Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Interesting Facts About Singapore

Below, we have compiled some interesting and sometimes fun facts about Singapore:

1 - Most think Singapore's national language is Chinese or English but it is wrong. Singapore's national language is Malay. English, Malay, Chinese (Mandarin), and Tamil are official languages. The Malay language is used in the national anthem "Majulah Singapura" and printing of coins. Military commands are also given in Malay. However, around 85% of Singaporeans do not speak Malay.

2 - Greek astronomer, Claudius Ptolemaeus, named a place called Sabana in 2nd century, in the area where Singapore lies.  He identified Sabana as a nominon emporion or designated foreign trading port, as part of a chain of similar trading centres that linked Southeast Asia with India and the Mediterranean. 3rd century Chinese written record described the island of Púluōzhōng (蒲羅中), probably a transliteration of the Malay Pulau Ujong, "island at the end" (of the Malay peninsula). This island is thought to be Singapore and this name is one of the earliest references to Singapore. [1]

3 - The south of the Singapore river in Boat Quay resembles the belly of a carp. According to Feng Shui, this is where wealth and prosperity lay and this is the main reason many shop houses and eventually the tall skyscrapers were built and crowded into the area.

4 - The Fountain of Wealth in Suntec City is the largest fountain in the world. The bronze ring of the fountain represents a ring in a left palm of a hand, buildings of the Suntec City representing the fingers. The water flaws downwards representing wealth flowing to the palm of a hand. Yeah, it is Feng Shui.

5 - The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in Singapore contains more species of trees than the entire North American continent.

Bukit Timah Natural Reserve
Bukit Timah Natural Reserve Source: laurainsingapore

6 - Singapore has its own yeti. The creature said to inhabit Singapore (mainly the forested Bukit Timah region) is called The Bukit Timah Monkey Man. The creature is often cited as a forest-dwelling hominid or primate, and is also accounted for as being immortal; however, its exact identity remains unknown, and its existence disputed. Alleged sightings of the animal are rare and come mainly from Malay folklore, accounts from Japanese soldiers in World War II, and occasional unconfirmed reports from local residents.It is described as hominid-like, greyish in colour, and between one and two meter in height, and bipedal.

7 - Buildings in Singapore cannot be higher than 280 metres. This is due to the proximity of any point in the island to Changi Airport. OUB Centre, UOB Plaza and Republic Plaza are the only buildings in Singapore with that height.

Overseas Union Bank Centre
OUB Center

8 - More Singaporeans are born in the month of October than any other month of the year.

9 - Singapore has a verry interesting man-made landfill island. This island, known as Semakau landfill for now, is made entirely from garbage incinerator ash.

10 - When Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived Singapore in 1819, there was only a small Malay settlement, with a population of a few hundred, at the mouth of the Singapore River. 5 years later in 1824,  the total population was 10,683. The 2000 census showed that the population of Singapore is 4.2 million. It is closed to 5 million by 2010.

Thomas Stamford Raffles
Thomas Stamford Raffles

11 - The last wild tiger, roaming Singapore was killed in Choa Chu Kang area, in the 1930s. But these animals were once a significant cause of death in Singapore. By the middle of the 19th century, tigers claimed one life a day. In 1859, one village near Bukit Timah was abandoned due to too many attacks. Bukit Timah was nicknamed "A tiger Resort". It was reported that 390 lives were killed in 1857. It was likely that the actual number was more as many tiger attacks went unreported.

Last wild tiger in Singapore
Last wild tiger in Singapore

12 - The flying fox, the world's largest bat with a wingspan of up to 1.5 metres, can be found on Pulau Ubin, one of the islands off mainland Singapore.[2]

13 - Vanessa-Mae, internationally known British violinist, was born in Singapore to a Thai father and a Chinese mother.

14 - Singapore has the 9th  highest public debt to GDP ratio in the world with 102 per cent.

15 - The lowest temperature ever recorded in Singapore is 19.4°C. It has been recorded in 1934!

[1] - Early history of Singapore
[2] - Amazing facts about Singapore

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Singapore PR Rejected? Appeal or not?

    If your Singapore PR (Permanent Residency) is rejected recently, you are not alone. Singapore PR is an important step to immigrate to Singapore and rejection is a heart breaking experience after long months of waiting and maybe witnessing less qualified people getting approval. But nowadays it is though to get Singapore PR. Since 2009, fewer applications for Singapore PR and Singapore Citizenship are approved.

    This is because in late 2009, Singapore Government decided to tighten the criteria for PR and citizenship, to better manage the inflow of foreigners. And they immediately took action! In 2008, 79,200 Singapore PR applications were approved. PR approval numbers sharply dropped down to 59,500 in 2009. This trend continued in 2010 and The Government granted only 29,265 permanent residents, more than a 50% drop compared to 2009. It is almost certain that this trend will continue in 2011 Singapore PR applications.

    2010 numbers point to the lowest PR intake in at least five years:
    The sharp drop in PRs is a result of the tightening of immigration policy in 2009 to better manage the inflow and quality of new immigrants, said Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng on Monday.
    A policy change that drew clearer distinctions between the benefits citizens and PRs enjoy also 'underlines our principle that Singaporeans will enjoy priority over non-citizens', he said at the Singapore Perspectives 2011 conference organised by the Institute of Policy Studies.
    Source: The Straits Times  Jan 18, 2011

    Number of Singapore PRs approved per year (2001 - 2010)
    It is also interesting to note that the number of Singapore permanent residents has almost doubled in the last 10 years, from 287,500 in 2000 to 541,000 in 2010:
    Most of the increase is accounted for by immigrants from Malaysia and the Indian subcontinent, according to census data released by the Department of Statistics yesterday.
    The share of Indians in the PR ethnic mix climbed from 14.9 per cent in 2000 to 20.4 per cent this year. In absolute numbers, they more than doubled, from 42,700 to 111,000.
    The share of Chinese in the PR ethnic mix dropped from 76.1 per cent to 61.4 per cent, although the total number increased from 218,800 to 332,000.
    For PRs of Malay ethnicity, the share dropped from 4.1 per cent to 3 per cent, although actual numbers went up from 11,800 to 16,000.
    Most of the ethnic Chinese PRs in Singapore hail from Malaysia.
    Source: The Straits Times Sep 1, 2010 
    This looks like sharp drop but Singapore is still one of the least stringent country in the  world in terms of approving PR. As far as I know Australia PR or Canada PR are more difficult.
    Singapore is considered one of the best cities to live in Asia and many aspire to make this country their home forever by applying for Singapore Permanent Residence or Singapore Citizenship. While Singapore’s immigration policy remains open, the government wants to make sure that it takes in good quality candidates who can be better integrated into the Singapore society and who can contribute economically. There is no formula that guarantees success of an application. Each application is approved on a case-by-case basis.
    Source:  GuideMeSingapore 
    Singapore PR approval criteria, naturally, is not open to public and subject to change depending on the foreigner policies of The Government at a given time.  But there are some known factors playing significant role in approval or rejection.

    For example although it is theoretically possible to apply to PR just after receiving several pay slips, it is wise to wait at least 6 months to 1 year and it is better to pay tax. When I see someone just arriving Singapore and working several months apply to Singapore PR, I always think that "giving Singapore PR to this guy has more good to him then to Singapore". Probably Immigration Officers feel the same when they see such an application on their desk. And do not confuse them with the typical government employees in your homeland, Singapore Government jobs are so attractive that very bright people compete for them and get them.

    Refer to Guide Me Singapore PR articles for more information. They have valuable information there:

    The first question that typically comes to the mind of majority of the work pass holders: when can I apply for my Singapore PR? Theoretically, you can apply for Singapore permanent residence the day you start working in the country as an EP holder. However, one of the requirements is to provide salary slips that go back six months from your Singapore employer which means should wait at least six months.

    In practical terms, how soon you can apply for PR status also depends on the type of work pass you are holding and the unofficial annual quota set by the government. If you are holding a P1 pass, your chances of approval are high if you apply after 1 year. If you are holding a P2 pass, you are likely to have a good chance if you apply after 2 years. If on the other hand, you are holding a Q or S pass, it’s recommended that you apply after 3 years to have a decent chance of approval. Also, make sure you are in good terms with your employer at the time of filing your PR application. One of the sections in the application form is to be completed by the employer. 
    Source: Guide Me Singapore  Singapore Permanent Residence – PTS Scheme 
    So what to do after rejection? Although there is an option of appeal after rejection, it will have very little effect on the decision if something about you did not change dramatically since your application (i.e. a significant pay increase, an upgrade in work permit, etc.)   But this does not mean you cannot try again. It is important to wait for the period stated in the rejection letter. If they say apply 2 years later, wait for 2 years. But before 2 years time if you have a significant upgrade in job, company, salary, etc. you may apply again after 1 year. If no time period is stated in the letter, you need to wait at least 6 months (from the date of the rejection letter) before trying your chance again.

    Singapore PR approval also depends on timing of the application. Do not forget that this is designed to benefit Singapore and there are quotes for races, professional skills, etc.

    Yes race is important. Singapore wants to keep its race balance. If Singapore approves more applications from a certain race and the proportion of this race increases for a period, ICA would probably be more selective on this race for the following period of time until desired balance is achieved again. For example Indian PR's rate increased from 14% to 20% percent probably due to Singapore's desire to be competitive in IT in pre 2008 boom times. It is probably now harder for an Indian to get PR compared to a Chinese or Malay if everything else is equal.

    Currently we are in the following years of high PR intake period (2005 - 2008). And The Government as well as Singaporeans think that they need to slow down the intake.

    See also Part 2: Singapore PR (Permanent Residency) rejected? What to do?.

    Related Articles:

    Singapore - Culture Smart!:
    the essential guide
    to customs & culture
    From Third World to First :
    The Singapore Story:
    Hot & Wet:
    The Unofficial
    Expatriate Guide
    to Singapore

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    Best Free Singapore Travel Guide

    The best free Singapore travel guide out there in the internet is the Singapore article of wikitravel. For those have not heard about it, Wikitravel is simply the wikipedia of travel. It is a web-based guide, built through collaboration of Wikitravellers from around the globe. Based upon the wiki model, it is launched by Evan Prodromou and Michele Ann Jenkins in 2003.

    Wikitravel Singapore article is a star article. It is a high-quality article complete with maps, photos, and great information about Singapore. Star articles are the best travel guides Wikitravel has to offer.

    Singapore Guide Wikitravel
    Wikitravel Singapore article available free online

    Other than the main article, there are also two special guides in wikitravel about Singapore: Three days in Singapore and Southern Ridges Walk. Three days in Singapore is a guide to see the sights of Singapore in three days and The Southern Ridges Walk is about a nine-kilometer stroll across the hills of southern Singapore.

    For those who want to carry this guide in their pockets, "Wikitravel Singapore: The Free, Complete, Up-To-Date And Reliable Guide To Singapore" is also available. This guide has comprehensive coverage of Singapore's culinary delights, up-to-date info on Singapore's nightlife, handy city maps with attractions marked and features a detailed three-day sample itinerary. It is built by wikitravelers, this Singapore guide is revised from top to bottom every month by wikitravel editorial team, so it always has the latest information.

    Wikitravel Guide to Singapore

    Jetstar will fly from Singapore to Hangzhou

    From March onwards, a new flight choice will be available for budget travellers taking off from Singapore. It will fly 3 times a week. Hangzhou the political, economic and cultural center of Zhejiang province. Hangzhou is one of the most renowned and prosperous cities of China for much of the last 1,000 years and it is one of the most important tourist cities in China. Hangzhou is famous for its natural beauty and historical and cultural heritages.

    Hangzhou is also a good alternative to travel between Singapore and Shanghai. But be careful, Jetstar and its rival on this route, Air Asia, markets this destination as "Hangzhou (Shanghai) although Hangzhou is located 180 kilometers soutwest of Shanghai. But these 2 cities are well connected with short bus and train travels.

    There is a frequent high-speed train between Hangzhou and Shanghai. These trains can travel up to 350 km/h and covers the distance between these two cities in 45 minutes.

    There are also direct trains departing for Shanghai from Hangzhou Railway Station but as stated in wikitravel buses are better options compared to normal trains:
    For travel to or from Shanghai, the bus has become at times more convenient than the train, as it can be more comfortable if only hard seater train tickets exist, and the buses depart more frequently than trains. From Shanghai, buses depart from the north bus station (Hengfen Lu), the PuDong bus station (Bailianjing, PuDong Nan Lu), and from Xujiahui Bus Station, ticket cost ¥58 (October 2008 price). These buses arrive at the north bus station of Hanzhou.
     A JetStar Aircraft

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    iPad is used for teaching in Singapore school

    A Singapore school, Nanyang Girls High school, has recently replaced textbooks with Apple's iPad. Mobile, light weight and easy to use, it is expected that iPad will change the way of teaching and learning in a school. They are currently in a trial phase for one year. If this scheme is successful, iPads will be implemented into Singapore's education system in stages. Nanyang is one of the four schools piloting iPad in Singapore classrooms. You can watch more about this in the video below.

    iPad is currently too expensive to be a widespread teaching tool. These 150 iPads they use costed this private school around 100K. But you should note that iPad and the tablet is a fresh new technology in its first year (yes, there were tablets before iPad but they were not a success and widespread devices like iPad). All currently widespread technologies were once expensive and were only within the reach of the rich. I remember my dad's first cell phone, he bought it for around 1,500 USD in its first year in my country (no, he was unfortunately not so rich but very enthusiastic to have one) and while it was an expensive device when he bought, it became an indispensable tool for even the poor in just 5 years.With the increased demand for smartphones and tablets and new technologies, I believe tablets will also become cheaper soon.

    See also Khan Academy, a video based academy which also offers iPhone connectivity.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    China bubble close to bursting?

    Jim Chanosthe master of short selling, is shorting China since early 2010 with the anticipation that it is in a bubble state and close to bursting. This is contrary to many people who bets on China to lift the world out of recession. For example Jim Rogers, a famous investor who now lives in Singapore challenged this view:
    “I find it interesting that people who couldn’t spell China 10 years ago are now experts on China,” said Jim Rogers, who co-founded the Quantum Fund with George Soros and now lives in Singapore. “China is not in a bubble.”
    Jim Rogers is obviously China bullish but being in Asia he may well be biased about Asia's near future, as Business Insiders phrase correctly:
    "Seeing as Jim Rogers has literally gone all-in on East Asia -- moving his family there -- we can see why he'd be sensitive on this one."
    All these discussions were a year ago. China bubble 2010 burst did not happen. But since than shorting China was one of Chanos’ favorite investments in 2010 reports Insider Monkey:
    Chanos didn’t explain how specifically he shorts China but he hinted at shorting companies and industries that are benefitting from China’s real estate bubble. Recently Jim Chanos raised $20 Million for an offshore hedge fund that would probably place short bets against China’s property bubble. When economists like Nouriel Roubini make contrarion and pessimistic predictions, we don’t really pay any attention. They have no skin in the game. ... We don’t pay attention to contrarion economists’ predictions but we do pay attention to a multi-billion dollar hedge fund’s predictions. If Chanos’ predictions are wrong, he would lose millions of dollars. 
     According to an article in The Telegraph published today, Chanos is not alone. Other Hedge funds also bet China is a bubble close to bursting (maybe China bubble 2011 burst):
    The manager, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “The Chinese delegation has said all week that there will be double-digit growth for years to come and the Brits have lapped it up. But the data doesn’t add up. We think we’ve experienced credit bubbles over the past few years, but China is the biggest. And yet the global economy is looking to China as not just a crutch but a springboard out of the recession. It’s crazy.”
    Still, Andy Rothman, a China macro strategist at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets does not agree. Rothman notes that "the real estate market in China is not a bubble, since household incomes are increasing in line with home prices":
    Mr. Rothman said that home prices in China's second-tier cities, where most urban Chinese live, are 75 percent lower compared to larger cities like Shanghai and Beijing and prices are increasing at a slower pace.
    "With leverage this low and with house prices rising in line with income, these are not bubbles," said Mr. Rothman.
    I agree that China is artifically fuelling its current growth by pouring public money into infrastructure projects, but they are using saved money so they won't easily go into crisis or bubble. Also household debt structure of Chinese household is significantly different than the western household. As you can see from the graph below, Chinese household savings level is the highest while debt level is among the lowest. Although Chinese middle class is larger than the total population of US, there are significantly less credit cards in circulation in China. As states "As a result of the low penetration rate of credit cards and culture, it is unlikely that increased spending will come from borrowed funds. Instead higher domestic spending will have to come from household savings or incomes."

      Household Debt Saving - Source: Top foreign stock

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Khan Academy - Future of Education

    For Salman Khan and the students on the planet earth, last 5 years were great. These years transformed him from a hedge fund manager to the most influential teacher in the world while gave a 1 man academy available from everywhere in the world. As Bill Gates stated correctly "we've moved about 160 IQ points from the hedge fund category to the teaching-many-people-in-a-leveraged-way category. It was a good day his wife let him quit his job."

    Khan Academy on the Gates Notes

    In the summer of 2004, Salman Khan learned that his seventh-grader cousin, Nadia was having trouble in math class converting kilograms. He wanted to tutor her but there was a problem. Salman was living in Boston while Nadia was in New Orleans. However, this did not prevent them. Using Yahoo Doodle software as a shared notepad, and a telephone, Salman Khan started to tutor Nadiaand then her brothers. Word spread to other relatives and friends. But it was proved to be difficult for all to sit at the same time for tutor and Khan solved this problem by creating videos and uploading them to Youtube. These videos and their growing popularity created what is now known as Khan Academy. In 2010 at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Bill Gates calling it "unbelievable" and revealed that he has been using Khan Academy with my kids.

    Eventually, Salman Khan left his full time job and started to devote all of his time to the academy with the vision to create a virtual school composed of tens of thousands of videos about every teaching topic under the sun.  He is also well supported with the world community. According to wikipedia:
    Several people have made $10,000 contributions; Ann and John Doerr gave $100,000; total revenue is about $150,000 in donations, and $2,000 a month from ads on the Web site. As of September 2010, Google announced they would be providing the Khan Academy with $2 million to support the creation of more courses and to enable the Khan Academy to translate their core library into the world’s most widely spoken languages, as part of their Project 10^100.[8] Salman is aiming at making nothing less than "tens of thousands" of tutorials offering the "first free, world-class virtual school where anyone can learn anything."
    Khan Academy recently released KhanApp, a smart phone application to access the video pool of Khan Academy. Broad band internet is providing the students a chance to directly learn from a genius from anywhere with internet connection. Khan academy also has plans to overcome to obstacles: Language barrier and no internet connectivity. They plan to translate this works to the languages of the world and prepare CD's for rural areas.

    iPhone Application Khan Academy
    KhanApp - Khan Academy on Smartphones

    If you have not discovered him yet, do yourself or your kids or other kids a favour and spread this work! It is really amazing and one of the best things that happend in world wide web!

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Hostels in Singapore

    Just a couple of years ago, you had very limited choices in terms of budget short term accommodation in Singapore. I only knew two hostels and directed friends there (back then I was in a studio with no place for guests).

    Since hotel rates in Singapore are quite high the demand for hostels are also high. And now it looks like supply is catching up the demand for this type of accommodation and there are many hostels in Singapore. And there is a wide range of hostels now from traditional dorm and shower only no-frills hostels to relatively luxurious boutique hostels. Many of them provide single bed, double bed or even family rooms to rent for about 60+ SGD per night (although bathrooms are still shared). Here is a complation of my favorites (not in any order).

    Wink Hostel
    Housed in a 3-storey historic shop house in Chinatown, Wink Hostel offers one of the best flashpacker accommodation in Singapore with sound-resistant pod beds, contained lighting and private nooks.  Communal spaces like café, entertainment lounge and kitchenette are quite clean and modern. Location, which is very closed to Chinatown MRT Station, is very convenient.

    Matchbox The Concept Hostel
    Matchbox The Concept Hostel is not your typical hostel. It is the first pod style hostel in Singapore opened in August 2011. It offers capsule like beds in its dormitories. These capsules give guests more privacy. The hostel offers single bed capsules and double bed capsules. The hostel is in a conservation shop house in Ann Siang Road, right next to the Club Street and China town. Beds priced at 45 Singapore Dollars per night. Backpackers who are looking for a little luxury and convenience, this hostel is a must check.

    A Beary Good Hostel

    A Beary Good Hostel is one of the newest hostels in Singapore. I is opened just less than a year ago (April 2010) but they have already opened their second facility just a few weeks ago. Both facilities are in Chinatown and one facility is just next to China Town MRT. It is referred in Best Hostels In Singapore article of CNNGo as below:
    Cheesy name aside, A Beary Good Hostel is good value for money if you don't mind the overly generous placement of stuffed bears throughout. The conservation shophouse exterior belies a homely and relaxed interior in primary color tones that is surprisingly more uplifting than annoying. The unbeatable location on Chinatown's Pagoda Street also means a wealth of photo-ops and authentic Chinese food.
    It's location is great. It is just next to an MRT station so commuting around Singapore is not an issue (as they mention it in their web site "hostel is located just 10 sheltered steps away from the MRT (a.k.a. subway/tube/metro/MTR/LRT/sky train/U-Bahn… ok you get the point) - your gateway to all other attractions in Singapore i.e. Sentosa, Orchard Road, Clarke Quay, Little India, Marina Bay..."). This one only offers dorm style rooms with 10 to 12 beds, 26 SGD / night.

    Bunc Hostel
    Bunc is a brand-new 233-bed, 3-stories hostel located at Upper Weld Road Little India Historical District. The hostel offer full air-conditioning, Wi-fi, kitchenette facilities, recreation rooms with gaming facilities, an outdoor tanning deck, commercial washer-dryers, a ladies-only floor and most of all, the custom made, roomy Bunc beds that maximizes personal space and privacy.

    Bunc Hostel in Singapore's Little India
    Bunc Hostel
    Bunc beds come in two sizes: Singles and Deluxes. A deluxe Bunc bed is twice the size of the full-sized single, and is able to accommodate two people spaciously. Each Bunc bed is luxuriously appointed with duvet covers and plush pillows. Singles and Deluxe Bunc beds are designed in conjunction and share a dormitory-style arrangement.

    Rucksack Inn@Lavender

    Rucksack Inn@Lavender is at 280 Lavender Street with a lounge area decorated with a comfortable sofa, 40-inch TV set with Xbox 360 Kinetics and a DVD player: more like someones living room than a hostel lounge. Hostel offers a reading corner, 3 computers to surf the web for free. The hostel provides free all day breakfast. The rates start from 28 SGD per night, a little more expensive than a typical hostel but well paid.

    This one in Lavender is the third location of the hostel chain. The other two are in Hongkong Street.

    Here are some relatively luxurious boutique style hostels in Singapore.

    5footway.inn Project Chinatown 2

    ABC Premium Hostel

    5footway.inn Project Chinatown 2

    Adler Hostel

    Singapore Lights Timelapse Video

    This is an amazing Singapore video by Yeo Wee Han shot by Canon DSLRs and EF lenses. Enjoy the river of lights flowing in the nights of Singapore. 

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Cheap Serviced / Studio Apartments in Singapore

    Looking for a cheap serviced/studio apartment in Singapore for rent which will not kill your budget? Well, the first thing you need to know is that there is nothing like budget serviced apartment Singapore in Singapore. "Cheap", "budget" here should mean relatively cheap, maybe under 3,500 - 4,000 SGD per month depending on the apartments type. If you need to stay in Singapore for a relatively short time, let's say a couple of weeks, a budget hotel would better serve you. But if you need temporary stay in Singapore (i.e. for MBA in INSEAD, a short term project or simply for a time until finding a permanent location) and this stay is let's say more than a month, you may need these budget serviced apartment Singapore for short term stay but they are not easy to find.

    Serviced apartments are great for individuals who are looking for a temporary rental place to stay until they find a permanent accomodation and companies who are looking for a temporary accomodation to their new expats. They may also be very practical for families travelling with kids. But the demand for cheaper serviced apartments in Singapore is very high with high tourist and business traveller numbers making hotel stay very expensive.

    Up to know, cheapest apartment for rent I have found is Kembangan LodgeKembangan Lodge, a serviced apartment managed by Santa Grand Hotels, offers cheap, no frills, studio type short term accomodation option in Singapore with S$1,800 - 2,300 per month including the utilities. It is located just right next to Kembangan MRT Station and somewhere between city and the airport.

    Another relatively cheap and budget option is Platinum@Geylang. It offers 3 types of units: Studios for rent go for $2,000 - $2,200 per month, 1+1 (1 Bedroom) units for rent go for $2,300 - $3,000 and 2+1 units go for $3,000 per month. It is located at Lorong 31 Geylang, off Sims Avenue. This may explain why it is relatively cheap, (See Cheap Singapore Hotels - Geylang Area). If you are not a family do not let this turn you off, this place can be convenient to live with its vibrant Asian might life and it is really closed to the center.

    Cheap Serviced / Studio Apartments in Singapore

    A more expensive both much more central and convenient one is Platinum@River Valley, Institution Ville. It located 3 minutes walk from famous Mohamed Sultan Road. I have found this comment on the place in Singapore Expats Forum:
    We just stayed for a month in a one-bedroom apartment at Institution Ville, a short walk from Orchard Road. The bedroom only had a glass sliding door and the kitchen area was tiny but it was the cheapest we could find at $3,300/month plus utilities. There was a related property that had loft apartments for just under $3,000. 
    If you click around this website you can find it:
    Each unit in both of these developments are for two people and the minimum length of stay is one month. And utilities are paid by you.

    For an upper-scale alternative, you can also take a look at our Cheap Serviced / Studio Apartments in Singapore: Heritage Apartments review.

    Click here for a list of serviced apartments : List of Serviced Apartments in Singapore.

    See also Singapore short term rental and Cheap short term rentals rooms and apartments in Singapore.

    If you are looking for cheap prices for luxurious serviced apartments in Singapore take a look at here:

    Ascott Raffles Place Singapore

    Orchard Parksuites by Far East Hospitality

    Far East Plaza Apartments by Far East Hospitality

    Orchard Scotts Residences in Singapore

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    New Singapore Property Market Cooling Measures

    Five months after the last measures, Singapore government announced new property market cooling measures on January 14th 2011. These measures, 4th in the last 16 months, "are tough but they are meant to stabilise home prices and not necessarily intended to cause them to crash" according to the National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan. Mr. Tan also mentioned that "the measures may not be the last but also are not permanent, and once they are no longer necessary, they will be removed". [1]

    What are the new property cooling measures in Singapore? Here is the list:
    1. Holding period for imposition of Seller's Stamp Duty (SSD) increased from three to four years.
    2. SSD rates raised to 16 per cent, 12 per cent, 8 per cent and 4 per cent for homes bought today and thereafter and which are sold in the first, second, third and fourth year, respectively.
    3. Loan-To-Value (LTV) limit lowered to 50% on housing loans for property purchasers who are not individuals.
    4. LTV limit lowered from 70 per cent to 60 per cent for individual property purchasers with one or more outstanding housing loans.
    New measures may be directly targetting flipping, purchasing a property and quickly reselling (or "flipping") it for profit. Of the new measures, one of the harshest was on sellers' stamp duty - which went up to a maximum 16 per cent on property sold within the first year, a jump from 3 per cent previously. Banks will also reduce the maximum loan to those who already have one or more mortgages to 60 per cent of the property value. These measures are a direct hit to the profit margin of flippers.[2]

    The aim is obviously to lower the demand that's been driving prices up. But in short term these measures may lead the flippers to hold their properties and lower the supply and drive the prices up.

    Loft@Holland - Source: Hot New Property

    In TODAYOnline Esther Ng and Cheow Xin Yi point out the timing of the announcement:
    "The timing of the announcement - days before December home sale figures will be released - suggests that the Government may be concerned about the property prices seen between September and last month, according to Cushman & Wakefield managing director Donald Han.
    While prices seem to have stabilised compared to the first half of last year, a rise in sales volumes, as seen in November, would have an upward effect on prices, said Mr Han, who suspects that there was also an aggressive take-up in December.
    Mr Mak said that his firm's research showed that subsales, as a percentage of total residential transactions, have been falling since the second quarter of 2009, from 14 per cent then to 9 per cent most recently.
    "Since short-term property speculation is not at a problematic level, the latest round of Government intervention could be prompted by other factors, such as strong demand for residential properties due to high level of liquidity," he said.
    For those who are looking to flip property for a quick buck, however, Mr Mak said they may be deterred by the move to increase the duration, from the current three years to four years, in which the Seller's Stamp Duty applies."[3]
    Will property prices fall in 2011 in Singapore? Will these measures be effective to cool the property market? Well, it is early to talk. Even after 3 cooling measures (last announced in August 2010) November sales were still strong with 1900 units, the most in seven months. Property transactions reached an unprecedented level in the first 11 months of 2010 as developers sold 15,025 properties, according to preliminary data from the government. That exceeded the high of 14,811 homes in 2007.[4] But on the other hand, it looks like we are at a peak in the property price markets and price rise is slowing (See Singapore property price rise slows) and Singapore Government is aggressively using its power to cool the market.
    “December sales would be as aggressive as the November numbers,” Han said. “The tide is coming onto the shores of places like Singapore, China and Hong Kong, and it’s hard to stop the tide with low interest rates. The only way is to pump in regular measures like what we’ve seen.”[4]
    According to The Straits Times first-time buyers are smiling now because they are optimistic that prices will now fall enough to allow them to get onto the private property ladder.[5] We think it is too early to smile. Market forces are still strongly pushing sales and prices up. We need to see how the markets, which had no significant reaction to the previous measures, will react to these new measures in the following months.

    [1] - Measures tough but meant to stabilise: Mah Bow Tan
    [2] - Property cooling measures hit private property market 
    [3] - New cooling measures but ...
    [4] - Singapore Extends Housing Measures; Developers Drop
    [5] - Property measures cool sentiments

    Individual income tax in Singapore

    Time is coming to pay individual income tax in Singapore. I have checked IRAS web page for the 2010 figures. As you may know taxes payable each year of assessment is based on income earned in the preceding calendar year. So in 2011 we pay tax over the chargeable income earned during 2010. The chargeable income is the amount remaining after deducting from assessable income the personal reliefs to which tax payer entitled.

    In Singapore progressive tax system is used for local residents. One do not pay tax for a annual chargeable income up to 20,000 SGD. From there you pay a fixed amount of tax for the first X SGD of your income and the remaining portion is taxed based on a rate from 3.5% up to 20%. For example if you are making 4,500 SGD per month (gross income) and have no reliefs your chargeable income will be 54,000 SGD. For the first 40,000 SGD you would pay a fixed amount of 900 SGD. For the remaining 14,000 SGD you would pay 1,190 on 8.5% rate (14,000 x 8.5%) so you totally pay 2,090 SGD.

    Income Tax Rate
    Tax rate on first 20,000 0%
    Tax rate on next 10,000 3.5%
    Tax rate on next 10,000 5.5%
    Tax rate on next 40,000 8.5%
    Tax rate on next 80,000 14%
    Tax rate on next 160,000 17%
    Tax rate on above 320,000 20%
    Tax rate on capital gains 0%
    Tax rate on income earned overseas 0%
    Tax rate on dividends received from Singapore company 0%

    Singapore Individual Income Tax Rates

    Below is a table I have prepared by using IRAS tax calculator. You can use this to quick check the tax you will probably pay (without any relief). For example someone making 5,000 SGD per month will pay 2,600 SGD for all year tax which is around 4.3% of the gross annual salary.

    SGD / monthSGD / YearFixed Tax PortionYou pay Remaining rate % You pay Total tax % to gross
    2000 24000 20000 0 4000 3,5 140 140 0,6
    2500 30000 20000 0 10000 3,5 350 350 1,2
    3000 36000 30000 350 6000 5,5 330 680 1,9
    3500 42000 40000 900 2000 8,5 170 1070 2,5
    4000 48000 40000 900 8000 8,5 680 1580 3,3
    4500 54000 40000 900 14000 8,5 1190 2090 3,9
    5000 60000 40000 900 20000 8,5 1700 2600 4,3
    5500 66000 40000 900 26000 8,5 2210 3110 4,7
    6000 72000 40000 900 32000 8,5 2720 3620 5,0
    6500 78000 40000 900 38000 8,5 3230 4130 5,3
    7000 84000 80000 4300 4000 14 560 4860 5,8
    7500 90000 80000 4300 10000 14 1400 5700 6,3
    8000 96000 80000 4300 16000 14 2240 6540 6,8
    8500 102000 80000 4300 22000 14 3080 7380 7,2
    9000 108000 80000 4300 28000 14 3920 8220 7,6
    9500 114000 80000 4300 34000 14 4760 9060 7,9
    10000 120000 80000 4300 40000 14 5600 9900 8,3
    10500 126000 80000 4300 46000 14 6440 10740 8,5
    11000 132000 80000 4300 52000 14 7280 11580 8,8
    11500 138000 80000 4300 58000 14 8120 12420 9,0
    12000 144000 80000 4300 64000 14 8960 13260 9,2
    12500 150000 80000 4300 70000 14 9800 14100 9,4
    13000 156000 80000 4300 76000 14 10640 14940 9,6
    13500 162000 160000 15500 2000 17 340 15840 9,8
    14000 168000 160000 15500 8000 17 1360 16860 10,0
    14500 174000 160000 15500 14000 17 2380 17880 10,3
    15000 180000 160000 15500 20000 17 3400 18900 10,5
    15500 186000 160000 15500 26000 17 4420 19920 10,7
    16000 192000 160000 15500 32000 17 5440 20940 10,9
    16500 198000 160000 15500 38000 17 6460 21960 11,1
    17000 204000 160000 15500 44000 17 7480 22980 11,3
    17500 210000 160000 15500 50000 17 8500 24000 11,4
    18000 216000 160000 15500 56000 17 9520 25020 11,6
    18500 222000 160000 15500 62000 17 10540 26040 11,7
    19000 228000 160000 15500 68000 17 11560 27060 11,9
    19500 234000 160000 15500 74000 17 12580 28080 12,0
    20000 240000 160000 15500 80000 17 13600 29100 12,1

    Singapore Individual Income Tax Table

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Watching Fireworks From Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool

    These lucky people in the video are watching Singapore NDP (National Day Parade) 2010 fireworks show from recently opened Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool. The pool is on the SkyPark, 1 hectare sky terrace connecting toofs of 3 towers of Marina Bay Sands.

    This privilage can only be enjoyed by the guests of Marina Bay Sands Hotel but if you stay there, you can invite 4 (2 adults & 2 children) non-hotel guests to the pool.

    Well, where are these people and where is this infinity pool anyway? You can see the three luxury towers of Marina Bay Sands Hotel which are crowned by the Sands SkyPark (deck above them) in the below photos. These are taken during the same event (Singapore NDP 2010) by one of my friends. The infinity pool is on this deck! Just awesome.

    It is an expensive thing to do but if you have money, it worths to stay in Marina Bay Sands Hotel and NDP or New Year fireworks shows while swimming in this pool.

    NDP 2010 Fireworks show from Marina Bay Sands Infinity Pool

    Singapore NDP 2010 Fireworks - Source: Asia Singapore

    Singapore NDP 2010 Fireworks - Source: Asia Singapore

    Singapore NDP 2010 Fireworks - Source: Asia Singapore

    Singapore NDP 2010 Fireworks - Source: Asia Singapore

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    Average HDB Rental Prices in Singapore

    (For a more up to date version of this article refer to Median Hdb flat rental prices as of Q1 2012).

    How much should you pay for an HDB flat rent?  You can browse the web to have an idea on asking prices but you can also check HDB directly to have some idea on real rental approvals. HDB quarterly publishes HDB rents by town and flat type. This data provide the average rents of HDB flats in various locations with subletting approvals in a given quarter. Here average of course means that half the HDB units were rented above indicated value and half below. You should take a look at these figures before going into a rental agreement.

    HDB flats are public housing flats unique to Singapore and they are the cheapest units to be found for rent in Singapore. Especially the newer HDB flats which had some renovation are in very good shape to rent. Newer HDBs do not having corridors on the outer faces of the building which is typical in older HDBs. Residents (citizens and Singapore PRs, Employment and S pass holders, student, dependent, professional visit pass holders and long term social visit visa holders can rent an HDB flat.

    Below is a chart generated from the HDB median subletting rent data. 3-RM means 2+1 HDB, a flat with a living room, 2 rooms (1 master room with attached toilet and a common room) and a kitchen. 4-RM means 3+1 HDB a flat with a living room, 3 rooms (1 master room with attached toilet and 2 common rooms) and a kitchen. The chart shows that 1+1 rents are flat on average since first quarter of 2010 but all others have increased in the last quarter.

    hdb rent price in Singapore
    HDB Rent Price changes per HDB Type

    Bedok area quarterly average HDB rent prices are depicted below. 2+1 HDB average price is flat for the last 4 quarters in  Bedok area.

    hdb rent price in Bedok Singapore
    HDB Rent Price changes per HDB Type (Bedok)

    Ang Mo Kio area quarterly average HDB rent prices are depicted below.

    hdb rent price in Ang Mo Kio Singapore

    See also Cheapest places to rent an HDB flat in SingaporeShort Term HDB Rental and 1+1 HDB for Rent Are Not For Foreigners  articles.

    Monday, January 3, 2011

    Singapore Income comperison tool has a great income comperison tool, which is based on Ministery of Manpower's Report on Labour Force in Singapore 2009.

    Below is a chart which is prepared by using this great tool. It shows above what percentage of workers in Singapore, a monthly gross income puts an individual. For example 4,500 SGD/ month gross income (total salaries plus total bonuses divided by 12) puts you above 77% of all genders and ages while 5,000 SGD / month puts you above 80% of all genders and ages.

    Gross Income SGD / MonthAbove %

    Singapore above precentile versus monthly income chart

    Sunday, January 2, 2011

    Singapore IT Salaries

    What are IT salaries in Singapore? This is a question that I am asking to wise google for the last few months since I am moving back to Singapore and I have an intention to change my job to guarentee to settle down there (my company has sent me to The Netherlands and then Turkey for projects since March 2010 and will probably force me to leave Singapore for a long time in the future again in case I had stayed with them).

    The best source for the answer is Singapore Employment Outlook and Salary Guide 2009/2010 from Kelly Services. According to the guide outlook for IT industry in Singapore is good:

    Information technology is at the heart of Singapore and despite the downturn, projects such as Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015) in next generation networks have been implemented to improve Singapore's IT competiteveness. Talent skilled in next-generation Web technologies, Internet and mobile content development are in demand as unified communication and enhancements to existing systems are still being carried out. Start-up and established firms will continue to battle for top IT talent. Contract and temporary positions have gained momentum and this is a trend which will continue throughout 2009 as employers prefer the flexibility of plaving candidates with specific skills in special projects. A sizable base of IT services and outsourcing companies continue to ensure a reasonable market for IT talents. Another facet of IT outsourcing that remain strong is software application development and support.
    According to the documents below are the IT minimum and maximum salaries for some IT titles:

    TitleQualificationExperience (years)Minimum SalaryMaximum Salary
    Analyst Programmer / Software Engineer Diploma / Degree 2-5 3,500 SGD 5,000 SGD
    Business / System Analyst Degree 3-5 4,500 SGD 6,500 SGD
    Database Administrator Degree 4-7 5,500 SGD 8,000 SGD
    Technical consultant Degree 3-6 4,000 SGD 7,000 SGD
    Application Consultant Degree 5-8 5,500 SGD 10,000 SGD
    IT Manager Degree 5-10 6,500 SGD 9,000 SGD
    Project Manager Degree 4 6,000 SGD 8,500 SGD
    Pre-sales consultant Degree 3-5 5,000 SGD 8,000 SGD
    Post-sales consultant Degree 3-5 5,000 SGD 8,000 SGD
    Account Manager / Sales Manager Degree 3-5 5,000 SGD 8,000 SGD
    Solutions Architect Degree 3-10 6,500 SGD 10,000 SGD

    It is expected that salaries in Singapore will grow 4% in nominal terms but real increases will be around 1% due to inflation. In the past few years it was really difficult to find a good paying IT jobs. This was due to the fact that there were large numbers of IT professionals granted for PR in bubble years of 2005 - 2007 and then came the recession. Since it is now more difficult to have PR and the economy is growing, my prospects are good for finding a high paying IT jobs for residents.

    It should also be noted that Financial Services IT salaries are higher than other IT services. According to Salary Information published by Hudson a Front Office Business Analyst with 8+ years or a Java Developer with 6+ years of experience and financial products knowledge can enjoy 100K - 150K (SGD) per year.

    If we take a look at Top 100 Jobs In Singapore 2010 we can see some IT jobs in this list. This data is based on Report on Wages in Singapore 2009 by Ministery of Manpower (MOM). Below are IT related jobs in the list with their position in top 100 high paying jobs in Singapore:

    RankingTitleSalary (SGD)/ Month
    12Information technology auditor9,800
    13Computer and information systems manager9,751
    25Computer operations and network manager8,550
    63Computer engineer6,006
    65Information technology security specialist5,939
    77Network systems and data communication analyst5,425
    78Database administrator 5,375
    79Application programmer5,328
    93Systems designer and analyst5,000
    97Systems programmer4,907
    98Software engineer4,900

    This MOM data is based on actual CPF data but only includes private sector. When public sector is included much of these IT titles would be kicked out of the list :)

    In terms of salaries engineering is in 3rd tier in terms of pay. Although IT is in the upper end of the 3rd tier, it is still below banking and civil service. If you want a career in IT in Singapore, I advice to go for Financial Services IT. I believe Financial Services IT is pushing IT salaries up into this list and excluding them, IT salary avarages are lower.