Category Archives: Singapore

Indonesia arrests nearly 200 over raging forest fires

Yahoo – AFP, September 16, 2019

The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have
unleashed choking haze across Southeast Asia (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)

Indonesia has arrested nearly 200 people over vast forest fires ripping across the archipelago, police said Monday, as toxic haze sends air quality levels plummeting and sparks flight cancellations.

Jakarta has deployed thousands of personnel to battle blazes that are turning land into charred landscapes and consuming forests in Sumatra and Borneo islands, where thousands of schools have been shut over health fears.

The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have unleashed choking haze across Southeast Asia, triggering diplomatic tensions with Indonesia's neighbours.

On Monday, authorities said they had arrested some 185 people suspected of being involved in activities that led to out-of-control fires sweeping the country.

"Indonesian Police will enforce the law against anyone who is proven to have carried out forest and land burning, whether it was done intentionally or through negligence," National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told reporters in Jakarta.

Indonesia's peat fires: a smouldering problem (AFP Photo/John SAEKI)

"This is a last resort. The most important thing is prevention."

Four corporations were also being investigated, he added.

Last week, Indonesia sealed off dozens of plantations where smog-belching fires were blazing, and warned that owners -- including Malaysia and Singapore-based firms -- could face criminal charges if there was evidence of illegal burning.

Some of the most serious fires occur in peatlands, which are highly combustible when drained of water to be converted into agricultural plantations.

Thick haze in Borneo -- where air quality levels have plummeted to "dangerous" levels in some areas -- caused the cancellation of about a dozen flights Sunday, national airline Garuda said.

Rival Lion Air said about 160 Borneo flights had been affected at the weekend.

Meanwhile, nearly 150,000 people have been treated for acute respiratory infections linked to the haze in recent months, according to Indonesian health authorities.

Nearly 150,000 people have been treated for acute respiratory infections 
linked to the haze in recent months (AFP Photo/Str)

While forest fires are an annual problem, the situation this year has been worsened by drier weather in Indonesia, with diplomatic tensions soaring as toxic smog drifts over to neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore.

The haze pushed Singapore's air quality to unhealthy levels for the first time in three years at the weekend.

In 2015, Indonesia suffered its worst forest fires for almost two decades, which dramatically increased its greenhouse gas emissions.

Huge fires tearing through the Amazon are also compounding concerns about the long-term impact of such blazes on keeping global temperature levels stable.

Related Articles:

Singapore air 'unhealthy' ahead of F1 race

The Netherlands overtakes Switzerland in world competitiveness stakes

DutchNews, May 24, 2018

The Netherlands has overtaken Switzerland and moved into fourth place in the latest global competitiveness rankings published by IMD

The top five most competitive economies in the world remain the same as in the previous year, but their order changed in the 2018 rankings. The United States, third last year, returns to the top spot, followed by Hong Kong, Singapore, the Netherlands and Switzerland. 

The Netherlands’ advance reflects a ‘balanced’ path to competitiveness, ranking in the top 10 in economic performance, government and business efficiency, IMD said. Switzerland declined mainly due to a slowdown in exports and, to a lesser extent, an increase in perceptions about threats of relocation of R&D facilities. 

The IMD World Competitiveness Center, a research group at IMD business school in Switzerland, has published the rankings every year since 1989. It compiles them using 258 indicators.

‘Hard’ data such as national employment and trade statistics are weighted twice as much as the ‘soft’ data from an executive opinion survey that measures the business perception of issues such as corruption, environmental concerns and quality of life. This year 63 countries were ranked. 

The Netherlands is also currently ranked 4th on the World Economic Forum‘s list of the 138 most competitive countries, behind Switzerland, the United States and Singapore.

Singapura to Jayapura

Garuda Indonesia commences flights between Makassar and Singapore, aiming to reduce travel times to the remote cities of East Indonesia.

On 1 June 2011, Garuda Indonesia began daily flights between Makassar (a.k.a. Ujung Pandang) and Singapore, using Boeing 737-500 aircraft with a capacity of 96 passengers.

Here is the schedule:

Flight Number Route Departs Arrives
GA848 Makassar to Singapore 15:00 17:50
GA849 Singapore to Makassar 18:50 22:00

It was widely reported that Garuda'a new route is:

in line with the carrier’s plans to develop Makassar as its third domestic hub after Jakarta and Bali, and as a gateway to East Indonesia.

Flights To/From Makassar Newspaper advertisements for Garuda - see right for an excerpt - have also promoted Garuda's strategy of increasing the number of flights and routes to/from Makassar. The lines in red denote new routes. (Click on the image to see full-size).

Makassar, we have a problem

Yet the new flight's schedule has an issue: to create a successful hub airport, an airline needs to have good connection times to other flights. In real English, passengers travelling via a hub airport shouldn't have to wait a long time between their international flight and the connecting domestic flight, or vice versa.

And everyone - Garuda management included - seems to have forgotten this, creating a schedule that either has poor connection times or misses Garuda's connecting domestic flights all together.

The flight from Singapore (or "Singapura" in Bahasa Indonesia) to Makassar arrives at 10pm. By the time visitors have bought a tourist visa and changed terminals, there are virtually no domestic flights to connect to.

The only flight with a good connection is Garuda's red-eye special overnight flight from Jakarta to Biak and Jayapura, which transits Makassar at 1am.

This means visitors wishing to travel from Singapore to e.g. Gorontalo will have a compulsory overnight stopover in Makassar - incurring the additional expense of a hotel room - before continuing their journey the next day. (It might also be possible to sleep at the airport, but it is not known whether this is permitted, let alone comfortable or safe.)

TorajaTourists also arrive too late for an overnight bus to South Sulawesi's biggest attraction - Tana Toraja - at the nearby bus terminal, adding a day to their journey too.

Once again, only the flight from Jayapura to Makassar connects nicely. Flights from Manado, Kendari, Gorontalo, etc. all arrive too late to connect for passengers to Garuda's flight to Singapore, and from Ambon far too early.

What is the solution - other airlines?

Unfortunately, there are very few domestic flights on any airline from Makassar in the middle of the night, only flights to Jayapura or Sorong at 3 or 4am.

You could fly Air Asia to Makassar from Kuala Lumpur instead, but it arrives at 5pm. This is also too late for most connecting domestic flights to East Indonesia, but is at least a more passenger-friendly hour of the day.

However, tourists flying back from East Indonesia to Singapore have more choice: other airlines with better connection times.

Raja AmpatFor example, you can fly Batavia Air to Makassar from Sorong, the nearest airport to the increasingly famous Raja Ampat diving paradise in West Papua.

Airline Flight
Batavia Air Y6-846 10:20 11:20

togean-islands-sulawesi-indonesiaSimilarly, you could fly Lion Air to Makassar from Gorontalo, where you get the boat to the Togean Islands, Central Sulawesi's #1 tourist attraction.

Airline Flight
Lion Air JT793 11:05 12:30

You can view the Makassar Airport Wikipedia page for a more general guide of other airlines' flights to/from Makassar.

Is Garuda's Hub in Makassar Doomed to Failure?

Some would also argue that Garuda's strategy of increasing flights from Makassar to East Indonesia has a competitive disadvantage compared to Indonesia's other government-owned airline:

Merpati Nusantara Airways
Merpati Nusantara Airlines

Merpati's mission is to serve remote cities/destinations - especially in East Indonesia - and recently moved its headquarters to Makassar. It operates several flights from Makassar that no other airline operates; some of the more useful routes for visitors are Makassar to Kupang (West Timor), Makassar to Maumere (Flores), and Makassar to Yogyakarta direct.

Merpati Unique Flight Map
Useful Routes Only Flown By Merpati Airways

Sometimes, Merpati also receives government subsidies to maintain routes that are necessary (because there are no other air, road or sea links) but unprofitable. Garuda is majority owned by the government, but does not receive government subsidies in this way.

Merpati already operates flights on many of Garuda's new routes from Makassar to remote cities in East Indonesia. If budget-conscious travellers prefer the cheaper no-frills service of Merpati to the more expensive full-service of Garuda, Garuda's new flights to/from Makassar may quickly become unprofitable.

In conclusion, for its new Makassar hub to be successful in encouraging more tourists to visit Makassar and its more remote areas in the east of the country, Garuda will need to reconsider and reconfigure its flight times between Makassar and Singapore, along with its domestic connecting flights. Alternately, Garuda could give passengers a free Makassar hotel stay in both directions; however, that is unlikely to happen because it would be prohibitively expensive.

But without any further action, Garuda's competitors will continue to have an advantage, and Makassar's "great expectation" (sic) of becoming a successful Garuda hub airport will fail.


For more information or to make a booking enquiry, please visit the Mau Ke Mana flight booking service.

Singapura to Jayapura is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Asian Games Results

Panda Badminton

Indonesia places 15th overall in the Asian Games in Guangzhou, bitterly, behind Malaysia but triumphantly ahead of Singapore, just.

Asiad, the Asian Games, was held from November 12th-27th in Guangzhou and nearby cities in China with 45 countries participating, 9,700 odd athletes, 42 sports and 476 individual events.

The host nation predictably dominated the medals tally, with 199 gold medals, over 100 golds clear of second placed Korea.

Plucky Indonesia came in at 15th place in the gold medal tally, with these wins:

  • Badminton: Men's Doubles
  • Dragon Boat: Men's 1000m Straight Race
  • Dragon Boat: Men's 500m Straight Race
  • Dragon Boat: Men's 250m Straight Race

And nine silver and thirteen bronze, for a total of 26, putting the country in 14th place in the overall medal count. See the full list of Indonesian medalists.

The Men's Doubles Final, with Hendra Setiawan & Markis Kido giving their Malaysian opponents a thrashing.

The full list of countries which the vagaries of world geography have thrown improbably together, and the results with gold medal tallies in brackets:

  1. China (199)
  2. Korea (76)
  3. Japan (48)
  4. Iran (20)
  5. Kazakhstan (18)
  6. India (14)
  7. Chinese Taipei (13)
  8. Uzbekistan (11)
  9. Thailand (11)
  10. Malaysia (9)
  11. Hong Kong (8)
  12. DPR Korea (6)
  13. Saudi Arabia (5)
  14. Bahrain (5)
  15. Indonesia (4)
  16. Singapore (4)
  17. Athletes from Kuwait (4)
  18. Qatar (4)
  19. Philippines (3)
  20. Pakistan (3)
  21. Mongolia (2)
  22. Burma (2)
  23. Jordan (2)
  24. VietNam (1)
  25. Kyrgyzstan (1)
  26. Macao (1)
  27. Bangladesh (1)
  28. Tajikistan (1)
  29. Syria (1)
  30. United Arab Emirates
  31. Afghanistan
  32. Iraq
  33. Lebanon
  34. Laos
  35. Nepal
  36. Oman

Asian Games Results is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.

Indonesia-Singapore Agree on a Transnational Banking Supervision

Tempo Interactive, Tuesday, 23 November, 2010 | 14:55 WIB

TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:Bank Indonesia and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) have agreed on a transnational banking supervision framework. The MoU between the two authorities was signed by Bank Indonesia Governor Darmin Nasution and MAS Managing Director Heng Swee Keat in Bali, Saturday last week.

Darwin said that cooperation is important as part of the country’s effort in facing the global financial crisis impact. The cooperation would be in the form of discussions and information exchanges between the two authorities. A similar agreement has been signed with Bank Negara Malaysia (Malaysian Central Bank).


Lawful Tax Evasion

Duty/tax-free shopping for tourists is coming to Indonesia, sort of.

It is now possible to avoid paying tax in Indonesia, not by bribing someone at the Indonesian Tax Office, but legally.

Gayus Tambahan
Gayus Tambahan
He allegedly helped many people avoid paying tax.
However, this is one scheme he can't assist on.

As reported recently in The Jakarta Post, Indonesia is expanding a trial system of duty/tax-refunds for tourists.

All visitors need to do is:

1. Go to one of these shops participating in the scheme:

Stores with “VAT Refund for Tourist”

Jakarta: Pasaraya Blok M, Sarinah Thamrin, Metro Pondok Indah Mall, Metro Plaza Senayan, Keris Gallery at Terminal 2D’s Soekarno-Hatta international airport, Batik Keris Citraland, Batik Keris Menteng, Batik Keris Pondok Indah Mall 2, Batik Keris Pacific Place, Keris Department Store Menteng, Keris Department Store Puri Indah Mall, Jean Paul Gaultier Plaza Indonesia, Christian Louboutin Plaza Indonesia, Club Monaco Plaza Indonesia, Sogo Plaza Senayan, Sogo Kelapa Gading, Sogo Pondok Indah Mall, Sogo Emporium Pluit, Seibu Grand Indonesia, and Alun-alun Indonesia Grand Indonesia.

Tangerang: Batik Keris in Supermal Karawaci

Bali: Batik Keris at Discovery Shopping Mall, UC Silver in Batu Bulan, Gianyar, Mayang Bali in Kuta, Sogo Bali Collection, Sogo Discovery Shopping Mall, Alun-alun Indonesia Nusa Dua, Batik Keris at Ngurah Rai airport, Atlas South Sea Pearl in Sanur, Dewis in Sukawati, Gianyar and Windu Sari in Batu Bulan, Gianyar.

Two of the many choices

2. Spend a cool Rp5 million.

3. Depart Indonesia within 30 days of purchase and reclaim the 10% tax from the registered tax refund counter at Jakarta's or Bali's airport, after passing immigration.

This system has a few limitations and disadvantages compared with e.g. the tax refund for tourists scheme that operates in Singapore:

- You have to spend a lot more money to qualify for a tax refund.

Rp5 million is a lot of souvenirs and batik shirts. In Singapore, you have to spend a relatively small $S100, at the current exchange rate about Rp700 000.

IDR/SGD exchange rate
The current BI exchange rate for $S1.
Multiply the figure on the left by 100 to get the current value for $S100 in Rp.

To work out Rp5 million in other currencies (e.g. $US, €, £, etc) use the Bank Indonesia Exchange Rate calculator.

- You can only get the refund when leaving Indonesia, and only in Rupiah cash or bank transfer.

Option A: Indonesian Rupiah Cash         Option B: Bank Transfer

Receiving Rupiah cash just before you leave the country isn't much use. You will have two options. Firstly, visiting a moneychanger at the airport (whose exchange rates aren't great). That assumes the moneychanger has stock of the foreign currency you seek; they may not. Alternately, you could keep it for next time - if there is one.

In Singapore, there are other options: you can receive a refund directly upon purchase (either as a discount or as a cash refund), or do it via snail mail.

In addition, Singapore dollars are more widely accepted by moneychangers in the region than Indonesian Rupiah, probably because the currency is more stable.

As for the bank transfer option, it seems unlikely most foreign visitors are going to brink their bank details. Even if they did, they're not likely to know e.g. their bank's SWIFT code.

- Certain items which could be cheaper in Indonesia than the goods' destination country (or unique items not available in other countries) are excluded.

Some of the products on the blacklist include: food, beverages and tobacco products. Also on the "no-fly list" are guns, explosive goods and any materials that are not allowed to be taken into an aircraft. (Side issue: I didn't know you could bring guns and explosive goods on an aircraft in Indonesia).

Sorry, you cannot claim a tax refund on this item

So, the question is this: Do you think that with these limitations the tax refund for tourists scheme is a waste of time/money? (In the first six months, there were only 46 claims, totalling Rp41 million).

Please add your vote "YES" or "NO", preferably with a reason. Other comments are also welcome.

Lawful Tax Evasion is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.

Singaporean Investor sentiment high

Oct 20, 2010
Investor sentiment high
By Aaron Low
About 52 per cent of respondents in the survey believed their share investments will rise, compared with 46 per cent three months ago. — ST PHOTO: BRYAN VAN DER BEEK

INVESTORS in Singapore are betting that the red-hot stock market will keep rising but they believe prospects for the property market have dimmed, a new survey said.

It found also that overall investor sentiment, which has been positive for the past 18 months, rose by five per cent in the three months to Sept 30, compared with the previous quarter.

About two-thirds of respondents here said their investments had brought in positive returns while around 63 per cent expect a higher return in the next three months. Such a positive outlook has been fuelled mainly by the strength of the stock market, which recently hit a 29-month high.

About 52 per cent of respondents in the survey believed their share investments will rise, compared with 46 per cent three months ago.

The survey was done by financial services firm ING Group, polling 3,755 affluent investors across 12 Asia-Pacific countries, including China and Singapore.

Remisier Desmond Leong attributed the bullish sentiment to the psychological effect of watching the stock market’s march upwards. ‘You may have doubts initially about its rise but when you see the market moving up, you jump in too.’

Singapore’s surprise currency shift

Singapore’s surprise currency shift
October 14, 2010 – 1:59PM

Singapore unexpectedly signaled it will allow faster currency gains to curb inflation even as the economy shrank, with slowing global growth hurting demand for drugs and electronics. The local dollar rose to a record.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore said today it will steepen and widen the currency’s trading band while continuing to seek a “modest and gradual appreciation.” Gross domestic product shrank at a 19.8 per cent annual rate in the third quarter from the previous three months after climbing a revised 27.3 per cent in April to June, a separate report showed.

“The implication is that Singapore is less worried about growth and more worried about upside risks to inflation,” said Robert Prior-Wandesforde, head of Southeast Asian economics at Credit Suisse Group AG in Singapore.

The decision follows pressure from the US and Europe on emerging-market nations to let their exchange rates appreciate to help rebalance demand in the global economy. It also comes as China, the country blamed by US Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner this week for prompting other countries to restrain their currencies, starts allowing faster gains in the yuan.

Singapore’s dependence on overseas trade, with non-oil exports equivalent to more than half of GDP, makes it vulnerable to swings in global growth.

Currency climbs

The island’s currency rose 0.8 per cent to $S1.2932 per US dollar as of 10:37 a.m. local time. It earlier reached $S1.2893, the strongest since 1981 when Bloomberg began compiling the data, and has gained 8.4 per cent this year, making it the third-best performing currency in Asia excluding Japan. Today’s climb of as much as 1.06 per cent was the biggest since June 21.

The Australian dollar was buying $S1.285 in recent trading.

Yuan forwards were near a two-year high today. Twelve-month non-deliverable forwards were at 6.4510 per US dollar, reflecting bets the currency will strengthen about 3.3 per cent from the spot rate over the next year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The forward contracts have risen 1.5 per cent this month.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore uses the currency rather than a benchmark interest rate as its main tool to manage inflation. All but one of 14 economists in a Bloomberg survey had expected the central bank to forgo a more aggressive strengthening in the Singapore dollar, a decision that may have helped support overseas sales by manufacturers including Hi-P International Ltd.

“Singapore is the most vulnerable Asian country to the slowdown in the global trade cycle,” Prior-Wandesforde said. “The widening of the band initially will be seen as hawkish but longer-term may actually be used in a more dovish direction as and when the economy slows quite sharply.”

Property curbs

At its April monetary policy review, Singapore’s central bank said it would shift the local dollar to a stronger range to trade in and sought an appreciation thereafter, the first such combined move in its history.

Singapore in August announced measures to cool the property market, including increasing down payments for second mortgages and imposing a stamp duty on property held for less than three years to curb speculation.

“Domestic cost pressures are rising, given the high level of resource utilization in the economy and tight labor market in particular, as well as the diminishing boost from the cyclical uplift in productivity seen earlier this year,” the central bank said today. “The balance of risks is weighted towards inflation going forward.”

Korea holds

The steeper slope will allow a faster pace of appreciation while the wider band will address the increased volatility in the market, said Kit Wei Zheng, a Singapore-based economist at Citigroup Inc. He said today’s policy change was “effectively a form of monetary tightening and reflects concerns about domestic inflation.”

In contrast, the Bank of Korea left borrowing costs unchanged for a third straight month today as an appreciating won threatens export growth in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

Singapore’s inflation accelerated to an 18-month high of 3.3 per cent in August. The central bank forecasts price gains may quicken to about 4 per cent by the end of 2010 and “stay high” in the first half of 2011, it said today.

The island’s policy move contrasts with Asian nations from Thailand to Japan, which have taken steps in the past month to cool an appreciation in their currencies that is threatening exports. Japan intervened last month to ease gains in the yen and Thailand said this week it will remove a 15 per cent tax exemption for foreigners on income from domestic bonds, joining South Korea and Brazil in seeking to slow inflows as capital floods into emerging and Asian economies.

Singapore’s GDP rose a record 18.3 per cent in the first half, the trade ministry said. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said the economy may “moderate” in the coming months, citing risks from Europe and the US

“Singapore is typically a bellwether for the region’s export outlook and it is the first to show cracks as global growth slows,” Alvin Liew, an economist at Standard Chartered Plc in Singapore, said before the report. Threats to Asian growth include “the fading impact of stimulus packages, stubbornly high unemployment rates and austerity measures that are likely to crimp consumption in the West,” he said.

Manufacturing cools

Singapore’s economy grew 10.3 per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier, compared with a revised 19.6 per cent expansion in the previous three months, the government said. The median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of 24 economists was for a 10.8 per cent gain. The 19.8 per cent annual rate of contraction last quarter from the previous three months compares with the median forecast for a 15.7 per cent decline among 19 economists surveyed.

Manufacturing, which accounts for about a quarter of Singapore’s economy, climbed 12.1 per cent from a year earlier in the three months through September, after surging a revised 46.1 per cent in the second quarter.

The construction industry gained 6.7 per cent, while services grew 10.2 per cent. The city’s two casino resorts run by Genting Singapore Plc and Las Vegas Sands Corp. have attracted millions to its gaming centers, while employment growth is boosting spending at malls and restaurants.

The government reiterated its prediction for GDP to rise 13 per cent to 15 per cent in 2010. That pace would put Singapore in the running to be the world’s fastest-growing nation in 2010.

Bloomberg News

Singapore GDP expands at record pace

Singapore GDP expands at record pace
July 14, 2010 – 3:28PM

Singapore’s economy expanded at a record 18.1 per cent pace in the first half of the year, spurring the nation’s currency and adding to evidence of Asia’s resilience to the European crisis.

Gross domestic product expanded at a 26 per cent annual pace in the second quarter from the previous three months, after a revised 45.9 per cent gain in January to March, the trade ministry said today. Growth in the first half was the fastest pace since records began in 1975, prompting the government to predict GDP will rise 13 per cent to 15 per cent in 2010.

A year after Singapore exited its worst recession since independence in 1965, tourists are arriving in record numbers, companies have increased hiring and vessels are leaving the city’s ports carrying more cargo. The island’s strengthening economy has added to an Asian rebound that prompted central banks to raise interest rates in recent weeks, even amid concern that Europe’s fiscal woes will slow the global recovery.

”Singapore will be among the fastest-growing countries not just in Asia, but the world, this year,” said Song Seng-Wun, a regional economist at CIMB Research Pte in Singapore. ”Price pressures are already evident and we expect the central bank to be watching if inflation expectations are raised because of these numbers.”

The nation’s growth has already prompted the central bank to allow the currency to strengthen to temper inflationary pressures. The Singapore dollar is used instead of interest rates to conduct monetary policy.

Currency gains

The island’s currency added 0.4 per cent to S$1.3761 per US dollar, bringing this quarter’s gain to 1.4 per cent. The benchmark Straits Times Index rose for a fifth day, climbing 0.7 per cent and is set for the highest close since April 30.

The cost of insuring Temasek Holdings Pte’s bonds from non- payment using credit-default swaps fell 4 basis points to 43 basis points, the lowest level since June 21, according to Royal Bank of Scotland and CMA prices. Temasek, a state investment company, is often used as a proxy for Singapore sovereign credit risk.

Growth last quarter was more than the median estimate for a 23 per cent increase in a Bloomberg News survey of 12 economists. Singapore’s full-year growth has not exceeded 13 per cent since 1972, when the economy was about a twelfth of last year’s size, according to the statistics department.

Significant momentum

Singapore’s growth suggests ”that the regional recovery retained significant momentum in recent months,” Brian Jackson, a Hong Kong-based senior emerging markets strategist at Royal Bank of Canada, said in an e-mail after the GDP report. ”We continue to forecast further gradual policy normalization across the region over the rest of the year, including moderate appreciation in the Singapore dollar.”

Policy makers in neighboring Malaysia have raised interest rates three times this year, matching the number of increases by India’s central bank. In Taiwan, Governor Perng Fai-nan moved the key rate 12.5 basis points higher last month and the Bank of Korea unexpectedly increased its benchmark last week.

”With growth likely to remain above trend for the rest of the year, the Monetary Authority of Singapore may be inclined to maintain the policy of gradual appreciation at its October policy meeting,” Wai Ho Leong, a regional economist at Barclays in Singapore, said in a note after the report. He raised Singapore’s 2010 growth forecast to 14.5 per cent and predicted the currency may climb to S$1.35 per US dollar in one year.

Slot machines

The two casinos run by Genting Singapore and Las Vegas Sands opened in February and April this year after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s government scrapped a four-decade ban to help double tourism revenue by 2015. The resorts have attracted millions of visitors to their slot machines and baccarat and roulette tables.

The economy grew 19.3 per cent in the second quarter from a year earlier, compared with the median estimate for a 17.3 per cent gain in a Bloomberg News survey.

”Growth in the trade-related sectors was bolstered by healthy global trade flows, while the openings of the integrated resorts and higher visitor arrival numbers contributed to the growth in the tourism-related sectors,” the trade ministry said in a statement. ”The financial services sector also grew strongly, supported by increased foreign-exchange trading and domestic bank-lending activities.”

Austerity programs

Still, Singapore’s dependence on global trade may mean it’s unlikely to escape the impact of any renewed slowdown. Governments in Europe are embarking on austerity programs to cut budget deficits and households in some of the world’s largest economies are holding back spending, clouding the outlook for the rebound.

”In the European Union, domestic demand remains depressed as concerns over the sovereign-debt crisis persist,” the trade ministry said. ”The implementation of fiscal austerity measures in some of the economies may further weaken their domestic demand. The weakening of the euro against key trading partners will also dampen import demand in the European Union.”

Signs of a slowdown in the US jobs market have affected consumer confidence, and ”sluggish final demand” from the world’s largest economy as well as Europe has led to a moderation in manufacturing in Asia, the ministry said.

Singapore’s non-oil domestic exports will probably gain between 17 per cent and 19 per cent in 2010, from a previous projection of as much as 17 per cent, the trade promotion agency said today. Overseas shipments rose 28.7 per cent in June from a year earlier, after increasing a revised 24.3 per cent the month before, the government said.


Singapore Condo sold out in 1 day

March 26, 2010

Reasonable pricing and small unit sizes could be reasons for its popularity

The 76 Shenton condominium in the Central Business District sold out in one day during its preview. — PHOTO: HONG LEONG HOLDINGS

THE 76 Shenton condominium in the Central Business District sold out in one day during its preview as hundreds of buyers made a beeline for the prime project yesterday.
There were so many people vying for one of the 202 units that balloting was needed to sort out who got first crack.
The Straits Times understands that there were about 300 names in the ballot, with the buyers mostly Singaporean investors and permanent residents.
The Hong Leong Holdings project has nothing over 1,000 sq ft: 134 one-bedroom units from 592 sq ft to 624 sq ft and 68 two-bedroom units of 968 sq ft to 975 sq ft. One-bedroom units were priced between $1,600 and $2,600 per sq ft (psf), or about $1.2 million, while two-bedroom units went for between $1,600 and $2,300 psf. That is about $2 million.
Hong Leong credited the strong sales to the development’s ‘prime location, its attractive pricing, a solid design and healthy pre-launch interest’.
Sources said property agents were apparently collecting cheques from keen buyers even before the project’s launch.

By Esther Teo


W brand residences makes S’pore debut

A NEW upscale condominium that is part of the trendy ‘W’ boutique hotel brand has made its debut in Singapore.

The Residences at W Singapore Sentosa Cove, which boasts 228 apartments, will be priced from $2,500 to $3,000 per sq ft (psf), said City Developments (CDL) at the launch yesterday.

The record in the gated island enclave is held by Seven Palms, where nine units went for $3,100-$3,430 psf late last year. Prior to that, the record was held by Lippo Group’s Marina Collection, where units fetched a median price of $2,734 psf in late 2007.

Buyers keen on W will have to pay at least $3.4 million for the smallest unit of the seven, six-storey blocks. There are two- to four-bedroom units and penthouses, all with 99-year leases, with sizes from 1,227 sq ft to 6,297 sq ft. About 40 per cent of these are two-bed and the smaller three-bed.

The development forms part of an integrated project that comprises a 240-room W Singapore Sentosa Cove hotel and 86,000 sq ft of gross commercial space for restaurants and shops. The W residences will open first, followed by the hotel and then the shops, probably by 2012.

CDL, which is releasing 60 units for the current soft launch, was behind the branded St Regis Residences in Cuscaden Road, also a collaboration with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. CDL managing director Kwek Leng Joo said that W was targeted at ‘global jetsetters’.

The firm’s group general manager, Mr Chia Ngiang Hong, said the project will be marketed overseas – in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Jakarta.

There are now nine completed W residences worldwide, eight of which are in the United States. Another 13 are in the process of being developed, said Starwood asia-pacific president Miguel Ko, with four being built in Asia, including the one at Sentosa.

Elsewhere on Sentosa, Ho Bee began the preview for its Seascape condo yesterday, and Lippo is relaunching the Marina Collection today at a price of around $2,500-$2,700 psf.