Friday, 15 December 2017

Chinese developers pump up Singapore property

Chinese firms are making record-breaking bids for land redevelopment tenders, re-energizing a market that regulators have long aimed to tame


Singapore's property market is on the upswing, with home prices rising for the first time in four years following a string of aggressive bids from mainland Chinese and other foreign developers offering record-high premiums to clinch top land redevelopment tenders.

The island nation’s property prices had been on a record downturn, dropping 12% over 15 consecutive quarters from their 2013 peak after the government imposed measures to cool the market beginning in 2010.

Those market interventions, intended to guard against a housing bubble, imposed an additional buyer’s stamp duty for non-citizens and buyers of second or third homes, and a stamp duty for sellers for transactions made within four years of original purchase.

To deter excessive vacancies, property developers were required to pay an additional buyer’s stamp duty of 10% or 15% including interest on the total land cost of a project unless all the flats were built and sold within five years.

While those measures remain mostly intact, redevelopment deals known as “en bloc” sales, or the collective sale of apartments in older buildings to developers, have exceeded US$6.34 billion in 2017, the highest such figure since 2007. That’s been a windfall to tens of thousands of property sellers.

Read the full story at the Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Friday, 8 December 2017

An unflattering portrait of Malaysian politics

PM Najib Razak has stirred racial divisions and cynically divided rivals ahead of elections opponents hope will turn on his alleged massive corruption


As political parties begin to mobilize ahead of general elections which must be held by August 2018, Malaysia’s long-serving Prime Minister Najib Razak is arguably in his strongest political position in years.

While opposition parties continue to rally on an anti-graft platform centered on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund multi-billion dollar money laundering scandal, Najib appears increasingly confident he has ridden out the storm.

That was seen in Najib and his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s surprise visit last month to jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in hospital after he underwent surgery for a shoulder injury. It was the first time in Malaysia’s history that a sitting prime minister visited a prisoner.

Detained since 2015, Anwar is serving a five-year jail term after being found guilty of sodomy, a criminal offense in Muslim-majority Malaysia, on charges widely seen as politically motivated. Pictures of the political rivals circulated widely on social media, showing the premier grinning ear-to-ear amid rumors of his underlying motives.

While Najib likely intended to portray himself as being compassionate and above political animosities, some interpreted the visit as an “enforced” courtesy call. Indeed, while the bedridden opposition politician appeared cordial, his pictured family members were visibly uncomfortable.

Read the full story at the Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Singapore on edge as Islamic State circles

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has warned it's not a matter of "if" but "when" the wealthy city-state is targeted by international terrorists


While international linked terror attacks have hit various Southeast Asian nations, Singapore has so far been immune. But as Islamic State (IS) makes deeper inroads into the region, the city state is now on its highest terror threat alert level in years.

Transnational terror groups are believed to see the island nation as a symbolic target for its status as a global financial center with close strategic ties with the United States. It participates in international coalitions against terrorism and hosts several Western targets, including embassies and military installations.

Singapore has honed its counterterrorism strategy in recent years, setting up specialist forces and emergency response teams while doubling down on efforts to sensitize the public and foster community vigilance. Authorities also stage preparedness exercises and elaborate drills simulating attacks on high-profile targets.

The sense of vulnerability, long part of the island state’s national psyche due to various geostrategic anxieties and proximity to hotbeds of Islamic militancy, has not been lost on top officials.

Indeed, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has noted on several occasions in the past year that Singapore operates on the expectation of “when” rather than “if” a terror attack will occur.

Read the full story at the Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.