Soaring rents pushing PRs to buy flats

Soaring rents pushing PRs to buy flats 

They account for 20% of resale-flat purchases, say agents


PERMANENT residents (PRs) are flocking to buy Housing Board resale flats as high rents start to make ownership a more attractive option.

Sales to PRs have rocketed in the past two years, say property agents, and the keen army of buyers is helping to keep prices buoyant in an otherwise-flat market.


Property agencies PropNex and ERA Realty told The Straits Times that in recent months, about 20 per cent of total HDB home sales were driven by PRs.


This is a four-fold increase from two years ago, when PRs bought just 5 per cent of the homes sold, said ERA’s assistant vice-president Eugene Lim.


Last year, PRs accounted for about 10 per cent of sales, said PropNex chief executive Mohamed Ismail.The sales figures are even more striking for smaller flats like three- or four-roomers, with PR buyers snapping up 45 to 50 per cent of the stock, added Mr Lim.


HSR Property Group reports similar figures. PRs bought about 18 per cent of HDB homes recently, said executive director Eric Cheng.


The three agencies command about 80 per cent of the HDB resale market.


Last year, 29,436 resale flats changed hands. If the volume holds for this year, it will mean about 6,000 flats could be snapped up by PRs.


With HDB rents rising so fast, buying now ‘makes more economic sense’ than renting, say analysts.


Rents for a four-room flat in an established estate ranged from $1,000 to $1,200 two years ago. Today, they are $1,800 to $2,000, said Mr Ismail.


The penny has dropped for Mr N.E. Shanmugam, who had been renting here for eight years.


He pays $1,200 for a three-room flat in Tampines and was initially looking for a bigger unit to move when his lease expired next month. But with rents shooting up, he faced a monthly outlay of $1,800 for a five-roomer.


‘It didn’t make sense. I’m better off buying my own home,’ said the 56-year-old project manager, who is married with a one-year-old son.


Mr Shanmugam has just bought a five-room flat in Sengkang valued at $380,000. His mortgage will be $1,500 – well under what his rent would have been.


Singapore‘s burgeoning PR population – and their purchasing power – has been singled out as one of the factors driving HDB resale prices.


While private home prices inched only 0.4 per cent this quarter, HDB flat prices climbed 4.4 per cent, following a 3.7 per cent rise in the previous quarter.


Singapore‘s PR population rose from 287,500 in 2000 to 386,800 in 2005, according to the Department of Statistics.


Property agencies say about 70 per cent of the PR buyers are from China and India with the rest from countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines.


Source: Straits Times

Expat schools being offered vacant sites

Expat schools being offered vacant sites


I REFER to Mr Frankie Mao’s letter, ‘Let expat schools expand into vacant properties’ (June 11), which suggested that expatriate schools be allowed to use vacant school buildings as a temporary measure.


We thank Mr Mao for his suggestion and would like to clarify that this is already being done.


Several international schools have leased former school and institutional buildings from the State. Some examples include the SP Jain Centre of Management (former Institute of Dental Health building), Canadian International School (former Tanjong Katong Girls’ School) and the Global Indian International School (former Mei Chin Secondary School).


As for the former Westlake Secondary School at Braddell Hill mentioned by Mr Mao, the site has been left vacant as there are plans for its redevelopment.


Singapore Land Authority will continue to work with government agencies to offer sites for education-related uses to cater to the growing demand.


Susan Koh (Ms)

Senior Manager (Corporate Communications)

Singapore Land Authority


Source: Straits Times

It’s musical chairs for international schools

It’s musical chairs for international schools


WHEN the Canadian International School announced that it had secured a site in Jurong to house students from three of its campuses, a silent cheer went up from some other international schools.

They immediately began strategising expansion plans, including the possibility of taking over those campuses at Toh Tuck, Bukit Tinggi Road and Kampong Bahru.


This ongoing game of musical chairs has been played among international schools in recent years.


Since the spike in the expatriate population in Singapore from 798,000 in 2005 to 875,500 in 2006, popular international schools have been running at full capacity and watching waiting lists lengthen as they seek ways to expand.


‘When you’re bursting at the seams, you want to quickly find another campus so that you can clear the waiting list and give the students a place to study,’ said one principal.


Many of the campuses occupy leased sites belonging to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) or to private owners.


The Canadian school’s Bukit Tinggi campus, with about 500 students, received at least three enquiries in the past year from other expatriate schools and private firms wanting to start schools.


The same went for its Toh Tuck campus, which has 900 students and is leased from the SLA.


While the campus may only be vacant from 2010, others see no harm in putting their bid down for it.


‘It’s important to be watchful for opportunities and get your name into the game quickly. Location is of course paramount, you don’t want to have your campuses all over the place,’ said Mr Glenn Odland, principal of the Canadian school, whose newest campus opened in Tanjong Katong last year.


A tad too late in making enquiries was its neighbour at Bukit Tinggi Road, the German European School.


It would have been the perfect solution for the 30-year-old school, which was looking for a second campus to house its primary level children, said principal Gunter Boos, with a tinge of regret.


With a total enrolment of 1,075, it is over the capacity of 800 that its lush, green campus off Bukit Timah was built to take.


It has also had to keep 65, mostly primary-level pupils, on its waiting list for the past six months.


It may have found a solution though, in a disused school campus at Jalan Jurong Kechil, a 10-minute drive away, and will move its primary school – both German and English sections – there next month.


Its secondary and kindergarten sections will remain at the current site, which will allow them room to expand.


With a total capacity of 600 at the new school, there will be some space for growth when the current 450 pupils start lessons there.


This interim solution will remove its waiting list for the next three years but the principal is still on the lookout for a site nearer the existing campus.


Another growing international school, the United World College, has already announced plans for a second campus in Tampines to accommodate 2,500 students in 2010. Others are thinking up innovative ways to create more room in their existing schools.


It has been almost two years now that the German European School has been running over capacity, so it has borrowed six classrooms, an auditorium and carpark lots from another neighbour, the Institution of Engineers.


Given its modest cafeteria, the students’ lunch breaks are staggered into three slots to make sure that everyone has a seat for meals.


At the Canadian school, timetables are designed to ensure that classrooms are rarely empty. Teachers and students move around for lessons to make the best use of any free classroom.


Personal computers have been replaced by laptops which are put on trolleys for use in any classroom. This has proved so successful that there are now six ‘mobile computer labs’.


The French School, Lycee Francais de Singapour, on the other hand, has already increased its enrolment by 60 per cent over the last four years to its current 1,390 students.


To create 26 additional classrooms, it will demolish and rebuild its kindergarten block. The new block will


allow the school to take in 2,000 students in 2011.


In the interim, the kindergarten and part of the primary school will move to temporary premises.


Not many schools are like the Tanglin Trust School at Portsdown Road or the Australian International School at Lorong Chuan, both of which have enough space to expand on site.


The Tanglin Trust, with an enrolment of 2,250, wants to expand its senior school, with the total intake expected to hit just below 3,000 in the next five years.


The school has just built an additional floor onto its existing senior school to house eight new classrooms and is adding another building to house more senior school facilities that will be ready next year.


The Australian school, meanwhile, is furnishing its new $45 million junior school campus, built next to its existing campus in Lorong Chuan.


It will welcome about 800 pupils in July.


Source: Straits Times

Expatriate cost of living climbs

Expatriate cost of living climbs


LIVING costs for expatriates in Singapore have risen among the most over the past nine months, according to a survey.


ECA International’ s latest cost-of-living study shows Singapore climbing 17 places in the rankings to 114th spot. Within Asia, it is 13th on a list dominated by Japanese and Korean cities.


Human resources firm ECA says a stronger currency and high food and fuel price rises led to a big climb in rankings for cities such as Singapore, Manila and ‘many second-tier cities’ in China. Hong Kong, India and a few Korean cities, on the other hand, fell in the rankings.


Globally, Luanda in Angola was ranked the most expensive city for expatriates, followed mostly by European cities and another African location – Libreville, Gabon – in the top 10.


The survey – carried out twice a year – compares a basket of 128 consumer goods and services commonly bought by expatriates in more than 370 locations worldwide.


According to ECA, multinational companies use the results as a guide to set assignment salaries. Living costs for expatriates are affected not only by inflation and exchange rates but also the availability of common consumer goods.


Not everything has gone up in price, however. While the cost of petrol rose more than 13 per cent in Singapore and Hong Kong in the six months between September 2007 and March 2008, and the cost of egg noodles by almost 15 per cent here over the same period, the cost of a flat screen TV set in Singapore, for instance, has fallen 20 per cent between the surveys, ECA notes.


The continued weakness of the US dollar has led to falls in rankings for most US cities. Manhattan, previously the most expensive in America, has dropped 29 places to 83rd globally. Rio de Janeiro is now the most pricey for expatriates in the Americas, and Canadian cities like Toronto and Montreal are now more costly than Manhattan.


And while Luanda’s pole position may surprise some, ECA general manager Lee Quane points out that the survey compares like-for-like goods and services – and certain items and brands typically bought by expatriates can be very expensive in a place like Luanda where they may not be readily available.


Source: Business Times

BNP to move all IT services to Singapore

BNP to move all IT services to Singapore


SINGAPORE‘S standing as a major financial centre has won another vote of approval – this time from BNP Paribas Private Bank.

The French bank is consolidating in Singapore its information technology (IT) support services from various parts of the world. It aims to have 120 staff members in the Republic, mainly new hires, by next year.


Mr Michel Longhini, the head of BNP private banking Asia-Pacific, said a key reason Singapore was selected was that it was already a regional headquarters for private banking.


Other reasons include the country’s high level of infrastructure and strong talent pool.


He said the group had looked at other locations, including Europe and Northern Africa. Singapore, however, was the best option.


The private bank’s team will offer software development, support and maintenance for all of BNP’s private banking locations worldwide.


Asia is an important market to BNP, and the size of its Asian private banking business has trebled in the last five years. During this period, BNP’s Asian private banking business enjoyed a strong growth in assets of 25 per cent a year, with the value reaching US$30.3 billion (S$41.49 billion) last year.


Mr Longhini said the bank’s growth rate was higher than that of its competition in Asia, which had been growing by 15 per cent annually.


Currently, BNP Paribas Private Bank has nearly 650 staff members based in Asia spread out in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, mainland China and India. It recently entered into an alliance with Thai-owned Thanachart Securities to service high net-worth individuals in Thailand.


In line with an increased demand from its clients, BNP is also putting more resources into philanthropic services in Asia.


Mr Longhini said the bank had a specialist team dealing with the Asian charitable sector.



Source: Straits Times

Cost of living up for expats in S’pore

Cost of living up for expats in S’pore 

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.


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.’





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

S’pore ranked 13th most expensive Asian city for expatriates

S’pore ranked 13th most expensive Asian city for expatriates


SINGAPORE: Singapore is fast rising in the ranks of becoming one of the most expensive cities in Asia for expatriates to live in.


The latest Cost of Living survey by consultancy firm ECA International shows that Singapore has leapt 17 places in ranking this year.


The city-state is now ranked 13, trailing behind cities such as Beijing, Taipei and Shanghai.


Higher food and fuel prices are among the reasons for the jump.


Tokyo tops the list as the most expensive Asian city for expatriates, followed by Yokohama and Seoul.


ECA’s Cost of Living survey is carried out twice a year, comparing a basket of more than 120 consumer goods and services commonly bought by expatriates in over 370 locations worldwide. – CNA/ac


Source: Channel NewsAsia

Let expat schools expand into vacant properties

Let expat schools expand into vacant properties


I REFER to Monday’s article, ‘Expat schools make room for growing population’.


I suggest the affected schools use existing vacant schools as a temporary measure. One such school is the former Westlake Secondary School in Braddell Hill. It looks in relatively good condition with several buildings to house classes, lots of space and a reasonably good field. I am sure with a little creativity and resourcefulness, the school could be turned into a functional school.


It is such a waste to see buildings like this. I am sure there are many other such schools in other parts of Singapore, not used efficiently and left to decay in land-scarce Singapore.


Frankie Mao


Source: Straits Times

Singapore is safest place in Asia: Mercer rankings

Singapore is safest place in Asia: Mercer rankings

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

Bosses to slow pace of hiring in next 3 months

Bosses to slow pace of hiring in next 3 months


Survey shows big drop in employment outlook from Q2




(SINGAPORE) Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Sunday that Singapore is not heading for a recession. But a new poll shows caution is setting in, as employers plan to slow the pace of hiring in the next three months.


‘When it comes to hiring, employers in Singapore are still in the fast lane. But they are easing off the accelerator, ‘ said CK Rosa, country manager of Manpower Singapore, a unit of US-based employment services agency Manpower, which carried out the poll.


While Mr Tharman gave the assurance of ‘no recession’, he warned that Singaporeans are in for a bumpy ride because of the surge in prices of fuel, food and other necessities.


The minister could have added that jobs – plentiful in the past year of record employment – also may not be so easy to come by in the months ahead.


And this is likely to be the case even though Singapore is tipped to be among countries offering the best job prospects at a time when employment in many countries is falling.


The less rosy outlook for the local job market is painted in the latest Manpower poll, which shows the net employment outlook in the third quarter for a sample of 713 employers in Singapore plunged 25 percentage points to 37 per cent from the previous quarter.


The poll results were released yesterday.


‘Net employment outlook’ is the difference between the percentage of bosses polled who intend to increase hiring and the percentage who plan to cut jobs.


Seasonally adjusted, the decline in the Q3 net employment outlook is not so great – but it’s still a substantial drop of 12 percentage points. And compared with a year ago, the Q3 job outlook is 13 percentage points lower.


‘Singapore employers are anticipating a continued hiring pace in the quarter ahead, but expect to add employees at a slower pace from both three months ago and last year at this time,’ Manpower said in a statement.


All seven sectors polled showed a positive net employment outlook, especially public administration and education (+57 per cent); services (+45 per cent); finance, insurance and real estate (+45 per cent); manufacturing (+46 per cent) and transport & utilities (+47 per cent).


While still positive, the Q3 employment outlook for six of the seven sectors fell sharply from the previous quarter. Only employers in the manufacturing sector revealed no change in recruitment plans.


Year-on-year, the outlook weakened in all sectors except transport and utilities (up 3 percentage points).


The steepest declines from Q2 were posted by the wholesale trade & retail sector (down 37 points) and mining & construction (down 30 points).


Compared with Manpower polls in 31 other countries, employers in Singapore – along with those in Peru, Poland, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, India and Romania – were the most upbeat about hiring in Q3. Employers in Spain, Italy and Ireland were the most pessimistic.


Within the Asia-Pacific region, hiring plans in China and New Zealand were the least upbeat.


Source: Business Times