Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Three Core Failings

Last Friday, National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan kicked off a series of articles in TODAY with which he planned to discuss his concept of public housing. His maiden contribution highlighted his 3 "core commitments", which ironically demonstrated that he got it all wrong, all along.

1. "Homes for ownership:
Rather than making people pay "dead rent" with no returns for a roof over their heads, the Government decided early on that prudent mortgages can be a "good debt" that allows every citizen, every family, to have a concrete stake in this country."

If outright purchase is the only way to go, why is rental or lease still an attractive financial option? There are many situations where renting makes more sense than buying. Young couples can start a family almost immediately, and address the declining birthrate, without waiting to save up for the downpayment. Renting also means not having to worry about a leaking roof, a bum-faucet, or pest control. With job uncertainty exacerbated by foreign talent imports, renting allows you the flexibility of moving at the drop of a hat. Or voting with your feet. Stakeholding makes no sense if it can be diluted with foreigners at the Minister's whim and fancy.

2. "Homes for the masses:
Second, public housing in Singapore is not just about putting roofs over people's heads, but also about building an inclusive home for all Singaporeans."

Poor Mr Lim Kim San must be rolling in his grave over this one. The recent measures speak for themselves - let each market have their own dynamics. These are not new rules, just old ones which worked in the past. Public housing is not meant for speculators, within or without the country. Those who can afford private properties should not be allowed to deprive the needy of affordable accommodation. Period. Remember the ugly Mercedes owner who fought over free text books?

3. "Homes for life:
Third, our housing commitment to Singaporeans is a long-term one, HDB not only sells you a flat but comes back to upgrade it from time to time, budget permitting."

No one should have to service a mortgage the whole duration of his working life, with or without a retirement respite. Housing payments should just be another temporal financial allocation, like education, healthcare, travel and hobbies. Mah was the one who made you pay to change out the window rivets installed by HDB in the first place, or face a stiff fine with potential jail time. The upgrading he talks about comes with an additional cost, but not an itemised bill. As a seller, HDB acts more like a difficult landlord, always threatening to withhold maintenance services during electioneering periods.

Dense as the Minister may appear to be, he should pay heed to the words of the head of research and consultancy at Chesterton Suntec International: "If you cannot afford to live in a private property and invest in another in the first place, but want to live in an HDB flat and invest in one, you are probably the most vulnerable to a sudden and sharp downward price correction. It may not be immediately obviously to you, but like a gambling addict, you need protection from yourself."
Then again, Mah's from the same crowd that built, not one, but two casinos, that celebrate the social evil of gambling.


  1. For a young couple, normally it is the woman who want to buy a flat. The man normally prefer to rent and then use the extra money to buy a car.

  2. i think there should be more done to decouple the idea of housing as a basic 'good' with the idea of investing. A house to stay is all that is required. There is no necessity to be superfluous. Investing can come at a later stage in life.

  3. "Stakeholding makes no sense if it can be diluted with foreigners at the Minister's whim and fancy".

    This is exactly the root cause of the current unhappiness with PAP. Our PAP Ministers & MPs are also real hypocrites to begin with. Maybe the following is also equally true :

    "Stakeholding makes no sense if you allow your citizens to gamble away their wealth like there is no tomorrow".

    After approving 2 big gambling dens right at the our doorsteps and feeling extremely delighted with the additional immoral taxes, they now pretend to be so horrified that these gambling bosses are trying to entice our fellow heartland citizens with free bus transport to their gambling dens.

    And I wonder whether being a hypocrite can be considered as another core failing in life ?

  4. Hypocrite is the greatest failing in anyone's life, even though one maybe rich and 'wellknown'.

    The loss of integrity, respectability, reliability and impropriety will never be make-up by whatever high status gained in society.

    The only thing that last for the posterity of a hypocrite will be the stench of his/her name and that stains his forebears and that of his/her successors.

    Hypocrisy is one big core rot of human society.


  5. "Hypocrisy is one big core rot of human society."

    Hypocrisy is also the hallmark of the PAP.