Singapore Town

Recently our office renamed our conference room following a Singapore theme. On the way into office today, I saw the new signs to “Raffles” room and “Esplanade” room, and for some reason thought of the song “Singapore Town”:

You could take a little trip around Singapore town

In a Singapore city bus

To see Collyer Quay and Raffles Place

The Esplanade and all of us

Chorus:

Because in Singapore, Singapore

Their hearts are big and wide you’ll find

Because in Singapore, Singapore

You’ll find happiness for everyone

This upbeat tune playing in my head made me feel quite sad, because I’m not sure this song really describes Singapore anymore. Singapore used to have “friendly shores” that “welcomed our fathers long ago” (quoted from “This is my  Land”) but these days those same shores are just not as friendly anymore. Those same people whose fathers from China, Malaysia, India, Indonesia and all over were welcomed just one, two or at most three generations ago are saying that they now have a birthright to this little red dot and they don’t want anyone else to partake of it. I’m all for a non-claustrophobic way of living. I almost hyperventilate when I’m at Causeway Bay in Hong Kong on a weekend. But more important to me is a caring community, where everyone loves thy neighbour, including the foreigner.

More!

Recently the topic of Singaporeans being encouraged to have more babies is coming up again. The past 2 years during Chinese New Year when people saw Sophia (as a 1 month old and barely past 1 year old) the standard comment was “congratulations” and now when they see the 2 year old, I’m getting “time to try for more!”

I’ve been reading other bloggers write about how expensive it is to have a child in Singapore. The hospital bill for the delivery itself came up to more than $10k for my first child and something like $17-20k for all the medical expenses throughout pregnancy. True that I am more demanding when it comes to medical service standards and it is probably possible to keep it much lower but fact is I don’t want to save on anything connected with my child. Preschool fees alone will work out to more than $90k per child and that is assuming they don’t raise their fees (which is fat hope because Sophia’s preschool has already raised their fees by more than $100 per month between the time she registered a place less than a year ago and now).  And all these before we even talk about proper schooling. Its a good thing primary and secondary education is virtually free in Singapore but then comes university. According to this projection, 4 years of local university education in 2030 is projected to cost approximately $152,162, and that is provided the child can and wants to go to a local university. If she were to go overseas either for better prospects or because she cannot get into a local university, the projected cost can be as high as $430,239. Add to that food, accommodation, clothes and other expenses for 20 year (potentially more given the trend that is already apparent now where young people are relying on their parents to buy them their matrimonial house, car etc. ), you are probably looking at a cost of a million a child, roughly.

The babybonus, CDA account and other incentives are peanuts compared to the cost of raising a child. The monetary incentives should not, therefore, be the motivating factor for having children. That’s not to say that people should not have children. They should. I did and may continue to, but it should be for the right reasons of loving children, wanting to raise a family etc. I do embrace the new paternity leave package and the message it is giving on shared parenthood responsibility though. I just hope the men don’t use it to play more golf instead of spending time with the new baby.

Singapore smoking ban extension

Yay!!!! Smokers probably hate the new rules and yes I get it, from your point of view, you effectively have to stand out in the sun to smoke. But smoking in public areas like corridors would mean that lots of innocent people will have no choice but to take in your second hand smoke if they want to get to the other side of the corridor.

I’ve always been anti-smoking, even to my favourite grandpa I close my door on him when he lights up. And he’s considerate in that he prefers that I do that too because he knows its unfair for me to have to partake in second-hand smoke. But some people are not. This round of smoking ban extension came immediately after a hawker blew second hand smoke straight into the face of my 2 year old angel and when I covered her face to avoid it, shouted very loudly “Smoking is GOOD!”. So, you see, I am glad I can now officially call up the National Environment Agency and ask that they do something about people like that.

What are your thoughts about the new rules on smoking ban?

[Update] I struggled with the comments for a while but eventually decided to approve both the supporters and naysayers, except for those who make personal attacks on no basis. For the negative comment, I was very tempted to reply but on second thoughts, there is probably no need to, readers can judge for themselves. To Andrew, it is a rather tough job for NEA, one would imagine that it would be difficult for an enforcement officer to reach the spot before a smoker is done with his stick, and after that it would be impossible for them to impose any fine since there is no evidence of the offence. Also, smokers are complaining about the new ban and there are many of them so NEA also needs to be conscious of not generating too much unhappiness among the public. Its tough. But on the whole, I’m all for clean air and think the world would be a much better place without cigarettes. It just takes time.

Singapore Property Cooling Measures – January 2013

There goes my plans as an average Singaporean wishing to purchase a second residential property as small time investment (not speculation). Most of my peers are skeptical about even the last wave of drastic cooling measures which will dash hopes of the non-Singaporeans among us of owning their homes here and hopes of the Singaporeans among us of being a small time landlord. We feel that the rich businessmen in the region will continue to come in with their cash (so LTV ratio is not a problem for them) and the additional stamp duty may not deter them since Singapore remains a relatively safe, easy and cheap place to invest in property (~13%  didn’t deter them so why should ~18%). On the bright side, at least the government gets more income that it can use towards making lives of Singaporeans better, even if the measures don’t have as much effect as hoped.

For the benefit of those who didn’t have time to catch up on the news or do the calculation, here’s a summary of the costs involved in property purchase:

1. Option money

Mode: Cash

Amount: Usually 1%, but nothing in law to say its got to be 1%. I have seen a different amount once in a very specific circumstance.

Time: Whenever you decide you want to buy the property.

2. Exercise option

Mode: Cash

Amount: Usually 4% of purchase price, or whatever amount it takes to make up 5% when added to option money.

Time: Within the option period, usually 14 days from signing option to purchase.

3. Stamp duty

Mode: Cash

Amount: Normal stamp duty (1% on first $180,000, 2% on next $180,000 and 3% on subsequent amounts), plus Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty are as follows:

  • Singapore Citizens: none on first property, 7% on second property, 10% on third and subsequent properties
  • Singapore Permanent Residents: 5% on first property. 10% on second and subsequent properties
  • Foreigners and non individuals (such as companies): 15% on all properties

Time: Within 14 days of exercising option

4. Completion

Mode: Combination of cash, CPF and loan

Amount:

Loan:

  • First loan: 80% of valuation, or 60% of valuation if loan tenure is more than 30 years or extends past age of 65
  • Second loan: 50% of valuation, or 30% of valuation if loan tenure is more than 30 years or extends past age of 65
  • Third and subsequent loans: 40% of valuation, or 20% of valuation if loan tenure is more than 30 years or extends past age of 65

Cash:

  • First loan: at least 5%, or 10% if loan tenure is more than 30 years or extends past age of 65
  • Second loan: at least 25%
  • Third and subsequent loans: at least 25%
  • Legal fee: approximately $3000 for properties below $2m and $4000 for properties above $2m; usually banks will give a subsidy of at least $2,500 for this.
  • Agent commission: 1% or 2%

CPF:  Whatever amount towards property purchase that is not accounted for under loan and cash above.

Hello hello, what’s this thing that rings?

Sophia recently had her first encounter with a corded phone and was fascinated. Of course, it helped that her granduncle pretended to call her on it. When was the last time you saw a corded phone? This so reminds me that we’re raising a different generation. Remember how when we were young our parents could screen our calls because our friends had to call our land line and had to ask for whoever they wanted to speak to? And how it was such a privilege to have a phone in your own room when the rest of us plebs had to sit in the living room within earshot of everyone to talk? Or how, wow, it was so amazing to have caller ID so we can dash to the phone and pick it up if its from our friends. Now, kids just have their own handphones, that they will have their own ways and means to get their hands on even if parents refuse to buy them one, and use it they will. In this era, we really need to be very careful how we raise our kids. Very, very careful.

Sophia, phonecall for you!

Sophia, phonecall for you!

Graduation

I recently attended the Kim Seng PCF graduation ceremony and really enjoyed it. Principal Bunny Lo and his teachers really did a great job putting together the performance themed “Around the World”. It took real effort to put together the performances showcasing music and dances around the world and involving children of all levels even the toddler class – that’s Sophia’s age group! This may have been the first time I watched a concert put up by preschoolers and it really brings back memories of my own childhood. I remember being the youngest student chosen for a school performance when I was 3 really boosted my self esteem so I am convinced that opportunities to perform is a great thing for young children. Kudos to PCF Kim Seng for giving this opportunity to even their toddler class!

The valedictorians

 

Receiving their certs

 

The toddlers – aren’t they adorable?

 

Almost broadway standards

 

K-Pop!