LTA awards $17m job to widen CTE stretch

LTA awards $17m job to widen CTE stretch


THE Land Transport Authority yesterday said it awarded a contract worth $16.86 million to widen the stretch of the Central Expressway (CTE) between Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 and Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 to Or Kim Peow Contractors.


This is the first phase of a larger plan to widen and improve the CTE.


The plan was announced in January this year by Minister for Transport Raymond Lim who said that $14 billion would be spent on building roads over the next 12 years, up from $3.4 billion in the last decade.


Apart from widening the CTE, the government is also looking at a new North-South Expressway to link Woodlands to the East Coast Parkway by 2020, and a Marina Coastal Expressway to link the Kallang Expressway to the Ayer Rajah Expressway by 2013.


LTA said in its press statement yesterday that its initial contract involved widening the section of CTE between Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 and Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 from the existing dual three-lane carriageway to a dual four-lane carriageway. Work will begin soon with completion scheduled for end-2009.


Other sections of the CTE will be similarly widened later.


The aim is to provide four continuous traffic lanes between the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) and Yio Chu Kang Road by end-2011.


As part of the improvement works, LTA will be looking at upgrading the existing connections to the CTE at Bukit Timah and the PIE. The entire CTE project is to be completed by end 2011.


LTA chief executive Yam Ah Mee said that the improvements will help meet the needs of the north-east corridor which links estates such as Ang Mo Kio, Hougang, Sengkang, Yishun and Punggol to the city.


Source: Business Times

Mass market and mid-tier private apartments expected to do well this year

Mass market and mid-tier private apartments expected to do well this year

By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 21 March 2008 0021 hrs


SINGAPORE: Prices of mass market and mid-tier condominiums are expected to remain strong this year.


But those of high-end residential properties could taper off by up to 10 per cent.


And if you’re looking to buy, the market is in your favour, according to Propnex’s CEO, Mohamed Ismail Abdul Gafoore, in a speech to alumni members at the National University of Singapore.


Despite the weaker market sentiments, industry players expect mass market condominiums to do relatively well this year and prices are set to climb but at a more sluggish pace.


And more supply will come into the market as 31,000 new private apartments are completed over the next five years.


Propnex said it’s now a buyers market and home hunters could get good deals.


Mr Mohammad Ismail said: “When we compare the prices of places like Parc Oasis or Woodsgrove condo, the prices today hold and in some instances are even higher per square foot.


“Look at today, the public housing pricing, and the DBSS pricing per square foot. They are already going at almost S$600 if one would want to buy at a mass market price that is less than S$800 with full facilities.”


According to agents, the landed housing space could see modest growth but prices should hold steady.


The outlook is less positive for luxury apartments, which only six months ago were transacted upwards of S$2000 per square foot.


Property agents expect the dust kicked up by the US sub-prime crisis and the rising oil prices to settle by 2009.


They are also confident that the future is still bright for the property market as Singapore has the right fundamentals in place.


Meanwhile, demand for public housing is expected to remain robust this year, providing to prices.


So some agents believe it’s a good time for HDB flat owners to trade up to a mass market private property. – CNA/vm


Source: Channel News Asia

Home makeovers hard hit by price hikes

Home makeovers hard hit by price hikes


Spike in building material prices, labour crunch pushing renovation costs up by 20% this year


By Jessica Cheam


PLANNING to renovate your home? If so, be prepared to pay 20 per cent more.


Construction costs – for both big projects and home renovations – have risen due to a rise in raw material prices and labour costs. And they are expected to increase even more this year.


Industry experts say overall construction costs are expected to rise by another 15 to 20 per cent this year – following a 40 per cent spike in the last two years.


A global spike in raw material prices, and a construction resources and manpower crunch here, are to blame for the relentless rise, say market players.


In particular, prices of reinforcing steel bars – used extensively in construction – have soared 64 per cent from $753 per tonne in January last year to $1,235 this January, according to data from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).


Rising global demand for steel, fuelled by a building boom in developing countries such as China, India and Vietnam, is pushing prices up sharply.


The price of cement rose 30 per cent to $117 per tonne in the same period.


Consumers’ pockets are hard hit by the price hikes. Contractors say home owners now have to fork out up to 20 per cent more for renovation works.


Renovating a 110 sq m five-room HDB flat, for example – which would have cost $80,000 at most at the start of last year – would now mean forking out $100,000, said contractor Steven Koh, 51, of Colorado Design.


But there is good news: the extra cost of building a new home is unlikely to be passed on to flat buyers.


Real Estate Developers Association of Singapore executive director Chia Hock Jin said developers cannot simply pass on the costs: ‘It’s the market that determines the prices.’


Given the recent cooling of the property market, price hikes for homes are also unlikely.


Local developer Frasers Centrepoint Homes said it has partly absorbed the rising costs and has also tried to mitigate them by adopting more efficient ways of building and securing raw material in bulk.


Construction costs typically make up 20 to 25 per cent of the total cost of a development, with the bulk coming from land cost, said Mr Seah Choo Meng, executive chairman of quantity surveying firm Davis Langdon & Seah Singapore.


Meanwhile, main contractors are starting to feel the pinch, with price rises eating into their profit margins. Wacon Construction & Trading, hired for a $5million spruce-up of MacRitchie Reservoir, was recently reported to have gone bust due to the hikes in raw material prices.


Mr Simon Lee, executive director of the Singapore Contractors Association Limited, said contractors had only a small margin in factoring such rises into building tenders.


One source of relief is the stabilising prices of sand, granite and concrete. BCA’s latest data show prices of these materials are easing, after an artificial spike following Indonesia‘s abrupt ban of land sand exports last February. Still, compared to January last year, these prices have escalated and, in some cases such as sand, even doubled.


Mr Lee said there was concern that developers were slow in paying contractors, especially those affected by the sand ban, which might exacerbate contractors’ cash-flow problems.


Mr Seah said he does not expect the construction crunch to abate, predicting that constructing demand will go up to $27 billion this year.


Source: Straits Times

Agents offering illegal CPF cash rebates resurface

Agents offering illegal CPF cash rebates resurface


Ads which claim falsely to share commissions with investors make comeback – in a different guise


By Hong Xinyi


BEFORE you commit your Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings to agents promising ‘maximum returns’ and ‘the best deal in town’, consider this: You might be falling foul of regulations.


To entice you to sign up, some agents are offering cash rebates, ranging from 1 to 1.5 per cent of your investment capital, which they say is taken from their own commission.


What this really means: When you use your CPF savings to invest, charges such as agent commissions are deducted from your CPF accounts.


So the cash rebate you are receiving from this deal essentially amounts to an early withdrawal and possible erosion of your CPF savings.


There is another problem as well. Receiving direct cash rebates from your CPF investments is forbidden under CPF Board regulations.


Instead, all gifts and rebates under the CPF Investment Scheme (CPFIS) should be converted to cash or bonus units and refunded to your Ordinary and Special accounts.


Such advertisements have appeared in the past, but agents are now relying on subtle shifts in language to fly under the radar.


When they first appeared several years ago, the ads screamed ‘instant cash’. This led to warnings against the agents.


Now, similar ads have resurfaced, this time using tags such as ‘best returns’ and ‘maximum potential’.


In response to queries, the CPF Board said that product providers under CPFIS are well aware of the rule.


Said a spokesman: ‘Agents who violate this rule would risk facing disciplinary action, from being issued with warning letters from the product providers to being suspended or even having their services terminated.’


Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore, advised consumers to be cautious of the ‘generic nature’ of these ads – they often make vague claims, offer only mobile phone numbers and do not include company names.


Checks with several agents revealed how the scheme works. The minimum sum required for investment ranges from $2,000 to $10,000, and all the agents push investments in unit trusts.


When asked about the ‘high returns’, the agents said that by sharing their commissions with investors, they can give cash rebates of between 1 and 1.5 per cent of the investment capital.


When asked which companies they worked for, the agents replied that they were ‘middlemen’, ‘introducers’ or ‘brokers’ for companies such as Aviva, Prudential and AIA.


All refused to give their full names.


Mr Leong Sze Hian of the Society of Financial Service Professionals said the ads target those who are cash-strapped.


He said such people ‘must realise that when the focus is on getting cash rebates every month, their CPF savings may be eroded over time’.


Factory worker Mary (not her real name), 32, is one of those who succumbed to the lure of instant cash.


Needing money to pay for her parents’ nursing- home fees last November, she jumped at the chance of getting some extra cash. She signed documents that transferred $39,000 of her CPF savings into unit trust investments and got $200 cash in return.


Mary said she was unaware of the CPF Board regulation prohibiting rebates.


In any case, she said, she really needed the cash.


‘My thinking was, the CPF money was just being left there anyway and I’m not sure if I will live until I’m 60.’


Source: Straits Times

Works to start soon to widen Ang Mo Kio section of CTE

Works to start soon to widen Ang Mo Kio section of CTE


Addition of a lane in each direction is first phase of upgrade plan


By Christopher Tan


THE first phase of a plan to widen the Central Expressway (CTE) – arguably Singapore‘s most congested highway – has kicked off with the award of a contract worth $16.9 million.


Local construction firm Or Kim Peow Contractors, which won the deal, will start work soon on widening the CTE between Ang Mo Kio avenues 1 and 3 by adding a lane in each direction along the 1.5km stretch.


Work is expected to be completed by the end of next year.


The plan to widen the CTE also calls for turning a 7km stretch of the expressway into a four-lane road in each direction. It will take up to 2011.


The project – outlined by Transport Minister Raymond Lim in January as part of a sweeping Land Transport Review – is the most extensive improvement to the CTE since it opened 17 years ago.


Commenting on it, Land Transport Authority chief executive Yam Ah Mee said: ‘Given the importance of the CTE as a link between the city and estates such as Ang Mo Kio, Hougang, Sengkang, Yishun and Punggol, this round of improvements will increase the capacity of the expressway to continue to meet the needs of the north-east corridor.’


Residents in the north reckon it is about time.


Motorist Adrian Wang, 48, who lives in Yishun and has been avoiding the CTE ‘for a long time’, welcomes the move.


The warehouse manager – who has been taking the longer but smoother Mandai-Bukit Timah-Clementi route to his workplace in Pasir Panjang – said he will consider using the expressway again if the widening project cuts down on travelling time.


‘But it’s a long time from now,’ he said, referring to the 2011 completion. After it is widened, the CTE‘s capacity is expected to increase to around 9,000 vehicles an hour in each direction – from about 7,200 now.


Meanwhile, other new roads will cater to the northern and north-eastern areas of Singapore, where the number of homes is expected to rise by 50 per cent to nearly 500,000 in the next decade or so.


These include the Kallang- Paya Lebar Expressway – which will open fully in September – and the North-South Expressway, which is due in 2020.


Both are largely underground expressways.


Source: Straits Times