Warren Fernandez was News Editor of The Straits Times when he penned "Thinking Allowed?", a compilation of his columns written over the years. Fernandez also served on several public committees like Remaking Singapore Committee, Singapore 21 Commitee and Cost Review Committee.
His essay dated 20 July 2002 recalled that in 1996, the Cost Review Committee (CRC), of which he was a member, pointed in its report to trends which
"raised serious questions for Singaporeans to ponder: Just what was the role of the government in providiing public housing? Was the Housing Board in danger of being moved, by rising public expectations, beyond its intended role?"
The man at the helm of the CRC, we are told, was Lim Boon Heng, Minister of State Without Portfolio. Even Lim had wondered aloud if Singaporeans were not over-investing in housing, incurring huge interest payments to service the mortgage obligations, at the expense of financial needs for the retirement years.
Actually the nightmare scenario was highlighted earlier in the report of the Howe Yoon Chong Committee On The Aged in 1984. Confronted by public uproar, the government of the day dropped it's recommendations. Then Second Deputy Prime Minister S Rajaratnam lamented, "It would be easier for the present government to ignore this problem and keep you living in a fool's paradise. But it would be cowardly for the government to do this because the prices of our cowardice will have to be paid for by Singaporeans now under 40 and the succeeding waiting in the wings to be born." Prophetic words indeed.
Well, it looks like the cowardly option was chosen and Singaporeans were seduced by "asset enchancement" and other political ploys along the way. The day of reckoning has come, and that nest egg is as good as Humpty Dumpty after the fall. And judging by the reactions to latest measures to "stabilise the booming property market", both speculators and genuine upgraders are being burned (metaphorically! metaphorically!) by half baked policy making.
Fernandez's concluding entry (page 249) for his 2004 book is aptly entitled, "Is Singapore Finished?" He wrote, "When politicians, who once pledged 'more good years', start telling voters that perhaps they might be better off chasing other, non-material, dreams, you know that times must really be tough." Jeez, this guy is downright prophetic, and how did he know the national day theme for 2010 is about dreams?