The opening of the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) in Singapore on 23 June 2010 heralded a new era for the island republic. The integrated resort with a 2,561-room hotel, 120,000 sqm convention centre, shopping mall and its piece de resistance - a casino with 500 gambling tables and 1,600 jackpot machines has been billed as the world’s most expensive stand-alone casino property ever built at a cost of S$8 billion. This mammoth project where the centrepiece involves casino gambling has been widely seen as a gradual liberalisation of the government’s stringent policies to uphold moral and cultural values of Singaporeans.
Many business and political analysts believe the arrival of MBS also signifies another important arrival – that of the Singapore nation as a whole, onto the world stage of commerce and industry where it is now the leading financial and transportation hub in South East Asia. Its economic and social achievements have eclipsed on all accounts those of its neighbouring Malaysia, within which it was a former state until its own independence on 8 August 1965. Singapore’s population of 5 million people enjoyed the highest GDP growth in the world of 14.7% in 2010.
What are the key factors which are driving this Asian powerhouse?
First and foremost, Singapore was led by its founding prime minister, now Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, whose government in the early years established systems which rapidly grew its potential as a busy sea port. It then harnessed a clear vision of a developed nation with high intellectual and financial capabilities interwoven with a strong sense of nationalistic and social identity.
Unlike neighbouring countries, Singapore is a small island state. With a total area of only 700 sqm, it is smaller than the Australian Capital Territory in terms of land area. With land being in such short supply, its core competencies cannot be predicated upon industries which require high land usage. Singapore has turned this land constraint into a core strength in promoting and nurturing high-intellect and high-value industries such as electronics, petro-chemical refinery, mechanical engineering, biomedical sciences, financial services, tourism, education and more recently, casino and high-level hospitality businesses.
Today, Singapore is one of the top three most busy ports in the world and is the fourth largest foreign exchange trading centre in the world behind London, New York and Tokyo.
On any given day, its main street Orchard road and its surrounding areas in the CBD is a melting pot of business executives, city workers, shoppers, locals, tourists and visitors jostling and engaging in Singapore’s national past times – shopping and eating till 11pm. Indeed, Singapore has firmly established its reputation as a food and shopping mecca in South east Asia.
Real estate in Singapore
In the early years before its independence in the 1960s, Singapore was faced with housing shortages as a result of the shortage of available land. The ruling government passed the Housing and Development Act of 1960 and subsequently established the Housing & Development Board (HDB) which is the statutory board responsible for public housing in Singapore.
Over the last 40 odd years, the Singapore government has built millions of high-rise apartments and flats, otherwise known as HDB flats, to house its growing population and to alleviate the problem of housing shortage.
For the majority of Singapore’s citizens, living in HDB flats is not by choice as the price of private and landed property are relatively very expensive due to the scarcity of land and many luxury condominiums and apartments built by private developers are beyond the means of an average Singaporean wage earner.
However, HDB dwellers enjoy a host of benefits such as subsidies for living closer to parents, better incentives if one is married and other transactional concessions. These HDB flats are controlled by the government where eligibility, purchase and disposal conditions apply and the majority are leasehold for 99 years.
In general, pricing for HDBs range anywhere from S$300k for smaller units in outer areas of Singapore to $800k for larger 3 – 4 bedroom units which are closer to the city. Obviously location and the prestige of suburbs, distance to Mass Rail Transit (MRT) train stations, design and size affect pricing.
As the affluence of Singapore’s middle class grow, so do the price level of new private housing and apartments. The lucky few who had previously held on to freehold landed properties have seen the value of their land appreciate to levels comparable to some of the most expensive cities around the world. New private luxury apartments and condominiums which are being built around the choice areas close to the CBD will command a price tag of at least S$1,200 per square foot upwards (1 square metre = 10.76 square feet).
Another indication of the growing wealth of Singapore’s middle class and its buying power is the number of advertisements in Singapore’s leading daily newspapers enticing wealthy locals to invest in up and coming luxury condominiums and apartments overseas. These new luxury investments span the breath of the Asia Pacific from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland to London, New York and luxury ski-resort homes in Nendaz, Switzerland.
Strata SE1, the tallest residential tower in central London is actively seeking wealthy investors from Singapore. High-end Malaysian projects in the heart of Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) making news in Singapore include St Mary Residences and Quayside condominiums in Penang.
Far East Organisation is by far one of the leading property developers in Singapore having developed more than 700 projects over the last 50 years. New apartments and condominiums currently on the market in Singapore include the following:
13. The Glyndebourne