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Heng Swee Keat led team to conclude CECA with India which open the floodgates to Indian PMETS

Posted by temasektimes on October 29, 2019

On 29 June 2005, India and Singapore signed the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). This free trade agreement not only enables Singapore and India to trade goods freely, it also allows professionals to work in each other country more easily.

The CECA was concluded after 13 rounds of negotiation and the Singapore’s side was led by none other than Heng Swee Keat, the current PM-in-waiting, who was then Permanent Secretary for Trade and Industry. Heng and his team essentially did the ground work together with their Indian counterparts. They then presented their proposals to the politicians for approval.

Some of the areas covered by CECA include: Improved Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement, Trade in Goods, Customs, Investment, Trade in Services, Intellectual Property, etc.

However, controversial ones include concluding further Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) so as to facilitate the freer movement of professionals between Singapore and India. It helps to recognise each other’s education and professional qualifications so that Indian and Singaporean professionals from the following five professions could be able to practise in each other country:

Accounting and auditing
Medical (doctors)
Already, Singapore now recognises degrees of Indian doctors and nurses from certain Indian universities.

Movement of Natural Persons

Then, CECA also enables movement of persons between both countries. In particular, professionals employed in 127 specific occupations will be allowed entry and stay for up to 1 year or the duration of contract, whichever is less.

Also, intra-corporate transferees (i.e. managers, executives and specialists within organisations) will be permitted to stay and work in India and Singapore for an initial period of up to 2 years or the period of the contract, whichever is less.

The period of stay may be extended for period of up to 3 years at a time for a total term not exceeding 8 years.

In theory, of course, CECA could also benefit Singaporean professionals wanting to work in India but how many Singaporeans really want to work there to earn in rupees?

Indian companies try to exploit CECA loophole

After CECA was signed, some of the Indian IT companies set-up in Singapore tried to exploit the “intra-corporate transferee” loophole so as to get more Indian IT workers to work here. They would hire them in India and then “transfer” them to their Singapore subsidiaries to work, without the need to hire any Singaporeans.

India unhappy with Singapore

By 2017, thanks to CECA, large number of Indian professionals especially those in IT sector were moved into Singapore as “intra-corporate transferees”, since CECA did not set any quotas. Few Singaporeans, if any, were hired.

Many Singaporean PMETs started filing complaints of discrimination to the Manpower Ministry through the Fair Consideration Framework. The Singapore government was forced to slow down the approvals of Indian professionals to work here.

“This (visa problem) has been lingering for a while but since early-2016, visas are down to a trickle. All Indian companies have received communication on fair consideration, which basically means hiring local people,” the president of Nasscom, the IT association of India, complained.

In retaliation, the Indian government decided against expanding the scope of goods where import duties for Singapore goods would be cut unless the concerns of Indian industry are addressed, the Times of India reported.

In particular, the Indian government is against Singapore using the “fair consideration framework” to regulate the employment of Indian professionals in Singapore. “They (Singapore) are doing it despite the CECA clearly stating that there will be no ENT (economic needs test) or quotas on agreed services. This is a violation of the agreement,” warned an Indian official.

Obviously, when Heng negotiated CECA with India prior to 2005, he had not foreseen all these issues facing Singaporean PMETs. Perhaps he cared more if GIC and Temasek could invest freely in India or if DBS could open more branches there?

Nevertheless, Heng was confirmed to be appointed DPM of Singapore on May Day. Opposition member Lim Tean has this to say to Heng, the current PM-in-waiting, “Heng Swee Keat should explain his role in CECA, which cost Singaporeans jobs! What is the benefit to Singapore of CECA?”

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Why Jovina Choi is now Singapore’s public enemy number one

Posted by temasektimes on February 3, 2019

She embodies every bit of characteristic that we all hate in a human being:

1. Ignorance. Holier-than-thou attitude

“Because it’s clear you’re out to cheat money”

She is not aware that drivers don’t make money from passing through an ERP gantry, yet she’s so confident that that is what the driver is doing and insisting she’s right.

2. Irresponsible. Everything is everybody else’s fault attitude

“Because you know I am a layperson and I don’t know the route”

She expects every driver to know every road very well. And essentially she pushed all responsibility of her misfortune (in this case, having to pay for ERP) to the driver when she, as a person who ought to be familiar with the route, herself doesn’t know the way.


3. Hypocrisy. Double standards

“You do not have the right to video me”

This said, while she herself attempted (but allegedly failed) to film the driver

4. Exaggeration. Drama queen

“He is taking me to the Toa Payoh police station, and I think that he is a very rogue and dangerous person”

Don’t seem to hear any tyre skidding or any other surrounding cars horning.

5. Overcalculative.

“And I have to pay the extra cost from Toa Payoh all the way to City Hall”

This was said when she just declared herself to be in a danger situation and yet she’s also equally worried about the extra cost she’ll have to incur for her to get from the police station to her intended destination. Which is more important to her? Additional ~$15 cost or her safety? Clearly her priorities are off

6. Quick to accuse. Possibly due to poor upbringing.

She pretends to call someone of authority to try to frighten the driver. Person is very likely just her mom. The person on the phone uses threatening words like “going to Court“, “You have no right to take her hostage” “You are causing her to lose her freedom” etc without first hearing the full story. Do note that these are all very serious charges and can get the driver into trouble.

Clearly this pig face was brought up in an over protected environment, which brings me back to point 2: Irresponsible, everything is everybody’s fault.

7. Manipulative. Liar. Playing victim

“Sir can you help me.. This driver is trying to take hostage of me” in a damsel in distressed voice.

The word hostage was never used until the woman on the phone started introducing it. So who implanted the idea of hostage? The person on the phone!

8. Overbearing. The world revolves around her

“No.. no you’re listening to his point of view”

Only her point of view matters.

9. Poor control of emotions.

So this is the epic part. She tries to escape. A simple flick of the door unlock lever would have unlocked the door, but she went freaky and shouted “he locked the door! he locked the door! He’s taking hostage of me, unlock the door now!!” while the door opens…

10. Incoherent. Playing the race card.

When all else is lost, she throws out a very pathetic card.


Source: Hardwarezone Forum

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Value of 3 room HDB flats in Toa Payoh declined by as much as 30% in 4 years

Posted by temasektimes on November 1, 2018

The value of 3 room HDB flats in Toa Payoh which are more than 50 years old has declined by as much as 30 percent in the past 4 years!

As a property agent specializing selling HDB flats in Toa Payoh, I can tell you that it is very difficult to find buyers for these aging HDB flats which have undergone upgrading just a few years ago.

Sellers who ask for unrealistic prices for their units, even at bank valuation, usually are unable to sell them. For those who need to offload their flats urgently, they will have to give steep discounts of sometimes more than $50,000 to entice buyers.

For the purpose of comparison, let us use the recent sales transactions of 2 room HDB flats at the same size of 710 square feet at Block 9 Toa Payoh Lorong 7.

Read rest of article here.

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Can I use my CPF or secure a bank loan to buy a 70 year old HDB flat

Posted by temasektimes on October 22, 2018

Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan said recently at a dialogue session with young people that Singaporeans who buy a 50-year-old Housing Board (HDB) flat today can expect prices to continue to appreciate over the next 10 years.

“If you buy a 70-year-old flat, there is still appreciation potential especially because this Government is prepared to continue to invest in it through Home Improvement Programme (HIP) II and the Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (Vers),” Mr Khaw said.

While it is difficult to ascertain if his statement is true as no HDB flats have reached the 70 year mark yet, we can examine if it is possible to secure a bank loan and to use CPF to purchase the flat.

Read rest of article here.

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Two-faced WP making use of opposition to advance its own selfish interests

Posted by temasektimes on October 6, 2018

In July 2018, former PAP MP Dr Tan Cheng Bock met up with leaders from various opposition parties in Singapore to discuss the prospects of forming an united opposition coalition to challenge the PAP in the next General Election.

The Workers Party, with 6 MPs and 3 NCMPs in Parliament, was conspicuous by its absence though an invitation was sent to them.

How can the opposition in Singapore be united without the Workers Party? It can only be possible once the opposition face the brutal hard truth that WP is NOT part of the opposition, but part of the PAP whose sole purpose is to keep and entrench the PAP in power forever.

WP is shamelessly making use of the opposition to further its own selfish interests and political agenda. It refuses to work with other opposition parties and yet it demands other parties keep away from its “stronghold” in the eastern part of Singapore to avoid third party contests in the name of opposition “unity”.


Photo: WP Chief Pritam Singh


Based on results of previous elections, the eastern constituencies of Singapore generally enjoy higher opposition support compared to the east. Because WP has “booked” all the good winnable seats, the other opposition parties have no choice but to contest in seats which are more difficult to win. This explains why WP appears to garner more votes compared to SDP and other parties.

Why not WP contest in Jurong GRC led by popular DPM Tharman and see how many votes it can win? If SDP fields an “A” team in East Coast GRC, it will stand a much higher chance of winning it compared to Bukit Timah GRC.

By giving way to WP to allow it contest as and where it wanted to while staying out of a united opposition front, the real opposition parties are restricting their own development and indirectly furthering the narrow political interests of WP instead.

Since Low Thia Khiang took over WP in 2001, WP has never expressed any interest to work with other opposition parties. Low himself admitted as much by saying that WP will “forge its own path.” The present WP Chief Pritam Singh has scoffed at the idea of “opposition unity” too. In fact, he appears more interested to work with the PAP.

During a forum held at the Institute of Policy Studies in the aftermath of the 2011 General Election, Pritam Singh shocked the audience by proclaiming that WP will form a coalition government with the PAP if the latter fails to win a majority in future elections.

The opposition should not regard WP as part of the opposition any more and “give face” to it. The real opposition parties led by SDP should considering contesting in ALL the WP seats in the eastern part of Singapore and gives voters more choice.

Do Singaporeans want a weak, feeble and useless opposition which dare not voice their concerns in Parliament or do they want brave, selfless and principled opposition MPs who dare to speak up and hold the PAP to its words and actions?

WP is now the single biggest stumbling block to real political progress and reform in Singapore. Do we want to continue with the status quo with 10, 20 or even 30 useless WP MPs “wayanging” in Parliament or do we want ONE SINGLE real opposition leader like SDP’s Dr Chee Soon Juan to challenge the PAP?

It is time we wipe the slate clean and start afresh in the next General Election. With 12 NCMPs guaranteed to enter Parliament, Singaporeans should not be afraid to vote out the fake opposition WP and replaced them with real opposition leaders in Parliament. Let us give them five years to see how they perform in Parliament and we can decide whether to continue lending support to them in the next General Election.

After witnessing so many cringe-worthy performance by WP MPs who are worse off even than the PAP backbenchers themselves, we can safely conclude that they are largely ineffectual and make no difference at all in Parliament.

Time is running short. A vote for WP is a vote for PAP! As the late opposition scion Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam said at the inauguration of the Reform Party: Singaporeans should vote for WP and Low Thia Khiang if they want to maintain the status quo. The question for you is: Do you still want the status quo for the next decade?

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Why HIP2 and VERS will not transform your depreciating HDB flat into an asset

Posted by temasektimes on September 25, 2018

In a report published by Swiss bank Credit Suisse on 20 September, analysts Louis Chua and Nicholas Teh noted that the much touted Voluntary En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) is not a panacea to the real and pertinent issue of “lease decay”.

Noting that one of the stated aims of the scheme is to spread out redevelopment, the report pointed out that flats with 10 years of lease remaining would theoretically be worth only half of flats with 30 years left.

All HDB flats are owned by the HDB and comes with a 99 year lease. When a buyer buys a flat from HDB or another lessee, he/she signs on a lease agreement to lease the flat from HDB.

From a legal perspective, once the lease runs to zero, the flat automatically reverts back to HDB, the lessor with no compensation offered to the lessee as what happened to the 191 leasehold terrace houses in Geylang which were acquired by the government recently.

When Singaporeans buy a HDB flat, they expect three things:

  1. The value of their flat will appreciate over time and never depreciate.
  2. They are able to sell their flats for a profit years later and use the money either to upgrade or to retire.
  3. They are able to pass their flats as a bequest to their children after they pass on.

This means that if I buy a four room BTO flat in Punggol for $400,000 now, I will expect to sell it for $500,000 or $600,000 in 10 to 20 years time. If I buy a resale five room HDB flat in Toa Payoh for $500,000 now, I must be able to sell it at $700,000 to $1 million many years later. If I do not sell the flat and pass it on to my children after I pass on, they are able to inherit something of substantial value.

Such a future scenario is neither realistic or feasible because by nature of the fact of the limited tenure of HDB flats, their value will start to depreciate from 40 or even 30 years onward.

Read rest of article here.

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Buying Singapore properties: Then and Now

Posted by temasektimes on September 16, 2018

For those millennials who are aspiring to buy their first property, I am sure you heard of stories from your parents, relatives, friends and agents about the “good old days” when one can buy a property easily and make a healthy profit by selling a few months later.

If you have bought a property any time between 2001 to 2008, chances are, it would at least doubled in price by now.

There were no restrictions such as TDSR, LTVR, ABSD, SSD etc imposed on property transactions then and HDB flat owners can still buy private properties in Singapore and overseas.

I remembered entering my first showflat at a new launch at Novena in 2005 by chance. The agents were standing outside distributing brochures and invited me inside for free tea and cakes. The project was developed jointly by two prominent developers in Singapore. The response was lukewarm and only half the units were taken up. The agent was desperately trying to sell me a three room 1205 square feet unit at $900,000 by offering a $50,000 renovation package. Just fresh out of university, I was earning only $4,000 monthly then, but no worries, a banker was on site to offer me a bank loan. I could take up a 90% loan and paid only 10% as down-payment. I regretted not buying the unit. The same unit now fetches $2.5 million dollars in today’s market.

A few months later, I did buy my first property – a three room condominium in Yishun at only $470,000, cheaper than a 3 room resale flat in some popular districts today. Less than a year later, I bought another property for investment and so on and on. It was possible in those days to buy multiple properties so long you hold a decent job and have a good credit rating. Banks are more than eager to do your business with scant consideration of whether you can finance your mortgages in the long term.

Read rest of article here.

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What are the differences between 99 year leasehold properties and HDB flats?

Posted by temasektimes on September 11, 2018

In land scarce Singapore, the majority of properties come with a limited lease of a 99 year tenure which includes both public and private housing.

Though both HDB flats and 99 year leasehold private properties come with a 99 year lease, there are many differences between the two which emanate from different types of ownership leading to different property rights and entitlements with regards to their sale, rental and refurbishment as encapsulated in different terms and conditions as stipulated in the contracts.


Ownership structure:

Buyers of 99 year old leasehold properties are buying a 99 year old strata properties which include the property and part of the land on which the property is built.

Leasehold private properties are strata title properties while HDB flats are not. Strata title allows individual ownership of part of a property (called a lot’ and generally an apartment or townhouse), combined with shared ownership in the remainder (called ‘Common Property’ e.g. foyers, driveways, gardens) through a legal entity known as the MCST or Management Corporation Strata Title which is responsible for managing the property and the surrounding land.

In contrast, HDB flat buyers are only buying the 99 year old lease from HDB. They own the lease, but not the flat or land on which it is built. HDB retains the ultimate ownership of the land and flat.

Read rest of article here.

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Mahathir interfering in Singapore politics: Singapore should sent formal protest note to Malaysian government

Posted by temasektimes on September 10, 2018

In an interview with the Financial Times shortly after the May 9 General Election, Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir said rather caustically that his shocking electoral win may have a ripple effect in Singapore:

“I think the people of Singapore, like the people in Malaysia, must be tired of having the same government, the same party since independence.”

A few days later, when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took the effort to visit Dr Mahathir to congratulate him, he received a lukewarm reception lasting only 30 minutes.


Source: Malay Mail

In contrast, Dr Mahathir spent 80 minutes meeting a Singapore fugitive Tan Wah Piow and four Singapore activists who are known to harbor anti-establishment views.

It is unfriendly and undiplomatic to say the least for the Prime Minister of Malaysia to so blatantly interfere in Singapore politics by making wild baseless insinuations that Singaporeans are not happy with the PAP and meeting with the Singapore opposition.

Imagine if PM Lee were to make similar comments about the Malaysian ruling coalition and to meet up with opposition activists from across the Causeway, would Dr Mahathir not recall the Singapore ambassador and slammed our government publicly demanding an apology?

Home Affairs and Law Minister Shanmugam had publicly attacking the four Singaporeans for meeting Dr Mahathir, lambasting them as “unpatriotic”, but stopped short of criticizing Dr Mahathir:

“And you know, we are not saying anything about Dr Mahathir but I think one needs to be careful about these things. And now to try and explain away what is so obvious, that doesn’t do them much credit either.”

Isn’t it pretty obvious that the four Singaporeans have been unwittingly made use of by Dr Mahathir to take a jibe at the Singapore government?

It is time the Singapore government sent a formal protest note to the Malaysian government to protest against Dr Mahathir’s blatant interfering in Singapore’s internal affairs. Continued silence over the matter may send the wrong signal to Dr Mahathir that we are afraid of him and encourage him to indulge in more sabre-rattling against Singapore.

Instead of bullying and intimidating its own citizens, the Singapore government should stand up to the real bully up north who has been making insensitive, irresponsible and incomprehensible comments about Singapore and jeopardizing cross-straits relationship.

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Why HDB flats cannot be considered an asset which can generate wealth

Posted by temasektimes on September 9, 2018

Most Singaporeans have the ingrained mindset of properties being a worthwhile investment asset whose value will appreciate over time. As such, many are willing to work long hours and scrimp and save to purchase a property.

For the eighty per cent of Singaporeans living in HDB flats, the flats are not only a roof over their heads, but their single largest investment in life. The prices of HDB flats have nearly doubled in the past decade, but does their rising prices really generate wealth for Singaporeans?

For real estate to generate real wealth which can be unlocked by the owners, three conditions must be present:

  1. The property should preferably be of a freehold or 999 year status whose value is almost guaranteed to appreciate over time. (Leasehold private properties and HDB flats in certain locations can also appreciate in price, but only up to a certain point which I will elaborate later in another article)
  2. The bank accepts the property as a collateral and owners can refinance a bank loan to get a home equity loan as its value rises and cash out the available equity.
  3. You own more than one property so that besides the one you reside in, you have other properties to generate a steady stream of rental income and capital gain.

Singapore was still a developing economy in the 1970s and 1980s. As our economy grew by double digits, the prices of HDB flats soared as well. That is why many Singaporeans who bought their flats thirty to forty years ago will definitely make a healthy profit if they sell them today. The problem is: after selling their flats, in today’s market, they probably have to spend most of the profits from the sale to buy another place to stay.

A study done by two NUS economists, Tilak Abeysinghe and Gu Jiaying, shows that “past episodes of house price escalations have led to a substantial erosion of housing affordability” especially in the private sector. (source: NUS SCAPE) Higher property prices does not necessarily translates into higher wealth for Singaporeans.

Abeysinghe and Choy in their book – “The Singapore Economy: An econometric perspective (2007)” have examined the wealth effect of property prices on consumption in Singapore and found that the wealth effect is very much absent.

In the absence of cheaper suburbs which offer quality living, the only way for Singaporeans to unlock property values is, apart from emigrating, to downgrade to smaller units. This does not seem to be occurring on a large scale which explains why the ‘housing wealth effect’ on consumption is insignificantly small.

Higher property prices, instead of creating a wealth effect, exert a significant and negative “price effect” on consumption expenditures leading to a fall in the average propensity to consume.


Photo by chuttersnap


As house prices go up, the increase in the value of housing assets is accompanied by a concurrent rise in the financial liabilities of households, in the form of higher downpayments for purchase of residential properties and burgeoning housing loans.

Due to the limited avenues for liquidating property assets, households have to build up sufficient financial assets to smooth the profiles of their lifetime consumption of non-housing goods and services leading to a diminishing in domestic purchasing power.

Read rest of article here.

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