Sunday, October 30, 2011

In Transit in Singapore Changi Airport

Singapore Changi Airport is one of the best and busiest aviation hub in the world. Since its opening it sets benchmarks in service excellence. Just in 2009 alone, it has received 27 "best" awards. This airport has many facilities and is one of the best airport for in transit services.

Many people fly to this airport just to connect to another flight. Some wait only few hours but many waits for longer. Luckily, the airport offers a lot of services to help transit passengers to refresh and fill their waiting time with fun. All these services are behind the immigration check point so you do not need to pass through immigration.

For example if you have time, you can take a quick shower in one of the transit lounges of Terminal 1, Terminal 2 or Terminal 3. If you need to wait 3 to 4 hours, you can even play FREE Xbox 360 and PlayStation® 3 games at the Entertainment Deck. If you need to wait more than 4 hours you can swim in Changi's roof top swimming pool (14 SGD if you are not staying in the transit hotel) or catch a movie in the  free movie theater.

If you are transferring and the transfer time is more than 5 hours, you can take a 2 hours free Singapore tour. But these tours requires you to clear the customs and your ability to take one depends on your visa requirements to enter Singapore. Or you can simply chose to take a nap during this time. All 3 terminals of Changi Airport offers resting areas or Changi Transit Hotel.

But you should note that if you arrive to Budget Terminal, this terminal's transit area does not have access to main 3 terminals and their in transit services. Not all budget airliners use budget terminals so if you need transit facilities, check the airliners termnial in Changi Airport.

For more information visit Singapore Changi International Airport In Transit web pages.   

Saturday, October 29, 2011

HDB rents are still on the rise

If you are looking for an HDB flat for rent, you will need to prepare yourself to pay even high prices for a public housing ceiling over your head now. Housing Development Board (HDB) has just released the median rental transaction prices for Q3 2011. There are many people looking for an HDB to rent and there are very few HDB units for rent. As a result the rental prices of these units went from ultra-high to ridiculous region in Q3 2011.

There are 2 facts to highlight about these numbers:
  • These numbers here are actual transaction prices, they are not asking prices. So as an indicator, they are more reliable than asking prices you will find in Singapore property web sites which are usually higher.
  • These numbers are median numbers. Median means that half of the transactions were above those numbers and half of the transactions were below those numbers. If you are looking for an HDB unit which is in a relatively good shape, I suggest you to expect paying 10-15% above these median prices.

Below graph shows rental trends for 3-room (2 bedroom or 2+1), 4-room (3 bedroom or 3+1), 5-room (4+1 or 4 bedroom) and exec flat quarterly rental trends since Q3 2007.

Singapore HDB Rental Flat Rental Price Trends
As you can see from the graph, HDB flat rents has increased for all flat types except the executive flats in the third quarter of 2011. The pain of supply crunch in HDB flats due to low flat building rates of last decade is fully felt this year as the HDB flats are now can be rented higher than the numbers you would pay just five years ago to condominium units. Back then it was not a problem to find a decent HDB flat for 900 SGD per month.

Current market is landlord + property agent market. Still, it must also be painful for the property agents since there are significantly less units out there to rent out so significantly less transactions for them to earn money. Actually, if many people (including couples and families) did not reduce their life quality and packed into rental rooms, there would probably not enough flat to house all foreigners.

Still, the numbers tell that the asking prices of the landlords and property agents can still be negotiable. I have for example never seen a 4 room flat with an asking price less than 2,300 SGD per month in Tampines but the average transaction price for last 3 months there was 2,200 SGD per month.

Another interesting fact is that, the highest end of the HDB rental, executive flats crashed in rental compared to a quarter ago. For example in Clementi, the median exec flat rental went from 3,100 SGD per month peak of Q3-2010 to 2,550 SGD per month. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sharp decline in the chances of getting Singapore PR

If your Singapore PR application is rejected recently, you are not alone. More PR applications are rejected every year since 2009 when the Singapore immigration policy was sharply tightened to address Singaporeans’ growing anxiety over the pace of foreign intake. And as we have written before the tightening can be also seen in the sharp reduction of number of successful approvals as we have covered here, here and here. Now we also know how many are rejected since 2000.  And if you want to know how many applications are rejected since 2000, below are the figures.

The year the tightening started, in 2009, the number of Singapore PR applications rejected doubled compared to 2008 from 22,472 rejections to 58,923 rejections. This number increased to 68,143. The number of Singapore PR approved or rejected in 2011 are not available yet but I expect the approval numbers out in early 2012. Below are the number of Singapore PRs rejected and approved since 2004. 

Year Singapore
PR rejected
PR Approved
2004 17,452 35,250 52,702
2005 13,213 52,300 65,513
2006 17,508 57,300 74,808
2007 18,385 63,600 81,985
2008 22,472 79,200 101,672
2009 58,923 59,460 118,383
2010 68,143 29,265 97,408

Looking at the totals also gives some interesting insight into percentage of rejections and chance of someone getting Singapore PR. Below chart shows approval, rejection and total numbers.

Many people are asking me what are the chances of getting PR in 2011 and 2012. I answer no one can know for individuals since the criteria applied to each application is naturally not public. But in general chances of PR approval sharply declined since 2009 and with these rejection numbers we can give some quantitative perspective for the chances of getting PR nowadays.

If you divide the number of rejections to total numbers (estimated as rejections + approvals), you will see that around 20-22% of all applications are rejected between 2005 - 2008. In 2009, nearly half of the applications are rejected. And in 2010, nearly 70 percent of all applications were rejected! So chances of one getting PR went dramatically down in just 2 years from 80 percent to 30 percent.

Thailand Jet Ski Scam

This post is moved to : Pattaya Jet Ski Scam

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Singapore, Hong Kong hiring expectations are down for late 2011

What will be the job trends in Singapore in 2012? Is it bright as it was in 2010 and early 2011? It is early to talk about 2011 now but according to Hudson recruitment agency, late 2011 is unfortunately not very bright. Hudson releases a report called “The Hudson Report : Employment and HR Trends” for several Asian countries including Singapore, Hong Kong and China. This report captures employers’ hiring expectations for permanent positions for the next three months.

They have just released their latest report for the period between October 2011 and December 2011. In Singapore, hiring expectations are falling in most sectors for the last quarter of 2011. The survey, which is conducted over 460 executives across different industries, shows that only 42% expect to increase their headcount in the last quarter of 2011. This number is a sharp decline from 56% just a quarter ago. The survey also shows that the percentage of the employers expecting to cut staff levels increased slightly from 5% to 6% quarter and quarter.

Lowest hiring expectations are in the banking and financial services industries where the percentage is 30%, which fell down from 49% from a quarter earlier. Percentage of employers expecting to cut jobs is also highest in this sector of Singapore by 13%. Since the global economy is deteriorating fast and banking and financial services are falling down even for the big boys, it is highly expected that in the coming months in Singapore, many international banks will try to cope with the market conditions by cutting jobs.
Only IT&T and Manufacturing & Industrial sectors have more than 50% of employers with expectations to hire more and these sectors also have the lower percentage of employers for expected job cuts.

“The majority of sectors also report a sharp fall in hiring expectations since the same quarter last year.  Overall, the 42% of respondents forecasting headcount growth this quarter compares with 58% in Q4 2010.  The proportion of respondents expecting to hire fewer staff has risen from 2% to 6%.  Expectations rose throughout 2010, when companies in all sectors were actively hiring as they recovered from the earlier economic downturn.”

Singapore still performs better than Hong Kong but worse than China in terms of hiring expectations for late 2011. Hong Kong employers expecting to hire more staff fell from 61% to 38% in just one quarter.

To access the full reports on Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore and China refer to The Hudson Report - Employment & Market Trends web site.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Singapore Colonial Houses

Singapore has a very unique housing type, known as black and whites here. These houses were known as colonial-era houses of Singapore and built by British from late 19th century to before World World II to house high ranking members of colonial society. They are usually 2 story buildings with the main living area in the second story (one story away from creatures of the tropics such as snakes). They are designed with Western elements to blend into hot and humid tropical environment of Singapore.[1]

Today 70 per cent of these historical houses are owned by government and rented out to foreigners. Many large ones are also housing businesses such as restaurants and offices. There are currently around 500 of them available for rental. They are great rentals for people who would like a remote rural living environment in the middle of a very dense city but not good for those who would have problem with the snakes, bats and other creatures of Singapore's nature.

Singapore Black and Whites (Colonial Houses)
A large Singapore colonial house - Source :
Black and Whites are not known to be cheap rentals since their rental cost would be somewhere between 6,000 SGD to 20,000 SGD per month. But according to The Straits Times, their rent can be surprisingly affordable:

"Leasing in the Seletar's Piccadilly Circus neighborhood range from $6,000 to $7,000 a month. Normal landed homes of a similar size can cost up to $20,000 a month.

Last month, a black and white bungalow in Seletar with a land area of 2,260 sq ft was leased for $3,571 or $1.58 per square foot per month".

Of course the main reason for these prices are remoteness. In central areas the price range goes as high as 20,000 SGD per month.

As we have mentioned these are state properties and if you are looking for a state property to rent like black and whites you should visit the site of Singapore State Property Information Site. Here there is an updated list of Singapore State properties for rent both for residential and non-residential use.

[1] - Architecture: Singapore's Black & White Houses

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bargain hunting goes upmarket through

DEAL reveals new trend amongst online daily deal shoppers, who are now purchasing bigger-ticket items and achieving unique lifestyle experiences.

One of Singapore’s first and largest daily deals site, (DEAL), has today revealed that more of its customers are living the high life, through DEAL. By purchasing unique luxury deals, customers are able experience privileged lifestyle activities that have previously been unattainable. Such deals include luxurious yacht chartered packages, exotic travel deals and designer products, which are sold at discounts up to 90% from the original price. This finding is in line with research done earlier this year by PayPal, which revealed that Singapore has a growing online shopping market that has reached S$1.1 billion in 2010.

“During DEAL’s early days, we saw that most customers preferred to buy smaller ticket items, such as restaurant vouchers or spa treatments, which typically ranged between $10-20 per purchase. However, over the last year, as we have proven DEAL’s reliability to our customers, we are happy to see that they have become comfortable spending much higher amounts. The average order amount per customer has risen 4-fold over the last year,” explained Mr Patrick Linden, Chief Executive Officer of DEAL.

“By partnering with DEAL, we are delighted to have over 210 customers purchasing Trillion Yacht’s luxurious 4 hour charter package, which came with numerous other benefits, such as a bottle of champagne, snorkelling and fishing equipment. With an increase in affluence amongst Singapore shoppers, we are definitely seeing an increase in interest for the exclusive Trillion lifestyle experience,” said William, Director of Trillion Lifestyle Pte Ltd.
Exotic travel deals such as this Bangkok deal worth $400 are regularly becoming
best sellers as bargain hunters goes upmarket.
Already DEAL is a market leader in the online daily deal space – reaching out to some 850,000 potential customers per day, with nearly 140,000 Facebook followers and the highest monthly sales figures. A few months ago, DEAL launched its mobile application on the iPhone and Android platforms, rapidly rising to become amongst the highest mobile downloaded application. Recently, DEAL introduced a new section to its online daily deal site, called “LUXE DEALS”, which features branded items, such as handbags or watches.

DEAL will continue to champion the online daily deal space, by constantly developing new initiatives and offering more – for both its customers and the partnering retail merchants.

Established in 2010, has become Singapore’s Number One online shopping platform, offering what its customers love to have at the best price. DEAL remains unrivalled in providing both customers and merchants with unique experiences in Singapore. The company values the remarkable partnerships it has with merchant partners and takes pride in passing the great savings directly to its valued customers. In 2010, DEAL won the Red Herring Asia 100 award.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why Slovakia blocked the Greece bailout fund?

Everybody knows now that Greece will sooner or later default on its debt. But there is a difference between “sooner” and “later”. If Greece defaults later, banks and financial institutions which are icons of dumb financial decisions can offload as much debt as they can to the shoulders of taxpayers. If Greece defaults sooner, they have to bear the cost of their own dumb financial decisions. And of course they are too connected to fail. Free market forces are naturally forcing Greece to bankrupt so that everyone who did wrong would be punished, loser banks go down the drain; resources are released for more productive financial firms. But West is managed like a bunch of banana republics for the last few decades and in banana republic’s well connected rules, not the free market. And in banana republic’s when democratic forces work against the well connected, the press starts to complain about “politics”.

Today, Slovakia blocked the Euro Rescue Fund and in several places I have seen the same text again: “Politics games”, “fell victim to internal politics”. Why Slovaks blocked the Greece bailout fund? Here is the answer, historically poor but frugal people are fed up with bailing out rich and spenddrift:

"When I was in Slovakia, the burning issue was whether their government should kick in to the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), a €440 billion entity that would buy bonds, make guarantees, and engage in other transactions to reduce the stress on debt issued by the beleaguered PIIGS. The Slovaks were historically a poor but frugal people, and many of them resented bailing out the Greeks who were spendthrifts yet had a higher standard of living. (For those who don't like stereotypes, don't send me angry emails: I'm just repeating what the Slovaks told me.)

The average Slovak was in the same unfortunate position as the average American back in the fall of 2008: each was told that they had to pay higher taxes in order to bail out rich people who had made dumb financial decisions. When Americans were told they had to pay for the $700 billion TARP, Treasury secretary Paulson and others warned that failure to do so would lead to a collapse of the banking system. In a similar vein, Europeans today are warned that they need to rescue the PIIGS governments lest the euro itself collapse, taking down the banks with it."

Fiat Money and Euro Crisis

Saturday, October 8, 2011

HDB Rent Trends

Median HDB rental prices per town per quarter are released by HDB in their web site to help people to figure out what are the rental trends. Below interactive chart displays the median prices for 3 room HDB flats and 4 room HDB flats rents by town. 3 room flat is a flat with 2 bedrooms. 4 room HDB flats have 3 bedrooms. 4 room flats are not only larger, they are also usually newer.

To use the interactive dashboard, simply select the town and then place the cursor on the line to see the median rental prices in that quarter. You can also click on the quarter name on the rows so that the charts displays small circles. You can go onto these circles to see the rental prices.

The data is compiled from this free HDB service and the chart is powered by Tableau Public.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Find the best credit card promotions near you

I have no time to monitor the bargains offered to my credit card even the bank sends me a long list of these discount offers in my credit card summary mail (what a waste of paper!). It would be great if someone or something does it for me. It would be greater if this service reminds me an offer based on my location, if this location is close to me.

Well there is now a service doing this in Singapore, its name is NoTikum. NoTikum is a location based application which finds you the bargains offered to your credit card. You just enter the category of the offer and it will show you the nearest offer based on your location. With this application you do not need to read those brochures send by credit card summary or visit individual bank web sites to find a deal.

NoTikum on iPhone

The service takes its name from a a game of chance popular in Singapore and Malaysia. The name implies that you will not leave it to chance to find a deal nearby. The company goes to individual bank web sites and compiles the fresh list of offers. But to use the service you need to first register your credit card(s) through their apps or web site. The service is available as an  iphone app, android app or directly from web.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

District 9,10,11 rents fall first time in 4 years

High rents in the prime areas of district 9,10 and 11 have felt for the first time in 4 years. This is a real fall, not slower increase, which is usually called moderation here in Singapore:

"Housing rents in prime areas have dropped for the first time in nearly four years, as uncertainty in the global economy meant fewer executives are being hired, according to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).

The global property consultancy firm said average rents in Districts 9, 10 and 11 fell 1.4 percent in the third quarter from Q2, the first decline since Q1 2008.

The drop was worse in the high-end residential segment, where Q3 rental rates plunged 1.9 percent from last year. Many experts said fears regarding global economic uncertainty are starting to be felt in the country, with companies halting hiring or holding back on employment packages for existing staff."[1]

The prime area rents are usually above 6,000 SGD per month (no typo error) and almost exclusively within reach of foreigners with expat packages. According to the news, the below 6,000 SGD per month rents (a normal(!) rental range for not so prime condominium units) are still holding but since almost all segments of rental are foreigner dependent, they are very sensitive to economy.

In Singapore, majority of the tenants are foreigners since Singaporeans usually passes from their own flat from their parents flat without a period in which they rent a unit. Even if this means they stay with their parents until they are 30 or even after married. Thus, foreigners are the tenants here and anything effecting their inflow has direct effect on the rents.

[1] - Singapore prime rents fall for first time in nearly 4 years

Monday, October 3, 2011

Illegal and dangerous trade in Changi Airport

According to the local media in Singapore a new way of touting emerged in Changi Airport. A tout approaches a traveler with light baggage and offers him/her money to carry heavy items as their own in exchange of some money. This is a very dangerous offer to accept in Singapore since you can have no way to know what is inside the item someone else is giving to you. It can be a cargo which can take you to gallows since many destinations in South East Asia have very high penalties for drug trafficking. In most likely cases you may end up trying to smuggle counterfeit items into a country with a lot of penalties and headache waiting for you ahead:

"According to a report in The Sunday Times today, these touts approach travelers with light baggage and offer between $5 to $10 per kg to check in bulky items as their own.

When a deal is made with the touts, they will call up a delivery truck which offloads goods like TVs and computers as baggage for the travellers to carry. A tout will accompany the traveller to the check in counter and hand over payment once the baggage successfully goes through.

Speaking to reporters, the airport authorities say that they are aware of the problem and that the airport police conduct regular anti-touting patrols. However, the touts persist and a number of travellers have already encountered them.

Foreign worker Raj Rajan was one of these travellers that reporters witnessed being approached by touts. The 29-year-old was offered $150 to check in a 20kg TV set as his own baggage. Despite the danger of possible contraband hidden in the baggage, Raj agreed to work for the touts because he needed the money." - New illegal trade at Changi airport

Refuse to carry anything which do not belong to you or packed by you in and out of Singapore. Even if it means being rude. In 2009, I was travelling to Jakarta from Singapore with my boss for a business meeting. 2 nice and attractive ladies in their 40s approached to my boss and told him that they were carrying Bibles with them but they have exceeded their weight limit. Could we help them to carry the excess bags for them? I was shocked when he politely told "why not?". Without hesitation, I smiled into the face of the ladies and told my boss "we need to talk, alone." I took him a little bit away and told him that he has no way what are inside those books and if he is carrying the bag I am not travelling with him. He agreed that it was dangerous to carry someone else's items. He went to the ladies and apologized. I also did so. They were most probably 2 nice missionaries really carrying Bibles but how can you be sure?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Popularity of Shoebox apartments increase

Singapore has recently became a place as expensive as Hong Kong and Tokyo and since then a previously rare apartment type, shoebox apartments, (very common in those cities) started to become very popular. I have started like this because I still see people trying to figure out why they are so popular. I am surprised that people are surprised with this popularity in a place where a so-called mass market, non-shoe box private residential unit is a million dollar expense!

Shoebox apartments are those flats smaller than 500 sq ft. Many of these units are in fact at most as large as a hotel room. Into 2011 their popularity is increasing:

"Shoebox apartments, generally defined as private residential units smaller than 500 sq ft, are increasingly gaining popularity in Singapore, accounting for 7 per cent of condominium sales over the past year, up from 4.2 per cent the previous year.

On average, 197 shoebox units were transacted per month between August last year and last month, with their average price at S$1,546 psf, according to an report. This is 42 per cent more than S$1,090 psf for condos from 501 to 1,500 sq ft, and 25 per cent more than S$1,232 psf for condos larger than 1,500 sq ft, said."[1]

Although the per sq ft price of shoe-box units are higher, their overall price is lower than larger units so they are more affordable. Some people are concerned with their number since many of these units are bought for investment and will hit the rental market thus "depressing" the rental prices. If you are one of those who welcome a fall in ridiculously high rentals then you will welcome their presence. Besides, they optimize the use of space on a land scarce island and is a good "single" person home.

Some think they will have hard time to attract tenants, especially if normal properties become more affordable. Well if landlords buying these units are dreaming to charge very high rentals in the upcoming years yeah then they will have hard time to attract tenants. On the other hand on an island where population of singles are increasing (32 per cent of Singapore population are single compared to 32 per cent in 2000) there will always be enough demand for smaller, centrally located and cheaper units.

[1] - Shoebox apartments getting more popular 

Number of Singapore PRs down in 2011

Recently announced Singapore population trends 2011 report revealed that as of end June 2011, there are 9,000 less Singapore Permanent Residency holders compared to 2010. This is despite the population increase in Singaporeans and foreigners. And this is the first time in last 20 years that Singapore PR population shrinks. As we have covered by early 2011, 2011 and next years are not the best times to apply for Singapore PR since The Government has started to tighten criteria for PR after a record PR approval of nearly 80,000 in 2008. And that article was long before the Singapore General Election of 2011. In this election, Singaporeans openly expressed their frustration with the unsustainable increase in number of foreigners and PRs in the past 5 years. The topic was so hot that, after the election, it will not be surprising to see the PR criteria will be tightened more.

We are now looking at the consequences of tightened immigration policy before the election (the population numbers are just 2 months after election). Next population figures may show more significant declines. This does not mean no one is getting PR. Singapore PR is practically given for 5 years and some of those who already got PR are not renewed for a second time. Because of the clear advantages of being a citizen over PR many PRs are becoming citizens.(This explains the increase in the Singaporean population. Singapore's fertility rate is so low that there should be a decrease. But since PRs convert to citizenship, it has increased).

But it is well probable that we will be looking at even less PR approval figures in 2011 compared to 29,000 approvals of 2010. Slowdown in new PR approvals may also partially contribute to the jump in foreigner population since foreigners on valid work permit visa cannot easily convert to PR now and stay as foreigners.

The best time to apply for Singapore PR was the large PR intake window of boom years, from 2005 to 2008. It may look a newcomer like the criteria is tightened but actually the 2005-2008 period of boom years were looser and things went back to normal.

See also