A tale of two Singapores

December 17, 2010
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

Two reports, both published on the same day (14 Dec 10), caught our eye. They presented two very distinct – and disturbing – pictures of Singapore. They epitomise what Singaporeans and the SDP have been so concerned about.

The first article was titled ‘Good Class Bungalows (GCB) sales boomig in Singapore (see below).
 

It was posted by Property Report which wrote that GCB sales in Singapore have reached their highest level ever at S$1.85 billion in 2009.

To be considered GCBs, these mansions must occupy at least 15,000 sq ft of land. Prices for such properties doubled from $501 psf 2006 to $1,056 psf for 2010 with the average transaction bulging from $10.3 million per house in 2006 to $18.3 million this year.

Real estate director Douglas Wong said that GCBs which are, by the way, open for purchase to non-Singaporeans have “appealed to ultra-high-networths (UHN) seeking a hedge against inflation”.

The second was headlined Singapore’s Infrastructure Creaks (also see below). The piece, as the title says, talks about the everyday difficulties that ordinary Singaporeans face in a city that is seeing the population outgrow the infrastructure. The article’s author, Joe Cochrane, captures the essence of the state that ordinary Singaporeans find themselves in today:

“A tardy office worker attempted to squeeze into an overpacked train carriage during the morning rush hour, but the doors closed in her face. In frustration, she banged her fist on the train’s windows as it pulled away.

According to one expatriate journalist who lives here and witnessed the incident on the MRT platform…the city state’s infrastructure is under stress and beginning to crack at the seams.

Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper reported on Wednesday that the country’s expressways are now seeing 100 traffic mishaps a day, a 40 percent increase from just three years ago.”

These two reports sum up the miserable position that Singaporeans find themselves in today, a position wholly created and perpetuated by a ruling party that thinks of itself and UHNs, foreign or local, first and everyone else after that.

We must tell the PAP enough is enough – the unbridled avarice and obsession with material wealth is hurting our society and will be our undoing. Singaporeans deserve better. They need a more equitable and egalitarian system, one where we can live in dignity and not as second-class citizens.

We reproduce the two articles below.

Good class bungalow sales booming in Singapore
Byron Perry
Property Report

Total sales of Good Class Bungalows (GCBs) in Singapore this year have reached their highest number ever at S$1.85 billion (US$1.42 billion), up 7.3 per cent from the S$1.72 billion (US$1.32 billion) in sales in all of 2009.

The figures come from a CB Richard Ellis analysis of caveats by Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Authority Realis reported on by the Singapore Business Times. GCBs must generally occupy at least 15,069 sq ft of land.

Year-to-date there have been 101 GCB transactions – there were 109 deals in 2009 and 119 deals in 2006. Prices for GCB sales have more than has doubled from S$501 (US$384) psf on land area in 2006 to S$1,056 (US$810) psf for  2010 so far. The average GCB transaction size has also grown from S$10.3 million (US$7.9 million) in 2006 to S$18.3 million (US$14.03 million) so far this year, up 15.8 per cent from 2009.

CBRE Singapore director of luxury homes Douglas Wong said the increase in prices was due to Singapore’s economic growth, the opening of integrated resorts, and the limited supply of GCBs, which number about 2,400.

“GCBs have also appealed to ultra-high-networths seeking a hedge against inflation, especially given Singapore’s political stability,’ he said. “The GCB market is set to remain firm based on the interplay of demand and supply factors. Like an evergreen product, GCBs will continue to attract well-heeled local businessmen, bankers, doctors and lawyers as well as permanent residents.”

There are at least S$100 million (US$76.7 million) worth of GCB deals where options have not yet been exercised that could be finalised by the end of 2010. One of those deals is said to to be the Japanese government’s sale of 18 Astrid Hill for S$28.4 million (US$21.8 million) on 18,939 sq ft of land, the Business Times reported.

http://www.property-report.com/site/good-class-bungalow-sales-booming-in-singapore-10571

Singapore’s Infrastructure Creaks
Joe Cochrane
The Diplomat

It was a scene that’s a common enough sight on any New York City subway platform.

A tardy office worker attempted to squeeze into an overpacked train carriage during the morning rush hour, but the doors closed in her face. In frustration, she banged her fist on the train’s windows as it pulled away.

Such behaviour wouldn’t draw a second look in New York or even London. But in this case it did turn heads because it occurred in Singapore, the socially conservative ‘nanny state,’ where public displays of anger simply aren’t the done thing.

According to one expatriate journalist who lives here and witnessed the incident on the MRT platform, the irate female office worker and her sore hand are symbolic of a growing reality in uber-modern and efficient Singapore: the city state’s infrastructure is under stress and beginning to crack at the seams.

Consider June 16, when unusually heavy rains actually caused flooding on the upscale Orchard Road, one of the most famous shopping streets in Asia. Singapore officials had to endure the embarrassment of keeping sand bags on the sidewalks in certain locations for weeks afterwards, given the unseasonably heavy rains at that time.

And the concern is about much more than just ensuring access to Gucci bags and Clinique cosmetics. Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper reported on Wednesday that the country’s expressways are now seeing 100 traffic mishaps a day, a 40 percent increase from just three years ago. The increase is blamed on a 10.3 percent increase in vehicles, according to the report.

This simply won’t do for a model modern city that’s also a global financial hub and attracts more than 11 million visitors a year. But what can be done? Singapore is an island, and even though the country has carried out successful land reclamation projects, it doesn’t have infinite space to grow, lest it bump into Malaysia or Indonesia.

It might just come down to population control. Last February, the Singapore government announced measures aimed at reducing the number of foreign workers.

‘There are social and physical limits to how many more (foreign workers) we can absorb,’ Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said at the time.

But Singapore’s native population is also growing at three percent, and things like public transportation, housing, roads and other public services will have to grow along with them. Given the massive sea of people milling around Orchard Road last Sunday—early Christmas shoppers, Western tourists, Filipino domestic workers on their day off—the number of potential fist-slammers will only grow.

http://the-diplomat.com/asean-beat/2010/12/14/singapores-creaking-infrastructure/