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Asia's 6 biggest construction projects of 2017

For the world's most expensive infrastructure and transport developments, look no further

A construction site in the Beijing Central Business District. Sean K/Shutterstock


Some of the highest-value construction projects in the world for this year are all located in Asia, as per the Arcadis International Construction Costs 2017. Construction markets in the region are expected to see an expansion of 5 to 7 percent a year, despite easing growth rate over the past 18 months.

Despite the exorbitant cost of the region’s biggest projects, they are all worth it in the end. Last year, the built environment contributed to USD36 trillion of the global GDP.

Count down to the biggest, highest-value construction projects in Asia this year:

6. Chengdu Tianfu International Airport

Construction works in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China. LP2 Studio/Shutterstock[/caption]
China will increase the number of civil airports to 260 within three years. One of the more high-profile air complexes will be the Tianfu International Airport in Chengdu, which will receive a USD11-billion outlay. It will be the first airport in the country to have decentralised terminals. Up to 90 million passengers and two million tons of cargo are expected to pass through the air hub every year by 2045.

5. Beijing Daxing International Airport

Construction at Beijing Central Business District in April 2016. testing/Shutterstock[/caption]
Of the 130-plus airports cropping up across mainland China, the Beijing Daxing International Airport is the biggest yet. It will serve as a replacement of the Beijing Nanyuan Airport, and is on track for a 2019 opening. With a construction value of USD13 billion, Daxing Airport is expected to handle at least 80 million passengers every year.

4. Jeddah Economic City

A view of Jeddah Corniche at the edge of the Red Sea, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. drpyan/Shutterstock[/caption]
The project formerly known as Kingdom City is a USD20-billion construction behemoth of homes, hotels, and office towers. This includes Jeddah Tower, set to be one of the world’s tallest structures upon completion. Jeddah Economic City will sprawl for two square miles.

More: What can Sri Lanka do to attract more foreign direct investment?

3. Dubai Al Maktoum Airport

Construction workers having a break in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Rastislav Sedlak SK/Shutterstock[/caption]
Dubai pushes the envelope yet again in superlative construction projects with a USD33-billion investment on its the Al Maktoum International Airport. Set to relieve increasingly monstrous air traffic in the emirate, Al Maktoum is envisioned to become the world’s largest airport with an annual capacity of 220 million passengers and 16 million tons of cargo.

2. Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor

Golden hour over building construction in Noida, Delhi, India. Amlan Mathur/Shutterstock[/caption]
As its name suggests, this project covers a wide swath of the continent between the largest metropolises of India. Valued at USD90 billion, the corridor will encompass 24 industrial zones, across seven states and eight smart cities. Part and parcel of the project is the 1,500-kilometre long Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, set to be finished at the end of 2019.

1. One Belt, One Road

Construction site at Shanghai's Bund area. Captain Yeo/Shutterstock[/caption]
Taking inspiration from the Silk Route of yore, China is rabidly paving the path for its ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative. This is China’s biggest spending spree yet: a mammoth, 13-year investment in energy and transport infrastructure that spans Eurasia, Central Asia, Oceania, North Africa, and Southeast Asia. The program is two-pronged, focusing on landbased projects as well as maritime investments. OBOR, currently valued at USD150 billion, is widely regarded as China’s launchpad into a bigger role in global affairs.


Both the most expensive, cheapest cities in the world are in Asia

Manchester is now cheaper than Beijing and other interesting tidbits from EIU's latest living cost index

Dotonbori, a popular nightlife and entertainment area in Osaka, Japan.

Asian cities lorded over the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living report, out last week.

Names from the continent dominated both lists of the costliest and most affordable places to live in the world, per the report’s Cost of Living Index. Five of the world’s top six expensive cities are all in Asia, while cities in the Indian subcontinent make up half of the 10 least costly cities on earth.

Some traditionally expensive alpha cities have become more affordable of late. Due to the post-Brexit depreciation of the sterling, London is now only the 24th most expensive city in the world, while Manchester registered the biggest fall, from number 26 previously to a distant 51, making it cheaper than Beijing and tying it with Bangkok.

London is now a far greater lifestyle bargain than New York City, at ninth place, for the first time in 15 years, and Paris, at eighth place.

To arrive at the results, EIU tracked 400 individual prices across 160 products and services, including clothing, food, transport, home rents, utility bills, private schools, and recreation, in 133 cities around the world.

Asia’s priciest cities


5. Seoul

Streets of Gangnam in Seoul, Republic of Korea.

The South Korean megalopolis clobbered Geneva, Paris, New York, and Copenhagen, in that order, as the world’s sixth most expensive market. Merely topping up a grocery basket in the city is 50 percent more expensive than in New York, EIU reported.

4. Osaka

Light displays of Dontonbori in Namba, Osaka, Japan.

Rising costs in the city, as well as the next item on this list, can be attributed to the recovering strength of the Japanese yen. Osaka ranks fifth most expensive city in the world.

3. Tokyo

[caption id="attachment_62073" align="alignnone" width="740"] People crossing Ginza Road, one of the main luxury shopping areas in Tokyo. Jirat Teparaksa/Shutterstock[/caption]

With an index mark of 110, Japan’s largest metropolis is the fourth most expensive city to live in the world. Along with Seoul and Osaka, Tokyo is the priciest destination for purchasing staple goods.

2. Hong Kong

Star ferries in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong.

More expensive than Zurich, the Chinese SAR comes in as the second most expensive city worldwide. Hong Kong fuel costs USD1.73 per litre, the priciest in the world and three times the price in New York, the report’s benchmark city.

1. Singapore

View of the Singapore skyline from the Marina Bay Sands' famous infinity pool.

The most expensive city on the world for four consecutive years, Singapore has 5 percent pricier living costs than nearest rival Hong Kong. It is the most expensive destination in the world to own a car, number two worldwide for clothing.

More: Asia’s 6 biggest construction projects of 2017

Asia’s least expensive cities


6. New Delhi

New Delhi's Indian Gate is the national monument of India.

The Indian capital is the 10th cheapest city in the world. Only Kiev, Ukraine and Bucharest are more affordable. “India is tipped for rapid expansion as Chinese growth declines, but much of this is driven by its demographic profile, and in per-head terms wage and spending growth will come from a low base,” EIU stated in its report.

5. Mumbai

Gothic building in downtown Mumbai.

The seventh least expensive city in the world happens to be the largest in India. However, it is a designation of disputed benefit, as “cheaper cities tend to be less liveable,” EIU warned.

4. Chennai

Foggy landscape of the city of Chennai with famous autorickshaw.

In fact, "there is a considerable element of risk in some of the world’s cheapest cities." Be that as it may, the world’s sixth cheapest city is the Tamil Nadu state capital.

3. Karachi

Blue hour over Karachi, Pakistan.

Pakistan’s largest city is the fourth cheapest city to live in the world, cheaper than Algiers, Algeria. It is the 130th most expensive city in the world, down from number 127 last year.

2. Bangalore

International Tech Park, Bangalore.

Only the recession-riddled Nigerian city of Lagos is more affordable than Bangalore, the third least expensive city in the world. "Although the Indian subcontinent remains structurally cheap, instability is becoming an increasingly prominent factor in lowering the relative cost of living of a location," EIU reported.

1. Almaty

Almaty is the most populous city in Kazakhstan.

Central Asia has the world’s pocket-friendliest destination: Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city. In Almaty, a kilo loaf of bread costs only USD0.90 while a bottle of table wine costs USD5.15.



India's attractiveness as a global investment destination strengthens

Private equity pouring in

 Mumbai's afluent Napean Sea area. Image: KishoreJ/Shutterstock

Galvanised by strong economic growth and resurgent sentiments of the country, around USD4.2 billion worth of newly raised capital, including debt and equity from global sources, in 2017, will enter the Indian real estate market.

“India’s attractiveness as a global investment destination has strengthened on account of the country’s political will to attract and protect investment growths,“ said Anshul Jain, managing director for India at Cushman & Wakefield. “India’s inclusion in the top investment destination is a testament of this confidence.”

Last year alone saw private equity investments in India reaching their highest in 9 years, Jain noted. The Indian real estate has attracted USD32 billion in private equity so far, the second-best showing ever for the country since a record in 2007.

More: Why Indian home buyers are taking developers to court

“Despite Brexit and uncertainty around the new US President’s outsourcing and visa-related policies, private equity activity also looks healthy in 2017 – thanks to a strengthening and modernising economy, and the growing reputation of India as an attractive investment destination,” said Ramesh Nair, CEO and country head for Jones Lang LaSalle India.

India ranked number 15 on a list of the top 10 target investment destinations in the world from Cushman & Wakefield’s The Great Wall of Money report.

The highly anticpated launch of REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) in the enxt few months is expected to further catalyse investment into Indian property. prominent private equity funds such as Blackstone will likely be the first movers into the first REIT listing in India.

"India's strong showing in the rankings is a result of continued policy moves to institutionalize real estate investments in the country with investors acquiring assets in anticipation of the introduction of REITs,” said Jain.


Car-free cities gain foothold, face resistance in Asia

The world's most traffic-congested streets are going pedestrian-only

Waiting to cross the road at intersection in Shibuya, Tokyo. Nattasit Poonnakasem/Shutterstock[/caption]

Paris is doing it, New York City is doing it, and now even Asia is in on the action — or the non-action for that matter.

Car-free movements seem to be sweeping Asia, of all continents: nucleus for some of the world’s worst cases of gridlock.

“To me, it’s self-evident that in 50 years, most cities will be mostly car free,” said “Carfree Cities” author Joel Crawford, in an interview with CBRE.

“It’s been gaining momentum to the point where people are no longer very interested in what I’m saying because it’s mainstream now.”

From its origins in cities like Madrid and Copenhagen, the phenomenon of pedestrianisation has gained foothold in land-scarce Asian cities like Singapore. The city-state has made car-free Sundays semi-permanent since it piloted the program for a few months last year. This year’s iteration, running until April, calls for the closure of busy lanes within the Civic District and the Central Business District to automobile traffic from 8 am till noon once a month.

Even Jakarta has beaten Singapore to the punch. For five years now, the Indonesian capital has been closing the big thoroughfares of Jalan Sudirman and Jalan Thamrin to traffic on Sundays: no easy feat given the ill repute of the city’s jams.

More: Why you should (and shouldn’t) want a car-free or driver-less city

Not every car-free venture has been successful, however. India, no stranger to traffic congestion, is steeling itself for a car-free zone smack in the middle of New Delhi’s bustling Connaught Place. Opposition has been strident, especially from local businessmen, and the program has been pushed back several times from its launch this month.

“Execution is definitely a challenge,” a senior official at the New Delhi Municipal Council told the Hindustan Times. “However, we are hopeful it will work. We are in talks with all the stakeholders. No decision has been taken yet on when to start.”

All inspiration is not lost though, especially in China. In Chengdu, Chicago architects Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill are working with the government to clear half the streets of cars by 2020. This area would be navigable by foot in 15 minutes or less.

In Hong Kong, a busy section between Pedder Street and Morrison Street was shut down to traffic in September. This was a big breakthrough for the densely populated city, according to Patrick Fung Kin-wai, chief executive of Clean Air Network, which organised the car-free event.

“People are always sceptical, but this may benefit them in a variety of ways,” he said.

Read next: A sustainable Chinese city? There’s no such thing

Why Indian home buyers are taking developers to court

Mounting debt and misplaced priorities have led to legal action

Buildings in various stages of construction in Gurgaon, India at dawn. Amlan Mathur/Shutterstock

The Indian judiciary is grappling with a spate of property developers reneging on guaranteed turnover dates for flat buyers.

The Supreme Court ordered developer Unitech last month to recompense 39 home buyers for delaying their possession of flats in Vistas, a residential project in Gurgaon. The firm was given eight weeks to give interest payments calculated at 14 percent per annum to the aggrieved buyers.

The payments to the buyers will cover a period from 1 January 2010 until August 2016. To date, Unitech has refunded a principal amount of at least INR17 crore to the buyers.

The High Court has since directed the developer to file a list of all cases pending against it before various consumer forums, including the amounts involved, for a hearing set on 27 March.

The handling of the crisis follows months of mounting insolvency squeezing developers encumbered by the liquidity crunch. Since May, the government has prohibited developers from selling off-plan homes with no full approvals from state and local authorities. Additionally, the government has required 70 percent of income from pre-sales to be kept in third-party accounts.

Around 13,337 pre-sold properties by Unitech have been delayed or ceased construction altogether. Unitech executives blamed its failure to deliver the units on an “unprecedented slowdown” in real estate, leading to a “squeeze in...working capital,” according to a court filing.

A former executive at the company opined that Indian developers tend to spend earnings from pre-sales on land bank acquisitions rather than completion of the projects. “Developers would take money from buyers and reinvest it in more land — there was a huge hunger for getting land," he told Financial Times. "There was money [previously] so there was no issue."


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