Complete Property Market Updates of Singapore

August 7, 2008

Cost of living up for expats in Singapore

Filed under: General,Singapore Economy — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:56 am

Republic up 17 places in global ranking due to higher inflation and stronger Singdollar

SINGAPORE has become a more expensive place for expatriates to live, but it is still cheaper than Hong Kong, even though the gap is closing with its long-time rival.

The Republic jumped 17 places to land at the 114th spot in a global survey of the costliest cities for expatriates, because of higher inflation and a stronger Singdollar in the past year.


FEELING THE PINCH: The purchasing power of expats living in Singapore has been dented by higher costs such as rents, fuel and food. — ST FILE PHOTO

Singapore closed the gap with pricier cities such as Hong Kong, which fell in the rankings to the 97th spot, in the survey conducted by human resources firm ECA International.

Within Asia, Singapore actually fell from the ninth spot six months ago to the 13th spot, partly because the cost of living in some Japanese cities had risen rapidly due to the stronger yen.

The purchasing power of expats living in Singapore has been dented by higher costs such as rents, fuel and food, as well as a stronger Singdollar.

 According to ECA’s data, the cost of fuel rose by more than 13 per cent in the last six months, while the price of foodstuffs such as egg noodles soared by almost 15 per cent.

Inflation in Singapore is now at a 26-year high, after accelerating at a faster-than-expected rate of 7.5 per cent in April.

This prompted the Government to raise its inflation forecast to between 5 per cent and 6 per cent, up from the 4.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent range.

Yesterday, the Singdollar fell to about 1.374 against the greenback, but analysts expect it to gain further this year as the Government seeks to rein in inflation.

Mr Scott Colman, 38, an executive in an American technology company, said he felt the greatest pinch from rising rents and petrol prices, as well as the strengthening Singdollar because his compensation package is partly paid in US dollars.

Mr Lee Quane, the general manager of ECA International Hong Kong, said Singapore’s rising cost of living has prompted global companies to adjust their expat employees’ pay and allowances.

He added that the gap between Singapore’s cost of living allowance for expats and that of Hong Kong has shrunk dramatically from about 20 per cent five years ago to less than 5 per cent today.

Still, he said Singapore remained a cheaper place for expats than Hong Kong or Shanghai, and global companies were not considering relocating their staff from the Republic to the Chinese cities.

Top spot in the global ranking went to the African city of Luanda in Angola, where some expat consumer items are hard to get and command top dollar.

The survey compares a basket of 128 consumer goods and services such as groceries, clothing and electrical goods that are commonly purchased by expats in more than 300 locations worldwide.

Multinational firms use the results to help determine how much to pay their staff who work overseas.

Ms Kate Bryce, a finance professional in her 40s, said her company recently reviewed her allowance and raised it by about 10 per cent.

‘I’m hoping that the Singapore dollar doesn’t strengthen further because I doubt I would get another revision in the next year. Most companies are tightening their belts as the global economy slows down.’

STILL CHEAPER

The gap between Singapore’s cost of living allowance for expats and that of Hong Kong has shrunk dramatically from about 20 per cent five years ago to less than 5 per cent today. Still, the Republic remains a cheaper place for expats than Hong Kong or Shanghai, says Mr Lee Quane, general manager of ECA International Hong Kong.

Source : Straits Times – 12 Jun 2008

Inflation likely to peak at record 8.1% this month: Economist

Filed under: General,Singapore Economy — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:49 am

IT MAY appear unstoppable, but inflation in Singapore is likely to peak this month – but at what could be a record 8.1 per cent – before moving down to about 3 per cent next year.

The prediction – from Mr Cem Karacadag, the director for non-Japan Asian economics at Credit Suisse – was in line with forecasts from government and private sector economists, although a tad higher.

It also assumes that oil prices will remain at around US$130 per barrel.

Mr Karacadag said inflation was being driven by a variety of factors: rising food and oil prices, the knock-on effects from a hike in the goods and services tax, and the housing boom in January.

He believes that if oil and food prices stabilise, inflation will return to moderate levels, but there will be pitfalls.

‘The risks are that the oil price spike in May has not fully transmitted its effects, and that food prices might continue to increase despite recent drops in prices, as the effects from the previous months’ hikes continue to elicit an effect,’ said Mr Karacadag.

He also cited the effects that costlier raw materials could have further along the production chain, including pushing up prices.

The high inflation afflicting the country could cause real gross domestic product growth this year to slow to 5.5 per cent – within the upper half of the Government’s 4 per cent to 6 per cent forecast range.

This fairly optimistic estimate is based on the strong momentum in domestic demand, underpinned by high employment, rising wages and the mega-construction projects under way.

Source : Straits Times – 12 Jun 2008

July 24, 2008

Singapore is safest place in Asia: Mercer rankings

Filed under: About Singapore,General,Singapore Economy — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:41 am

It takes 9th place for personal safety; 32nd for quality of living

IN THE global quest to woo foreign talent, a good 30 cities are placed above Singapore in terms of quality of living, going by consulting firm Mercer’s latest rankings.

But solely on ‘personal safety’, Singapore is in the top league with the best – all of which happen to be in Europe.

In a ranking dominated at the top by Swiss and German cities, Singapore is 32nd in Mercer’s 2008 global quality of living survey, up two places from 2007.

Canadian and Australian cities, as well as New Zealand’s Auckland, also rank strongly in the top 25.

The annual survey covering 215 cities uses New York City as the benchmark with an index score of 100.

This year, top-ranked Zurich scores 108, while at the other end, Baghdad gets just 13.5 points.

Singapore’s index score is 102.9, a small improvement from 102.5 last year.

In Asia (outside Australia and New Zealand), Singapore ranks highest, followed by the Japanese cities of Tokyo, Yokohama, Kobe and Osaka. And only two US cities – Honolulu and San Francisco – are above Singapore.

Mercer’s survey evaluates cities on 39 key indicators in all the major areas that affect the living environment – socio-political and cultural climate; the economy; health and sanitation; education standard; public services; recreation; availability of consumer goods; housing; and the natural environment.

It also produces a separate ranking on ‘personal safety’, covering issues such as internal stability; crime; effectiveness of law enforcement; and relationships with other countries.

Here, Luxembourg takes the top spot, followed by Bern, Geneva, Helsinki and Zurich, who all share second position.

Singapore – at No 9 overall, just ahead of Auckland and Wellington – is ’safest’ in Asia, followed by several cities in Japan and Hong Kong.

The Mercer quality of living survey serves as a guide to governments and major companies when sending staff on overseas assignments.

Said Mercer senior researcher Slagin Parakatil: ‘Establishing suitable allowances linked to local costs and quality of living is essential in encouraging expatriate employees with transferable skills to accept international assignments.’

Commenting on Singapore’s results, Wong Su-Yen, managing director of Mercer Asean, said that the island’s improved ranking this year reflects its strength relative to other cities in public services; transport; medical services; housing; and the socio-political environment.

‘On the other hand, Singapore could further improve its standing by enhancing its socio-cultural environment, recreation options and natural environment.

‘The just-released Leisure Plan by the Urban Redevelopment Authority aims to address precisely some of these issues,’ she added.

‘If Singapore continues to enhance its quality of living offerings, we believe the city will continue to rate favourably for expatriates looking to relocate to the region.’

Source : Business Times – 10 Jun 2008

Singapore leapfrogs Hong Kong as a financial centre

Filed under: About Singapore,General,Singapore Economy — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:39 am

Survey ranks it fourth worldwide but expert says it can’t stand still

SINGAPORE climbed to fourth place on MasterCard’s Worldwide Centers of Commerce Index this year, leapfrogging Chicago and Hong Kong along the way. It is now the number two city in Asia in this ranking of financial centres – with only Tokyo ahead of it.

‘The Centers of Commerce Index is a roadmap for corporations to identify and evaluate investment and market opportunities in a world where cities, instead of countries, have become the primary economic players,’ said Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, MasterCard Worldwide’s economic adviser in Asia-Pacific.

The index surveyed 75 cities using seven key indicators of varying weightages that evaluated a city’s legal and political framework, economic stability, ease of doing business, financial flow, business centre, knowledge creation and information flow, and livability.

Singapore’s ranking was driven by its strong showing in relation to the ease of doing business and its legal and political framework indicators, in which it ranked first and second overall, respectively.

Manu Bhaskaran, a member of the panel behind the index, attributed Singapore’s strength in these areas to prudent government leadership in facilitating commerce,

‘The government has made the right decisions in cutting taxes, bringing in talent and focusing on integrated resorts,’ said Mr Bhaskaran at the briefing on the index yesterday.

He is, however, quick to caution against complacency. ‘Singapore tends to do well in the ‘process areas’ which are related to bureaucracy. But other people can learn this formula and mimic it,’ he said.

Instead, Singapore would do well to shore up its competence in the knowledge creation and liveability areas, he said.

It is currently ranked 40th for liveability – an indicator measuring elements like personal freedom and quality of life. ‘To generate more knowledge creation, Singapore should keep adding more universities and encouraging foreign talent,’ said Mr Bhaskaran.

Singapore also has its work cut out if it wants to break into the top three, which is illustrated by the fact that the top three positions have been retained this year by London, New York and Tokyo.

‘London and New York possess critical mass, having amassed a concentration of analysts, investment banks and the support services that accompany them. Critical mass is something that we lack, especially in the financial flows area,’ said Mr Bhaskaran.

The key to overcoming this limitation is cross-border integration and higher levels of economic growth within the Asean region, he revealed. ‘Singapore has to be the capital city in the economic sense in Asean, in order for it to be in the top two,’ he said.

Source : Business Times – 10 Jun 2008

Singapore is easiest city in the world to do business

Filed under: About Singapore,General,Singapore Economy — Propertymarketupdates @ 2:37 am

It is also top in region for economic stability and legal/political framework: Survey

SINGAPORE has leapfrogged rival Hong Kong in a ranking of the most influential commercial centres around the world.

The Republic is now the second most influential centre in Asia, just behind Tokyo, according to the survey, which is said to be used by multinationals to help guide investment decisions.

Singapore sits in fourth spot globally in the MasterCard Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index, up two places from last year. Hong Kong fell from fifth to sixth.

Although the Republic trails London, New York and Tokyo, it beat them in terms of a key criterion used to compile the ranking – the ease of doing business.

In last year’s inaugural ranking, Singapore came in fourth in this area, which covers a range of factors, including quality of life, investor protection, health and safety, and corporate tax levels.

Mr Mark Ellwood, the managing director of recruitment firm Robert Walters Singapore, attributed the high score to how easy it is to set up a business and to hire foreign talent here.

Mrs Mildred Tan, the managing director of Ernst & Young Associates, said: ‘Singapore is very pro-business, and institutions gravitate towards environments that are open and welcoming.’

She called the ranking a ‘positive reinforcement’ for firms considering doing business in the Republic.

‘When it comes to relocation, they will look at various things, from tax incentives to telecommunications infrastructure. The study will be another indicator for them whether to start here, to remain here, or to grow here.’

Singapore was also top in the Asia-Pacific for two of the other six criteria used in the ranking: economic stability and the legal/political framework.

The ranking of 75 cities is drawn up by a panel of academics and other experts.

It serves as ‘a road map for corporations to identify and evaluate investment and market opportunities in a world where cities, instead of countries, have become the primary economic players’, said Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, MasterCard Worldwide’s economic adviser.

He said Asia ‘is experiencing a renaissance in terms of economic growth and social development’.

Eight Asian cities feature in the top 25 this year, up from five last year. ‘The growth performance of China and India has shifted the economic centre of gravity towards Asia,’ said Dr Hedrick-Wong.

Mr Manu Bhaskaran, the head of economic research at the Centennial Group and one of the eight members of the Worldwide Centres of Commerce research panel, said that given time, Singapore could overtake Tokyo as the top Asian centre of commerce.

‘Tokyo has not opened up the way the US, Europe, Dubai and Singapore have,’ he said, adding that Singapore’s absolute score of 66.16 points was not far behind that of Tokyo (66.6).

The other four criteria used in the ranking are volume and connectivity of financial flow, reputation as a business centre, knowledge creation and information flow, and liveability.

One of Singapore’s biggest challenges appears to be its place in the bottom half of the 75 cities in terms of liveability.

While Vancouver in Canada emerged as the world’s most liveable city, Singapore ranked 40th – or fifth in the Asia-Pacific.

MasterCard said a relative lack of personal freedom dragged its score down.

As was the case last year, the top three places in the study went to London, New York and Tokyo, in that order.

First-timers in the top 25 include Shanghai and Amsterdam.

Mr Bhaskaran said the Chinese city could rise further, as it was ’sitting on top’ of what is probably the most dynamic economy for the next 20 to 30 years.

Strong showing

SINGAPORE’S sterling ranking is the result of its strong position in the Asia-Pacific.

Here’s how the Republic fared in the region based on the seven criteria used:

Legal/political framework: No. 1
Economic stability: No. 1
Ease of doing business: No. 1
Volume and connectivity of financial flow: No. 4
Reputation as a business centre: No. 2
Knowledge creation and information flow: No. 4
Liveability: No. 5

Top 10 cities

TOP IN REGION

Tokyo maintained its third spot in this year’s survey, making it the highest ranked city in the Asia-Pacific.

The MasterCard Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index ranked 75 cities according to their ability to connect markets and commerce on a global level.

At the top are:
1. London
2. New York
3. Tokyo
4. Singapore
5. Chicago
6. Hong Kong
7. Paris
8. Frankfurt
9. Seoul
10. Amsterdam

GOOD PROSPECTS

Singapore stands a good chance of overtaking Tokyo in the ranking, says Mr Bhaskaran.

Source : Straits Times – 10 Jun 2008

July 8, 2008

Singapore safe place to do business: study

Filed under: About Singapore,General,Singapore Economy — Propertymarketupdates @ 4:28 am

Republic ranked together with Japan, Germany & Australia

SINGAPORE is a very safe place to do business, according to findings from French credit insurance firm Coface’s Business Climate@ratings.

The study, released yesterday, provides two ratings for 150 countries – a rating on risks inherent in the business climate, and a more holistic rating that takes into account the business climate, economic and financial prospects and company payment behaviour.

Singapore’s ratings of A1 in both areas signify the lowest category of risk on a scale with seven levels in increasing order, numerically up to A4 and then alphabetically up to D.

This places Singapore in the top band, which includes Germany, Australia and Japan.

The purpose of the ratings is to assess the overall quality of a country’s business environment – whether financial information there is available and reliable, whether the institutional framework is favourable to inter-company transactions and whether the legal system provides fair and efficient creditor protection.

The business climate rating mainly comprises business data compiled by Coface on the quality of information available on companies and the legal protection given to creditors.

This rating is supplemented by an assessment of institutional framework quality, which reflects the quality of institutions whose strengths and weaknesses can affect companies.

The parameters considered include such standards as public service effectiveness (government, education, health, infrastructure), regulatory quality, rule of law and extent of corruption. They are based on data from external sources.

These are: a government effectiveness indicator maintained by the World Bank Institute, based on the quality of public services provided and civil service efficiency; the Human Development Index, created by the United Nations to rank the quality of life in countries; and an infrastructure quality index (energy, transport, telecommunications) published by the World Economic Forum.

Not all countries received the same business climate and overall ratings, owing to imbalances in levels of financial information, creditor protection and the institutional environment.

For 39 countries including China and India, or 26 per cent of the 150 countries, the business climate was rated lower than the country’s overall risk level.

For 17 countries including Turkey and Israel, or 11 per cent, the business climate was rated higher.

Source : Business Times – 5 Jun 2008

June 24, 2008

Singapore Master Plan: Plans to improve urban spaces

Filed under: About Singapore,General,Property Trends,Singapore Economy — Propertymarketupdates @ 4:10 am

CHUA YANG LIANG gives an overview of the proposals in the Draft Master Plan 2008 and presents a wish list to planners

BESIDES the three strategic commercial hubs of Jurong Lake District, Kallang Riverside and Paya Lebar Central, which will strengthen the CBD alongside with development plans for Tanjong Pajar and the Beach Road/Ophir-Rochor corridor, there were no major changes or surprises to the zoning, plot ratio and planning directions in the 2008 Draft Master Plan. This observation is based on our brief review of three areas in particular – Buona Vista, Paya Lebar, and Harbourfront (which includes Telok Blangah) that will house the interchanges of two major transit lines (existing and the future Circle Line).


 
The 2008 Draft Master Plan maintains the time-tested planning vision that focuses on improving the overall quality of life, supported by a pro-business environment. It maintains the central planning philosophy found in the 2003 Master Plan – that of improving the quality of urban spaces and supporting general economic growth. This vision is inherent within the four key thrusts of ‘home of choice, magnet for business, exciting playground, and home to cherish’ and the zoning maps that developed from there.

Market trends

This planning deliverable is a highly practical one and focuses on concretising market trends that are conducive to improving the quality of living spaces and favourable to the overall business environment in Singapore.

The 2008 Draft Master Plan has not only respected the organic development trends, such as supporting the interim uses of vacant government buildings and sites, for example, Dempsey Road and Wessex Estates, it has also formally accepted and recognised other key market forces that would help improve the overall quality of living in Singapore. For example, a notable change in Buona Vista was the re-zoning of a popular area in Holland Village from ‘Residential with commercial at first storey only’ and ‘Commercial and Residential’ to purely commercial use.

The continual agglomeration of retail and commerce activities in this neighbourhood over the past few years has permitted retail activities to reach a threshold level thereby strengthening the area’s image and attractiveness as an F&B neighbourhood that is well patronised by foreigners and young locals. Coupled with the upcoming Holland Village MRT station and the one-north intellectual cluster located slightly further south, re-zoning to permit full commercial activities within this area is practical and will further enhance the overall quality of living in and around the immediate vicinity.

Similarly, taking its cue from current market trends, the 2008 Draft Master Plan has also proposed more housing in key areas where demand has been strongest. The urban planners have proposed an additional 300,000-plus housing units (both private and public) islandwide with an emphasis on ‘water-fronting’. This is similar to that proposed in the 2003 Master Plan where over 300,000 housing units were also suggested.

The largest increase is in the central and north-east regions where some 39 per cent and 38 per cent of additional housing units (over the existing stock) have been proposed. Likewise, in terms of the distribution of total new supply, the central and north-east regions again topped the list at 40 per cent and 24 per cent respectively. This can be expected given the strong residential demand as reflected in the recent surge in property values in these regions. This proposed new supply should help ease the values in these areas in the longer term horizon.

Echoing this trend is Buona Vista, which witnessed several residential sites being introduced. A site in Holland Drive, which was previously zoned for a civic and community institution, was re-zoned as a residential site with a plot ratio of 4.2, while sites at Slim Barracks Rise and Dover Close East, which were initially zoned white, are now zoned residential. The re-zoning of these three sites will support the area’s growing prestige as an education and research hub in Singapore.

For the other planning regions, new housing has been proposed around existing water bodies, for example, reservoirs in Bedok and Lower Seletar, and the proposed 4.2 km waterway in Punggol. This concept of urbanising Singapore’s waterways is not new but it has been given a greater push with the strong market response to developments in the Sentosa and Harbourfront area over the past two years. 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 just limited to the affluent.

Shifts in preferences

However, the danger of following market trends is sudden shifts in preferences. Just like dark undercurrents are a result of changing tides, a sudden turn in market preference may send urban plans out of orbit. The secret is providing sufficient free play to accommodate such shifts. In line with the evolving landscape of Buona Vista as an R&D and education hub, a site next to Buona Vista MRT station, which was initially zoned commercial, has been re-zoned White. This gives the future developer more flexibility in its development, providing the free play that could potentially eliminate any shifts in market preferences and possibly enhance the area further.

Likewise, the Harbourfront has seen a similar trend in providing more ‘planning flexibility’. Notable changes in the region were the shift in sites at Telok Blangah Road that were initially zoned ‘Subject to detailed planning – Residential’ to ‘Reserve’ sites.

The ‘planning flexibility’ in this instance is not accorded to the private market but given to the statutory planners. The ‘Reserve’ zone effectively buys the planners some extra time to evaluate and deliberate on the optimal land use zones on these sites.

This shift in zoning could also be a reflection of the evolving market dynamism in the area, i.e. the shift in demographic profile in the surrounding neighbourhood, particularly in light of current developments such as Resorts World at Sentosa, Reflections at Keppel Bay, VivoCity and the HarbourFront offices.

Coupled with the government announcing its intention to create a leisure and recreational destination along the Southern Ridges by introducing a 2.2 km linear park along the Southern Ridges Park, this could potentially be an indication of future alternative plans for the area other than simply residential. Whatever the intention, we do know that the statutory planners are deliberating on the potential uses and are not ready to disclose the plans for these areas as yet.

Urban sustainability

While the 2008 Draft Master Plan has clearly articulated the medium-term planning objectives, it could be further enhanced with an expression of how our statutory planners perceive and support the issue of environmentalism, particularly on the concept of urban sustainability, which stems from greater environmental awareness today. Increasingly, we have seen more private occupiers demanding, and developers providing, environmentally friendlier buildings.

Urban sustainability is more than just green buildings; it contains the same basic principles of social, economic and environmental sustainability but applied to a bigger spatial context, i.e. the urban conurbation in which sub-systems such as transportation, housing, retail, education and tourism should be duly considered.

We have the first ever Leisure Plan that would see to the tripling of existing park connectors, providing residents 150 km of round-island access 24 hours a day. Could we see an Urban Sustainability Plan that sets the targets, deliverables and specific actions of each sub-system, all towards a sustainable urban environment?

The writer is the head of research, South-east Asia and Singapore, Jones Lang LaSalle

Source : Business Times – 29 May 2008

Singapore Master Plan: Achievements of the past 10 years

Filed under: About Singapore,General,Property Add Value,Regulators,Singapore Economy — Propertymarketupdates @ 3:59 am

THE Master Plan 2008 exhibition, launched at the URA Centre on May 23, is an important event for all here in the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). Not only is it the fruit of many months of brainstorming, discussions with various stakeholders and plain hard work, it also gives us an opportunity to share our excitement about the plans for Singapore’s future development.

For those unfamiliar with the Master Plan, it is the statutory land use plan that URA develops to guide Singapore’s development over the next 10 to 15 years. The Master Plan is reviewed every five years, and details the land uses and development intensities for land parcels in Singapore. It translates broader, longer-term development strategies formulated as part of the Concept Plan, which is the plan that sets the direction for Singapore some 40 to 50 years ahead. Both the Concept Plan and Master Plan work to ensure that there is sufficient land to cater to Singapore’s future needs, while maintaining a good quality of living for our population.

The launch of the Master Plan 2008 exhibition marks a significant milestone in URA’s history. Ten years have passed since the completion of the URA’s 1998 Master Plan. Though Singapore’s first statutory Master Plan was completed way back in 1958, it was the 1998 Master Plan that took planning one step forward by clearly spelling out a vision for Singapore in years to come.

For the first time, each plot of land in Singapore had a specific planning intention and development strategy. Changes in the Master Plan now signalled changes in the future landscape, rather than changes in existing uses on the ground. With the 1998 revision, the Master Plan became the forward-looking plan that we are familiar with today, a plan which enables land owners to make decisions with greater certainty.

As we prepare to complete and gazette Master Plan 2008, it would be interesting to review how successful our past Master Plans have been.

New commercial centres

Over the past 10 years, Singapore has developed new areas for businesses to flourish. Our vision for Marina Bay as an expansion of our CBD is being transformed into reality, as we speak. New developments like the Esplanade Theatres by the Bay, One Fullerton, Marina Centre, The Sail, the Marina Bay Financial Centre have been realised within the decade.

Beyond development of the city centre, these 10 years have also seen the growth of other commercial hubs. The Tampines Regional Centre, Buona Vista Sub-regional Centre (now known as One-North) and the Novena Fringe Centre are three such centres outside of the city centre being developed.

Both Tampines and Novena are now bustling commercial centres, with a mix of offices, retail and entertainment facilities that cater to the needs of residents in the eastern part of Singapore. One-North is an established hub for research, and looks set to become home to a dynamic blend of commercial, residential and recreational uses.

Thanks to this strategy to develop new commercial centres outside the Central Area, businesses now have a variety of locations to choose from, which are more affordable than those found in the city centre and which are well-suited to back-offices.

Flexibility for businesses

Another pro-business move by URA over the past years is to introduce more flexibility for businesses through new zoning policies that take into account changing business needs. New business zones, Business 1 and Business 2, were proposed in the 2003 Master Plan. Under the new zoning system, industrial and business activities are grouped according to their impact on the surrounding environment. The new ‘impact-based’ zoning approach allows businesses to house different uses under one roof and change activities easily without re-zoning.

Similarly, Business Parks and Business Park White zones were introduced, which facilitated the development of Changi Business Park and International Business Park which are now key employment centres.

URA also introduced a new type of zoning – the White Zone – which allows for the development of a variety of different uses like commercial, residential and hotel within the zone. This gives the market greater flexibility and creativity in planning for developments that provide a mix of uses like residential and retail. Today, several successful and innovative developments have been built on white sites.

For example, Central at Clarke Quay, built on a white site, is not only a busy shopping centre, but also pioneers the ‘Small Office Home Office’ concept here in Singapore by offering custom-built offices that function as residential units as well. Another white site that was successfully developed is Square2 at Novena. This development seamlessly integrates a medical centre with a trendy mall, and strengthens Novena’s position as a medical hub. Similarly, the white site in Farrer Park which was awarded in 2007, will see the introduction of a ‘mediplex’, which combines a hospital, hotel and specialist medical centre.

Good quality of living

Singapore has experienced substantial population growth over the past 10 years, from 3.9 million in 1998 to 4.6 million today. New housing had to be provided. Across the island, new HDB towns like Sembawang, Sengkang and Punggol have sprouted up to cater to the housing needs of our growing population. Since 1998, there have been 170,000 new homes created. We have also created a variety of housing choices, such as waterfront housing in areas like Tanjong Rhu. Industries in Bukit Timah and Hillview have also been relocated since the 1990s, and replaced with high-quality residential developments.

Recreation and leisure

Beyond housing, URA has also planned for the recreation and leisure needs of our population. As part of the Master Plan 2003, URA drew up the Parks and Waterbodies Plan and Identity Plan. The Parks and Waterbodies Plan set out proposals for an islandwide network of parks and park connectors. The park connector network has been implemented in stages, with the 42 km-long Eastern Loop running through Bedok, Pasir Ris and Tampines being completed last year.

The Parks and Waterbodies Plan and the Identity Plan also set out our vision for various areas like the Southern Ridges. As part of the Master Plan 2003, there was a proposal to connect the three Southern Ridges for a nine-km walk. This vision for a beautiful walk through nature has become a reality. Today, the Southern Ridges are linked by two bridges and an elevated walkway and are now open to the public.

More nature areas and nature parks have been opened up, in a sensitive way, for public enjoyment. Examples include Chek Jawa where the National Parks Board has completed the boardwalk, and the boardwalks, observation tower and suspension bridge opened at MacRitchie Reservoir.

The past decade has also seen the revitalisation of areas like the Singapore River. Through URA’s land sales programme and environmental improvement works, the three quays of the river are now popular nightspots offering a array of entertainment and dining options for locals and tourists alike.

Conservation

It has not just been a decade of unrestrained urban development, however. Even as condominiums, shopping malls and office towers are being built, pockets of Singapore remain carefully shielded from the pressures of development. The Identity Plan, created as part of Master Plan 2003, set out to conserve historical areas and buildings that have a special place in our hearts. In the past decade, 1,200 additional buildings have been conserved, in areas like Holland Village, Joo Chiat and Tiong Bahru. These buildings not only help Singapore’s streetscape to remain distinctive, they also provide our people with physical anchors for shared memories.

The next 10 years

Going forward, the Master Plan 2008 looks to build on the good foundations set by the past Master Plans. This time, the focus is on providing great opportunities and a good life. We have plans to develop new areas like the Jurong Lake District, Paya Lebar Central, Kallang Riverside, as well as continue growing Marina Bay as a 24/7 live-work-play environment. Tanjong Pagar and the Beach Road/Ophir-Rochor corridor will also be developed as strategic gateways to the city centre.

We also have an extensive Leisure Plan, which showcases a diverse range of leisure opportunities around the clock, island-wide, for people of all ages.

Our city’s achievements and the garnering of international accolades in the past decade bear testament to the strength of the vision for Singapore. However, this vision was not created solely by URA. It was drawn up together with other government agencies, private sector representatives and various stakeholders through focus group discussions, public forums and dialogues.

More importantly, the transformation of the past 10 years was achieved through joint efforts by the public, private and people sectors. The draft Master Plan 2008 exhibition, open to the public until June 20, is an opportunity for URA to gather comments and suggestions on these plans that will shape the way we all live, work and play in the years to come. Together, we can make Singapore a home of choice, a magnet for business, an exciting playground and a place to cherish.

By CAROLINE SEAH, head of physical planning and policies at URA

Source : Business Times – 29 May 2008

June 21, 2008

Inflation will ease in second half of year

Filed under: General,Singapore Economy — Propertymarketupdates @ 8:15 pm

SURGING inflation will ease in the second half of the year despite spikes in global food and oil prices, said Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang.

He was responding to a question from Non-Constituency MP Sylvia Lim yesterday on the inflation outlook for this year.

Mr Lim said: ‘It is still our central scenario for an easing off of inflation in the second half of the year. Domestically, the impact of the goods and services tax (GST) rise will ease off in July, while externally, the run-up on food prices is expected to ease in the second half.’

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore revised their full-year inflation forecast last week to between 5 and 6 per cent – up from an earlier estimate of between 4.5 and 5.5 per cent – citing dearer food and oil. Inflation last month hit a 26-year high of 7.5 per cent.

But the revised forecast remained consistent with the earlier expectations of a second-half cooling off, the MTI said.

While Mr Lim admitted that it was impossible to insulate Singapore from higher global prices, he said that the Republic’s exchange-rate-centred monetary policy, which has been in place since 1981, remained effective in staving off the full impact of global inflation.

He said that domestic inflation had been low over the sustained period between 1981 and last year, averaging 1.7 per cent. By contrast, inflation averaged 5.5 per cent for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a 30-strong group of the world’s richest countries.

The exchange-rate policy of maintaining a strong Singapore dollar also helped to reduce the cost of imports, Mr Lim said. ‘For example, between January last year and March this year, global food prices – measured by the International Monetary Fund’s food price index – surged 50 per cent, whereas the domestic cost of food imports rose by a much lower 14 per cent.’

Opposition MP Low Thia Khiang (Hougang) raised the possibility of cutting taxes, such as the GST and the petrol tax, to help Singaporeans cope with rising prices.

But Mr Lim said that a multi-pronged solution was more desirable: ‘It is not useful to tweak the GST rate in response to short-term phenomena and we have adopted an approach aimed at the medium term.’

This approach, announced in February, includes the diversification of food sources to minimise spikes in prices due to supply disruptions.

At the same time, the Government is providing direct assistance to Singaporeans, especially those in the lower- and middle-income groups, who are affected by the higher cost of living, said Mr Lim.

Source : Straits Times – 27 May 2008

Economist sees signs of Asia decoupling from US economy

Filed under: General,Market Watch,Singapore Economy — Propertymarketupdates @ 7:18 pm

Bank strategist points to strong growth in China and India despite weaker US consumer demand

STRONG first-quarter growth in major Asian economies has lent greater credence to the theory that Asia’s economic performance is no longer as closely tied to the United States’ fortunes as it once was.
 
Strong growth in China, India and other emerging economies, along with improvements in investment spending in Asian markets like Singapore, has cushioned the region from the impact of flagging US consumer demand.

This is the view of Deutsche Bank’s chief Asian strategist, Dr Chua Hak Bin, who said in a weekly report that first-quarter data largely supported the theory that Asia has ‘decoupled’ from the US.

‘Gross domestic product growth has held up relatively well, coming in above expectations for most of Asia.’

This included growth in China at 10.6 per cent, Hong Kong at 7.1 per cent, Singapore at 6.7 per cent, Indonesia at 6.3 per cent, and South Korea at 5.7 per cent.

By contrast, the US posted anemic first-quarter growth of 0.6 per cent.

Dr Chua said: ‘First-quarter growth for Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and India will be released this week and, again, will likely come in on the strong side of expectations.

‘What looks like a mild, rather than severe, US recession is also limiting the fallout.’

He believes that the global credit crunch appears to have had only a limited impact on Asia thus far, as evidenced by the region’s two major financial centres.

‘Hong Kong’s foreign currency loan growth has accelerated sharply to 48.6 per cent in March, while overall loan growth is holding up and running at 18.7 per cent.

‘Singapore’s offshore loan growth shows a similar acceleration to 43.3 per cent in March, while domestic loan growth continues to climb steadily to about 23.9 per cent,’ he said.

He attributed this resilience to the region’s bank-centred financial system and aggressive US Federal Reserve rate cuts, which probably sheltered most Asian companies from the brunt of the credit crunch.

And while many governments have shifted their attention to surging global and domestic inflation, largely driven by more expensive oil and food, Dr Chua was more optimistic.

‘We would caution against being overly pessimistic about the impact from oil. After all, Asia has not sunk into a bust cycle despite oil prices having tripled over the past three years.

‘On the contrary, pockets of high-growth activity have emerged across Asia because of the oil boom,’ he said.

Robust GDP growth in region

DR CHUA Hak Bin, Deutsche Bank’s chief Asian strategist, said Asia’s gross domestic product growth has held up relatively well in the first quarter.

This included growth in:
China: 10.6 per cent
Hong Kong: 7.1 per cent
Singapore: 6.7 per cent
Indonesia: 6.3 per cent
South Korea: 5.7 per cent

By contrast, the US posted first-quarter growth of only 0.6 per cent.

Dr Chua also predicted that first-quarter growth for Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and India, which will be released this week, will likely come in on the strong side of expectations.

Source : Straits Times – 27 May 2008

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