Wednesday, May 30, 2012

HDB Launches 4,627 New BTO flats in Choa Chu Kang, Punggol, Sengkang and Kallang/Whampoa

Housing Development Board (HDB) has announced the launch of 4627 Built-to-Order (BTO) flats among 6 projects in 4 towns today. The flats offered are in  three non-mature towns (Choa Chu Kang, Punggol, and Sengkang) and one mature town (Kallang/Whampoa). The projects are in projects named Compassvale Boardwalk in Sengkang Town, Keat Hong Pride in Choa Chu Kang, Pungol Edge and Waterway Sundew in Pungol,  Bendemeer Light and McNair Towers in Kallang / Whampoa.[1]

Although the flats are called Built-to-Order, HDB currently releases the flats ahead of the demand due to a long wait list in the past few years. Since last year, , HDB has also changed its policy of not launching new BTO flats in mature estates. Previous launch was in March 2012,  where HDB has launched 8,000 flats in Bukit Batok, Bukit Panjang, Clementi, Geylang, Bedok, Toa Payoh and Bukit Timah. Next HDB offering will be in Jul 2012 with about , HDB will be offering about 3,900 new flats for sale in Bedok, Bukit Merah, Clementi, Geylang, and Punggol.

At least 95% and 85% of the BTO flat supply (excluding Studio Apartments) in mature towns and non-mature towns respectively will be set aside for first-time buyers. This launch is the 3rd launch in 2012 and HDB plans to release 25,000 flats in 2012, on the top of 25,000 released in 2011.

Artist Impression of Waterway-Woodcress, a new BTO project released in September 2011
Last year, Singapore government has announced that they are committed to helping newly weds to obtain their first build-to-order (BTO) flat as soon as possible and has stated that HDB is able to construct more than 100,000 flats in its current term:
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan mentioned this in Parliament, as he shared plans for the next two years. Recently married first-timers are getting Mr Khaw’s immediate attention. The government is building 50,000 HDB flats in the first two years and ‘if the demand remains strong, we have the resources and the capacity to build more than 100,000 HDB flats during this term of government’, he said. New flats may start coming up in Bidadari, which can potentially accommodate up to 12,000 units. 
The government will also start planning for Tengah town – with a capacity for 56,000 units when fully developed – although it will not launch BTO projects there in its current term. What it will do is start building infrastructure such as roads and drains, and the works will commence later than those at Bidadari.[2]

[1] - HDB Launches 6 BTO Projects Offering 4,627 New Flats
[2] - 100,000 new HDB flats over 5 years

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Samsung Galaxy S3 in Singapore

Samsung Galaxy S3 (SIII), world's top-selling mobile phone maker Samsung's new Android smartphone, is now in Singapore and sold by all three telcos of Singapore (SingTel, StarHub and M1) with almost similar prices. The launch was met with queues where some buyers has started waiting from as early as 10 AM. The new Samsung Galaxy has a 4.8-inch (12.2-cm) screen which is 22 per cent larger than the previous S2 and comes with a more powerful processor, voice recognition software, multi-tasking capabilities and a new cool eye movements detector which can override the automatic shutdown if the user is looking at the screen.

Samsung has unveiled Samsung Galaxy S3 in London earlier this month and it will start selling itin 28 countries from Tuesday the phone will be available in 145 nations by July via 296 wireless carriers[1]. Samsung introduced its first Galaxy in 2010, three years after the iPhone's debut, to counter Apple's roaring success in smart phones when the troubles of bigger rivals Nokia and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion had started.[2]

Samsung Galaxy S3 was announced to be available in 2 colors, white marble and pebble blue but due to manufacturing issues there will be considerably less blue versions available on launch day, with most customers having to settle for the white clad Galaxy S3 for the time being.Samsung's GALAXY S III Pebble Blue version comes with a newly invented blue colour and special hyperglaze material according to Samsung.  [3] .

Samsung sold 44.5 million smartphones in January-March - equal to nearly 21,000 every hour - giving it 30.6 per cent market share. Apple sold 35.1 million iPhones, taking 24.1 per cent market share.

Singtel Samsung Galaxy S3 price plans starts from 3G Flexi Lite for 39.9 SGD per month and 498 SGD for the phone and ranges up to iThree Plus for 192.9 SGD per month and 198 SGD for the phone.

Singtel Samsung Galaxy S3
Price Plans Monthly Subscription Samsung Galaxy S III Phone Price
3G Flexi Lite $39.90 $498
3G Flexi Value $59.90 $348
3G Flexi Plus $99.90 $198
3G Flexi Premium $205.00 $198
iOne Super Value $15.00 $748
iOne Plus $25.68 $648
iTwo Value $48.15 $498
iTwo Plus $82.93 $348
iThree Plus $192.60 $198

M1 Samsung Galaxy S3 2 years price plan starts from Value Surf for 39 SGD per month and 498 SGD for the phone and ranges up to SunMax Plus for 195.81 SGD per month and 198 SGD for the phone.

M1 Samsung Galaxy S3
Price Plans Monthly Subscription Samsung Galaxy S III Phone Price
Take3 – Pay nothing for phone on mobile plan from 
$82.93 per month
ValueSurf $39.00 $498
LiteSurf $55.00 $348
ExtremeSurf $95.00 $198
SunSaver $25.68 $648
SunSaver Plus $48.15 $498
SunMax $82.93 $348
SunMax Plus $195.81 $198

StarHub Samsung Galaxy S3 price plans starts from PowerValue 100 for 25.48 SGD per month and 648 SGD for the phone and ranges up to SmartSurf Unlimited Plus for 205 SGD per month and 198 SGD for the phone.

Starhub Samsung Galaxy S3
Price Plans Monthly Subscription Samsung Galaxy S III Phone Price
PowerValue 100 $25.68 $648
PowerValue 300 $48.15 $498
PowerValue 700 $82.93 $348
SmartSurf 100 $38.00 $498
SmartSurf 300 $58.00 $348
SmartSurf 700 $98.00 $198
SmartSurf Unlimited $205.00 $198

Samsung Galaxy S3 queue in Singapore
Singapore consumers queuing for Samsung Galaxy S3 in front of M1 shop in Paragon - Source : CNet Asia
In an article in today's Today (First look at the Galaxy S III) Peter Yeo takes a look at Samsung Galaxy S3 to understand that much-hyped device worth the buzz or not. The device's Super AMOLED screen is quite huge but this does not make it any more unwieldy than its competitors with smaller displays. He notes that the layout of the phone is clean, with few buttons:

"Its much talked about Smart Stay feature, which senses when you are looking at the screen and keeps it lit, worked well except for a couple of occasions when it dimmed before detecting my presence and brightened up. Also important to me was the ability to create a personal hotspot, as we need to be on hand to report news at all times, and the GS3 did not disappoint. Connectivity via tethering stayed strong despite moving around. 
Jumping on the voice control wagon, the GS3’s S-Voice crashed whenever I asked if it loved me and could not find contacts I wanted to text. But I have never liked the idea of asking a phone for favours in public anyway. 
The Pop Up Play feature, which lets you multi-task while playing a video “picture-in-picture”, was impressive.  
The contract for my current phone will run out in October. If nothing better comes along, the GS3 might be my next smartphone of choice."
[1] - Samsung to start selling Galaxy S3 in 28 nations
[2] - Samsung Galaxy S3 gets head start on rival iPhone
[3] - Pebble blue Samsung Galaxy S3 delayed

Want to buy Ferrari California in Singapore? Here is the package

Ferrari dealer Ital Auto has done something has never been done before; it has listed a vehicle financing package in an advertisement in The Business Times to announce the arrival of its 2012 Ferrari California. The package, quite affordable according to the dealer, includes a deposit of 150,000 SGD and then monthly installments of $5,999 at the interest rate of 0.88 per cent. The price of this super car, which is considered as an entry level model for ferrari range, is 758,000 SGD+ without including the COE. Ferrari California is a 2+2 convertible and can go from 0 to 100 kmh in 3.8 seconds.

According to Andrew Howes, general manager of Ital Auto, finance schemes are attractive for thos who wants an aspirational car and even at that price they would like to convey to prospective buyers that it is not that expensive with reasonable payments for 8 to 10 years. DBS Bank is the partner of Ital Auto in the financing scheme.

So if you are rich enough and if you are OK with the weirdness of having a super car in Singapore (it is like having a jet-ski in an Olympic pool; jet-ski may be cool but riding it in a pool is not :)) here is an opportunity for you to enter the world of Ferrari. If you only need to have a glimpse of riding a super car like this in Singapore, you can rent a Supercar in Singapore and feel the power of a prancing horse (Ferrari F430 F1 Spider) or the raging bull (Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder).

Ferrari California - Source : Ital Auto
Source : The Business Times, Ferrari publicises financing package

Employment Pass Rejected. Why? What to do?

Singapore Employment Pass (EP) is a type of work visa issued to foreign professional employees, managers, and owners/directors of Singapore companies by Singapore's Manpower Ministery. Unlike other work visas, there is no official quota system limiting the number of Employment Passes that can be issued to a company. You will need to have one to work in Singapore as an executive even if you work for a short period of time.

But your application for this pass may be rejected due to one or more of many reasons. The problem may be you (you may be under-qualified or you do not submit correct documents or information) or your employer (they may have too much Employment Pass holders, they may not look big, sound or legitimate enough business etc.). It may also be your or your companies agent. Or you may be in a position where there are more than enough locals with the same qualification available. So it is important to;
  • Make sure that you are qualified. For example, you need minimum $3000 SGD per month salary to get the lowest level Employment Pass. If you exactly get this amount or less, you decrease your chances. Also check with MOM whether your college or university is a recognized one.

  • Make sure that you or your employer work with a good agent and make sure that you provide all documents required to be submitted.

  • Obviously do not submit fake documents.

  • Do not make spelling errors. If you spell your university name incorrectly, do not be surprised to get a straight rejection. Double check all words.
  • Obviously do not submit misinformation. Actually, you may accidentally submit wrong information which can be interpreted as misinformation. When you appeal for this, you may make the officer think that you cannot even understand a question how come you are qualified to get EP! So make sure that you understand everything clearly, and in doubt double ask/check the questions.

  • If you are an older and experienced worker, 3,000 SGD per month salary will not qualify you for holding Singapore Employment Pass. You need to earn significantly higher.
Employment Pass application may be rejected and if the application is rejected, you need to submit an appeal submitted in writing to Singapore Ministry Of Manpower (MOM)'s Work Pass Division within one month of receiving the rejection letter via post or the iSubmit web portal.

Since 2011, Singapore government took several steps to tighten Singapore work visa requirements to slow the intake of foreign workers. The salary minimum levels are increased and number of recognized universities are reduced. So it is more difficult to get approvals nowadays. It even seems like the intention is now to reduce some excess foreign manpower since some people who are already working in Singapore are rejected in their Employment Pass renewal or when they change company (you need a new Employment Pass when you change employer).

So if you are an Employment Pass holder which was approved 2-3 years back and you think your qualification and education is not very high, it may be better for you to think twice before changing employer. The boom times of 2005 - 2009 period where it was much easier to get Employment Pass and Permanent Residency is over.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Singapore Property News Update May 2012

Singapore's low interest rate fueled property bubble entered a new phase in 2012, as monthly private home sales for the first 3 month of the year averaged around  2,200 homes per month which is a big jump from 1,300 homes per month. [1] Is this the new "normal"? Well, as Colin Tan said in Today, there is nothing normal about these numbers which solely depends on artificially low interest rates. We will probably see the real damage of printed money on Singapore's economy, when the printing presses stops, as USA has experienced 2006 onward.

As each round of cooling measure does nothing to stop the rise and there seems to be no cooling measure addressing the real issue, low interest rates Singapore is exposed to, people probably started to believe that Singapore property will never go down as long as a large asteroid do not hit the earth.

Ryan Ong writes in

"What happened is 2,487 new units got sold by developers. That’s a 3.9% increase from March, and the biggest record in three years. It’s also the third straight month that private home sales exceeded the 2,300 mark. And just days before, the Ministry of National Development (MND) claimed cooling measures “are working“.
Yeah, sure they are. They’re “working” like I work after five on Fridays. While cooling measures have caused modest price declines, the growing sales volume suggests nothing’s under control yet. Resilient demand, coupled with unrealistic investments (i.e. shoebox apartments, Sky Habitat), are propelling Singapore’s property market toward a potential crash.

Why’s it happening? I put it down to:
  • Uninformed Optimism
  • Low Interest Rates
  • Shoebox Apartments
  • HDB Prices vs. Private Home Prices"

Are Shoebox Apartments Inhuman?
According to Bloomberg, CapitaLand's Chief Executive Officer Liew Mun Leong said Singapore should curb the increasing trend of so-called shoebox apartments because they are almost inhuman.”(Capitaland CEO calls shoebox apartments inhuman)
Well, shoebox apartments are not inhuman, the property prices in Singapore are inhuman. At a time when local newspapers are running articles like "cheap apartments for 1 million and below", shoebox apartments are just a natural response buyers are giving to the price problem.  And they are just one type of damages Western and Chinese money printing presses are causing in Singapore.
Shoebox apartments has recently became very popular due to several factors such as 1 million dollar price tags of condominium units. HDB dwellers, with a dream to own a private property but not enough money to buy a so-called "mass market" bigger unit drove demand for shoebox units in Q1.

Number of Chinese buying property in Singapore down 54 per cent
According to a report published by DTZ Research revealed that Chinese, including permanent residents, bought just 292 homes in the first quarter, down 54 per cent down from the 640 homes bought in the fourth quarter last year and the lowest volume in more than two years. (Buyers from China lose property top spot)

Obviously, the last cooling measure, Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty, which adds a 10% stamp duty for foreign buyers is a big cause. 

According to the report, the fall in foreign purchases is bigger than the 1996. "This could be due to the implementation of other broad-based measures in 1996 which also affected other buyer groups, while the additional buyer's stamp duty had a larger impact on foreign demand."

Private property prices starts to climb up again in April

Overall, prices rose 0.8 per cent from March, when it saw an increase of 0.4 per cent. Prices of high-end units saw a 1.6 per cent increase while that of non-central units stayed stagnant in April. 
Only for shoebox units - measuring 506 sq ft or smaller in this case - did prices fall some 1.2 per cent. In March, this segment picked up by 2.7 per cent.
Source :  Prices of private resale homes inch up again in April

Resale prices for small units, currently in the crosshairs of the Government for possible intervention to cool this market segment, fell 1.2 per cent after the 2.7 per cent rise previously. The SRPI Small index covers homes with a maximum floor area of 506 sq ft. 
Mr Ong said: “Recent concerns are surrounded on the proliferation of shoebox apartments and the exuberance or probably irrationality of buyers in the mass market private housing segment.
Source : Resale private home prices rise

[1] - 2012 new private home sales

Friday, May 18, 2012

Qoo10 New Gmarket Singapore

Gmarket Singapore, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia, popular online marketplaces to buy and sell a wide range of products has been rebranded to Qoo10 in May 2012. This means Gmarket Singapore, one of the most visited and popular e-commerce sites in Singapore will soon operate from another domain named This new domain is currently active but is also still be accessible as the activities moves to

The usage and popularity of the shop has exploded fast according to the Giosis Gmarket International; (runs the site with a joint venture with eBay); daily transaction of gmarket Singapore was reported to be over 10,000 in the Singapore site for March 2011, and doubled to over 20,000 per day in December 2011 and monthly business amount of  6 Million Singapore Dollars.

The site operates like ebay, a platform to meet sellers and buyers. As a buyer you can register free and start buying items immediately from the sellers operating on the site. The site offers a wide range of products from fashion & clothing, beauty products, sport products to electronic gadgets and accessories, books and music.

Registering as a seller requires more work like getting seller authorization by submitting a copy of NRIC and  a copy of Bank statement (foreigners who hold valid work visas for Singapore (Employment Pass, Work Permit ; not a tourist visa) can also register as sellers by submitting the required documents). There is no listing fee in gmarket but you need to pay up to 12% from the sales proceedings to Qoo10. But the charge rate depends on sellers grade (normal, good and power) and the size of the sales and can be as low as 5% for power sellers and sales costing 500 SGD+. As far as I know, they also keep the money 15 days to get a received signal from the buyer and then release to your bank account.

Why did their change their name from gmarket to a hard to pronounce Qoo10? According to the official statement from the company, they would like to expand to global market from Asia and the branding is the step towards this goal. Gmarket Singapore is a quite well known name and leaving it behind for a new brand name is a bold move and we will see how their traffic will be effected. But although the brand name changes, there seems to be no plan to change the structure of the established online shopping and selling experience.

Looking for shoes or fashion online shopping? Also check ZALORA, Asia's largest online fashion shopping site.

Red Lentil Soup

I have shopped in the Turkish Food Supply shop and bought some red lentil to cook one of my favorite soups in the weekend: red lentil soup. This soup has great taste and it is quite healthy.

Lentil soup refers to a variety of vegetarian and meat soups made from lentils. The soup may consist of green, brown, red, yellow or black lentils, with or without the husk. Dehulled yellow and red lentils disintegrate in cooking, making a thick soup.[1]

If you want to try something different and tasty here is how you can cook this dish:

You need 1 cup red lentil. I bought it from the Turkish supply store but you can find it in Mustafa or in some super markets. You need to wash 1 cup of lentil to prepare for cooking. You also need,

  • 1 medium size onion (chopped)
  • 1 carrot (finely grated)
  • 2 table spoon of olive oil
  • 1 table spoon of wheat flour
  • 2 Knorr Bouillon (if you want to prepare the dish vegetarian skip this ingredient)
  • 1.5 liters of boiled water

Red Lentil Soup

  • I have boiled the water in the Kettle.
  • I have started cooking by heating the cooker with medium to maximum fire and then adding 2 table spoons of olive oil to the cooker.
  •  After the oil is also heated I have added the chopped onion and stir it until the onions are soft and pinkish.
  • Then I have added 1 table spoon of wheat flour and stir 2-3 times while cooking the onions.
  • Then I have added carrot and 2 Knorr Bouillon tablets and continued to stir for 2-3 minutes more. If you want to keep the dish vegetarian, you can cook without Bouillons. It is perfectly fine.
  • Then I have added the washed lentils and continued to stir 2-3 minutes more.
  • At the end I have added the boiled water and salt and let the water boil again. Once the water started to boil, I have closed the cooker’s cover and set the fire to minimum. I have opened the cover and stirred every 10 minutes and cooked it for 35 – 40 minutes until the lentils are very soft and crushed.
  • After turning off the fire, the dish can be served as it is but there is one more step you should do to perfect the dish.  Smoothen the soup with a blender. A hand blender is better but I used a standing blender. Once you do this, everything will be perfectly blended to a yellow-orange colored creamy soup.
  • It is better served with a sliced lemon (which can be squeezed into the soup before eating) and bread.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Best hotels in Hong Kong

According to a survey conducted as a part of booking website's eighth annual Hotel Price Index in March, Hong Kong became the most-loved destination for Singaporeans by pushing all-time favourite Tokyo. This was despite fall in hotel room rates in Tokyo, Osaka and Bangkok fell and a very big jump in room prices in Hong Kong. But it seems even that did not deter visitors from going there.[1]

Since Hong Kong is the most favorite tourist destination for Singaporeans now, we would like to look at best rated hotels in Hong Kong. The rates are derived from another hotel booking site,, which uses verified guest reviews:

#10 - Langham Place Hong Kong - 5 Star
555 Shanghai Street Mongkok Kowloon
Connected directly to the Langham Place Shopping Center, the Langham Place Hong Kong provides guests with access to shopping, dining, and entertainment. Other local attractions include the Ladies Market, the Night Market, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, the Jade Market, Mongkok, Victoria Harbor, and the Fish Market. The amenities offered by the hotel include a traditional Chinese Spa, a fitness center, a swimming pool, a restaurant, a conference room, and landscaped gardens. The Langham Place Hong Kong is connected to a mass transit station, and the hotel is less than 30 miles from the international airport. The hotel has 9.0 (great) rating based on 924 reviews!

#9 - W Hong Kong - 5 Star
1 Austin Road West Kowloon Hong Kong
Situated in Kowloon, this hotel offers guests convenient access to numerous different nightlife establishments. The W Hong Kong also boasts a location convenient to the Commerce Center and to major shopping malls and cultural attractions. The Hong Kong International Airport is the nearest facility to the hotel. It may be reached via express train or by private transit. The hotel has 9.0 (great) rating based on 93 reviews.

#8 - The Langham Hotel Hongkong - 5 Star
8 Peking Road Tsimshatsui Kowloon
The Star Ferry Terminal and Victoria Harbor are just minutes from the Langham Hotel Hongkong by foot. Guests will enjoy close proximity to such area attractions as the major shopping area of the city along Canton Road. Guests will find easy access to boutiques featuring designer labels along with the hundreds of shops located in Harbor City. Additionally, the hotel is near the Hong Kong Museum of Art. A railway station is minutes away from the Langham Hotel Hongkong, and the airport is close by as well. The hotel offers complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport. The hotel has 9.1 (great) rating based on 525 reviews.

#7 - Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong - 5 Star
5 Connaught Road
The Mandarin Oriental is located in the heart of central Hong Kong overlooking Victoria harbour and minutes from Hong Kongs finest shopping and entertainment venues. The hotel went into renovation and upgraded all of this legendary hotels facilities whilst maintaining its classic,Chinese-influenced elegance and re-opened its doors in Autumn 2006. All guests are provided with personalised in-room check-ins and the multilingual floor butlers provide refreshments in their room on arrival and earns 9.1 (great) rating based on 34 guest reviews.

Skyline of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak
#6 - InterContinental Hong Kong - 5 Star
18 Salisbury Road
This 5-star hotel provides one of the most convenient Hong Kong accommodation options for leisure and business travelers. InterContinental is located on the Kowloon waterfront, 300 meters from Harbor City and Nathan Road and 100 meters from KCR train station and the MTR subway station is just 500 meters away. The hotel earns 9.1 (great) guest review rating based on 173 reviews.

#5 - The Mercer Hotel Hong Kong - 4 Star
29 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan
The Mercer Hotel is located minutes away from Central District and Sheung Wan and is covered by an excellent transportation network, with the Macau Ferry Terminal, Airport Express HK station and MTR all within easy walking distance. The hotel gets 9.2 (fantastic) rate based on 25 guest reviews.

#4 - Island Shangri-La Hotel - 5 Star
Pacific Place Supreme Court Road
Luxurious 5-star Island Shangri-La Hotel offers plush accommodation, modern services, excellent hospitality and an ideal location in central Hong Kong with a 9.2 (fantastic) rating based on 62 reviews.

#3 - Sky Dragon House - 1 Star Hotel
Flat A 7/F, Kam Ling Building, 231 Nathan Road, Kowloon
A suprise number 3 in our list is a 1 star hotel rated 9.2 (fantastic) with 6 reviews. Basic, fare, affordable and safe, the hotel provides its guests with fully equipped facilities, together with its platinum star personal services, to deliver a royal living style for all visiting guests.

#2 - Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong - 5 Star
8 Finance Street
Within a 20 minute drive from Hong Kong Space Museum, Ocean Terminal and Harbour City Mall and walking distance away from Central Ferry Pier and International Financial Centre, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong has a guest review of 9.3 (fantastic) based on 34 reviews.

#1 - The Upper House - 5 Star Hotel
Pacific Palace 88 Queensway, Central
Located in Hong Kong's central neighborhood, close to Pacific Place, Bank of China Tower, and HSBC Hong Kong Headquarter Building, The Upper House has a guest review of 9.8 (amazing) based on 28 reviews.

[1] - Singaporeans' most-loved destinations

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Singapore Job market, hiring and salary outlook 2012

Finding a goo job in Singapore has never been easy and it seems like as we are going half year into 2012, it is getting worse. Compared to last year, which was quite good for job seekers, you can definitely feel the difference. Recruitment consultancy companies also increasingly releases reports which shows things are not getting any better.

For example, CIMB expects a drop in job creation in Singapore for 2012 and revised down their estimate from 110K - 115K  jobs initially to 80K-85K due to the economic problems in the West:

"Economic conditions have taken a turn for the worse. Our economics team was initially expecting 110k-115k new jobs a year but with prospects now dimmer, it now expects a lower 80k-85k for 2012 on GDP growth of some 5%. While recent surveys still suggest healthy job growth in 3Q11, checks with headhunters show that hiring plans for most business units in the financial service sector, except private-wealth and fund management, have been put on hold."

ManpowerGroup's Manpower Employment Outlook Survey (MEOS) for Quarter 1, 2012 does not paint a better picture. Manpower Singapore's MEOS results from 650 employers for Quarter 1, 2012 shows that Singapore employers report considerably weaker hiring prospects:

"With the data adjusted for seasonal variation, the Quarter 1, 2012  Net Employment Outlook (NEO) stands at +18%, sinking to its weakest level in overt wo years.  The Quarter 4, 2011  NEO was +31% and the Quarter 1, 2011 NEO was 29%. The slower hiring trend is consistent with the findings from the other five of eight Asia-Pacific countries, in which 15,500 employers were surveyed. This might be attributed to the continuing global economic uncertainty and challenges.  
With 21% of Singapore employers forecasting an increase in staffing levels, 5% anticipating a decrease and 71% expecting no change, there is an increase in percentage of Singapore employers expecting no change in staffing levels."
Source : Market Review, Career
Unfortunately, many jobs created since 2008 crisis are created by printed money and as the printed money dries out in the West and the reality of paying the debt back sets in, many of these jobs face the danger of disappearing.

In this environment, if you are employed the best thing to do is to work a little harder to be both indispensable and more important promote-able. This will ensure that you will not be the first choice when the time for retrenchment comes. If you really want to change your job accelerate your job search and if you are not employed try harder to find a new one.

But there are still bright spots. The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are still growing in Singapore. Traditionally strong powerhouse in recruitment, the information technology (IT) industry is also not likely to let up in the near future:

“The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are also growing in Singapore. With the nation’s aim to become a biomedical hub, this industry is likely to become a robust labour market,” said Krishna. A traditionally strong powerhouse in recruitment, the information technology (IT) industry is also not likely to let up in the near future. Within the It industry, senior software developers/managers can potentially command a good salary, especially within the banking and finance industries, as their numbers are limited in Singapore. “equipped with both financial product knowledge as well as strong software development skills, usually in one or more programming languages, they will remain in demand for some time to come,” explained Lee. Similarly the energy market like the oil and gas industry is expected to continue a steady hiring pace especially of skilled professionals like engineers. Healthy recruitment levels are also envisaged to continue in the public sector as well as in government-linked companies."

How to go from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)?

With some of the world's cheapest 5-star hotels, cheap and great shopping and even better food, Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia, is a great destination to visit from Singapore. It can be accessed from Singapore by bus (5 hours of travel one-way), rail and flight. The fastest and the most expensive way to go to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore is of course flying. But flying also has expensive and cheaper alternatives. On the expensive side, both full service carriers Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines fly there several times every day. On the budget side, Air Asia and Tiger Airways fly to KL. Since this a very short flight, you may choose to use budget airliners but in KL airport the airliner decision makes a big difference in time since budget airliners use  Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) which is quite a bus ride to main airport terminals (where the buses and trains go to the city).

A tip here on flying to KL from Singapore:

You can take Malaysian budget airline, Air Asia, from Johor Bahru's Senai Airport. This is also a good alternative to fly to other parts of Malaysia from Singapore, since Air Asia flies to many other destinations in Malaysia from here, like gateway to the Pulau Perhentian, Kota Bharu; and Kota Kinabalu (Borneo). You can check for details. But how will you go to Senai Airport.  Malaysian Airlines had a bus service from Copthorne Orchid Hotel (Dunearn Road) to this airport airport. I say “had” because I do not know they still have it or not.

You can also check this web site, Flight Lovers, to find out budget flights from Singapore to many destinations. Check also this article, Singapore to KL for a business trip day, for some tips to access KL center from KL airport.

KL City Center (KL Tower on the left and Petronas Towers on the right)
You can also go to KL by bus like many locals do. The travel takes 5 hours from Singapore to KL. You have 2 options here:

  • You can travel to Larkin Station in Johor Bahru, just outside Singapore and get a bus ticket to Kuala Lumpur. The ticket should cost between RM20 to RM50, roughly 10 SGD to 22 SGD.
  • Your second and more comfortable option is to take an express coach straight from Singapore. Here is a  list of coach operators:

Suprisingly, you can also take train to KL. Until recently, you could even take train to KL from Singapore city center. The railway station in Singapore, along Keppel Road, was the southern-most terminus of the Malaysian railway system, Keretapi Tanah Melayu ("KTM"). But the railway part in Singapore is phased out and now you need to take train from Johor Bahru. The KTM Johor Bahru railway station is located about 5 minutes walk directly north from the Malaysian checkpoint.

Advantures in Singapore : unconventional attractions

iFly Singapore

iFly Singapore is an indoor skydiving simulator and is world’s largest vertical wind tunnel. It allows you to experience skydiving indoor. With iFly Singapore you can basically experience the thrill of skydiving and free-fall without skydiving!

The attraction is opened on Sentosa Island in May 2011.  It is almost 5 storeys high spanning 16.5 feet wide and 56.5 feet tall. The chamber has acrylic glass wall which offers the view of outside while diving. Every flyer is given two skydives in the Flight Chamber. The time it takes for each skydive is like falling from 12,000 to 3,000 feet.

The price for 2 skydives in iFly Singapore is 89 SGD for adults and 4 skydives cost 155 SGD per adult. There is also a group party package which allows 2 to 16 people to purchase dives together. 32 skydives cost 1,300 SGD.

Although it is very safe, there are still dangers so you need to be careful while trying this adventure. In January 2012, an instructor could not break a high-speed dive during a demonstration for beginner flyers and fractured his right shin.

[1] - iFly Singapore has first accident after instructor fractures shin

G-MAX Reverse Bungy & GX-5 Extreme Swing
The G-MAX and GX-5 are designed in home of bungy, New Zeland. G-MAX is a reverse bungy which will throw you 60 meters in the air hitting speeds of 200 kph and G-5! GX-5 is a large swing which will dall from 50 meters raching 120 kph. Reverse bungy and swing costs 49 SGD per person and they are both located in famous nightlife spot of Singapore, Clarke Quay.

Wave House Sentosa

There are no waves for surfing in Singapore! Wrong, there were no waves for surfing in Singapore until 2009. Since then, Wave House Sentosa at Siloso beach, the  fourth and newest installation in an archipelago of Wave Houses that include South Africa, California, and Chile, provides waves for surfers, skaters, skimboarders and even snowboarders.

Double FlowRider®,  more basic of the two waves available at Wave House Sentosa, is 35 SGD for 1 hour in weekdays and 40 SGD for weekends. For 2 hours, the prices are $60 for weekdays and 70 SGD for weekends.

There is also the more challenging FlowBarrel of the two sheet waves at Wave House Sentosa – 100,000 gallons of water a minute flowing as fast as 30 mph (48 kmph) curl over a surface that looks like a section of a skateboard park. The result is an endlessly tubing six-foot wave that has similar power and challenge to many of the waves breaking along the reefs of Indonesia. The prices for FlowBarrel are 45 SGD/50 SGD for 1 hour (weekdays/weekends) and 80 SGD/90 SGD for 2 hours.

According to the website of Wave House Sentosa, the FlowBarrel has become an international sensation, but not just to surfers. Riders on the FlowBarrel ride flowboards and flowboarding is an alchemy of many different board sports: surfing without a fin plus snowboarding without the snow plus skateboarding without the wheels plus skimboarding without the sand. Flowboarding is a combined challenge that has been evolved by Kelly Slater, Tony Hawk, Terje Haakonsen and the world’s best surfers, skaters, snowboarders and skimboarders.

Ultimate Drive
Just saw 2 super cars, a red Ferrari F430 F1 Spider and a yellow Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder roaring their ways towards Marina Bay Sands and I have realized that I have to add this attraction to the list. You can rent one of these supercars for 15, 30, 60 or 90 minutes starting from $182 per ride and ride around the F1 track of Singapore. The price may actually be an expensive but surprising present to a loved one or just to satisfy your side demanding a little luxury.

Ultimate Drive, which has started operations in December 2010, offers 15 minutes of drive with a driver for $182. If you want to taste what would it feel like to self-drive a "Rosso Corsa" red Ferrari F430 F1 Spider, or "Giallo Midas" yellow Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder around the infamous Singapore F1 track for one hour, you will need to pay 588 SGD.

Source : Ultimate Drive
Ski360° Cable Ski

Ski360 - Cable Ski at East Coast Park of Singapore offers cable ski experience without a motorboat required. This sport is popular in Europe and as far as I know, Ski360 is the only place you can experience this in Asia. 1 hour ski costs 42 SGD in weekends and 32 SGD in weekdays.

April 2012 new private home sales nearly 3-years high

New private home sales was nearly 3-years high last month in April 2012. Developers sold 2,487 private residential properties, nearly 4 per cent higher than March 2012 numbers of 2.393 units. The sales figures recorded a much higher increase compared to the April 2011 sales, a 37.8 per cent jump from 1,805 of that month.

These numbers are highest since July 2009 in which 2,772 units were sold. New home sales jumped 3 times in January 2012 compared to December 2011 and since then they are increasing by every passing month.
The high volume of sales largely fuelled by artificial low interest levels also increased expectations of a new property cooling measure round. Dr. Chua Yang Liang from Jones Lang Lasalle says “the policy to curtail excessive demand of developer sales could come into market within the next few weeks” according to Today newspaper.

The notable launches of the month were 454 units Seahill at West Coast, 416 units  Hillsta at Choa Chu Kang, 244 units Katong Regency (on the site of old Lion City Hotel) and 509 unit Sky Habitat at Bishan, the most expensive suburban project Singapore has seen.

The trend is against towards the smallest units as more than half of the private residential properties sold at Katong Regency are one-bedroom units. According to Eugene Lim, key executive officer of ERA, all projects, sales were concentrated in the $650,000 - $850,000 range, with HDB buyers forming half of the purchases in this price range.[1] Since the price levels have already passed sane levels, this already high price range can only buy small units at this point in time.

These numbers came just a few days after Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan mentioned his concerns about growing number of small apartments dubbed shoeboxes. These apartments are popular among investors who live in HDB flats for the high rental incomes they generate.

CEO of PropNex Realty , Mohamed Ismail, says that buying trends have not been affected by the recent cooling measures, although the policies have created short-term speculation in the private property resale market.[2]:

“The low bank borrowing interest rates and HDB upgraders’ interest had contributed and certainly helped boost the April sales figure,” noted Ismail.”[2]

As iproperty blog article says, any fear from industry players and home sellers about a possible lull in home sales due to the flooding of the market by new private residential projects can be put on rest now since 2,200 homes were sold per month in Q1 2012. The average of 2008 – 2011 period, which looks like very week periods now, were 1,300 homes per month.  Why and how? Simple: Rock bottom interest rates! As long as they stay at these levels, there is nothing to worry for the sales side players.

[1] -  Today, April new home sales up 3.9%, near 3-year high
[2] - What triggered the record high home sales in April?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Singapore government raises a red flag on shoebox popularity

Shoebox units, usually small studio and one-bedroom condominium apartments, has been very popular in recent years. The developers who are trying to make money on land they purchase with ultra high price tags are pushing them and buyers who cannot afford even the normal (so-called) mass market private units even with ultra-low interest rates are snapping them up like there will not be any other buying chance. And slowly, shoebox apartment concept started in the city center is creeping into the Singapore heartlands. These less than 50 sq meter units are very popular among investors since their price is lower than normal units and can get good rental income beating the mortgage rate, well for now.

According to National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, there are 2,500 such apartments in the market now with 80 per cent of them in the central region of Singapore. But this number is expected to surge fourfold to 9,700 units in the next three years. But more worrying for the Singapore government is that many of the show box units in the pipeline are in the heartlands. In Singapore, the regions outside the city center are called heartlands because they are where Singaporeans actually live and are quite different than tourist and business oriented city center.

In the past few weeks, Khaw Boon Wan raised concern on these units several times which has fed an expectation that the government can introduce another cooling measure to target these units. But Mr. Khaw said that the shoebox units are untested in heartlands and "because it's an untested market, it is hard for me to intervene thinking that I know better than the developers and the buyers".

Unlike Singapore's city center, there are many HDB flats in the heartlands which are much bigger and affordable than shoebox private units. According to Mr. Khaw, most of the shoebox unit buyers are Singaporeans with HDB address.

According to SLP International Research Head Nicholas Mak, despite the cooling measures, Singaporeans are still looking for ways to invest in property - given the low interest rates. Low interest rates does not only make private properties affordable "for now", they also let money parked as cash to be eroded by very high inflation rates. Actually, shoebox apartment units are not problems, but they seem to be the symptom of problems caused by ultra low interest rates kept artificially there by big money printing machines of the central banks of the world.

The real danger with the shoebox units are the expectation of renting them out with the current rental rates for a long period of time. Singapore's current rental rates are unsustainable and when they crash as more and more flats enter the market, they may go down. Another problem is also a possible oversupply of these units. In the heartlands there are few reasons to rent a very small private flat for around 3,000 SGD per month while it is quite easy to find a very large HDB flat much below that price.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Average HDB Rental Prices in Singapore

If you are looking for an affordable flat to rent in Singapore, you should eye on HDB flats. Although these flats are public flats meant for accommodation of Singaporeans, they can be rented out with an approval from Housing Development Board (HDB) to Singaporeans, Singapore PRs and foreigners with valid work visas. They are relatively affordable compared to private properties which are currently ridiculously expensive to rent.

When we say relatively affordable, we mean really relatively because HDB flats are also far from being really affordable to rent. Renting an HDB flat became increasingly expensive by every passing year since 2007 to a level where an HDB in relatively good shape is 2,000++ SGD per month to rent .

Just 4 years ago in the first three months of 2008, renting a 3 room HDB flat would cost the tenant around 1,300 SGD per month. As of the first three months of 2012, it costs 38 % more: 1840 SGD per month. As you can see from the graph below, the situation is also same for a 4 room (3+1) HDB flat rental. In 4 years, the median rental increased from 1,663 SGD per month to 2238 SGD per month, a 34 % increase.

4 room HDB rental prices between 2007 - 2012
The good news is that, as you can see from the graph, the non-stop increase in rental prices since the second quarter of 2009 has stopped in the last quarter of 2011 and first quarter of 2012 and median rentals have not increased first time in the last 2 years. In fact, in 3 room flat types, the average rental prices has marginally fell from 1888 SGD per month to 1841 per month quarter on quarter in Q1 2012. All towns except Marine Parade, Serangoon and Woodlands recorded a decrease in median rental for 3 room flats.

3 room HDB rent per town Q1 2012

If you want to pay the lowest rent possible, the cheapest places to rent HDB flats were Bukit Panjang ($1,600) followed by Woodlands ($1,650), Yishun ($1,700), Jurong East ($1,700) and Jurong West ($1,700) for 3 room (2+1) flats. For larger 4 room flats (3+1) the cheapest places in terms of rent were Yishun, Woodlands, Bukit Panjang and Jurong West with median rental of $2,000 per month. The good news is that the median rent in these towns for 4 room HDB flat fell from $2,100 in last quarter of 2011.

Q 2012 Top 10 Cheapest Places To Rent a 3 Room HDB Flat
S/N HDB Town Median Rent
2 WOODLANDS $1,650
3 YISHUN $1,700
4 JURONG EAST $1,700
5 JURONG WEST $1,700
6 BISHAN $1,750
7 BUKIT BATOK $1,750
8 BEDOK $1,780
10 ANG MO KIO $1,800

Marine Parade, Bukit Merah, Clementi, Central area and Queenstown are the most expensive places to rent an HDB flat with median prices to rent a 4 room HDB flat hovers above 2,400 SGD per month.

Q1 2012 - Top 10 most expensive towns to rent 3
Room HDB Flat
Town Median(Rental)
$1 CENTRAL $2,200
$3 BUKIT MERAH $2,000
$4 CLEMENTI $2,000
$5 QUEENSTOWN $1,930
$6 GEYLANG $1,900
$7 TAMPINES $1,900
$8 TOA PAYOH $1,900
$9 SERANGOON $1,850

Weekend staycation packages in Singapore

Although Singapore has the most expensive hotel room rates in Asia and the prices are still rising, Singapore staycation, having holidays in a Singapore hotel, is still popular among Singapore residents. This is because it is still cheaper and sometime more convenient to stay in Singapore instead of taking a tiring flight or bus trip to a neighboring country. And although Singapore does not offer beaches or sightseeing opportunities like Malaysia and Thailand, the hotels offer many good facilities and activities like outdoor pools, gym and short classes.

In this article we will cover some of the Singapore staycation deals. Many Singapore hotels offer promotions targeting locals for staycation by weekend packages and 2D1N packages. Here are some Singapore weekend getaways with staycation packages.

Weekend Getaway at Rendezvous Hotel Singapore - Indulge yourself with the new Rendezvous Weekend Getaway – with massage treatment, late-night movies, shopping,  evening cocktails & canapés all with a brilliant city view! We have it all at the newly-refurbished Rendezvous Hotel Singapore. From S$298++ per room per night, including:
  • 1-night stay in refurbished Club Room
  • 1-hr Thai Aroma Oil Body Massage
  • Cathay Movie Tickets
  • Exclusive access to Club Rendezvous lounge
  • Breakfast at Club Rendezvous lounge
  • Daily comfort food at Club Rendezvous lounge
  • Evening cocktail & canapés at Club Rendezvous lounge
  • Complimentary refreshments throughout the day
  • Early check-in at 10am OR late check-out at 4pm
  • High-speed internet access
Marina Mandarin Singapore Weekend Staycation Deal Marina Mandarin Singapore offers a weekend staycation package with free parking, free buffet breakfast, free Wi-Fi, complimentary upgrade of room with a starting price of $255++. This is a weekend staycation offer so it is available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

From SGD 223++ per room night, Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay offers weekend escape special with complimentary Welcome drink at Le bar Rouge, complimentary daily international buffet breakfast for two at The SQUARE, one time buffet dinner for two at The SQUARE, accommodation in a Standard Room, complimentary access to swimming pool and In|Balance Fitness Centre and late check-out (subject to availability).

Quincy Hotel, a 108-room all-inclusive boutique hotel located at the prime Orchard district of Singapore (near Far East Plaza), offers a weekend package named Qool Weekend for locals looking for a staycation with family or loved ones. The package prices starts from $348++ (twin-sharing) per night for an all-inclusive weekend stay. It includes breakfast, set lunch and dinner for two, internet access, evening cocktails, a bottle of wine, all day coffee and tea as well as movie nights by the pool and a one-hour cup-cake baking class. You can also check out late next day (subject to availability) at 3 PM. Here is a review of staycation weekend at Quincy hotel in Singapore by Feliza Ong.

Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore offers Happy Birthday Package starting from SGD $390 per night. The package includes a one-night stay in a newly-renovated Deluxe Room, daily American buffet breakfast for two, a surprise birthday amenit, two glasses of champagne in-room, a Cuddly Ritz-Carlton lion beanie, late check-out at 3 p.m and upgrade to a Premier Suite, subject to availability. The package is only valid for check-ins on Fridays and Saturdays only, and only during guest's birthday month. For more info check this web page: Happy Birthday Package.

On the expensive and high end side, Resort World Sentosa, offers a 2D1N package named Breakfast Like A Star. The package includes a one night stay at Hotel Michael Deluxe Room, Hard Rock Hotel Deluxe Room, Festive Hotel Deluxe Family Room or Equarius Hotel Deluxe Room and a breakfast Set at Universal Studios Singapore for two. It also includes one-day Pass to Universal Studios Singapore for two people, Resorts World Sentosa Gift Voucher worth $25 and two complimentary Welcome Drink. The price for the package is 578 SGD at off peak time and 678 SGD on peak period at Equarius Hotel and 528 SGD to 628 SGD in Hard Rock HotelFestive Hotel and Hotel Michael.

Carlton Hotel Singapore offers weekend package named Family Weekend Getaway until August 31st 2012 from 324 SGD++.

One of Singapore's best hotel, Fullerton Hotel, also offers a luxurious staycation package for Singapore residents named Weekend Escape Room Package. The package costs 308++ SGD per night and includes accommodation in a Courtyard Room, American buffet breakfast for two @ Town Restaurant, dining credit of S$88 nett per night and complimentary late check-out till 3pm.

Peninsula.Excelsior Hotel Singapore has a weekend special package called Premier Weekend Special. If you stay in their premier Room at $265.00++ per night during weekends (Fri - Sun only) you can enjoy 50% off for the 2nd room on the same night. Good for 2 couples planning a staycation together.

And this is for a family friendly hotel experience in Singapore. Swissotel Merchant Court offers a package
named Weekend City Staycation or those who would like to escape from the hustle and bustle around the city and luxuriate in the elegant comfort of a Swiss Executive room.

M Hotel Singapore offers Weekends Away Promotion @ M! (listed in the room types) with 15% off their Best Available Rates plus 2 free breakfast meals, enjoy a much deserved getaway at M Hotel Singapore and be on your way to a memorable weekend! There is also Weekends @ Sentosa with M.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel provides two staycation weekend packages; Weekend Gateaway (starting from 379 SGD per night) and SPA Escape (starting from 495 SGD per night).

Hotel Fort CanningWeekend Treat Room Package from $320++ per night and available from 1 April 2012 through 30 June 2012. This staycation weekend getaway offers a two-day, one-night stay and enjoy uninterrupted rest and blissful 'me' time. Standard Chartered cardmembers enjoy 15% off with bookings made via