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29 March 2019 / Issue 13

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Top News for the Week


Singaporeans generally support Budget 2019: Reach survey

More than 80 per cent of Singaporeans polled on this year’s Budget supported the Merdeka Generation Package, but support was lower for the Government’s efforts to gradually reduce the number of foreigners in the service sector.

Government feedback and engagement agency Reach announced results from the Budget 2019 Feedback Exercise, which saw more than 4,500 Singaporeans providing feedback across 14 platforms.

Reach engaged 2,601 of these respondents through face-to-face meets at mobile feedback booths, known as Listening Points, and another 1,449 through a telephone poll.

The rest gave feedback through dialogues, online feedback and messaging apps.

Results showed that support was higher for social measures, as respondents noted the Government’s efforts to provide stronger social safety nets. The Merdeka Generation Package was supported by 85 per cent of respondents from the telephone poll, and 83 per cent of those at Listening Points.

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Sino-S’pore ties warm, progressing: Tharman

Ties between Singapore and China are “warm and progressing”, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam while on a visit to Beijing.

In a meeting with Chinese Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan, Mr Tharman pointed to the steady tempo of visits between the two countries, noting that both Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean will visit China next month.

“As you have said, our relationship is not only warm but it is also progressing,” he said in his opening remarks to Madam Sun.

Mr Tharman, who was on a five-day visit to China, met Madam Sun at Ziguang Ge – or the Hall of Purple Light – within the Zhongnanhai leadership compound.

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Over 40km of cycling paths to be built in next five years

More than 40km of cycling paths will be built in five towns over the next five years as part of efforts to expand the cycling infrastructure here, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced. Tenders to build the paths – to be located in Woodlands, Toa Payoh, Choa Chu Kang, Geylang and Queenstown – will be called later in the year, the authority added.

The 7km of cycling paths in Toa Payoh will be a first for the town, Singapore’s second-oldest housing estate and the first built by HDB.

Meanwhile, Woodlands will see 20km added to its current 4km of cycling paths and more than 8km of park connectors.

This will make the cycling network for the northern town among the largest here.

The new paths will also connect to key amenities as well as four MRT stations – Marsiling, Woodlands and Admiralty MRT stations on the North-South Line, and the Woodlands South station on the Thomson-East Coast Line which will open by the end of this year.

An additional 12km of cycling paths will be a major boost to the existing half-kilometre stretch in Choa Chu Kang.

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Underground plans for three districts revealed

District-level underground plans, released for the first time under the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Draft Master Plan, will help the nation build deeper and wider, freeing up more surface land for people-centric uses.

Three-dimensional subterranean maps of Marina Bay, Jurong Innovation District and Punggol Digital District were rolled out at the launch of the Draft Master Plan at the URA Centre in Maxwell Road.

The underground plans are part of a strategy to create spaces for the future as well as build capacity for growth.

Some other highlights from the plan, which may be gazetted later this year: one-stop neighbourhood hubs, greater southern waterfront, transforming paya lebar air base.

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Two incentives to rejuvenate the city

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has unveiled two incentives: one seeks to liven up the central business district (CBD) with a broader mix of uses including residential; the other aims to encourage owners of existing commercial buildings in strategic areas including Orchard Road to team up with neighbours for comprehensive redevelopment with bold proposals that will transform the street or precinct.

The URA also announced in conjunction with the release of its Draft Master Plan 2019 that it is doing away with the Bonus Plot Ratio scheme.

The newly-minted CBD Incentive Scheme, which applies to existing predominantly office developments in selected areas, aims to encourage the conversion of older office developments into mixed-use projects by offering an increase in gross plot ratio. This allows more gross floor area to be built.

Singapore’s CBD is dominated by offices, which means things quieten down significantly at night and on weekends. The incentive addresses this issue by encouraging a wider diversity of uses, including more residences, hotels and creative lifestyle possibilities – to inject a bigger live-in population into the CBD.

The creation of mixed-used neighbourhoods in the CBD-fringe areas of Cecil Street and Anson, with greater extent of residential uses supported by a variety of social/community amenities.

A blend of mixed uses within Robinson Road, Shenton Way and Tanjong Pagar, while retaining the predominantly commercial character of the traditional Raffles Place financial district.

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Greater Southern Waterfront development will start in 5-10 years

Development of the Greater Southern Waterfront will begin in five to ten years with certain precincts, kicking off with Pasir Panjang Power District and the site of the existing Keppel Club. Under the Draft Master Plan 2019, the Greater Southern Waterfront – which stretches across the southern coastline from Pasir Panjang to Marina East – will total 2,000 hectares (ha) and is envisaged to be a gateway for live, work and play. About 1,000 ha of land from the 2,000 ha site will be freed up for development after the City Terminals and Pasir Panjang Terminal are shifted to Tuas.

Mount Faber has also been earmarked as one of the precincts that will be developed within the next five to ten years as part of the Greater Southern Waterfront.

Pasir Panjang Power District will be “given a new lease of life as a lifestyle and heritage destination,” said the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA, adding that agencies are already looking at potential ways to reuse the former power station buildings and open up the grounds for public access. URA and the Singapore Land Authority will be initiating a competition next month to reach out to the public for potential ideas for the precinct.

Meanwhile, the site that is occupied by the Keppel Club will be redeveloped into a new residential precinct by the waterfront when the current lease expires in 2021. The site is near both Telok Blangah and Labrador Park MRT stations.

Transport connectivity for residents in the adjoining areas is expected to improve as they reduce travelling time by going through the future town instead of around it.

Meanwhile, Huttons Asia head of research, Lee Sze Teck, pointed out that the government is continuing to decentralise jobs from the central areas as it outlined more plans for Paya Lebar, Changi, Woodlands Regional Centre and Punggol Digital District under the Draft Master Plan 2019.

Links to the story: homes


Singapore to have 1,000ha more parks and park connectors

In 15 years’ time, nine in 10 Singaporeans will be just a 10-minute walk away from a park.

This enhanced City in a Garden vision was unveiled in the Draft Master Plan, which shows 1,000ha more parks and park connectors across the island. The expansion is an almost 13 per cent increase over the existing 7,800ha.

This is part of a “conscious and deliberate effort” to protect natural spaces and increase ecological resilience, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong at the launch of the Draft Master Plan.

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Three areas singled out for bumped-up R&D funding after govt review

Following the mid-term review of Singapore’s five-year Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 (RIE2020) plan, the government will allocate more funds to research and development (R&D) in three areas it has identified – digital technology, cell therapy manufacturing, and sustainable urban food production.

For Singapore to succeed in its research, innovation and enterprise efforts, the country must, firstly, continue to emphasise the importance of science and technology across society. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned against people who are “fearful and distrustful of science” and who hold anti-science beliefs embodied, for example, by the movement against vaccines.

Secondly, Singapore must develop a strong core of talented researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs, both local and from abroad, said Mr Lee.

Thirdly, the country must build international partnerships to pool expertise and undertake more ambitious projects.

RIE2020 was launched three years ago with S$19 billion set aside for it. The plan for 2016 to 2020 covers four broad areas: advanced manufacturing and engineering, health and biomedical sciences, services and the digital economy, and urban solutions and sustainability.

Links to the story: govt-review


Singaporeans must remain open to foreigners, says Heng Swee Keat

Singaporeans need to be open and understanding of foreigners – whether immigrants or workers and students from other countries – so that they have the confidence to interact with people of all races, languages and cultures from around the world, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

It will be very negative for Singaporeans to draw an exclusive circle for themselves as Singapore would then have no place in the world.

The need for Singaporeans to have an open mindset and a multicultural outlook was one of his key messages at the two-hour forum, during which he was questioned on a raft of issues, including population growth, technological disruption and meritocracy.

On the projected population of 6.9 million by 2030, set out in the Government’s 2013 Population White Paper, Mr Heng said the number goes beyond how densely populated Singapore would be. The social space is as important.

Singapore’s population density is not excessive, he said, noting that other cities are a lot more crowded in terms of liveable space.

He cited former chief planner Liu Thai Ker, who said in 2014 that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term.

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Inflation edges up to 0.5% in Feb, lower than forecast

Smaller declines in private road transport and accommodation costs caused headline – or overall – inflation to go up slightly to 0.5 per cent year on year last month, compared with 0.4 per cent in the previous month, data showed.

On the other hand, core inflation – which strips out private transport and accommodation costs – showed a different picture and came in a tad lower, at 1.5 per cent last month, down from 1.7 per cent in January.

Both indicators came in lower than expected, according to Bloomberg consensus forecasts from economists who were polled. They had expected headline inflation to come in at 0.6 per cent and core inflation at 1.7 per cent.

Despite the higher headline inflation figure, smaller price increases in electricity and gas, services and retail items led to an easing in core inflation, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in a joint statement.

Both the MTI and the MAS noted that the stronger labour market conditions in the domestic economy should lead to wage growth and continuing price pressures.

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SMEs keen on investment despite weaker outlook: Poll

SMEs in Singapore are looking to invest in their businesses despite expectations of a weaker economic environment and financial performance in the next six months, a survey found.

The SBF-DP SME Index has edged down from 50.7 to 50.4 this quarter – declining for the fourth consecutive quarter – in a nod to softening business sentiment and increased wariness among SMEs.

The index – a joint initiative of the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and DP Information Group – measures the business sentiment of SMEs for April to September, surveying over 3,600 SMEs between Jan 14 and March 1.

Along with a neutral sentiment reading, the latest index shows lower expectations for turnover (from 5.13 to 5.03) and for profitability (from 5.07 to 4.94). This is the first time in six quarters that profitability expectations have dropped below a reading of 5.0, indicating uncertainty.

However, the index also shows an increase in capital investment expectations across all sectors, except business services. The overall figure increased marginally from 5.16 last quarter to 5.18 this quarter.

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Factory output for Feb edges up, fall in Jan slashed

Singapore’s factory output has inched its way back into positive territory, although economists do not seem too impressed by the rebound.

The manufacturing sector clocked 0.7 per cent year-on-year growth in February, the Economic Development Board (EDB) said.

The numbers bucked watchers’ fears of two straight months of decline. A Bloomberg poll had guided for a median dip of 0.4 per cent.

Last month’s production figures were a mild recovery from the contraction in January, which was revised upwards from a preliminary 3.1 per cent to a more moderate 0.4 per cent.

Still, February’s performance was led by the 13.3 per cent surge in biomedical production, as a fresh mix of active pharmaceutical ingredients boosted drugmakers’ output levels. With this cluster left out, overall output fell by 1.6 per cent year on year.

On a seasonally adjusted, monthly basis, factory output was actually down by 4.1 per cent, or 0.1 per cent without biomedical manufacturing.

Links to the story: factory-output



Kuok Group plans mall and 480 apartments on Pasir Ris site

The Allgreen Properties and Kerry Properties tie-up that clinched the 99-year leasehold white site next to Pasir Ris MRT station is planning to develop about 480 apartments above three levels of retail space.

Its winning bid of nearly S$700 million works out to S$684.48 psf ppr, based on a total gross floor area of 1.02 million sq ft.

The commercial and residential development will be integrated with a bus interchange, a polyclinic and a town plaza, offering seamless connection to public transport services and amenities for residents. The completed development will also serve as a community focal point.

The dual-envelope concept and price revenue tender for the Pasir Ris Central site closed last Dec 14, attracting three tenderers.

The Allgreen Properties and Kerry Properties tie-up’s unit land price based on a lower gross floor area of 832,480 sq ft, excluding the public facilities, works out to S$840.86 psf ppr, a spokesman for Allgreen said when contacted by The Business Times.

Allgreen will hold 70 per cent of the joint venture, and Kerry Properties, the rest. The two companies are part of the Kuok Group of companies controlled by Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok. The mall will have three levels – two above ground and a basement. There will also be basement car parking lots for the retail mall.

HDB adopted a dual-envelope concept and price revenue tender system to shortlist quality development concepts with seamless integration of amenities and well-designed public spaces.

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Collective sale: Mandarin Gardens fails to get green light

Mandarin Gardens, a sprawling leasehold condominium in Siglap, has failed in its attempt to sell en bloc, despite a record-high asking price of $2.927 billion.

On Sunday, the day the collective sales agreement expired, it had been signed by only 68 per cent of the units, below the 80 per cent required for the land to be put up for sale.

If the collective sale had gone through, it would have been the biggest transaction in dollar terms struck here.

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Golden Mile Complex tender relaunched at S$800m reserve price

Golden Mile Complex has relaunched a tender for sale with the reserve price unchanged at S$800 million.

The current tender exercise will close on April 25 at 3pm. The property, known for its signature step-terraced building design, could be conserved if a buyer is found.

The marketing agent for the en bloc project, said applications have been submitted to conserve the existing 16-storey building and add a new block next to it.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has indicated that subject to conservation of the main Golden Mile Complex building, the existing development can be intensified to a total gross floor area of 85,977.5 sq m, reflecting an equivalent plot ratio of 6.387. The original designers of Golden Mile Complex, DP Architects (formerly Design Partnership), will serve as consultant architect for the redevelopment of the property.

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D’Grove Villas up for collective sale at asking price of S$398m

D’Grove Villas, a freehold high-rise residential redevelopment site in District 10 along Orange Grove Road, is up for collective sale at an asking price of S$398 million.

With an estimated site area of 50,400 sq ft, the development is 21 storeys high with a total of 45 units, and is located adjacent to the Orchard Road shopping belt.

The permissible gross floor area including balconies upon redevelopment is 141,120 sq ft, which is subject to approval.

The site has an allowable building height of 36 storeys for future redevelopment.

According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Masterplan 2014, the site is zoned “Residential” with a gross plot ratio of 2.8.

The collective sales tender for D’Grove Villas will close on May 23 at 3pm.

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Middle Road, Sims Drive sites draw keen response

A crowded field of 10 developers have thrown their hats in the ring for a 99-year leasehold site in Middle Road earmarked for residential with commercial use on the first floor.

The top bid of $492 million or $1,458 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr) was from a Wing Tai Holdings unit. Then came one of $1,393 psf ppr lodged by a tie-up between MCC Land (Singapore) and Greatview Investment.

Other bidders included a joint venture between City Developments and MCL Land, another involving GuocoLand, Intrepid Investments and Hong Realty and a solo bid from Far East Organization. JBE Development placed the lowest offer of $351.96 million or S$1,043 psf ppr.

The plot spans 80,300 sq ft and can yield an estimated 375 homes. There are two zones: the low- rise one that can go up to six storeys, and a high-rise zone of up to 20 storeys.

Analysts had predicted keen interest for this rare residential site in the central area.

At the same tender, a 99-year leasehold private housing site in Sims Drive, Geylang, drew five bids.

The highest of nearly $383.53 million or $732 psf ppr came from a partnership between a unit of Hong Leong Holdings and a fully-owned subsidiary of City Developments.

The 174,600 sq ft plot can yield an estimated 570 housing units. The second-highest bid of $343 million or $655 psf ppr came from a GuocoLand unit. The lowest bid was from Trident East at $286.2 million.

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Completed private apartment prices fall in Feb

Prices of completed private apartments and condominiums in Singapore fell month-on-month again in February, retreating 0.5 per cent from the previous month after January’s 0.2 per cent decline according to flash estimates

The decline was driven by a 1.5 per cent decrease in prices for apartments in the central region, excluding small units. In January, the decline was 0.4 per cent.

However, prices of apartments in the non-central region, excluding small units, rose 0.2 per cent in February to reverse a 0.1 per cent slip in January.

Prices of small units, defined as units which are no bigger than 506 square feet, fell 0.2 per cent, after a 0.7 per cent decline in January.

Year-to-date, overall prices are down 0.7 per cent. Prices of larger apartments in the central region declined 1.9 per cent, while prices in the non-central region rose 0.1 per cent. Prices of small units also dropped 0.9 per cent.

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Treasure sells 272 units on launch weekend

Singapore’s largest condominium Treasure at Tampines moved 272 units at an average S$1,280 psf over its launch weekend.

That translates to about 12 per cent of the 2,203 units in all, and about 56 per cent of the 490 units developer Sim Lian launched over the weekend.

The performance, which experts deemed as “credible”, is likely to be monitored closely by developers of other upcoming mega-launches like Amber Park and Normanton Park.

To be completed in 2023, the new development will have 128 recreational and lifestyle amenities, including 13 pools and a 24-hour indoor and outdoor gym facility. Its sale weekend had been brought forward after its preview on the weekend of March 15, which saw close 7,000 visitors according to the developer.

Located at Tampines Street 11, the 99-year leasehold development offers one to five-bedroom units in sizes ranging from 463 sq ft to 1,722 sq ft.

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Real-estate players tapping proptech to boost customer experience

Property agencies and associations are now aligning themselves with proptech platforms so their network of agents can offer their clients souped-up digital services.

The Singapore Estate Agents Association (SEAA), a grouping of real estate players, announced on Tuesday a proposed acquisition of a 51 per cent stake in online property platform SoReal Prop. The acquisition will strengthen the capabilities of SEAA’s nearly 4,700 real estate agency and salesperson members, putting in their hands innovative digital tools so they can offer customer advice and perform tasks more quickly, said the SEAA.

Launched in March last year, SoReal Prop aims to streamline the real-estate transaction process between salespersons and consumers. Its technology platform serves as a central repository of property data and hosts vetted listings, so salespersons who are equipped with the RealAgent app can access this information for their clients in real-time.

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Real estate agents back in vogue: Poll

Property agents are back in fashion, according to the latest survey by the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA), with 72 per cent of the public saying they plan to engage one for future transactions.

This is up from 60 per cent in the last such survey in 2015 and 66 per cent in the previous one in 2012.

Minister of State for National Development Zaqy Mohamad pointed to technology and other productivity pushes – ramped up over the last year under the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map (ITM) – as one reason for increased customer satisfaction. He noted that customers whose agents used three or more tech tools, such as apps with pricing calculators and electronic forms, were more likely to be satisfied.

Also, the proportion of consumers who found their agent online has increased to about a quarter from less than 20 per cent.

“Consumers have spoken – they want the convenience provided by technological tools, and the ability to search for their agents online. This trend is likely to continue and we will all need to adjust accordingly to meet the expectations of consumers,” he said.

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CPD framework reviewed to benefit property agents

The Continuing Professional Development (CPD) framework for real estate agents has been reviewed to include a more structured approach for agents to deepen technical knowledge and skill sets.

Property agents will be required to fulfil six credits per annual CPD cycle, four of which must be from courses related to professional competencies to deepen their technical knowledge, and two of which must be from courses related to generic competencies to sharpen their soft skills.

Courses related to professional competencies will be grouped into three categories – law and regulations, property markets and other real estate knowledge.

Courses related to generic competencies will be grouped into 18 categories, including leadership, digital literacy, communication and creative thinking.

The new framework will take effect on Oct 1, 2019. Announced at the inaugural Council for Estate Agencies’ (CEA) Estate Agency Industry Conference on Tuesday, this is part of the initiatives under the Real Estate Industry Transformation Map (ITM) launched last year.

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New CBD options offer flexibility in medium to long-term

City Developments Limited (CDL) and Hong Leong Holdings are among the property players that could benefit from the government’s push to inject greater vibrancy into the central business district (CBD).

The CBD Incentive Scheme, which offers a higher gross plot ratio to pave the way for older CBD office buildings to be converted into hotels, homes or mixed-used projects, makes for greater flexibility in the medium to long term, but owners can choose not to redevelop their existing properties in the near term amid headwinds, analysts say.

The scheme is targeted at office buildings in certain parts of the CBD – Anson, Cecil Street, Shenton Way, Robinson Road and Tanjong Pagar.

Buildings under 20 years old or which have gone through significant asset enhancements from the last TOP date are excluded from the scheme. Site area is also a qualifying criterion.

The allowable increase in plot ratios is capped at 25 per cent for most proposed land uses and at 30 per cent for residential with commercial use in the first storey in the Anson and Cecil Street areas.

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Freshworks launches Asean hub in Singapore

Software-as-a-Service firm, Freshworks, has launched its first regional hub for the Asean market in Singapore, from which it intends to more fully engage the region, both by ramping up brand awareness and adoption, and by increasing its network of partner resources to meet accelerating customer demand in the region.

According to Freshworks, the US-based software firm is registering double digit year-on-year growth in sales in Asean.

With the addition of the Singapore office, Freshworks, which is headquartered in San Bruno, US, now has nine global offices spread across four continents. It currently has an extensive partner and reseller network in Asean covering prominent markets such as Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong and South Korea.

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Celeb gym chain Barry’s coming to Singapore

Barry’s Bootcamp, a popular workout chain from the United States boasting A-list celebrities as members, will open here in May, making Singapore its first location in Asia. It will set up shop at 18 Robinson Road in the redeveloped Robinson Tower in Raffles Place, said Barry’s global chief executive Joey Gonzalez.

The chain prides itself on offering “the best workout in the world” that is meant to push you to your limit. Its hour-long workout session – 30 minutes of cardio training and 30 minutes of high- intensity interval training – has been called hardcore, brutal and a shock to the body.

Workouts at Barry’s are done in a nightclub-like setting in the so-called Red Room, with mood lighting and nightclub music.

At the Singapore studio, the Red Room will have 21 treadmills and 27 benches, said Mr Gonzalez. The studio will also have luxury male and female changing room facilities, as well as a fully equipped Fuel Bar.

Link to the story:


Apple to open 2 more stores here: Sources

Tech giant Apple is aggressively expanding here, with plans to add two more stores in the coming months, sources told The Straits Times.

One will be at the upcoming lifestyle destination Jewel Changi Airport, and the other at integrated resort Marina Bay Sands (MBS).

It opened its first store here at Knightsbridge mall in Orchard in May 2017. It was also the first Apple store in South-east Asia.

With slower growth in the sales of Apple’s marquee product, the iPhone, some have wondered why it is going ahead with plans to launch more stores here.

Link to the story:


Lower rents, fewer ‘hipster’ goods at Hari Raya bazaar

It will cost 30 per cent less to rent a stall at the popular Hari Raya Bazaar in Geylang Serai this year, with the price per stall capped at $14,000.

The move follows feedback from operators who had raised concerns about rents climbing as high as $20,000 last year at the event held in conjunction with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

It cost up to $15,000 in 2017.

Packed with stalls selling traditional Malay clothing, rugs, decorative items and colourful food, the bazaar drew 1.86 million visitors last year, mostly locals.

Announcing the rental cap, South East District Mayor Maliki Osman said with rents slashed, he is counting on operators to pass on the savings to the visitors.

The bazaar this year will run from May 3 to June 5. There will be between 500 and 700 stalls set up at areas surrounding the newly launched Wisma Geylang Serai, a Malay-Muslim social and cultural heritage hub which will be organising the event. Stalls will stretch to areas around Geylang Road as well.

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Sabana Reit’s Tuas property sale called off

Sabana Reit’s divestment of a Tuas industrial building is off for now after the purchaser did not obtain approvals from JTC, a condition for the sale.

The buyer, Kim Soon Lee (Lim) Heavy Transport, is not prepared to further extend the long stop date, the Reit said in a statement to the Singapore Exchange.

According to its announcement of the proposed sale, the property has been vacant and remained uncompleted after the former master tenant developing it as a data centre surrendered its lease agreement.

The property was reverted to its original general B2 industrial use for the proposed sale.

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Samwoh, JTC to work on construction innovation

Construction and engineering firm Samwoh Corporation has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with JTC Corporation to boost construction innovation in Singapore.

Under the agreement, JTC and Samwoh will collaborate and share resources in research and development, such as in equipment, laboratories, facilities and manpower.

The two sides will work together on three research tracks: integrated digital discovery, productivity and automation and sustainability and resilience. The collaboration promises to reduce the costs usually run up by research and development.

Samwoh and JTC will also explore the development of sustainable construction materials from waste recycling to improve Singapore’s resource resilience while reducing the carbon footprint of building projects.

In line with the government’s push to develop Singapore into a Smart Nation, Samwoh will be incorporating a cloud-based materials-tracking system for materials delivered from manufacturing plants to sites via the Internet of Things (IoT), which extends Internet connectivity beyond conventional computing platforms.

Smart sensors and mobile applications will also be deployed to enable better prioritisation of resources in road maintenance works.

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Scheme to help supply chain sector step up tech innovation

The logistics industry’s embrace of high-tech innovation like warehouse automation is well established, but it is going up a gear here thanks to an initiative announced this week.

Supply Chain Asia (SCA), which represents the supply chain and logistics industry, has launched a tech accelerator programme to drive innovation.

Around 60 start-ups will be matched with companies over the next two years, giving them the chance to test their solutions while also boosting the supply chain industry’s move into the digital world.

Start-ups have already come up with ideas that can impact the sector, with innovations like high- tech vests that help supervisors track a worker’s movements and productivity, and even light up in different colours depending on the job being done.

Augmented-reality headsets are also being tested so supervisors can see extra information about various parts of the warehouse or even staff profiles when they enter a work area.

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Wanted: Tour guides with niche expertise

Experts in the areas of Singapore’s food and nature are being encouraged to share their passion with visitors to the Republic under a new scheme to help meet growing demand for interest-based tours.

Those with rich knowledge in specific areas can apply to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to attain an Area Tourist Guide licence, which allows them to be practising tour guides in their areas of interest without having to obtain the full tourist guide certification.

The scheme was soft-launched last October, starting with the food and nature categories. There are already 32 successful candidates, including food blogger Maureen Ow, better known as Miss Tam Chiak.

Applicants must have their experience and skills assessed and, if necessary, complete training. Once licensed, they can design and market tours in their area of expertise, or conduct related tours for operators.

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Changi Airport bags Skytrax best airport title for 7th straight year

In the global survey by London-based research firm Skytrax involving more than 13 million travellers, the Singapore airport was also named the best in Asia and the best in the world for leisure amenities.

Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) came in second, followed by South Korea’s Incheon International Airport which took third spot.

Changi Airport has bagged the best airport title 10 times in the 20-year history of the World Airport Awards.

In the survey, travellers were asked to rate airports across different points including check-       in, arrivals, transfers, shopping, and security and immigration through to departure at the gate.

Link to the story:



Real estate for the afterlife

If the ever-soaring price of condos in New York City has your head spinning, wait until you shop for a cemetery plot.

Prices for the last piece of real estate that any New Yorker will ever own – a cemetery plot or an above-ground crypt – have also climbed significantly over the years.

Basic cemetery plots mostly cost US$4,500 to US$19,000 (S$6,000 to S$25,600), not including hefty fees for other services. And an increasingly rare final resting place in Manhattan can go for US$1 million.

Link to the story:


After a blip, Hong Kong real estate is again on an upward trajectory

From July to December 2018, Hong Kong home prices fell almost 10 per cent, according to data from the city’s Rating and Valuation Department. In the steepest month-on-month decline since the global financial crisis of 2008, the property price index fell 3.5 per cent in November.

But some analysts already see signs of a turnaround.

The US Federal Reserve announced in January that it would halt interest rate increases, China’s central bank had taken action to stabilise the yuan and Hong Kong’s stocks were coming back. The number of property viewings in late January and early February rose, during what is typically a quiet period before the Chinese New Year holiday. The number of transactions made above bank valuations has also returned to the two-year average after a months-long slump.

A substantial uptick in demand may also come from a large pool of Chinese mainlanders who have lived in the city for seven years and will qualify for Hong Kong permanent residency this year, which will exempt them from the extra taxes levied on nonresident property buyers.

Whether Hong Kong’s property market slumps further, as some industry watchers fear, or regains steam and continues its march upwards, one underlying fact will in all likelihood remain unchanged: Homes in this city are wildly unaffordable for the overwhelming majority of residents.

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Lee Sze Teck Head, Research


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