Thursday, 6 September 2012

Watz Online - 6 Sep 2012

‘World’s Richest’ Tag Not So Rosy for Average Citizen in Singapore

The network of light railways known as the MRT and highrise living are the hallmarks of modern Singapore. Credit: Kalinga Seneviratne 

SINGAPORE, Aug 23 2012 (IPS) - Singapore was recently ranked as the world’s richest country. But there is much scepticism about such rankings among average citizens here.

According to the Wealth Report 2012 produced by real estate firm Knight Frank and Citi Private Bank, this tiny Southeast Asian island republic with a per capita income of 56,532 dollars is now the richest country in the world. And in 2010, it was placed third in world wealthiest rankings by the IMF and fourth by the World Bank.

“I feel life remains the same as it has been for the past five to 10 years” George Fu, a corporate communications manager in his late twenties told IPS when asked about his country’s new status as the world’s richest country. 

Property agent pays $808,080 for Tampines flat

TNP PHOTO: Choo Chwee Hua 

Just how much are people willing to pay for an HDB flat?

Mr Freddy Choo paid $808,080 for his executive maisonette in Tampines.
Worth every cent, he said.

The price includes a whopping $168,080 in cash over valuation (COV).

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Singapore acts to stop apartments from shrinking further

(Reuters) - Singapore took steps on Tuesday to ensure developers build apartments of different sizes rather than just tiny "shoebox" units, addressing complaints about the shrinking size of accommodation on a small island with big land constraints.

From Nov. 4, apartments in new suburban condominium projects must have an average floor area of 70 square metres (753 square feet) -- a rule that will prevent developers from building whole blocks of shoebox units as small as 30 square metres.

Shoebox units, which can be the size of three parking lot spaces, have been popular with investors because of lower selling prices but they tend to be more expensive than other apartments on a per square metre basis. 

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Singapore REITs Yield World’s Best Returns: Southeast Asia

Singapore’s real estate investment trusts, the best performing in the world this year, are luring investors after a shopping spree for properties across Asia gives them a broader stream of rental income.

Singapore’s $38 billion REIT market has returned an average 37 percent in 2012, twice the gains in the U.S., U.K. and Japan, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Australia, the largest REIT market in the Asia-Pacific region with $86 billion, advanced 24 percent.

Growth among Singapore REITs was led by asset acquisitions and rental appreciation, with total rental revenue increasing 5.8 percent annually between 2008 and 2011, according to property broker CBRE Group Inc. In the first half, Singapore REITs were the second-most active purchasers after Japan in Asia, buying assets in Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia and South Korea, and accounting for 33 percent of acquisitions by the region’s REITs since 2009, CBRE said.

Singapore PMI contracts for 2nd month in Aug on lower orders 

Manufacturing activity in Singapore contracted for a second consecutive month in August as new orders declined further, in line with slowing output across Asia as demand weakens in Europe, United States and China.

Employment also shrank for the 14th straight month in the city-state, the latest Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) showed on Tuesday, underscoring the weakness in the manufacturing sector.

Singapore's PMI stood at 49.1 points last month, falling from 49.8 in July and staying below the 50 level that separates expansion from contraction, the Singapore Institute of Purchasing & Materials Management (SIPMM) said. 

Employers’ No.1 reason for hiring foreigners is job flexibility: survey

Singaporean employers prefer foreigners mainly because of their flexibility to take up jobs that locals avoid, and not so much because they are cheaper to hire.

A survey released on Tuesday revealed 93 per cent of respondents said their companies hired non-Singaporeans and that they made up 30 to 50 per cent of the company’s workforce.

But interestingly though, while 66 per cent of employees believed the main reason for hiring them was because they were cheaper, only 16 per cent of employers said this was the main reason for hiring them. 

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Singapore urged to take more workers 

Dhaka, Sep 4 (— Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday urged Singapore to import more workers from Bangladesh for its health and other sectors.

She made the call when Singapore's visiting State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs Zulkifli Masagos met her at her office in the morning.

Hasina's Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad told journalists that the Prime Minister had also urged the Singapore state minister to import ceramic products, medicine and readymade garments from Bangladesh.

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Insurer for dead Ferrari driver will not give payouts to his family

AXA Singapore, the insurer for the dead Ferrari driver involved in the high-profile fatal crash in the Bugis area, has said to his family that it would not pay compensation because the crash is not an accident.

Channel NewsAsia reported that the insurance company has refused to pay damages worth more than S$1.5m to the driver’s family because "the collision was highly probable, forseeable and to be expected".

It adds that it wis prepared to compensate third-party victims should they file for one, and it intends to claim the payouts to them from the dead driver's estate and/or family. 

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Woman jailed, fined for running illegal moneylending business with maid

A female employer has been sentenced today to 33 months' jail and fined S$160,000 for operating an illegal moneylending business with her Filipino maid.

48-year-old Koh Suat Lay had loaned money to other foreign domestic workers through her maid, Melanie Jacalan Munar, who acted as the runner.

The operations took place from 2008 till late 2010. 

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China's Xi cancels meetings with Clinton, PM Lee & Russian official: US official

China's likely next president Xi Jinping has cancelled a meeting with the visiting US Secretary of State, a US official said on Wednesday, amid friction between the two global powers.

Hillary Clinton had been due to meet Vice President Xi later on Wednesday during a brief visit to Beijing that looks set to be dominated by a series of territorial disputes between China and its neighbours, notably in the South China Sea.

"We were informed after 11:00 pm last night by the Chinese side that for unexpected scheduling reasons, the meeting between Vice President Xi and Secretary Clinton is not going to happen today," said the official, who requested anonymity.

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Clinton must see China’s territorial stance 

Even before arriving in China, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had expressed her desire to talk with China regarding East Asian territorial disputes including the South China Sea issue. But what she would like to specifically talk about remains unknown.

It's very likely that Clinton will reiterate the principle of a peaceful solution, which the Chinese side in no way opposes.

She may also request China enter into negotiations with ASEAN over the South China Sea issue. But this will not be accepted by China, which has long called for bilateral negotiations.

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Clinton seeks Chinese accord on South China Sea 

BEIJING (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sat down Wednesday with Chinese President Hu Jintao to press Beijing to agree to peacefully resolve territorial disputes with its smaller neighbors over the South China Sea. But as she began her meetings here, China questioned the stated neutrality of the United States.

At the start of the talks with Hu, Clinton said the U.S.-China relationship is strong. "We are able to explore areas of agreement and disagreement in a very open manner, which I think demonstrates the maturity of the relationship and the chance to take it further in the future," she said.

There was no immediate comment on the talks, but a scheduled meeting with Vice President Xi Jinping for later Wednesday morning had been canceled by China "for unexpected scheduling reasons," said a senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

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Where is Singapore’s National Conversation going?

At the National Day Rally late last month Education Minister Heng Swee Keat spoke about the “national conversation” to be launched under the the name of “Our Singapore”.

“This national conversation will first and foremost be about putting Singaporeans at the heart of our concerns,” he said. “It will be an opportunity for Singaporeans to come together, and ask: What matters most? Where do we want to go as a country, as a people?”

The announcement did not come as a surprise. During his National Day Message, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that he had put Mr Heng in charge of a committee of young ministers to take a new look at Singapore’s policies. Beyond that, talk about building a more “inclusive” society and listening to the voice of the people has bee  going on for years. 

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The new Singapore narrative — Leong Chan-Hoong

Pause for a second and imagine this: you pick up a random bunch of people from the streets and line them side by side. What would be the immediate and salient observation to the naked eye?

Without prompting, most of us will talk about the visual differences, their gender, the way they dress, their behaviour and perhaps any physical indication to their racial background and religious inclinations.

The mathematically inclined may argue that one out of three is a foreigner, based on the demographic data in the statistical yearbook. 

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Women surveyed blame failure to conceive on ‘bad luck’

Here is one more clue on why Singapore’s fertility rate is not improving – many of the women (and we suspect, men) can be ignorant about fertility issues.

A survey done with 1,000 women across 10 countries in Asia - including Singapore - found that women largely tended to blame their failure to conceive on non-biological reasons such as bad luck and “God’s will”, wire agency Reuters reported.

They also did not know that men can be infertile even if they have erections and produce sperm. In Singapore, two in five women did not know this fact, Channel NewsAsia reported. This is about the same number as all the women surveyed. 

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