Making the big move to Raleigh started off to be a scary one. I was leaving everyone and everything I knew. But I knew if I could find a great apartment, then my move wouldn’t seem so scary. I went online and did a Google search for luxury apartments in Raleigh. I know that may seem silly to some people, but where I live is very important to me. I am a single woman, so I want the apartment to be a safe one, and also I am looking for certain amenities. The way I look at it, when I come home from work I want to be able to relax and unwind in my home.
I have been in my current apartment for 3 years, and I am really tired of the management of this place. They are pretty rude, and rarely helpful, if ever. I am not sure why things are so poorly ran, but it does not make a lot of sense to me. But I am going to get out of here and find somewhere new, because this is not going to do going forward. So I have been searching online for apartments in Lowell MA. I want to find one that is fairly nice, but at the same time, I really do not want to pay a lot of money for such an apartment.
I am upset about the fact that I am going to have to move, not because I like it here or anything, which I certainly do not, but because of the fact that I really do not like the process of moving. It is a major pain in the butt, and I always wait until the last moment to start the process of packing up and cleaning my apartment, and getting ready for the move. I am sure it would not be so bad if I did not procrastinate, but I am not sure how do to avoid doing that. It is just something that I tend to do. I have done it for most of my life, and I wish I could stop it, but it seems pretty deeply engrained at this point in time. Anyway, I have probably stayed in this apartment for as long as I have, largely due to the fact that I hate moving so much. But sometimes, you have to do it, and take matters into your own hands. I sure hope that the next place that I find to live will be better than this one.
I had been looking at different condo developments for about a year now, knowing that I would know instantly when I found the one that I wanted to buy for myself. That happened the moment I started looking at the details for a Sims Urban Oasis condo in Singapore a couple of months ago. Most condo developments have a lot of things in common, but it seems that each one has something unique to it as well. What really impressed me about Sims Urban Oasis is the guard house that will be present when construction is done.
Though the area is relatively free of crime, I know that there are still problems and it is probably just going to get worse as the years go on. That is why I am really grateful that some development companies have the foresight of what condo residents will need even after the construction is done. I also liked that it has the typical amenities like a really nice swimming pool, a tennis court, an indoor gym, and a clubhouse. All of those things are really important to me because I like to stay active, but I am not always able to go to a gym that might be halfway across town.
Also, the condos themselves are really nice. I was able to look at the floor plans and look at some renderings of what the architect is striving for with each designed condo, and I knew that I wanted to buy one as soon as they were done. I have bookmarked the website and I am going to keep myself up to date with notifications that they send me too. I am looking forward to the day when I am able to call it home, and I have a feeling that will happen sooner rather than later!
Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam. The city center is situated on the banks of the Saigon River, 37 miles (60 kilometers) from the South China Sea and 1,094 miles (1,760 kilometers) south of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.
Over the past decade, Vietnam has been improving its legal infrastructure, banking systems and overall economic and social environment. On January 11, 2007, the country became the 150th member of the World Trade Organization. Today, the local business community is as enthusiastic about the country’s growth and future potential as foreign investors are. In fact, foreign direct investment in Vietnam is expected to reach US $15 billion in 2008, which is more than double from the same period in 2007.
Ho Chi Minh City is the financial hub of Vietnam with over 300,000 businesses in industries such as technology, electronics and construction. It is a fast-paced city that is growing rapidly both in terms of its industry and its population. The city’s vibrant culture and historical ambiance–combined with an optimistic workforce (many of which have no direct memories of the war with America that ended in 1975) -have catapulted the city into one of the fastest growing economies in Asia.
The metropolitan area, which consists of the city center and surrounding towns, is home to more than 9 million people, making it the largest metropolitan area in Vietnam and Indochina. Walking through the streets of Ho Chi Minh, one gets a sense of the modern mixed with traditional Asian ambiance.
The local language is Vietnamese but English is spoken almost everywhere. All foreign restaurants have English-speaking staff and most taxi drivers speak a little English. The street and store signs are in Vietnamese. Learning at least a little Vietnamese will make life easier and efforts to do so will be appreciated by the locals.
All foreign visitors are required to get a Visa. A foreigner who comes to live and work in Vietnam usually obtains a visa through his or her sponsoring organization. For a three- or six-month work visa, a passport and an invitation or assignment letter will need to be produced. The passport with a relevant visa is the most important document for a foreigner in Vietnam. It is recommended that all visitors register with their local Consulate or Embassy upon arrival in Ho Chi Minh City.
The local currency is Vietnam dong (VND). The dong comes in notes and coins, which range from 200 to 500,000 VND. It is advisable to take US dollars into Vietnam and exchange it upon arrival. US dollars can be used and changed although dong is the most commonly-used form of payment for everyday purchases such as groceries. Larger establishments accept credit cards but they will levy a 3-5% service charge. Smaller local markets only accept cash.
There are many foreign banks in Ho Chi Minh City and accounts are easy to open. Most banks are open Monday through Friday from 8am to 3pm. There are automatic teller machines (ATMs) available around the clock all around Ho Chi Minh City.
For expats seeking housing in Ho Chi Minh City, proximity to schools and the degree of security are the most important issues. Most expats choose to live in expat communities. Inside Ho Chi Minh City are a mix of older, French-style villas and modern serviced apartments. Expats seeking to live in houses tend to live outside the city, where there are larger villas with elaborate gardens and swimming pools. The international schools are also located in these areas outside of the main city. Expats typically rent their homes. Rental agreements require a deposit that is equal to three months’ rent and the renter will need to pay six months’ rent in advance.
Utilities are extra and will need to be paid separately and usually with cash. Furnished homes are decorated to suit the taste of the landlord, and such styles might not appeal to the typical expat. It is sometimes possible and becoming more common to negotiate with the landlords of unfurnished properties and purchase furniture to that of your own taste, dependent on the length of your lease.
Ho Chi Minh City is not, overall, a dangerous city. However, petty theft and house break-ins concern many expats. A home security system is not very expensive and is recommended.
International schools are very popular with Ho Chi Minh City’s expats. British, Australian, French, Japanese and Korean international schools are all available but they can be quite expensive. There are many to choose from but it can be difficult to secure a spot. The British International School and International School of Ho Chi Minh City have pre-school programs. The school year starts at the end of August and ends in early July.
The water in Ho Chi Minh City is not fit for drinking from the tap but is more than safe for brushing teeth and cleaning dishes. Bottled drinking water is delivered to the home or purchased from a store. “Pharmacy” in Vietnamese is “Nha Thuoc Tay” and they can be found throughout the city. The Vietnamese word for “doctor” is “Bac Si.”
It is recommended that travelers to Vietnam have a variety of vaccinations such as hepatitis A and B, Japanese encephalitis and typhoid, in addition to Malaria capsules. Visitors should bring an extra supply of prescription medications as they might be hard to come by in Vietnam. Healthcare facilities in Ho Chi Minh City are limited but are ever improving with the opening of International clinics.
There are a few foreign health care providers that have different things to offer. These include International SOS, Columbia Saigon Clinic and the Franco/Vietnamese Hospital. If the scope of care needed is beyond what’s offered at Ho Chi Minh City’s foreign hospitals, visitors can be evacuated to Singapore or Thailand. It is recommended that all visitors research this information as soon as they move into their new home.
The rapid growth of the city has created unbearable traffic throughout the city. Since traffic laws are not strictly enforced and driver’s education is limited, patience on the roads is mandatory. Visitors who wish to drive will need to obtain a Vietnamese driving license. Typically, expats have their own car and driver. People drive on the right side of the road. Ho Chi Minh City does have buses, but they are very crowded.
Motorbikes are by far the most common form of transport. It’s not uncommon to see whole families on one motorbike. They make crossing the street incredibly difficult. Visitors have to have the confidence to find a gap in the traffic, make eye contact with any oncoming drivers, and cross slowly, always walking forwards, do not hesitate and do not step backwards.
To travel outside of the city, there are trains going out every day and there are rental cars available. Taking a mini-bus is another option. These are small, air-conditioned and clean.
Expats might want to bring along their favorite designer-label clothing, cosmetics and sporting goods–as the genuine articles are hard to come by in Vietnam. There is more choice when shopping in Ho Chi Minh City than there is in other cities. For large-sized clothing or shoes, it is recommended that expats bring enough clothes to last through their stay. Finding apparel that fits can be very challenging, though custom tailoring is an option.
The stores of serviced apartments sell foreign items. Local markets are used for fresh dairy and produce where bargaining is the norm. It’s a good idea to learn the numbers in Vietnamese and it’s best to not seem too interested in an item. When bargaining, one should make an offer and leave if it’s not accepted. If the seller changes his mind, he will call the person back. A good rule of thumb when bargaining is to give a counter-offer of half the price originally offered, and then bargain to a middle point. Also, a smile goes a long way!
Counterfeit merchandise–from handbags to mineral water–is everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s best to buy such items from department stores or other official retailers rather than street vendors. For other household items such as cleaning materials and home furnishings, Ben Thanh Market and Diamond Plaza are two places to look for such items in Ho Chi Minh City. Ben Thanh Market is the home of everything one could ever need such as clothing, shoes, home furnishings, keepsakes as well as fruits, vegetables and some other very interesting food.
Spouses are permitted to work however, finding employment can be difficult. In addition, there are professional associations specifically for women. For recreation, joining a golf and tennis group is a popular option. Bars and restaurants are popular hangouts. Beside expat groups, clubs like the International Ladies of Vietnam, Amicale des Francais (a French association) and various business organizations are very popular.
Playing or watching sports, traveling to local beaches and riding in go carts are also among the city’s favorite diversions for kids. School-related activities are ideal for teenagers looking for something to do. Clubs and sporting activities are very very popular. One can enjoy tennis, squash, swimming, badminton and Rugby (Aussie rules) are just a few.
Chris Draeger, Group Vice President, Crown Relocations
Crown Relocations has been providing international moving and relocation services since 1965. With 200 offices in 50 countries, Crown has “people on the ground” in all the major Expat communities around the world. Crown provides a range of services to help Expats and their families move and settle into their new home ranging from Orientation Tours, Home finding, School Search and more.
Crown also organizes Expat Clubs with regular events to help people meet and socialize with other Expats.
We also serve corporate clients as they develop and manage the relocation policies and employee benefit programs for the staff moving overseas. Services include expense management, program development, policy counseling, customized online reporting and full departure and destination services for the employees.
Crown is a private organization headquartered in Hong Kong, with European HQ in London and Americas HQ in Los Angeles California.
The Brazilian property market has got a lot going for it. The country is attracting a lot of inward investment, has one of the world’s fastest growing economies, a rapidly emerging mortgage market, a general shortage of quality homes, and has been selected to host the 2014 football World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. This will lead to the construction of new and improved infrastructures and homes across Brazil.
Property investors from around the world are flocking to Brazilian shores with a view to snapping up real estate, in anticipation of future capital growth.
One local expect projects Brazilian property prices could appreciate by up to 200% over the next decade, driven by the country’s burgeoning economy, and the pending introduction of mortgages to overseas nationals.
Investment banking firm Goldman Sachs believes that Brazil’s economic growth could outstrip that of the other BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) member nations over the next few years.
Brazil’s economy is widely expected to become the fifth largest in the world by the time the Olympic Games kicks off in 2016, and yet Brazil property and land prices still remain a fraction of those found in more developed nations.
The Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has already pledged to spend up to £11.5bn on building a million new homes in Brazil between now and 2011.
However, potential high property investment rewards are not with out their risks, as crime and corruption still remains widespread in Brazil.
In stark contrast to the relatively high risk, high return nature of investing in Brazil, the risks associated with investing in French property are far lower.
France has traditionally always been a rather safe haven for property investors. The nation was the first European country to come out of recession in 2009, reflecting the fact that the global credit crunch had much less of an impact, compared to other European counterparts.
France’s strong economy is having a positive impact on its property market, which now appears to be on the road to recovery.
Increasing property and mortgage transactions are boosting residential values, with the latest FNAIM data revealing that the average price of a French property appreciated by 2.8% between April and September 2009.
Although average prices remain down 7.8% year-on-year, the market is generally expected to improve further, due to France’s prudent attitude to mortgage lending.
Anyone taking out a mortgage in France is generally only permitted to borrow one third of their total gross monthly income. This has ensured that mortgages remain readily available, with 100% loan-to-value home loans available at competitive borrowing rates.
Consequently, mortgage lending in France is soaring. French mortgage broker Athena Mortgages reports that there was a 21% rise in mortgage enquiries in Q3 2009 compared with the previous quarter.
The buy-to-let and leaseback sectors are reportedly attracting particular interest from investors, due to improved yields across the country.
The capital city of Paris has long been identified as one of the most attractive European cities for investment, and is typically the most popular place to buy a home in France, along with Cannes, Marseille and Nice, which are all located along the southern Mediterranean coast.
The USA property market may be showing tentative signs of improvement, following one of the worst economic and property crashes in living memory, but the downturn has come at a cost to many US homeowners.
Data from RealtyTrac shows that a record high of 938,000 US homes foreclosed in the third quarter of 2009. If this trend continues, foreclosures would reach around 3.5m by the end of 2009, up from around 2.3m properties last year.
Properties in Nevada had the highest foreclosures rates in Q3, followed by homes in Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Utah, Georgia, Michigan, Colorado and Illinois.
Rising unemployment levels – currently at a 26-year high of 9.8% – was cited as the main reason for the increase in foreclosure levels. Yet, there may be worst to come, as the unemployment rate is not expected to peak until mid-2010.
Unfortunately, one person’s misfortune is another’s gain. With around 7m properties currently in the foreclosure process, compared with 1.3m for the same period in 2005, predatory investors are buying up distressed, abandoned and repossessed homes at bargain-basement prices, as now appears to be the ideal time to fill your boots.
Although the sub-prime mortgage crisis started in the USA, there are growing signs that the property market may now be at or near the bottom of the cyclical downturn. Various indices reveal that average residential prices started to rise, albeit marginally, during the second quarter of 2009.
Sales in Norway have nosedived over the past year or so, as residential values have cooled.
However, the Norwegian property market downturn, which has not been anywhere near as severe as in other neighbouring countries, appears to have already bottomed out, and looks ready to lead the Scandinavian property market recovery.
The key to the Norwegian property market is the strength of the country’s economy, which has made it one of the wealthiest in the world, while new housing output has dropped below average, which could fall short of demand next year.
Norway is rich in both gas and oil and this helps to support the country’s economy and ensure that its currency also stays strong – both alluring to property investors.
The country’s population is estimated to increase by 23% – approximately one million people – over the next 40 years, which should make sure that long-term residential demand is robust.
Another positive is the fact that unemployment is extremely low – approximately 3% – compared to its European counterparts.
Almost half of the Norwegian population resides in the counties of Oslo, Rogaland, Akershus and Hordaland, and so this is where property investors should focus their attentions. Property prices in these places remain relatively cheap compared to wages in Norway.
Many of the high earners currently living in Britain look set to quit the UK in droves ahead of the introduction of a 50% top tax rate in April 2010, and escape to more tax-friendly shores, such as Switzerland.
The Swiss authorities are actively lobbying to attract many of these disillusioned high-net worth individuals, who are being tempted by assurances that they will be allowed to steer clear of European Union regulation and Britain’s Financial Services Authority.
It is estimated that hedge funds managing in the region of £10 billion in assets have already moved to Switzerland in the past year alone. This has increased demand for homes to rent and buy.
Due to canton restrictions, it has previously been difficult for foreigners to buy property in Switzerland. However, the country has now eased its strict property buying regulations, and opened its doors to more international buyers, partly through the introduction of ‘residence de tourisme’ style investments, which is similar to the ever-popular ‘leaseback’ formula in France.
Switzerland, one of the richest nations in the world, is of course a tax haven.
Anyone who sets up permanent residency in Switzerland would be entitled to take advantage of the country’s favourable tax law, including the lump sum taxation, which charges a levy based on people’s lifestyle and spending habits.
Given that one’s taxable income is charged at just five times their annual rent or rental value of their property, and the fact that assets outside Switzerland remain tax-free, should ensure demand for Swiss properties – to rent and buy – remains strong for years to come.
Historically, Swiss property values have typically appreciated in line with inflation. Properties located at the top end of the market, in cantons like Valais and Vaud, have reportedly increased by up to 20% in the past year.
The Australian economic and property market recovery has been swifter than the other leading nations around the world.
It has been claimed that the revival in the country’s property market and economy is as much as 12 months ahead of the other developed countries in the economic cycle.
Unemployment peaked in September 2009, in stark contrast to Britain and the USA, while increasing commodity demand from China has forced the Australian Central Bank to raise benchmark interest rates. Yet this has failed to cool strong residential demand, which coupled with a general housing shortage, is forcing property values higher.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics house price index shows that the average price of a residential property in Australia appreciated by 4.2% in the third quarter of 2009, which means that in the year to September, residential prices increased 6.2%.
Australia could be set for a residential property price boom over the next few years, as the country’s economy continues to show genuine signs of recovery.
A recent Australia property report projected that average residential prices in nearly all capital cities would increase by between 11% and 19% by 2012, with the greatest property price rises expected to be recorded in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne.
I tipped Malaysia to be the number one place to invest in property in 2009, due to the country’s robust property ownership laws, lack of capital gains tax and attractive mortgage rates.
However, residential sales were sluggish during the early half of the year, as the market struggled as a direct consequence of the global credit crunch, while there are some political uncertainties emerging.
But with consumer sentiment improving, the recent positive market recovery, supported by the construction of new residential schemes across the country, should continue in 2010.
While property prices race ahead across much of Asia – in countries like China, Vietnam and Singapore – which has led to heightened fears of budding property bubbles, the Malaysian property market has merely stabilised, making it suited to more balanced investors.
With an extremely young and well-educated population, long-term demand for property in Malaysia looks set to grow.
Domestically, an increasing number of people are moving from the countryside into the larger cities, while internationally Malaysia looks set to cross a demographic landmark of huge social and economic importance.
Malaysia’s population is growing by around 2%, or an extra 500,000 people, every year. The World Bank projects the country’s population will grow annually by 1% until 2050, which will place further pent-up demand on property values.
Malaysia’s property prices are still lower than they were in 1997, due partly to the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990’s, suggesting very real room for growth.
8. Abu Dhabi
The recent property price falls in the fast growing UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, the richest and largest of all the seven UAE states, have been nowhere near as severe as in neighbouring Dubai.
The tax-efficient emirate has the largest fossil fuel reserve in the UAE, is the fourth biggest natural gas producer in the world, has the world’s highest income per capita, is home to almost all of the Arabic Fortune 500 companies, and is currently sitting on over 88 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.
Yet Abu Dhabi is now actively trying to reduce its reliance on oil, and is diversify its economy into the financial services and tourism sectors. Billions of pounds have been allocated for infrastructure projects and the development of residential, leisure and cultural schemes across the oil-rich emirate. The plans are truly remarkable.
Nevertheless, investors seeking out bargain deals will find some of the best opportunities for distressed property investments in the Gulf region in Abu Dhabi.
The recent slowdown in the property market means that just 45,000 are anticipated to be completed in the capital in the next four years, augmenting the exiting housing shortage.
The supply of housing stock remains scant, partly because Abu Dhabi is not part of a community master-plan like those pioneered by Emaar and Nakheel in Dubai.
The housing shortfall in the capital is expected to stand at around 15,000 homes next year, which could mean that property prices and rents are forced up, while residential demand – domestic and international – is expected to increase.
Because Abu Dhabi does not have the same high level of exposure to the global financial crisis, compared with other UAE emirates, mortgages for non-residents – at up to 75% loan-to-value – are readily available again. This is likely to appeal to buy-to-let investors, as well as those people seeking equity release and to remortgage their properties in Abu Dhabi.
The relaxed Arabian state of Oman, voted ‘destination of the year 2008’ by Vogue magazine, has long been a popular holidaying destination for people living within the GCC.
With a population of around 2.3m, Oman is being modernised and liberalised culturally and economically by hereditary Sultan, Qaboos Bin Said Al-Said, a forward-thinking leader.
Sultan Qaboos strategy for economic growth – Vision 2020 – aims to diversify Oman’s economic dependency on oil, and focus on other industries, such as property and tourism.
Demand for property in Oman is primarily being driven by the Sultan’s decision to introduce legislation in 2004 – ratified in 2006 – permitting foreigners to buy freehold property and land in designated tourist areas, most notably Muscat. These projects are referred to as Integrated Tourism Complexes (ITC). Furthermore, foreign homeowners can now apply for residency visas.
A number of luxurious developments are being erected across Oman including, The Chedi, Azaiba, Wadi Kabi, The Wave, Barr Al Jissah Residences, Jebel Sifah, Salalah Beach, The Malkai, Muscat Hills, Al Madina A’Zarqa, Jebel Sifah, and Salalah Beach.
The fact that Oman appeals to end-users – not just investors – means that the medium to long-term prospect for Omani property market growth looks good.
10. South Africa
South African property market conditions look ripe for investment, as the country starts to come out of recession. Recent property price falls appear to be bottoming out, while FIFA’s 2010 football World Cup fast approaches.
From the moment world football’s governing body, FIFA, awarded South Africa the rights to host the World Cup in 2010, shrewd property investors from around the globe have been looking on with great interest, with one eye firmly on cashing in on the sport’s popularity.
The first ever FIFA World Cup to be hosted on African soil has the potential to be the biggest sporting event of all time.
The tournament is expected to attract around 350,000 football fans for a month of football mayhem, starting on 11 June 2010, which is tipped to contribute around £1.5bn to South Africa’s gross domestic product and generate another £500m in government taxes.
South Africa property prices haven softened over the past year or so, due to a fall in residential demand, caused by reduced housing affordability, higher inflation and interest rates.
But residential prices could soon experience growth, on the back of what should be a reinvigorated economy, spurred by the football tournament.
While the odds may be stacked up against the South African football winning the World Cup in 2010, it is not too far fetched to assume that the country’s housing market could prove to be the real winner of the tournament, generating significant returns for property investors in the process.
The top Philippine forecast for 2014 is a significant Economic growth of 6.5-percent. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) representative Shanaka Jayanath Peiris, the Philippine’s strong private and public consumption will yield a positive outlook this year overtaking five other southeast Asian Countries namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. “This year, momentum is growing fast. That is coming from fiscal spending, and the second quarter looks likely to be quite strong,” Peiris said. “Consumption remains robust.” The Philippines annual growth unexpectedly surpassed China in the first quarter last year.
Amidst the predicted strong economic growth comes along the accompanying traffic and increase in business transactions in the city capital and other high-income suburban districts. According to Charles Chesbrough, an Economist with IHS, the global auto industry is expected to produce 85-million sales in 2014 from its 82-million in 2013. The global growth in automotive sales is motivated by the rising capability of emerging economies as well the regulation of gasoline prices. In the Philippines, this is demonstrated by the expected economic growth predicted this year. The expected growth in private transportation should prompt the National government and its local agencies to seriously look into the worsening traffic conditions and accidents in the country and focus on improving the flow of traffic and increasing road safety.
Alongside the growth in mobility and transportation, a real-estate and building boom is also predicted to continue. Real-estate growth in 2014 in the Philippines, from the high-income districts to suburban capitals is mainly brought about by the “robust performance” of the industry. The World Bank further reports that in 2013, the country has built an additional 10,600 real estate properties.
The economic growth has also attracted high-end brands to further expand business in the country bringing in more employment opportunities. Rolls Royce and Louis Vuitton continue to make business and expand its brand in the region making the Philippines the base of its operations.
The country’s positive growth is directly linked to the increased remittances from overseas Filipinos. The Central Bank of the Philippines (BSP) said that the country is the 4th biggest recipient of remittance with mostly coming from the Middle East and US. The remittances are predicted to set a record-high of $23.6 billion. Filipino workers are in continuous demand overseas contributing to the high economic prediction. The remittances sent by overseas Filipinos not only contribute to the higher consumable domestic capability of the Filipino family but also acts as a buffer to the country’s foreign exchange during financial crisis.
As a result of the numerous natural calamities that have besiege the country, the National Commission on Cultural and Arts (NCCA) have adopted a variety of theme on healing activities, beginning with the 2014 Philippine Arts Festival and the National Arts Month. NCCA would like to emphasize the power of healing to bring comfort and to help cope with loss and stress through art. The power of art to heal has been well established especially in dealing with various stresses and trauma. The NCCA will focus on various activities incorporating the healing arts to showcase Philippine culture. There will be various exhibitions, workshops, conferences, lectures and competitions including films and dance.
The names of the tropical cyclones that will hit the Philippines for the year 2014 will have the following names, in accordance to their succession: AGATON, BASYANG, CALOY, DOMENG, ESTER, FLORITA, GLENDA, HENRY, INDAY, JOSE, KATRING, LUIS, MARIO, NENENG, OMPONG, PAENG, QUEENIE, RUBY, SENIANG, TOMAS, USMAN, VENUS, WALDO, YAYANG, ZENY.
After its successful direct Manila-London flight, national carrier Philippine Airlines hopes to expand its services to other European destinations this year. PAL President Ramon Ang has revealed its plans to serve key destinations including Paris, Rome and Amsterdam with Frankfurt top of the list being a major railway hub for other European destinations. Ang re-iterates that PAL aims to win back the millions of overseas Filipinos who used the services of PAL. There are more than half a million Filipinos in Europe that PAL intends to lure them back home to the Philippines. However, since its maiden flight in London from November, feedback was not as positive as expected. Filipinos in London have expressed their discontent with the services of PAL. For a start, Diane Fauner who travelled from Heathrow to Davao with PAL to support the national Carrier posted in her FB account that PAL was (again) late in its departure mainly due to the strong winds which at this time is forgivable for PAL. The departure lounge was so small that passengers (adults and children) who did not have a seat had to squat on the floor while waiting for the delayed flight to board. This made the situation for 300-passengers uncomfortable to all be together in such a small departure lounge. As Ms. Fauner was flying with a young under-five child and a connecting flight to Davao, she was personally required to pick-up her luggage in Manila from the baggage carousel and drop it off at the transfer desk which was about 2-meters away from the carousel so that it can be transferred to her domestic flight to Davao, something which other airlines do automatically for connecting flight passengers. This explains the lack of local codeshare of PAL with other carriers. Further observations she made were that the PAL attendants which were suppose to be friendly smiles in the sky were in fact grumpy. Most of them ignore the service lights and nobody walked around to see if any passengers needed anything or if passengers had put on their seatbelts when the seatbelt signs were turned on. Food and water were not readily available and meals were served too late in the flight. Overall, Ms. Fauner rate the flight as uncomfortable as it can be and she and her family is not looking forward on the return flight back to London this month. Another Filipina who is married to a British who does not want to be identified, is flying with PAL for the first time and has expressed their disgust with the overall service of the carrier.
According to CAPA Centre for Aviation, “PAL has secured Heathrow slots but the flight times are not ideal as they do not support connecting services.” The timing of the London flight limits the number of domestic connections on the outbound sector as it leaves Manila in the early morning (about 0800), arriving in London in the afternoon. The return flights are more suitable for connections as they depart London in the early evening, arriving back in Manila the following afternoon. But by only offering connections in one direction PAL limits its options as it tries to fill up a 370-seat aircraft.PAL also lacks partner carriers. It does not currently have codeshares with any European carriers. PAL is also the only major Southeast Asian flag carrier that is not in a global alliance or is in the process of joining an alliance. If PAL intends to capture the Filipino and European market, then it has to improve its overall service and upgrade its service to be at par with other international standards.
With the resurrection of non-stop Europe-Manila flights, Philippine tourism is expected to increase. Following the lifting of the ban by EU on the country’s carrier, the government is targeting to attract 6.8 million tourist arrivals in 2014, 24-percent higher than the target. Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. is put on pressure by President Benigno Aquino III by adjusting the tourism targets. Jimenez admits that EU’s lifting of the flight ban and allowing PAL to fly in Europe is an excellent opportunity for Philippine tourism. “We therefore expect a significant increase from these markets, to include those from adjacent countries, once the PAL flights are made available,” Jimenez said. with a tourism development program budget of P30-billion, tourism international gateways clusters are expected to be given the boost in terms of development and investment.
While the overall economic growth is unprecedented based on strong domestic consumption and investment, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) forecasts that this growth does not equal to improved employment opportunities and living conditions for many Filipinos. Norio Usui, senior Country Economist at ADB and Celia Reyes, Senior research Fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies notes that over a quarter of Filipinos are still unemployed or underemployed. “Employment generation over the past two years has fallen short of the official goal of adding one million new jobs a year needed to absorb new entrants into the labor force and to put a dent in joblessness. Currently about three million people are unemployed and another 7.3 million don’t have enough work,” according to the ADB report. Contrastingly, a research conducted by Global Human Resources reveals that most companies will increase the salaries of their employees by 6.9% as they are finding it difficult to hire and retain highly skilled employees. This increase surpasses those in HK, Singapore and Japan but fall behind China, India and Vietnam. Not so good news for Philippine government employees as Budget Secretary Butch Abad has ruled out any salary increase for government employees in 2014. Abad notes that any provision for increase is not provided in 2014 in Phase 4 of the Salary Standardization Law.