Monday, July 4, 2011

Sleep On The Job No More

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan rapped Business Times for wrong numbers that quoted a land price of $82,222,000 and a maximum GFA of 721,188 square feet for the  the Sim Lian Centrale 8 project at Tampines. According to MND, the "correct" figures were respectively $178,128,000 and 682,385 square feet. The difference of almost $100 million, was eerily close to the discount offered by the developer after an initial outrage of the $880,000 asking price for some units.

BG (NS) Tan Chuan-Jin was first to highlight the boo-boo when he responded online to a netizen's query on the land price paid by Sim Lian. According to him, Sim Lian’s land price paid was $178-$195m and not $82m as claimed by BT. Since Tan was a former army officer, and not former MND staffer or player in the property market, nobody knows where he plucked the figures from. Maybe he got the prices from fellow PAP comrade Ong Ye Kung who missed his GRC ride into parliament because of the unfortunate affiliation with George Yeo's Waterloo at Aljunied. Mrs Ong Ye Kung, nee Diana Kuik, is reported to be an executive director of Sim Lian, and daughter of the owner. Family business in Singapore seems to be all the rage nowadays.

BT explained on Saturday the error arose  because it had inadvertently used the land price of another Sim Lian project - the Premier - to compute the data for Centrale 8. Both developments are located in Tampines. Which begs the interesting question: why should two developments in the same mature estate have a land price difference of nearly two times?

It's easy to challenge the construction costs - the material, the finishing, the landscaping, the facilities, etc - but when we come to the price of land acquired and sold by the government, we are once again at the mercy of the mysterious Chief Valuer. Mah Bow Tan never did let in on how the mechanism works, and it looks like Khaw Boon Wan is also keeping the secrets close to his recently operated on heart.

In his blog, Khaw commented on the stress of his new job, "I have been in MND for five weeks and not sleeping well." Perhaps if he were more open and transparent with the public, and come clean with the HDB costings, the minister might be able to have a better night's rest. Or he could continue to share the guilt-ridden lot of Macbeth,
Methought I heard a voice cry 'Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep,' --the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course.

5 comments:

  1. HDB prices are tied to the voting patterns of two opposing groups : the present flat owners who want to see their property appreciate in value and the younger couples who want to buy flats. Higher prices for present flat owners is contrary to the expectations of youngsters who wish to buy flats at a price within their means. I suspect the ruling party is willing to sacrifice the younger buyers for the present flat owners due to the "overall financial" benefit from the latter group. The voting power of the younger group may not also have the necessary bite.

    The political juggling act to find a balance between these two groups is to some extent determined by the chief valuer's setting of the price of the land, the statistical thicket between the size of these two groups and their input into the national treasury. I doubt if KBW or the ministers are major players in this political juggling act. The maths is probably done elsewhere and the numbers given to HDB has already been done by the ones doing this political juggling act.

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  2. Today's announcement of the suspension of DBSS land sales must come as a shock for those who bought units, as well as for the developers. But one wonders if this is a move to stop further scrutiny of the land deals, just as data is starting to surface about the transactions. After all, if everything is above board and all, why stop a "good thing"? Where there's smoke, there's gotta be fire.

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  3. Congratulations to those who got their DBSS Units, they will fetch very good prices the moment they can be sold. You lucky folks! And for Minister Khaw Boon Wan, he can now sleep soundly but not too sound as to forget to wake up hor!

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  4. As to why the Minister appeared more pissed off with the error than the obscene profit margin the developer is alleged to fleece out of the unsuspecting buyers, probably only the Minister knows the answer.

    But I am rather amused why our PAP Ministers are the first to step forward to defend the developer, as if the developer can't come out to clarify the errors themselves.

    But on the other hand no PAP Minister seems to be particularly concerned about HDB's (or rather our PAP Govt) greed in taking a big cut out of profitting from the land sales for public housing, even before they laid the first brick.

    As to whether our Minister Khaw is really that sincere and concerned about our housing problems, it remains yet to be seen in true honesty.

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  5. well at least khaw is just sleepless in singapore...339 are homeless.
    he should be grateful that his predecessor is doing a damn fine job in providing cheap housing to foreign workers as dormitory but not for our locals who have fallen through cracks and behind the race.

    perhaps if khaw opens his heart more, he could find some spaces in his lot of rental flat units for the homeless too.

    he must have regretted being the one to kee chiu in front of PM lee for this portfolio. Then again, he has demonstrated he is trying to solve the problems in real ways..unlike some prataman who claims he did the best and not for the lack of trying...makes you wonder what exactly tangible things he has tried? sigh, got to buy his damn book to read his report card..

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