to nature. Singapore will no longer be known just as a bustling concrete jungle but also a place that offers scenic reprieve.

Furthermore, tourists can look forward to a kaleidoscope of Singapore’s attractions – both the popular tourist attractions and those off the beaten track.

With much more to see and do, visitors would extend their vacation in Singapore, thus boosting the country’s tourism industry. And with more vibrant nightlife on the horizon, Singapore would also be known for its energetic and cosmopolitan landscape.

However, my concern is that with commercialisation, some of the leisure activities would become expensive indulgences and tourist traps. It should be highlighted that we don’t always have to pay to have fun – and we shouldn’t.

Annie Yap
CEO
The GMP Group

THERE are an estimated 141,000 households in the surrounding residential areas as well as more than 14,000 businesses around the locality. However, as Paya Lebar Central increasingly becomes an important employment centre, the sizeable resident population in the public housing estates of Geylang, Aljunied/Paya Lebar, Marine Parade and Bedok would benefit by forming the labour base for this new commercial node.

Existing commercial buildings or high-tech industrial buildings in the vicinity of Paya Lebar Central could also witness a strengthening of value over time as the entire area becomes a recognised place for work, shopping and community activities.

Pauline Goh
Managing Director
CB Richard Ellis Singapore

SINGAPORE has limited land resources and the URA’s plan to adopt a winning formula of ‘live, work and play’ in Kallang and Paya Lebar is indeed a step in the right direction. Given today’s high inflation rate and the seemingly unending increases in petrol prices, the ability to reduce commuting and have your place of work and recreational facilities nearby are factors most Singaporeans welcome.

While it is great for someone to be able to live, work and play in one area; doing this from Monday to Friday, year in and year out, can become ‘claustrophobic’ after a while.

For the next step, perhaps the URA or other relevant authorities could work jointly with the private sector to look at plans to jointly invest in and develop mega types of recreational facilities, such as a mega theme park or even an indoor ski resort, to provide a quick weekend getaway in some of the islands lying south of Singapore – without the hassle of flying.

While Singapore provides a safe environment, conducive business climate and political stability that augur well to attract foreign talents, the URA’s provision of a wholesome plan to ‘live, work and play’ will enhance our competitiveness to draw talents to Singapore.

Norman Yeow
Managing Director
Sanford Rose Associates

AS A global citizen, I have lived and worked in major cities throughout Japan and other countries prior to my current posting in Singapore. If Singapore can realise the Draft Master Plan 2008, the country will truly become one of the world’s few cities that successfully integrate residential, commercial and social needs.

Any thriving city needs buzz (which results from human activity), yet many of the world’s major cities currently sacrifice living standards in some way to generate buzz. It goes to show that holistic urban planning is easier said than done.

The Draft Master Plan 2008 suggests that the government has already identified the all-important goal of harmoniously blending diverse residential, commercial and social needs. To realise this goal, Singapore must seek innovative ways to ease the growing pressure on public resources (such as transportation or telecommunications networks) due to increased human activity.

For example, the strain on transportation networks could be reduced if round-the-clock broadband Internet connectivity – increasingly prevalent nowadays – allows residents to interact online for work or play. High-speed, on-demand Internet connectivity is an example of what Fujitsu Asia calls ‘ubiquitous computing’, and facilitates human interaction via large inter-connected networks and end-user devices including computers and handheld gadgets.

In addition, telecommunication needs inevitably increase with human activity, so the national broadband network should be regularly upgraded to ensure minimal system downtime and sufficient headroom for future growth.

As a leading IT and communications solutions provider, Fujitsu Asia can contribute indirectly to Singapore’s efforts in realising the Draft Master Plan 2008, by deploying solutions for ubiquitous computing or building high-speed telecommunication networks.

Noboru Oi
Group CEO
Fujitsu Asia Pte Ltd

THE URA has already accomplished a very challenging feat, having successfully given the downtown area the much needed boost in the areas of business, hospitality and leisure. I am confident that the URA’s Draft Master Plan 2008 will work towards strengthening Singapore’s position as a distinct global business hub. The aim to help Singapore achieve a good balance of ‘live, work and play’ will also contribute to a better quality of life for both locals and foreigners living in Singapore.

One of the most attractive and significant aspects of the Master Plan is the objective of bringing jobs closer to home. Not only will this help all of us to achieve a better work-life balance, Singapore will also live up to its reputation as a city that boasts endless business opportunities.

In addition, residential areas that are further from the city also hold a lot of potential to be transformed into mini-hubs, with each focusing on a special business niche. Such initiatives, however, should be implemented without compromising the serenity and comfort that residents value in their neighbourhoods.

Charles Reed
CEO
DoCoMo interTouch

I THINK the URA’s latest Draft Master Plan, though ambitious, is workable if it is able to achieve a critical mass of residents, job opportunities and recreational facilities within each hub. A lot has to go into the final planning to ensure that there is the right mix of each element of ‘live, work and play’.

What’s interesting about this latest Master Plan is the aim to have distinctive features in each hub, for example, emphasising the lake element in the Jurong Lake District. This makes it very different from the monotonous satellite towns of the 1970s like Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio where one cannot really differentiate one town from another. By emphasising the unique features of each hub, they will appeal to different segments of the population.

Wee Piew
CEO
HG Metal Manufacturing Ltd

THERE is no doubt that the URA’s Draft Master Plan will deliver the Singapore government’s vision to raise the quality of living, working and playing in Singapore very significantly. The development of the island-wide network of parks and park connectors will provide Singaporeans with an excellent opportunity to better appreciate what nature has to offer, and hopefully make everyone more environmentally sensitive.

In view of Singapore’s ageing population, the needs of the elderly must not be overlooked in the plan. It is also important to ensure that the new facilities are affordable, pleasurable and accessible to the masses so that nobody is marginalised.

Darren Thomson
President & CEO
Manulife

Source : Business Times – 9 Jun 2008

July 10, 2008

New HDB flats still below market rates

Filed under: Community Voices,General,HBD Reviews — Propertymarketupdates @ 4:02 am

I REFER to Monday’s letter, ‘New HDB flats priced too high’ by Mr Ho Koon Woei.

In pricing new HDB flats, the Housing Board’s main consideration is the prevailing market condition at the time of offer. Resale HDB prices have climbed in the past two to three years, in tandem with the overall upturn in the property market. Notwithstanding these increases, all new HDB flats are priced below their equivalent market prices, so buyers enjoy a generous housing subsidy.

The HDB also takes into consideration flat attributes such as location and design enhancements in pricing new flats. The $329,000 to $396,000 price range of the five-room flats in Punggol Sapphire reflects their superior design standards and prime location, and is net of the market subsidy given by the Government. Similar flats in Punggol go for about $375,000 to $430,000 in the resale market.

From the figures cited by Mr Ho, he is likely to be comparing flats under the recent Build-To-Order (BTO) launch in Punggol, with unsold flats re-offered in 2005 and 2006 under the Walk-In-Selection (WIS) for Punggol. The flats offered under WIS were balance units from earlier BTO projects. They might have less favourable attributes such as low floor units and those located further away from the town centre or MRT. In contrast, Punggol Sapphire is a premium project sited near Punggol Town Centre and MRT station. It comes with enhanced architectural designs, landscaping and better internal finishes. Most of the flats are also provided with features such as green balconies, planters and bay windows.

The HDB is committed to providing affordable public housing to Singaporeans, and will continue to offer a variety of flats of different sizes and designs in various locations to meet the diverse housing needs of its flat buyers.

Kee Lay Cheng (Ms)
Deputy Director (Marketing and Projects)
for Director (Estate Administration and Property)
Housing and Development Board

Source : Straits Times – 7 Jun 2008

July 8, 2008

Fickle flat buyers diverting HDB’s time, resources

Filed under: Community Voices,General,HBD Reviews — Propertymarketupdates @ 4:44 am

WE WOULD like to thank Ms Tan Ai Li, Mr Adrian Bek, Mr Chua Chern Pin and Mr Adry Zamani for their comments and feedback on HDB’s new application process (May 24 and 28).

In recent sales exercises, HDB had seen significant over-subscription for new flats. However, some of the applicants did not book a flat when their turn was due, resulting in many flats being left unsold at the end of the exercises.

Many of such applicants had applied repeatedly for new flats in numerous sale exercises but declined to make a booking when called up. Processing their applications diverts HDB’s time and resources away from those with more urgent housing needs. HDB has, therefore, revised the application process to reduce the repeated non-selection of HDB flats in sales exercises.

In revising the flat application process, HDB analysed feedback from applicants who did not select a flat when their turn was due. Many of them indicated that the flat of their choice was not available, that they wanted to participate in other HDB sales exercises or switch to buying resale flats, or were not financially ready. This was despite HDB making available beforehand information such as the location, design, estimated completion dates and price ranges for flat buyers’ consideration.

The revised application process will encourage applicants to think through their housing plans and options carefully before they apply for a flat. Those with specific flat requirements in mind can also consider resale flats where a CPF Housing Grant of $30,000 to $40,000 is available for eligible flat buyers.

HDB will continue to monitor and review the flat application process regularly to meet the needs of HDB flat buyers.

Kee Lay Cheng (Ms)
Deputy Director (Marketing and Projects)
for Director (Estate Administration and Property)
Housing and Development Board

Source : Straits Times – 6 Jun 2008

July 1, 2008

Work hard, play hard

Filed under: Community Voices,General,Regulators — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:58 am

Tan Tiong Cheng
Managing Director
Knight Frank

URA has cleverly crafted the Leisure Plan by turning our weaknesses into strengths. We are a small island limited by physical size. Yet when fully developed, we will have a 150km route for joggers and cyclists, 4,200ha of parks connected by a web of 300km tracks, and 24/7 urban entertainment and lifestyle hotspots. We are a city – yet the countryside of farms and marshes is at the door-step. I am impressed that every square centimetre of land is fully utilised. Perhaps the only area left out of the Leisure Plan is the Southern Islands of Kusu, Lazarus, Seringat, Sisters and St John. The Leisure Plan will meet the needs of citizens, residents and visitors. It is a strategic piece of the jigsaw puzzle to make Singapore a unique place to live, work and play. The vision and objectives are bold and I look forward to its implementation.

CONVENIENT, ACCESSIBLE

Pauline Goh
Managing Director
CB Richard Ellis

THE tripling of the existing park connector network is timely as Singapore matures as a cosmopolitan city with the influx of a diverse range of expatriates, a large number of whom hail from cities with a love of the great outdoors.

The round-the-island path incorporating Marina Bay will inject a breath of fresh air to the dense concrete landscape of the Central Business District. This green network will offer convenient venue options for corporate sporting events, which have increasingly become popular. Outdoor activities will now be immediately accessible to office workers, who need not spend additional time commuting to recreational activities.

Glenn Tan
CEO
Motor Image Enterprises

THIS Leisure Plan is an ambitious move to extend URA’s Live, Work and Play concept beyond the city centre into neighbourhoods. With this decentralisation, people can truly live, work and play in closer proximity, reducing travel time to allow for more productive time, be it at work or play. This uniform distribution of commercial, residential and leisure facilities to outlying areas will provide much-needed relief from city centre congestion woes and ease the pressure on our transport system, as well as property prices in prime areas. This plan shows tremendous foresight in terms of enhancing the quality of life, with something for everyone – land or marine activities, serious sportsmen, the young and the elderly. I am delighted that it takes a holistic approach to leisure and recreation, rather than just exercise or fitness.

However, we must ensure that we retain the original charm and characteristics of each of these neighbourhood areas. Be it Orchard Road or Kallang Riverside, I am keen to see how URA intends to ‘carve out destinations with distinctive character’. This plan signals a new era for Singapore. I am excited that we are finally getting serious about having fun.

T Chandroo
Chairman/CEO
Modern Montessori International (MMI) Group

KUDOS to URA for putting forth a propitious proposal – especially in tandem with the IR developments – that will potentially shape our image as a world-class home for work and play. The Leisure Plan could not have been conceptualised at a more opportune time. In the foreseeable future, Singaporeans from all walks of life will be able to partake in accessible recreational activities that promise plenty of interaction with nature. Bearing in mind our ageing population, though, these state-of-the-art amenities should ideally be retrofitted to cater for the elderly, as well as the physically handicapped, so everyone can enjoy them.

FUN GLOBAL CITY

Derek Goh
Executive Chairman/Group CEO
Serial System

THE Leisure Plan is another hallmark of Singapore as a First World country. It is very timely – with the completion of the two IRs in 2010 and the hosting of the Inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010 – for Singapore to turn into a fun global city state to work and live in. It’s uniquely Singapore indeed.

The Leisure Plan like the Land Transport Master Plan are long-term projects capable of generating growth and development for the next 10 to 15 years. More emphasis should be placed on nightlife and night attractions. More late-night recreation, shopping and eateries should be established to cater to tourists and shift workers. Late-night pricing can be more attractive to retain the shoppers, diners and movie goers. Even places of worship can be open at night to ease the congestion during the weekends.

I am confident that Singapore can be the City that never Sleeps.

R Theyvendran
Chairman/Managing Director
Stamford Media International Group of Companies

URA’s first Leisure Plan should be applauded – and encouraged. Just as economic success and growth does not come about without planning and sustained effort, so too the creation of a liveable, loveable and fun city.

As URA and other agencies have pointed out, there should be more varied and quality leisure options round-the-clock for everyone.

The aim is to create a healthy lifestyle – a balanced combination of ‘work and play’. Bringing parks closer to homes and the 150-km round-the-island route for joggers and cyclists are marvellous ideas. Creating must-see, crowd-pulling destinations, including unique waterways and sports facilities, are well thought-out projects.

Such recreational facilities will reduce the level of stress and enable greater interaction and understanding between the vast majority of Singaporeans. Greater family and communal bonding can be nurtured.

On the practical side, the opportunity cost of the nation’s limited land will be an issue – since there will be less land for housing, offices and other purposes.

Berthold Trenkel
Chief Operating Officer, Asia Pacific
Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT)

URA’s Leisure Plan is a great initiative that recognises the war for talent is not just happening at company level but at country level. Enhancing Singapore’s lifestyle value is vital if we are to attract and retain talent, which in turn will help businesses stay competitive. As a Singapore PR, I am thrilled by the prospects and ideas the new plan offers – and cannot wait to see the results.

HOTFOOT IT

Lim Soon Hock
Managing Director
PLAN-B ICAG Pte Ltd

IT is a brilliant idea. It marks a milestone in the government’s efforts to reshape and re-invent Singapore. I wish the Leisure Plan had been announced earlier, at the turn of the millennium. I hope the government can accelerate the implementation of the Leisure Plan, given its merits and benefits.

I like the plan for its holistic approach and the careful thought given to have the proposed developments distributed throughout the island. Some could have been developed earlier – for example, the 150-km round-the-island route for cyclists and joggers. As Singapore is an island, I would have thought it is an obvious thing for our planners to exploit the kaleidoscopic play of land and sea along the coastline to create a scenic and breathtaking circuit. I drove along the near round-the-island coastal road in Hawaii in the 1980s, and until this day I still remember the exhilarating experience. Perhaps our 150-km track can be expanded or redesigned to cater to driving as well?

The multi-billion-dollar budget set aside for the Leisure Plan shows the government is serious about creating an enjoyable and rejuvenating playground for the benefit of all Singaporeans. The plan appears to be wholesome both in quantity and quality, unlike other half-hearted attempts related to previous developments. In contemporary Singapore, where many of us work longer hours than before, I like the plan most for the myriad opportunities offered to families to spend quality time together for bonding and to enjoy one another at their own time and pace. Hence my earlier call to bring forward the implementation of the plan.

If there is one difficulty, it is our hot and humid weather. If only we could air-condition our entire island, Singapore would be paradise.

Liu Chunlin
CEO
K&C Protective Technologies Pte Ltd

WE like the Leisure Plan with its greater choices and balance between city entertainment and outdoor leisure. It was not too long ago that Singapore was criticised as a successful but boring place, attested by people from overseas coming here to work. But things have changed and are changing, through the likes of the F1, Youth Olympics and now the Leisure Plan. I believe we can be cosmopolitan like New York, Paris and London, even if we are not as big.

I have a few suggestions. One is a quicker pace of implementation. Just as the transport system is under pressure, leisure infrastructure will be too. We see overcrowded shopping centres at weekends. We can also create greater ’space’ by having free wireless access along leisure networks, to compensate for scarce land.

While the government can lay the leisure infrastructure, it should allow greater spontaneity in the ’software’ part. I know that in a small place like Singapore, rules are often needed to regulate public space, but let us be prepared for a loosening up. The software part will allow operators and users greater leeway in leisure activities as long as they do not use this at the expense of others.

New towns are potentially a great asset in terms of leisure activities. But I think our new towns are too homogeneous though they are most accessible. The same type of facilities and shops can be found in every estate. Why not create towns with unique character so they are interesting to visit. We need to break out of the idea that public housing estates need to be standardised from an administration point of view.

A BOOST FOR LIFESTYLE

Charles Reed
CEO
DoCoMo interTouch

SINGAPORE has done an excellent job of providing all age groups with a wide range of leisure options. From the main shopping districts to the heartlands, there is no lack of entertainment malls, parks and community centres.

The Leisure Plan is an excellent initiative to provide individuals with another way of taking time off their busy schedules and achieve an even better work-life balance.

With the launch of the new 9-km scenic walk on the Henderson Wave and the Alexandra Arch, Singapore is strengthening its position as a world-class city with a high standard of living and a strong focus on the population’s health and wellbeing. Such initiatives not only benefit residents but also attract talent and foreign investment.

Moving forward, URA could look into hosting more international events, like the annual Carnevale di Venezia in Italy, to enhance the success of the Leisure Plan and provide Singaporeans with more entertainment options.

David Hope
VP and Regional MD, Asia & Japan
Lawson Software

I AM very excited by the Leisure Plan. It will help improve the overall quality of life, promote healthy living and provide options and choices for residents and visitors. I am particularly pleased by the planned 150km round-the-island route for cyclists and joggers, more green spaces and more water and sports facilities. I have been advocating the need to extend cycling tracks in Singapore for some time to offer a safer, more healthy and non-polluting mode of transport. The key is to do this properly and make it a world-class facility. By that, I mean building a fully inter-connected cycling track with connecting paths and no dead-ends, steps, barriers or other obstacles that sometimes exist on cycling tracks (such as bridges that start and end with steps). Hopefully, we will eventually see a track that is connected with underpass or overpass options at all roads, and not just the sharing of narrow footpaths. I am confident that with proper planning this could be world-class in every respect and would be very well used. The safety aspects of having extensive dedicated cycling tracks will encourage more families to take up cycling, which benefits everybody.

Dhirendra Shantilal
Senior Vice-President, Asia Pacific
Kelly Services

SINGAPORE is recognised as a country with an excellent quality of life, efficient world-class infrastructure, public safety and a multi-faceted effectively bilingual talent pool – all major selling points for attracting and retaining valuable talent and foreign investment.

The continued development of Singapore’s attractiveness as a city to work, play and live is impressive and commendable. In URA’s Leisure Plan, there are now more recreational avenues available all over Singapore for all demographic groups.

Organisations in Singapore can support various initiatives to enhance the quality of life for our people through sponsorships, setting up leisure and sports-related enterprises and partnerships and supporting environmental projects and programmes as part of corporate social responsibility.

It is also critical to continue to invest in our people, as our future economic growth and quality of life are closely tied to this investment.

While education and training are important to equip our people with the necessary knowledge and skills, organisations and employers must also foster a culture that supports work-life balance – to improve employee health and well-being, improve productivity and enhance overall quality of life.

OTHERS

Lars Ronning
President, Asia Pacific (excluding China and Japan)
Tandberg

THE Leisure Plan tackles the pressing issues of protecting the environment while making sure growth is sustainable.

It is commendable that the plan takes into consideration agri-tainment, arts entertainment spaces, as well as where to house industrial development. But URA needs also to keep in mind the preservation of cultural icons and spaces. Preservation of The Arts House (former parliament house) is a great example, which should be replicated insofar as preserving old-world charm in metropolitan Singapore.

On a different note, this new plan needs to be coupled with accurate data and transparent administration – factors for which Singapore has become renowned. That way, good governance and economic growth might prove a solution in achieving sustainable growth and at the same time protecting the environment.

Dora Hoan
Group CEO
Best World International Ltd

URBAN planning is never more needed than in Singapore due to scarce land and dense population. It becomes critical to maximise the use of land efficiently while equitably serving the greatest number of people. The URA Leisure Plan is a most welcome development as we try to make Singapore a modern yet liveable place. Adding leisure elements will increase the value of residential and commercial properties and develop centres that provide for increased social interaction and thereby give rise to the development of new businesses and more services due to higher potential returns.We must pause to examine how liveability can be defined. And in doing so, we must see to it that it is analysed through a framework of indicators such as economic, environmental, cultural, democratic and social considerations. The plan must uplift the quality of life for our people and be fun and exciting in a manner that will also not detract or encroach on a community’s historical charm. As for businesses, we ought to be conscious of no
tions of corporate citizenship and corporate social responsibility relevant to enhancing liveability. A Leisure Plan will be good in so far as it encourages harmony in diversity – providing a range of cultural, community and educational services as well as business and retail activities to complete it.

Source : Business Times – 2 Jun 2008

What good is a leisure island if we have no time to enjoy it?

Filed under: Community Voices,General,Regulators — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:50 am

YouthInk writers share their thoughts on the URA Master Plan unveiled recently

Too busy for leisure

THE proposed plan to turn the nation into a ‘leisure island’ is a laudable effort by the Government to encourage Singaporeans to spend more time with their family.

However, its aims seem unrealistic in work-obsessed Singapore.

Consider an average family of two parents and two children: The rising costs of living make it necessary for both parents to work and family time is at a premium.

While the five-day work week has gone some way to create more family time, 49per cent of Singaporeans still feel that their work hours are too long, according to a 2006 AC Nielsen survey.

Children are similarly faced with stressful and long school timetables – and this is before factoring in co-curricular activities and homework. Even during the holidays, they have to go back to school for extra lessons.

Leisure has a decreasing place in the lives of an average Singaporean family. What is the use of new leisure facilities if people are too busy to enjoy them?

Instead of simply adding to infrastructure, the Government should look into practical ways to ease its citizens’ costs and burdens of living so that the ‘leisure island’ can be enjoyed by its citizens and not simply by tourists.

Practical gestures, such as subsidies on food or public transport, may prove more welcome to the masses than a new park.

Ng Yi Xun, 19, is a third-year student at the Millennia Institute

Cycle in the city

GIVEN the scale and high cost of implementing the Urban Redevelopment Authority Master Plan, it should go beyond just providing more leisure options.

For example, rather than limiting cycling lanes to the parks, why not extend them into the city? This will provide a more comprehensive land-usage plan and allow more destinations to be accessible by bicycle.

Currently, such cycling lanes do not exist and cyclists have to either travel on pedestrian paths or brave heavy traffic on the roads, often at great personal risk.

Cities such as Amsterdam, Paris and London have such lanes in place, which allow cyclists to navigate the roads safely and also enjoy scenic trips through parks.

The authorities in these cities see cycling as a cheap and practical way to travel around the city. It is also in line with their efforts to reduce traffic congestion in city centres and introduce more eco-friendly modes of transportation.

As we seek to improve our quality of life, perhaps building cycling lanes in select districts here as a trial will be a good start.

Kenny Tan, 22, is a second-year economics student at the Singapore Management University (SMU)

Green step forward

WITH temperatures hitting a scorching 34 deg C two weeks ago, I doubt many would venture outdoors. Health considerations are another concern – an example being the recurring haze.

Nonetheless, credit has to be given to the urban planners for creating more recreational options for citizens. They could have taken the easy way out and just built another mall, reinforcing our nation’s favourite pastime – shopping.

This leisure plan could be part of a larger green movement to promote environmentalism.

Our very own Central Park will counter the urban city sprawl and reduce the nation’s carbon footprint, providing both aesthetic and functional appeal.

More parks will improve air quality, serve as buffers against sweltering temperatures and provide an avenue for people to lead more active and healthier lives.

In the quest for environmental protection, however, global and regional efforts are just as important as individual efforts.

Take the haze, for example. No amount of greenery created here can fully counter its negative effects without regional cooperation.

This is the inconvenient truth many choose not to face.

Chew Zhi Wen, 21, has a place to read law and economics at the National University of Singapore

Go natural

LEISURE parks here need not necessarily have to be man-made.

We can embrace what we already have, Singapore’s surrounding islands – Kusu, St John’s, Sisters and Pulau Ubin.

Getting away from the concrete jungle is one of the most refreshing things one can do.

These islands are full of history and serenity. Singaporeans get the chance to enjoy the boat ride, clean air and, of course, fresh seafood.

The authorities should keep Singaporeans abreast of current developments on some of these islands.

In addition, they could enhance existing attractions on the islands by including hiking and walking trails, or offering ranger services.

These add value to time away from the city and also encourage a healthy lifestyle and an appreciation for Singapore’s history.

Heighten the awareness of these islands to provide Singaporeans with more options to relax and enjoy life away from the fast lane.

Tabitha Mok, 21, is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Western Australia

Something for all

A SUCCESSFUL ‘leisure plan’ should ideally have activities that would appeal to a spectrum of personalities, from the quiet nature lover to the extroverted clubber.

This way, people may think twice about spending too much time chasing material comforts and consider slowing down their pace of living.

A slower pace allows citizens to note and appreciate the intangibles in life and this improves their non-material quality of life.

Happy employees put more effort into work, happier families provide moral support and motivation for tired workers.

A slower pace could also prolong one’s stamina to work and retire later.

Arguably, a higher non-material quality of life could boost economic productivity.

I hope we won’t be so caught up in the rat race to not realise that.

Owen Yeo, 20, has a place to read social sciences at SMU

Source : Straits Times – 2 Jun 2008

New HDB flats priced too high

Filed under: Community Voices,General,HBD Reviews — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:40 am

I READ with interest news on the Housing Board website on the new build-to-order (BTO) projects launched in Punggol and Sengkang.

However, I am astounded by the high prices of the four- and five-room flats. The five-room premium flats in the Punggol Sapphire BTO project are selling at between $330,000 and $400,000. These prices are comparable to the new flats on sale in mature estates just two years ago.

They cost almost $100,000 more, or an almost 50per cent jump, than similar flats in Punggol just two to three years ago.

By pricing the units so high, is HDB not further stoking the inflationary trend of home prices?

Source : Straits Times – 2 June 2008

Park ‘dis-connectors’ not for jogging or cycling

Filed under: Community Voices,General,Regulators — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:37 am

I READ with interest about the recent Leisure Plan by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Under the plan, 260km of park connectors will be added in the next 10 to 15 years.

I have always wondered what a park connector is. Let me recount what I encountered the other day. I was cycling along the Ulu Pandan Park Connector from beneath Commonwealth Avenue West towards the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE).

When I was about 50m from the AYE, the path tapered into a patch of wild grass. A sign read: ‘This is the end of park connector. For your own safety, please do not go beyond this point.’

From the NParks website, the Ulu Pandan Park Connector is T-shaped and has three end points: Bukit Batok East Avenue 2 near Bukit Batok Nature Park, the AYE near Pandan Reservoir, and Commonwealth Avenue West near Buona Vista MRT station.

I can see the last stretch of path next to Pandan Gardens that goes towards Pandan Reservoir, and another stretch of path next to the International Business Park that goes towards Bukit Batok. However, they are not ‘connected’ to the path I was on, separated by the AYE and Pandan River.

So was I cycling in a park or a connector? If it was a park, where is the connector that connects the other two ‘parks’? If it was a connector, which parks is it supposed to connect? Pandan Reservoir and Bukit Batok Nature Park?

Park connectors have been around for some time, but jogging and cycling paths remain isolated. My neighbour who works in the International Business Park told me it would take him five minutes to cycle to work if the paths were connected. Instead, he has to drive or take public transport, which takes him 15 to 30 minutes and adds to traffic congestion.

I look forward to when park connectors truly connect, even if it means underground tunnels or wheelchair-friendly bridges, as this will help the environment, our health, traffic and economy in the long run.

If there are no plans to connect all these paths, call them what they really are: jogging or cycling paths.

Source : Straits Times – 2 June 2008

June 19, 2008

System should be based on preferences, not luck

Filed under: Community Voices,General,HBD Reviews — Propertymarketupdates @ 5:32 am

I REFER to yesterday’s front-page report about the refined application process for buying new Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats.

While the refinement of the balloting system is overdue, it does not address the fundamental problem. The problem is that the system is based largely on luck when it should be based on expectations or preferences.

Let me illustrate: Whenever there is a new build-to-order (BTO) project, I would check out the sales brochure, and appraise the layout of the different blocks and units, the surrounding amenities and future development of the area.

In the case of Jade @ Yishun Phase I, I had envisioned myself living in a unit on a high floor – that is, eighth floor and above – sipping a cuppa and enjoying the view of the reservoir or Yishun park.

But I was never given a chance at the ballot as my queue number exceeded twice the number of flats available. Subsequently, I was invited to select a flat from among the ones that were rejected. But all the units were on the second floor.

It is true that many applicants are choosy. But it is also a fact that the system can be fine-tuned to accommodate the genuine preferences of applicants.

After all, we are choosing a home, not a shelter.

The HDB should allow applicants to state their preferences for floor levels and block or unit numbers.

The system can then categorise applicants into groups with different balloting numbers. This is not only fairer but also more practical and accurate.

The current balloting system penalises many.

For instance, an applicant who has no preferences and whose sole desire is to obtain a flat as soon as possible, may repeatedly obtain a ballot number that puts him at the tail end. His chances of obtaining a flat anywhere will not improve appreciably despite repeated attempts.

On the other hand, another applicant who has specific preferences may fail in his objective as well. His queue number for flat selection may put him so far back that when his turn comes, he is left with flats in blocks or on floors that are not worth his while shelling out so much money for.

Source : Straits Times – 24 May 2008

June 11, 2008

Why massive Tekka Centre needs 16 months to upgrade

Filed under: Community Voices,General — Propertymarketupdates @ 5:13 am

I REFER to Mr David Soh’s letter ‘Why so long for simple repair jobs?’ (May 9). In every project under the Hawker Centres Upgrading Programme, the National Environment Agency engages professional building consultants to undertake project management.

For Tekka Centre, our consultant had determined that 16 months was necessary for the upgrading in view of the centre’s size and the scope of work needed. Tekka Centre is one of the biggest hawker centres in Singapore with more than 550 hawker stalls and HDB shops.

The project was contracted out with the upgrading period stipulated in the tender. Apart from the work mentioned by Mr Soh, the upgrading encompasses reconfiguring the market section and building bigger slab stalls, upgrading toilet facilities and expanding their capacity, building a new central dishwashing and hand-washing area, replacing floor tiles, wall tiles and sanitary pipes, electrical rewiring, enlarging the existing bin centre, upgrading the lift system and more. Structural works such as piling and beam-strengthening works are also required.

This being so, we seek the public’s patience and understanding. The public can patronise the temporary centre located between Northumberland Road and Race Course Road for their marketing and dining needs.

We assure Mr Soh that the agency will ensure an optimal timeline for each upgrading project, and we thank him for his feedback.

Chan Wai San (Ms)
Director, Hawkers Department, National Environment Agency

Source : Straits Times – 22 May 2008

Causeway din vexes Marsiling residents

Filed under: Community Voices,General — Propertymarketupdates @ 4:13 am

RESIDENTS of Marsiling Causeway View estate near the Causeway are being driven up the wall by the incessant blaring of horns and revving of motorcycle engines.

They say the noise, which starts at 4am and goes on till midnight, became worse after terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari escaped from detention on Feb27, and the stepped-up security screenings at the checkpoint created long tailbacks of traffic and frayed tempers.

While drivers of cars wait only about an hour, lorry drivers have complained of being stuck in the queue for up to six hours.

The estate of nine blocks, just 600m from the Causeway, faces the inbound and outbound traffic and gets the brunt of the noise.

One fed-up resident, housewife Teo Lay Khim, 40, wrote to The Straits Times Forum complaining: ‘Residents have to bear with the engine noise of thousands of motorcycles, on top of the honking and shouting which start when the motorcyclists vent their frustrations.’

The 15th-storey resident of Block 215, the second closest to the Causeway, said she gets barely three hours of sleep a night.

This reporter, visiting her at home during the evening rush hour more than a week ago, heard shouting and honking from the balcony and the master bedroom; and the air smelled of exhaust fumes.

More than half or 34 of the 60 residents The Straits Times spoke to said they were putting up with the same, with some calling for fines to be imposed.

Sembawang GRC MP Hawazi Daipi, who oversees the Marsiling ward, said a better solution was to see how immigration clearance could be speeded up.

Asking residents to be patient, he said: ‘It’s too difficult to control the shouting or to fine them as there are just too many of them. We have to understand that thousands of motorists come in, so there’s bound to be noise.’

A sound-level meter provided by Lee Hung Scientific was installed in Madam Teo’s balcony to measure the noise level.

Traffic noise registered an average of 64.2 decibels from 6am to 7am and rose to 65.2 decibels between 6pm and 7pm – about the noise level of a washing machine.

Audiologist Carmela Singh said that, as a guide, anything above 70 is considered noisy. However, anything clocking more than 35 decibels during sleep hours would count as a ‘noise event’.

Studies suggest that the louder the noise gets while one is asleep, the higher one’s blood pressure goes.

So, while 65 decibels of traffic noise is not enough to cause hearing loss, ‘it could make a lot of difference in the blood pressure during sleeping hours’, she said.

ResidentAnnie Lee, 35, said her three sons – 10-month-old twins and an 11-year-old – now sleep with her and her husband in the master bedroom, which faces away from the Causeway.

And student Jevethira Rajaratnam, 15, is staying back at school to get studying done because ‘home isn’t conducive now’.

The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority has placed signs along the lanes leading to the immigration counters asking that motorcyclists turn off their engines while waiting in line to cut exhaust emission and noise.

Retiree Zainol Ismail, 70, has suggested ‘no honking’ signs be put up along with those.

ST Forum writer Madam Teo said she understood the frustrations of the motorists, ‘but sounding their horns and shouting are simply not reasonable’.

But recruitment manager Abdullah Mat, 46, is resigned: ‘I try to adjust. We can’t run away from the fact that we live next to the Causeway. Sometimes, we just turn up the volume of the TV set to drown out the noise.’

Source : Straits Times – 20 May 2008

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