Singapore markets open in 6 hours 45 minutes
  • Straits Times Index

    2,990.40
    -14.47 (-0.48%)
     
  • S&P 500

    3,768.25
    -27.29 (-0.72%)
     
  • Dow

    30,814.26
    -177.24 (-0.57%)
     
  • Nasdaq

    12,998.50
    -114.10 (-0.87%)
     
  • BTC-USD

    35,770.59
    -288.29 (-0.80%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    696.09
    -39.05 (-5.31%)
     
  • FTSE 100

    6,720.65
    -15.06 (-0.22%)
     
  • Gold

    1,836.80
    +6.90 (+0.38%)
     
  • Crude Oil

    52.09
    -0.27 (-0.52%)
     
  • 10-Yr Bond

    1.0970
    -0.0320 (-2.83%)
     
  • Nikkei

    28,242.21
    -276.97 (-0.97%)
     
  • Hang Seng

    28,862.77
    +288.91 (+1.01%)
     
  • FTSE Bursa Malaysia

    1,609.52
    -17.49 (-1.07%)
     
  • Jakarta Composite Index

    6,389.83
    +16.42 (+0.26%)
     
  • PSE Index

    7,203.44
    -35.02 (-0.48%)
     

Haze: Property viewings cancelled

SHOTLIST: SINGAPORE, JUNE 20, 2013, SOURCE: AFP - Ferry Boats leaves for Batam Riau Island - Police coast guard patrol out the sea - The Reflection condominium shrouded by haze - Cable cars going through hazy sky - WS of the city sktline covered by haze - View of the streets - People cross the road junction - People wait at traffic lights - Office workers put on mask during lunch break /// -------------------------------------------- AFP TEXT STORIES: Singapore-Indonesia-environment-haze,update-WRAP Indonesia says Singapore 'behaving like a child' over haze by Presi Mandari JAKARTA, June 20, 2013 (AFP) - Indonesia on Thursday accused Singapore of acting "like a child" over acrid smog from forest fires in Sumatra that has triggered the city-state's worst environmental crisis in more than a decade, as the two nations held talks. The escalation in tensions between tiny Singapore and its vast neighbour came as the levels of haze enveloping the island hit a new record high, shrouding the whole city, from residential blocks to tree-lined parks. Singapore ratcheted up pressure on Jakarta Thursday to take "definitive action" to stop the fires -- but Indonesia, which insists Singapore companies that own plantations on Sumatra also share the blame, hit back. "Singapore should not be behaving like a child and making all this noise," Agung Laksono, the minister coordinating Indonesia's response, told reporters. "This is not what the Indonesian nation wants, it is because of nature." The minister for people's welfare also insisted that the sprawling archipelago did not want any financial assistance to fight the fires from its rich neighbour unless it was a large amount. "If it is only half a million, or one million dollars, we don't need that. We would rather use our own national budget," he said. His comments came as an emergency meeting hosted by Indonesia's foreign ministry in Jakarta and attended by the chief executive of Singapore's National Environment Agency (NEA), Andrew Tan, got under way. Singapore's air pollution index meanwhile hit a new record high, soaring to 371 at 1:00 pm (0500 GMT), well past the previous high of 321 set the night before. Any reading above 300 is "hazardous" while a reading above 400 is deemed "life-threatening to ill and elderly people," according to government guidelines. "This is now the worst haze that Singapore has ever faced," said Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's minister for the environment and water resources. "We need urgent and definitive action by Indonesia to tackle the problem at source," he said on Facebook. "Singaporeans have lost patience, and are understandably angry, distressed and concerned." Smog still shrouded the city-state as residents went to work Thursday, and more commuters were seen wearing disposable medical masks than in previous days. The acrid odour of burnt wood and grass could be smelled in living rooms and bedrooms across the island as well as inside the air-conditioned trains of Singapore's metro system. Drug stores in the central business district were sold out of disposable masks and refused to take advance orders, telling customers to return the next day in case new stocks arrived. Parks were empty of the usual morning joggers, but thousands of employees still trooped to offices and labourers continued their work on high-rise buildings under construction. The previous Singapore air pollutant index high of 226 was recorded in September 1997 at the height of a Southeast Asian calamity also resulting from vast amounts of haze from Indonesia, where slash-and-burn farming generates heavy smoke during the dry season that begins in June. Parts of Malaysia close to Singapore have also been severely affected by the smog. Laksono said that plans to use cloud-seeding to unleash rain over Sumatra and put out the fires were also under way, and it was hoped helicopters could be dispatched on Friday. Smallholders and plantations in Sumatra -- some of them with Singaporean investors -- have been accused of using fire to clear land for cultivation, but big palm oil companies deny involvement in such activities. Singapore-Indonesia-environment-haze,WRAP Singapore demands urgent Indonesia action on smog by Martin ABBUGAO SINGAPORE, June 20, 2013 (AFP) - Singapore on Thursday demanded "definitive" action by Indonesia on forest fires raging in Sumatra as the two neighbours prepared for emergency talks to ease the severe smog enveloping the city-state. Singapore's air pollutant index was again hovering around the "hazardous" level of 301 at midday, close to the all-time high of 321 set the night before. Any reading above 200 is considered threatening to health. "This is now the worst haze that Singapore has ever faced," said Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore's minister for the environment and water resources. Singapore is sending the chief executive of the National Environment Agency (NEA), Andrew Tan, to attend a meeting hosted by Indonesia's foreign ministry in Jakarta, a government statement said. "We need urgent and definitive action by Indonesia to tackle the problem at source," Balakrishnan said on Facebook ahead of the Jakarta talks. "Singaporeans have lost patience, and are understandably angry, distressed and concerned." Balakrishnan added: "No country or corporation has the right to pollute the air at the expense of Singaporeans' health and wellbeing." Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he will meet "relevant ministers" on Thursday and hold a press conference on the situation. "Please stay indoors where possible and avoid heavy outdoor activities. Look out for one another - we will get through this together," he said in a message to the public. Smog still shrouded the city-state -- from high-rise residential blocks and skyscrapers to tree-lined parks and promenades -- as residents went to work Thursday, and more commuters were seen wearing disposable medical masks than in previous days. The acrid odour of burnt wood and grass could be smelled in living rooms and bedrooms across the island as well as inside the air-conditioned trains of Singapore's metro system. Some residents said they feared rising electric bills this month because they have had to turn on their air-conditioners for longer periods. Drug stores in the central business district were sold out of disposable masks and refused to take advance orders, telling customers to return the next day in case new stocks arrived. Parks were deserted of the usual morning joggers, but thousands of employees still trooped to offices and labourers continued their work on high-rise buildings under construction. Song Seng Wun, a regional economist with Malaysian bank CIMB, said he had not heard of meetings being deferred yet in the financial district. "But if the haze stays this bad for the rest of the week or beyond, I think there will be cancellations and postponements," he said. The previous Singapore air pollutant index high of 226 was recorded in September 1997 at the height of a Southeast Asian calamity also resulting from vast amounts of haze from Indonesia, where slash-and-burn farming generates large amounts of smoke during the dry season that begins in June. Singapore has urged children, the elderly, and those with heart or lung disease to avoid outdoor activities and seek medical treatment early if they feel unwell. Local and international schools were already on summer holiday when the haze reached unhealthy levels at the start of the week. Parts of Malaysia close to Singapore have also been severely affected by the smog. The Indonesian forestry ministry said Wednesday that it plans to use cloud seeding to try and unleash rain on Sumatra. Smallholders and plantations in Sumatra -- some of them with Singaporean investors -- have been accused of using fire to clear land for cultivation, but big palm oil companies deny involvement in such activities. END

The on-going haze situation in Singapore is having a detrimental effect on the real estate industry, with many agents reporting cancelled viewings and a lack of new enquiries.

Agents contacted by PropertyGuru on Thursday and Friday also reported a signficantly low turnout of visitors at showflats, as the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reached a record high of 401 at noon of Friday lunchtime – classifying air quality in the city-state into the "hazardous" range.

Singapore has been blanketed by haze for most of the week as a result of forest fires in nearby Sumatra, Indonesia.

Evan Chung, Assistant Vice President of Resale Division for DTZ, told PropertyGuru: "Undeniably the haze has impacted viewings and show flat visits, however there are still a handful of clients who've chosen to defy the record high PSI and proceed with viewings.

"True enough, discussions through the viewings have proven that these are indeed a group of serious buyers, not wanting to miss out on a potential unit. Nonetheless, many came armed with N95 masks and an obvious disdain on the issue of transnational air pollution."

Ella Sherman of Premiere Realty echoed the experiences of many agents over the past few days.

She said: "All my viewings scheduled for this weekend have been cancelled, and my phone hasn't rung since the haze began. This makes me worry about paying my mortgage this month."

Sherman added: "This terrible haze is negatively impacting business as well as health, and a cause of lots of worry. Undoubtedly it's an environmental disaster and big setback for Singapore business."

Jason Lim of Vestor Realty added: "I'm not sure if it's because of the haze, but my phone has been silent since yesterday morning."

Mohd Ismail, Chief Executive Officer of PropNex Realty, said that his company is constantly monitoring the situation.

He said: "Despite the poor air quality, I still see hardworking individuals, some with their face masks on, making their way to meet their clients. For most of us, we cannot afford for things to come to a standstill — business is as usual despite that hazy situation.

"As health risk increases, the number of people taking medical leave may increase; especially those with existing respiratory problems who may not be able to perform optimally as before. To counter this, we have advised our people to take extra care especially when they need to be outdoors for long periods of time.

"Whilst livelihoods of some may be affected, I believe that if we help one another, we will make it through this period. We have come a long way as a company, overcoming various challenges such as the SARS in 2003, the dengue outbreak, the economic crisis in 2008 and come what may; this haze is will be something that we can also overcome eventually.

"(We) will make necessary recommendations to our salespersons should the haze situation aggravate further," added Ismail.

A spokesperson for Jones Lang LaSalle added: "We are closely monitoring the haze situation in Singapore. We have, and will continue to provide on-going guidance to our employees, clients and vendors in line with government recommendations.

"Whilst the PSI levels remain high we are advising our employees to avoid spending time outdoors, in accordance with official advice, and have made masks available to all of our staff in Singapore.

"We have advised our agency staff in Singapore that where possible property viewings should be postponed until the haze situation improves. The health and safety of our employees, clients and vendors is our number one priority and we are continuing to monitor PSI levels and follow official government recommendations."

However, one agent specialising in re-sales reported almost no impact to his level of business, while another said a buyer had lowered his offer as a direct result of the haze.

Are you a real estate agent in Singapore? Email us with your experiences now to andrew@allproperty.com.sg

Andrew Batt, International Group Editor of PropertyGuru, wrote this story. To contact him about this or other stories email andrew@allproperty.com.sg Recent stories you may have missedWorld Class Land wins tender for Faber Walk siteParc Oasis owners approve resolution on parking chargesLook overseas for better returnsKeppel Land shines in China

More from PropertyGuru:
Haze: Developers take precautions
Coronation Road residential site receives 12 bids
World Class Land wins tender for Faber Walk site
Parc Oasis owners approve resolution on parking charges