Straits Times, 13 Mar 04
Top-draw resort for southern isles
By Audrey Tan
Sentosa and other enlarged islands will be linked up in ambitious
plan to attract rich and famous. Casino idea under study
SENTOSA is about to become a must-visit spot for the world's rich
and famous, with even a casino likely to be among its new attractions.
A part of the island, called Sentosa Cove, along with the Southern
Islands, will be transformed into an international resort playground
with white sand beaches, marinas, spas, gourmet restaurants, high-end
fashion malls and possibly even a gambling spot for high rollers.
The plans were sketched out by Trade and Industry Minister George
Yeo in Parliament yesterday.
The world-class resort and residential development will be spread
over some 500 ha, about the size of 10 Botanical Gardens.
The Southern Islands - made up of the two Sisters Islands, Pulau Seringat,
Lazarus Island and St John's Island - have already been enlarged by
reclamation. They will be linked to Sentosa by boat or by a bridge,
and further reclamation will be done to create the development.
And in the first-ever indication by the Government that casinos may
be allowed in Singapore, Brigadier-General (NS) Yeo said: 'We are
keeping an open mind on what to have in this development, including
the possibility of having a casino.'
But he reassured the House that there will be measures in place to
limit access to the casino by Singaporeans and to keep out organised
BG Yeo was speaking during the debate on the ministry's budget for
the coming financial year. In his speech, he also gave an update on
Singapore's economy, its external wing and the benefits Singapore
has derived from its Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
Singapore's present growth momentum is strong and 'of good quality',
he said. 'Growth is broad-based and in sectors which will help secure
our longer-term future.' Singapore has also enlarged its external
space through its investments overseas and through the FTAs. From
1992 to 2002, its direct investments overseas has increased from $22
billion to $146 billion.
Its FTAs have increased trade, helped create new jobs, as well as
keep jobs in traditional industries such as the textiles and apparel
industry. If more companies and Singaporeans can be encouraged to
venture overseas, Singapore's gross national product - which includes
income from abroad - will be significantly greater than its gross
domestic product in 10 years' time, BG Yeo said.
Singapore is also intent on building a vibrant business environment
so it can be the London of Asia. 'We are liberalising in a controlled
manner, sometimes experimenting along the way,' he added.
The development of Sentosa Cove and the Southern Islands is a case
in point. BG Yeo said: 'What we envisage is an international facility
separate from Singapore, but accessible to all Singaporeans, with
more relaxed rules to attract international talent, visitors and investments.'
The project will help Singapore maintain its position among the front
rank of cities in 21st century Asia, he added. Besides hotels, private
homes, marinas, retail and food outlets, the development will also
have sports complexes, convention centres, venues for international
shows and theme attractions.
Plans are still at an early stage, as the Government has not yet engaged
international consultants to help map out the possibilities.
But BG Yeo yesterday pointed to Atlantis, Paradise Island in the Bahamas
as an indication of what is possible. Atlantis offers a range of water
sports, gourmet dining, haute couture fashion, world-class spas and
clubs. Its hotels charge between US$215 (S$365) and US$2,450 a night.
But BG Yeo added that what could emerge in Sentosa 'will be and will
have to be uniquely Singaporean'.
Mr Darrell Metzger, chief executive of Sentosa Leisure Group, also
likened the Sentosa/Southern Islands development to Palm Island in
Dubai where international jetsetters will pay for exclusivity.
The planned development will plug a gap in Singapore and Asia, he
said. 'Singapore doesn't have a really classy destination resort now
to bring the family to... This development also won't have a lot of
competition in Asia,' he added. Industry operators were also excited
about the opportunities that will open up. Mr Steven Choo, senior
vice-president of research and direct investments at property developer
CapitaLand, said: 'It's fresh; it ups the ante and takes us to a different