Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Art Of Sophistry

In ancient Greece, sophists were a category of teachers who specialized in using the tools of philosophy and rhetoric for the purpose of teaching "arete" — excellence, or virtue — predominantly to any young nobleman seeking public office. In modern usage, sophism, sophist and sophistry are derogatory terms. A latter day sophist would not hesitate to craft a specious argument to appear logical while actually representing a falsehood, or he might use obscure words and complicated sentence constructions in order to intimidate the opponent into agreement out of fear of feeling foolish. It's prettier when done with powerpoint charts.

At first glance, $4.25 of benefits for every $1 of taxes paid by the lower income household group seems awfully generous. We assume the chart was constructed using personal income tax data plus miscellaneous vehicle related taxes. The respective budgeted revenues for FY2012 (i.e. sources of income) are $7.8 billion (from income tax) and $1.6 billion (from motor vehicle related taxes). The mirage here is that the government collects only about $9.4 billion while handling out lots of goodies for the poor and needy. A quick reality check will show that $9.2 billion incoming from GST is expected for FY 2012, income that cannot be neatly categorised as sourced from lower-, middle-, or upper income households, with or without car ownership. Regardless of what they are insisting, we all know GST is regressive. The poor are also unlikely to shop at airport duty free shops with GST rebates, or benefit from the newly introduced GST waiver for buying gold. You bet your bottom dollar these folks will be paying more than $1 for the $4.25 worth of benefits.

You ain't seen nothin' yet. Khaw Boon Wan has come up with a new math for buying a $100,000 flat on a $1,000/month salary. Specifically, he was enlarging on Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugeratnam mind-boggling declaration in parliament: "98 per cent of Singaporeans below the age of 35 earn at least $1,000 and are able to buy HDB flats". Khaw explained that Tharman was referring to a two-room flat, which has a subsidised price of about $100,000. If the applicant is a first-timer, there is a housing grant of up to $60,000, and the net purchase price will be about $40,000. Ergo, the $100,000 flat can be sold for $40,000 and HDB won't go broke. Khaw only tripped when he revealed that the median income of two-room applicants, based on recent BTO (build-to-order) launches, is at about $1,400 - those earning $1,000 knew better than to try. Khaw is a good guy, he may stretch the truth a wee bit, but he won't lie all the way to the grave. Unlike some people.


  1. I am sure there are many more barriers to cross to qualify for the "subsidies" too. And at 98% of <35yrs earns $1k is a testament of the success of our economy..makes my eyes sore so much. Really, I wonder how many of those come from coastal area of china/india.

    1. sorry, is notice is "earn more than $1k"..still I wonder what % of HDB dwellers make below/= $1k

  2. At $1000/month, with a CPF contribution of $180, a total of $820 is left. A family of 2 children, minus the household bills of about $100, transportation fees of about $150, school fees of about $100, all will be left is $470. $470 divided by 30 days(on average a month) = $15.66. can a family of 4 survive on that??

    1. Erm... they not claiming that people who earn $1k have it well and good right?

      Pount is whether people who earn $1k can afford a flat, how it affect their finances etc. I decide to search HDB's website, and well, turns out that they can with the subsidies. Those interested can check it out at:

      Got example some more, seems like this special housing grant thing has been there for some time. In the example, the CPF contributions enough to pay for loan, no need use cash.

      But not sure how many ppl know..

  3. ShowMeTheFlat3/03/2012 1:36 PM

    Read the sophistry carefully pple

    Additional CPF (AHG) of up to $40,000
    Special CPF (SHG) of up to $20,000.

    The "up to" qualifier simply means that those who are eligible for the above grants do not automatically get the full $60k. The use of such qualifier is common among our telcos when marketing their broadband services. Those who sign up for the 100Mps broadband plan may not get that speed because the qualifer stated "up to 100Mps".
    Therefore,what condition will one get the full grant amount remains secret as it's decided on a "case-by-case" basis by HDB that won't come clean.

    If DPM/Khaw truly want to convince the $1k segement = 98% of us, then they should provide full disclosure # of eligible applicants that had been given $60k housing grant to buy their 2-room flat so far.

    Otherwise, #whattharmanmeanttosay is if you make $1k a month, you can buy a flat...packedtenthouse from IKEA DIY.

  4. Here's what you need to qualify for $400/month for a single elderly living alone from the Public Assistance (PA) Scheme:

    - Unable to work due to old age, illness or unfavourable family circumstances
    - Have no means of subsistence and little or no family support

    $400 can pay for rent, utilities, medication and meals (at hawker center, food court or restaurant)?

  5. Never mind how that family will get by, believe there will be no children and by the time the loan/mortage is fully paid, our lucky man can down grade to a Studio apartment . Just how much is left in his CPF. Am too daft to calculate. Agreed that Khaw is one better minister. Still .....?

  6. The best sophistry heard - this is subsidy for commuters not operators. Last I checked, is not in my pocket.

  7. This is dishonesty, not sophistry, if GST is not included in the calculation.

  8. Every time the Party Against People tell you that you are being subsidized .... you better check your bank account.

    I live in a "subsidized" flat
    I take "subsidized" public transport
    I go to a "subsidized" polyclinic and hospital

    A guy could go broke enjoying all these government subsidies.


    1. You also get a 'subsidized' MP. They claim to make 1/3 sacrifice off their deserved high pay.

  9. I am single,run my own business for more than 15 years,money earned goes back to the business and to the landlords ....
    of course I work for free for 15 years
    I cannot afford buy a HDB flat ... either I 'm over or under qualifed depending which day i talking to HDB .

    I died of shock each time i check on a resale flat price, its gone stratospheric , yes out of the world .

    Mr Khaw Boon Wan must consider :
    to allow singles above 40 to buy ....Aaa.... new Housing Board flat or an executive condominium instead of being thrown in the resale bin and be forgotten. Perhaps he feels singles are not Singapore citizen, we live in thin
    air .

  10. Survey of what Singaporeans want just out. Honesty is the top. Unfortunately, can we get from our leaders.

    1. Must have been a very disturbing read for our Dear Leaders. This Honesty value that we seem to hold so dear to our heart, is apparently not in the PAP's ethos. At least, not percieved by us lesser mortals.

  11. $40K for 2-rm flat is actually below cost price. The cost price to build 2-rm BTO is about $70K. But true, HDB won't go broke or even lose money because:

    1. The prices of 3-rm, 4-rm, 5-rm and Exec BTOs will more than cover the losses of 2-rm.

    2. The number of 2-rm BTO is actually quite small anyway.

    3. Not everybody who qualify to buy 2-rm BTO can qualify for the maximum $60K additional subsidies. Most qualify for lesser than $60K.

    1. If you include the interest paid over a 25-year period, it won't be $40k anymore. More like $120k.

    2. Now, assuming that "real cost" was S$70K for a 2-room, then the Original SUBSIDIED selling price of S$100K is a Rip-off, right ?
      There are those who somehow have to buy them at S$100k. You tell them that it actually cost S$70K and that there is already a SUBSIDY from the beloved Govt.


  12. So the really big question is;

    a) How many people earning $1,000/month in Singapore?

    b) How many qualify to buy under HDB rules?

    c) How many can actually afford?

    d) How long is the wait?
    If during waiting period, your income go up by 20% to an eye-popping $1,200, then how?

  13. //Khaw only tripped when he revealed that the median income of two-room applicants, based on recent BTO (build-to-order) launches, is at about $1,400 - those earning $1,000 knew better than to try.//

    In other words - those with beer taste but live on diet coke budget should stick to drinking newater.

    1. Can someone explain wat's wrong with Khaw's statement? Median income of applicants is $1,400 doesn't mean that those with $1k never buy right? Ppl earning $1,400 or more also got right to buy 2-rm flat wat.

    2. Then why people earning $20k a month got no right to buy a 2 room HDB flat?

      Cannot build fast enough is it?

    3. >> "Then why people earning $20k a month got no right to buy a 2 room HDB flat?"

      I don't see your logic here. An individual earning $20k falls easily within the top 10% or higher of earners. Why should the Govt. be building 2-room flats for such people when they can easily afford resale flats or private properties?

  14. Profits from land sales and HDB sales are revenues and not taxes?

  15. I would really like to see HDB or MSM tv interview these $1k people as proof of its affordability.

    I would like to see for myself that they are happy family who is genuinely not on a hand-to-mouth existence.

    In short, I want to see the "success story" and "happy customers"

    If the fact that only 2% are in this group makes our MIW millionaire ministers sleep very soundly and comfortably at night..they must be guilt/conscience free to show us the shining results.

  16. For a better housing future.
    For a more transparent costing of HDB flats.

    Vote Opposition in GE 2016.
    For your children's sake.

    Ask your friends and family to join in too.

  17. Has anyone wondered why there are so many storewide discounts & warehouse sales in Singapore ?

    We all know for a fact that when something is advertised with a normal price of say S$100, you can bet your life that it probably costs them less than half and they will still make a tidy profit when they sell you for S$80 with a 20% storewide discount.

    Now our Ministers tell us a 2 room flat is subsidised at S$100K but they never dared to show us the real figures to back it up.

    Why is it then that they are so afraid to prove they are telling us the truth by just showing us the connection between the price they pay the contractor and the price they are subsequently sold to show us the real subsidy ?

    We already know that the ballpark figure for a average 4-rm flat costs around S$100K to build if they do not have too many expensive features, so how can a 2-rm flat be subsidised @ S$100K?

    There is no point in keep bullshiting us unless we see the real figures as only seeing is believing.

    1. Well, someone posted a comment that the 2 room real cost is about S$70K.
      If we just accept it as gospel truth, you are right to question that S$100K asking price as SUBSIDISED .

      Day-light robberies in our very "Crime-free" Singapore, if you ask me !

      I need to give Khaw some credit. Unlike his predecessor, he did try, but I assumed that he is making a lot of enemies....
      In his case, his enemies is most probably my enemies too !

  18. Now I truly understand why so many Singaporeans can't afford to retire. Even for someone earning as little as $1,000 a month people like BG Tan is asking them to put aside all their CPF money to service a loan for 20 years or more. What are they supposed to live and feed on when they reach 55?

  19. One + One = Two. Nobody can argue with that.
    In fact, somebody can probably come up with why $10,000 is enough for our Politicians to feed his family & send his kids to overseas school and still live very dignified life well into retirement as well.

  20. Shame, 1st agenda in parliament was to settle their million dollars pay then the rest !

    Such sacrificial lot !!

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