09 August 2007

A national cause on National Day

Update on 29 Aug 2007:

Oooo-la-lah ...

Copy-and-paste the following link to MinLaw's announcement on 27 Aug 2007 relating to the upcoming legislative amendment of the Land Titles (Strata) (Amendment) Bill:

http://notesapp.internet.gov.sg/__48256DF20015A167.nsf/LookupContentDocsByKey/GOVI-76GF93?OpenDocument

To read the "FULL LIST OF AMENDMENTS": After you access the above First Link, do scroll all the way down to para 17 and click on the Second Link there! Nah, this Second Link won't bring you to Johore ... it may just send you into another transcendental air-space (tell me when you get there, eh?).

As you read intently, I reckon some of the changes will be met with your approving nods and zesty yelps of "yes". Some may cause you to do a double-take. But, but, but ... just as you may have heard of this oxymoron of "deafening silence", I'd venture that "when you look, you will not see" ... because what's NOT in this list of amendments is also pretty glaring!

IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A CHANCE OF STRIKING A $2,000,000 LOTTERY, YOU FIRST MUST FORK-OUT $2 FOR THE LOTTERY TICKET!

When you are selling an estate running into 10- or 11-figures in the hope of reaping a 150% collective sale premium (even though it's a 200% discount from replacement cost), the would-be-Consenters must surely dole out a 4-figure expense each UPFRONT to pay for a proper (1) Valuation Report, (2) Development Baseline Search and (3) Outline Planning Permit to establish a fair value Reserve Price and Apportionment Method??? The Valuation Report could be updated for a nominal fee upon close of public tender and all these costs could be clawed-back from the marketing agent's commission upon successful legal completion of the en bloc sale - in other words, if successful, EVERYBODY will be sharing this cost through the CLAWBACK and NOBODY IS MADE A SUCKER (although the Dissenters will probably feel scarred for life and definitively suckered after being booted out from their homes)!

Otherwise, on what basis did you pluck the figures and percentages from the air in setting the Reserve Price and Apportionment Method? You are selling OTHER PEOPLE'S HOMES - so you must surely bear A HIGHER DUTY OF CARE, yes??? If you are just dealing with your own home, you could give it away free for all I care!

Well, "they" always know better, I suppose, eh? As for moi, I'm not only incidental but similarly transcendental in "their" scheme of things.

I ask with all angst a la foreign talent Jackie Chan who was en-bloc'ced out of his Grangeford apartment recently:
"WHO AM I"?

In the enbloc aftermath, maybe our home-grown talent, Jack Neo, can do a story on Squatters, Refugees, Downgraders and Downsizers of:
"WHERE AM I"?


In between agonising moments ... I found another PRECIOUS GEM in Dr Minority's blog with a very helpful link to the Singapore Law Blog where Lawyer Mr Ong Ying Ping from Ong Tay & Partners shared the presentation slides on the legal pitfalls at an en bloc seminar. For your access convenience, I have added a link to the Singapore Law Blog - do scroll down, past the "Wailing House" and "topic headings" on this page until you see this blog name and click on it.
_______________________________________________________

THE EN BLOC PLEDGE ©

We, the en bloc consenters of Singapore,

pledge ourselves as one united people,

regardless of transparency, accountability or propriety,

to build a coercive society,

based on cashflow and greed,

so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and

progress for ourselves only.


Today Singapore celebrates her 42nd year of nationhood. In a sense, we are a First-Generation-Nation.

It is a credit to our leaders AND our people that we have come thus far and remarkably so ... from a fishing village with no natural resources other than a deep sea harbour and a strategic geographical position along the maritime trade route, evolving into an entrepot trading post in the colonial days, through the atrocities of the Japanese occupation, barely escaping the clutches of communism and Konfrantasi, being thrusted in and out of the Federation, confronting the daunting economic prospects after the British troop withdrawal ... to what we are today and holding out the promise of what's to come tomorrow. And we ain't seen nothing yet ... if we (ie, U-n-I: we, us, Tom, Dick, Harry, Ah Beng, Xiao Lan, Ahmad, Lashimi, Ignatius, Suryianto) continue to get it right with the blessings of the gods and the super-powers!!!

Let's get down to the brass tacks of A-B-Cs ...
A: Sales Committee, Lawyers, Property agents, Developers
B: Gahmen ... munching on incomplete crunched numbers
C: The "system" ... and PM's 2007 National Day speech


PART A: Who's doing what to whom how many times over?

1. What underpins this Remarkable Remaking of Singapore? Many factors ... foremost of which is Respect for the Law, I reckon. For those of us who may have forgotten our National Pledge, let me remind you that the 5th line of our pledge says "based on justice and equality"!

2. What will continue to underpin this Continuing Reinvention of this Little Red Dot? I ask this question because I believe that en bloc sales - in its inimical way - encapsulate a microcosm of our societal values. It doesn't matter whether you own a HDB public flat, or an in-between HUDC/Executive Condo or a private apartment in a condominium or a semi-detached house in a Good Class Bungalow district or a terrace house in the suburbs. Singapore is so, so small and our economy is so inextricably integrated that the ripple effects (NOT just on accommodation cost but a whole host of other comparative and competitive issues) are felt sooner rather than later.

3. A "microcosm of our society", I say. Why? At an emotive level, it affects our "homes". At a primal instinctive level, it affects the "roof over our head". At an economic level, it affects our Central Provident Fund nest-egg savings and - for most of us - the most chunky asset in our entire investment portfolio.

4. So what does it say to you about this "microcosm of our society" when the current en bloc frenzy catapults at a pace more frenetically now than ever before in anticipation of the upcoming legislative review which is largely expected to redress the officially-acknowledged current gaps in the law???

What does it say to you when developers, property marketing agents, lawyers, en bloc flippers, property speculators who even do option-trading these days, Sales Committee members, owners with cashflow needs (some more pressing than others) ALL ACT IN CONCERT to die-die must hit the 80% (90%) majority consent now, now now?

Why? Because they are intensely intent on beating the upcoming review of the laws governing en bloc sales. How else could one account for SUDDEN and STEEP price spikes dangled by marketing agents and/or Developer-Buyers in various prime estates which have NOT yet hit the requisite majority consent in the last couple of months???

5. How? The loose way as allowed under the present law - by quickly forming a self-appointed unregulated SALES COMMITTEE. The slightly improved way as suggested under the proposed law - by requisitioning an EOGM and appointing a Sales Committee - with all the requisite form but totally lacking in substance nonetheless!

It takes a professed 5-year period for the Gahmen to observe and decide whether a person (whom they have known for some time, mind you) is indeed of ministerial calibre and fit to govern. So how can it take less than 10 minutes for you to decide and appoint to the Sales Committee an owner whom you have never seen in your life (because he has just bought a unit in your estate or he has been an Investor-Owner all these years and therefore never seen in the estate) or with whom you have a relationship ranging from the "I-know-of-you-glazed look" type or the "you-nod-I-nod-back" kind to the "hi-bye" category whenever you bump into her in the car park (even though all of you have been living in the same estate for the past 30 years)?

What are the credentials of these people? Do they have the knowledge, skills and aptitude to assess the capability of the marketing agent and the lawyer or these experts' advice or recommendations about the methodology to derive fair value for the Reserve Price, the apportionment method, range of possibilities for the terms and conditions of sale, etc? Does the Sales Committee know what to expect of these experts in terms of reports, performance standards, etc? What is the basis of the Sales Committee's appointment of the selected property marketing agent and lawyer if they didn't even attempt to get tenders and presentations from competing marketing agents, valuers, quantity surveyors and law firms?

Even before buying a LCD TV, you'd check and shop around, don't you? Not just on the brands but also the sizes, the features, the prices, the product reviews, the after-sales service ... all these for a $3,000 consummable! The process of evaluation, expectations and performance measurement is no less rigorous before you employ a manager for your company or a maid for your home. Your CEO or your spouse would expect you to exercise all that "DUE DILIGENCE" and "PROPER MANAGEMENT" for employing a manager or a maid, respectively, right???

So why should we Owners be ANY LESS RIGOROUS in our expectations of the Sales Committee? Are members of the Sales Committee of impeccable character? They are making decisions that impact other people's lives and assets involving millions and near billions of dollars!!! "Who" are they? I mean really "who" and not what are their names???

6. To add salt to the wound - The LAWYERS who are paid by you to represent your interests deem it fit to provide in the collective sales agreement (CSA) to empower the Sales Committee to (i) decide on the Reserve Price, (ii) provide for a BLANK CHEQUE to themselves (ie, this motley group of Sale Committee members) to award the sale to the Developer-Buyer without the need to consult the consenters regardless of the ever-changing market conditions and the time lag between the fixing of Reserve Price and the sale, (iii) select an apportionment method that would benefit the majority at the expense of the minority despite being aware that the dice is pre-loaded by ownership profile and unit-size composition, (iv) allow the law firm to quietly keep the interest accruing from the deposit placed by the Developer-Buyer (usually about 10% of the base amount that ranges from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars) for periods of up to 9-18 months which are held in trust for you or (v) give away the sinking fund that belongs to you (without so much as a caution that in the event that it is silent in the CSA, the sinking fund goes to the Developer-Buyer on the fallacious basis that the rights to the sinking fund accrues to the new buyer of an individual unit in the ordinary course because the new individual owner will continue to contribute to the ongoing maintenance and any future upgrading of the estate - all of which are inapplicable to a Developer-Buyer in an en bloc sale of course but conveniently slicked-over), etc.

Then the lawyers brazenly spice up their CSA with all kinds of deeming and ratification clauses to exonerate any errors, omissions, irregularities and even extend penalties, claims and obligations to parties who are NOT signatories to the CSA. Whilst such clauses are NOT likely to be enforceable against the NON-signatories, it is enough to intimidate the ordinary man-in-the-street into compliant silence and shift the burden of proof to him! And these are "professionals" who are the leading lights in our society, fulfilling their legal duty as a shining example to others?

Despite the fact that it is a "collective sale" and despite the statutory provisions of the law (some of which are very precise even today), the lawyers will draft one-on-one "private treaties" to contract-out of statute, ranging from the fully-opaque (replete with gag orders) to the half-opaque (you know some but not all).

Is transparency the ONLY issue? Even with full transparency, is it nonetheless THE TAIL WAGGING THE DOG??? Why even have the legal provision of a specially defined "financial loss" in the statute if the apportionment could be re-jigged by the Sales Committee with or without specific reaffirmation by the consenting majority and applied across-the-board to EVEN THE DISSENTING MINORITY, for goodness sake???

Do the lawyers even know if they (and/or their counterparts in another law firm) are doing the sale-and-purchase transactions of individual units in an en bloc estate where there is some tenuous shady connection between the new buyer and the marketing agent/Developer-Buyer in order to tip the en bloc trigger, innocently enough perhaps? Do they even want to know?

Can you BLAME THE LAWYERS when they do NOT get paid unless the collective sale goes through?

7. To go for the deadly kill quickly - The PROPERTY MARKETING AGENT gives you data which is applicable only for that week or month. Sometimes, they update the Sales Committee (but invariably never the Owners) of the constantly changing market. They ask you (a layperson) to name a price and then work backwards to compute the Reserve Price. If that's the acceptable way to determine the Reserve Price, hey, you and I could be property marketing agents OVERNIGHT, eh? They don't even bother to do a proper valuation at the outset and it makes you wonder (if you have a mind) on what basis do they establish the fair value as a starting point. The marketing agent knows how the Developers-Buyers derive their offers but they typically don't show you the workings of the Present Value of Residual Land Value. Nor do they do sensitivity analysis to show you comparisons of the collective sale price you will be getting relative to the purchase price of the replacement unit on your present land in the event that the market goes up/down by a projected percentage range - lest you realize only too painfully that you are being sold down the river.

We've heard of family-run businesses that keep TWO SETS OF BOOKS - one for themselves and one for the tax man, right? You know what??? Marketing agents routinely do this too? Did you know that for the SAME condo estate, marketing agents SIMULTANEOUSLY give ONE SET of figures under an En Bloc Sale Proposal to the Sales Committee/Owners and ANOTHER SET of figures under an Investment Proposal to Potential Developer-Buyers???

Marketing agents prepare these Investment Proposals as part of their STANDARD marketing pitch ... that's where all the juicy bits come in about development baseline, bonus GFA, free GFA, architectural design ingenuity to maximise these, Outline Planning Permit, projected launch prices, tinkering with Land Holding Costs, Construction Costs ... to convince Developer-Buyers how obscene the profit potential could get in the best-case/worst-case scenarios!!! Developer-Buyers also re-slice these figures to cross-check the marketing agent's Investment Proposal numbers before they clamour on board.

Let's GET REAL here, man! If you are the marketing agent, who would you suck up to? How many en bloc sales and property sale/purchase deals does a marketing agent get from an owner DURING THE OWNER'S LIFETIME? How many en bloc purchases and new property launches does a marketing agent get from a developer IN A GOOD YEAR? Of course, these Investment Proposals are hidden from the Sales Committee/Owners even though the Owners are paying commission to the marketing agent as they are being led to slaughter! In the bloody en bloc aftermath, we Owners even console ourselves that it was "market movement" or "other people's good luck" or "our own bad luck" that the new unit is now being soft-launched at three times the collective sales price that we finally collected three-six months ago! What pathetic Ostriches we are!!! [In this blog, we have Chickens, Monkeys, Snakes, Crocodiles, Joker and now Ostriches!]

Singapore is in the throes of A REMAKING! Therefore, so too are our residential enclaves. When you sell Farrer Court, Gillman Heights, Furama Towers. Gilstead Court, Minton Rise, Bayshore View, Dairy Farm Estate, you may not realise it but you are in fact selling the "upcoming wannabes" of Sentosa Cove or Marq-on-the-Hill ... because that is what will be plonked on your old land! Holland V will be anything but a village. Leonie Hill will be anything but a nonentity! For some of these redevelopments, when you visit your old estate 2-3 years from now, your jaws will drop at the EXTREME MAKEOVER! You are selling FUTURE VALUE at PRESENT PRICE based on PAST ASSUMPTIONS! What a way to go, eh?

The marketing agent won't engage a quantity surveyor to establish the fair and equitable basis for apportionment and instead opt for the line of least resistance. They don't do a forecast of the likely cost of equivalent replacement units in 9-18 months' time although they are keenly aware that you won't be collecting the money until then to commit to a replacement unit.

These marketing agents could do things in reverse and get an Expression of Interest even without the requisite consensus in the hope that the expressed "interest" by the market suitors will seduce you - hook, line and sinker. They could do step 4 before step 1 because they would suss-out potential buyers or barge into your estate without being approached by any of the legal Owners (they may well have been approached by soon-to-be Owners who have the same rights as a passerby off the street!) to do a presentation or they submit their detailed proposals via mail drops or do cold calls by knocking door-to-door. They operate on the basis of getting the requisite majority (as opposed to achieving as high a consenting percentage as possible even though the dissenting owners are also saddled with paying their commission - this is truly Uniquely Singapore: To pay for what you do NOT want to buy)!

The marketing agents compete with each other to secure the exclusive marketing rights by offering their services "free" to the Owners - but there's no free lunch in this world of course, and they merely collect their commission from the Developer-Buyer who naturally discounts it from the purchase price. Or they offer half-price because they will be collecting the other half from the Developer-Buyer. In the midst of all this, you wonder where the marketing agent's loyalties lie or to whom do they owe their fiduciary duty? Perhaps the Sales Committee thought they were so, so clever when they got it free or at half price from the marketing agent and it didn't occur to them that they may be setting up themselves and all other owners to be shot in the foot eventually. See, that's what I mean by "Sales Committee incompetence" - Yeh, right ... Ignorance is Bliss! There is COLD COMFORT IN COMMON MISERY if the tune is to the millions of dollars in commission or less-than-highest-available sales price!

The marketing agent typically recommends a Reserve Price that they think would be palatable to induce the requisite majority but then treat that as the maximum price (instead of the minimum price as it was intended to be because the latter basis would entail a lot more work from them, having to go back to earlier offerors to outbid the latest highest offer, possibly raising the ire of the Developer-Buyers if competitive counter-offers keep bobbing-up).

Can you BLAME THE PROPERTY MARKETING AGENTS when they - like the lawyers - do NOT get paid unless the collective sale goes through? In fact, they incur much higher out-of-pocket costs than the lawyers if the property agents placed advertisements in the press for tenders or expressions of interest.

In the inherent nature of an agency, a broker invariably contends with the need to buy at the lowest price that the Developer-Buyer wants versus the need to sell at the highest price that the Selling Owners want. Nothing wrong with this ... it has been like that since civilisation started mercantile trade! This is perfectly ok in an individual sale because the seller decides at will and the transaction is almost immediate with a very short option period. But it is VASTLY DIFFERENT when it involves a collective sale where the majority is effectively forcing the minority to sell against their will AND the process can take anything from 6 to 24 months from the time you agree to the idea of a collective sale to the time you are bound to the sale (not taking into account the time when you will actually collect the sales proceeds).

8. To sew it up all are the DEVELOPER-BUYERS of course. It's all about business and supply/demand - as it should be. Nobody will deny that of them. So what's easy to market? What would give the most upside profit potential? Prime or popular residential enclaves make good predatory targets!!! Yes, the "chase" is much shorter for Government Land Sales but the supply in choice locations is much more limited. Whatever premium Developer-Buyers pay for an en bloc, they are expecting to sell at much more than the purchase price - of course, it may go awry but that's an inherent business risk in their line. The point - lest we forget - is that developers buy our PRESENT homes in order to unlock the FUTURE value of our land for themselves! Shouldn't they invoke some social conscience and bear some corporate responsibility of at least GRACIOUSLY according a 1-4-1 exchange "option" to Owner-Occupiers with only one residential property who would not be able to afford a replacement unit in that SAME vicinity with the collective sales proceeds? Would a 1-4-1 exchange option deprive Developer-Buyers of 50% profit potential when home owners are unlocking 100% land value for them? So, ONE-WAY TRAFFIC is ok, huh? All the hype these realty companies lend to sustainable construction, corporate citizenship and the blah and yet they don't bat their corporate eye-lid in demolishing a 4-year old apartment block (that's the latest record to date) from an en bloc!

9. As for the riff-raff scum of our society - the EN BLOC FLIPPERS, PROPERTY SPECULATORS and PROPERTY OPTION TRADERS - they are NOT even worth the dignity of any comments! So there! The Pariah can also get "pariac" (I think I may have just cooked up a new word!). There is Heaven and Earth ... and Hell! All in good time of course!


PART B: The powers that be ... munching on incomplete crunched numbers

1. So, as we turn 42 years old as a nation amidst all that razzmatazz, (i) having acknowledged that the present law has some gaps which have been exploited and is continuing to be even more blatantly exploited to beat the new law, (ii) knowing that the market is in a constant state of flux, and (iii) upholding the principle that the law must be sacrosanct and not to be made a mockery of, is our Ministry of Law so HELPLESS?

2. We all recognize that legislative review must necessarily go through due process in order to be robust, comprehensive, relevant and effective. All this takes time - as it should be.

3. Just as The Monetary Authority of Singapore had to take time to ensure that the Financial Advisers Act is properly crafted as a new law, it didn't mean that the MAS would wait-and-see what the purveyors of various financial products were doing in the market in the meantime! The MAS would issue Practice Notes to effectively bind the banks into "managing these purveyors". Likewise, when certain trends or questionable practices rear their ugly heads in the market, the MAS would step in nimbly to "control" risks and preempt possible unfavourable consequences.

4. So back to the issue of HELPLESSNESS QUOTIENT. Nah, I don't believe for a minute that MinLaw is helpless to help us (the hapless minority) by issuing circulars and policy guidelines and working with The Strata Titles Boards, The Singapore Institute of Surveyors and Valuers (SISV), the Association of Singapore Real Estate Agents (ASREA), the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (REDAS) and the Law Society to direct current practices to some semblance of what is to come. Are we "lesser equals" if I may coin an oxymoron?

5. Maybe MinLaw doesn't see it as an issue for now for various reasons ... maybe the statistics don't show it (as yet)! As we all know, the law is only worth the piece of paper it is printed on if it is not effectively enforced. Likewise, statistics are only as good as the underlying assumptions.

5.1 I read in recent press reports that URA said sub-sales are only 9.7% of total sales currently (compared with 28% in 1996 which was the last property speculative bout). DRUM ROLL PLEASE ... note URA's 1996 benchmark reference! But also note the changes post-1996! Surely, URA is NOT transfixed in a time-warp, is it now???

5.2 Even the CPF statistic in 2006 that "only 3% of members using CPF to finance properties have two or more properties" is misleading because this is sliced based on the parameters that CPF funds were used by the same CPF member for both/ multiple properties. So if Mr and Mrs A bought Property A using CPF funds, and Mrs A uses cash to partner with daughter Ms A who then uses CPF to buy Property B, this is NOT caught by CPF's statistic. Voila!

5.3 Since July 2005, CPF allows non-related singles to use CPF to buy residential properties so long as it is their "only residential property". Only imagination limits our "swinging bachelors and bacherlorettes" on how to play this game! Even those off-the-shelf and tied-up by marital knots can get into the game if you know how.

5.4 Deferred Payment Scheme (DPS), I believe, was not available in the last speculative boom of 1996. DPS came into being in late 2001 for original purchasers and extended in early 2002 to sub-sale purchasers at developer's discretion. The true extent of the speculative element for projects with DPS option manifests itself more evidently ONLY nearing issuance of Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP, ie, when the building is ready for residents to move-in). As (a) property construction suffered the doldrums during the Asian financial crisis followed by the subsequent regional economic crisis and (b) ongoing construction activities are all at fairly early stages of completion, is the full play of speculation evident from CURRENT sub-sale statistics? For a bullish speculator, is it that stretching to book two or three units at a soft launch of residential projects with DPS option???

5.5 URA is playing with the old speculation parameters and that's why they are tracking sub-sale numbers. In typical Darwinian evolution, the party animal may have already morphed ... instead of looking at SUB-SALE NUMBERS (sub-sale refers to resale of units that are still under construction - ie, pre-TOP), URA should perhaps ALSO zoom-in on RESALE NUMBERS (resale refers to resale of units that are already fully completed - ie, post-TOP) because of the even more pronounced en bloc frenzy in 2006/07 (compared to the 1999/2000 round).

5.6 URA has come out to say publicly that URA is not tracking multiple unit purchases. Tsk, tsk ... so does URA really have their finger on the pulse if they are pressing only on one vein when URA knows that there is more than one vein out there? Here it could get tricky, depending on how robust is the database structure of the Singapore Land Authority for sub-sales AND resales in tracking, firstly, the various permutations of purchasers and, secondly, the purchasers vis-a-vis the CPF contributors as the two may not be identical. That's why statistics sometimes lie! Such multiple unit purchases - whether under Deferred Payment Scheme or "en bloc potential" type or "vote-buying to tip majority balance" or "property option trading" - are coincidentally facilitated in this millennium by the so-called HAPPY CONFLUENCE of new factors (CPF available for non-related singles, DPS, lag time to TOP post-crises, unprecedented record-breaking hikes in enbloc offers) - ALL of which were NON-EXISTENT or ABSENT in 1996!!!

PART C: The "system" ... PM Lee's 2007 National Day speech

Ahh ... "Justice" - or so we pledge as a nation! Is justice Black-OR-White? Or is it Black-AND-White? As an aside ... little wonder that our lawyers are always garbed in Black-and-White. Maybe the dress code for minority dissenters should be varying shades of Essential Grey when you head down to the Strata Titles Boards! Just to make a point, you know what I mean, eh?

1. Can we have real justice in a loose legislative framework of a self-appointed unregulated Sales Committee aided by a property marketing agent and a lawyer (both of whom will NOT get paid unless the en bloc deal goes through) and further underpinned by Developer-Buyers' voracious hunger for prime/popular locations that can only be wrested from existing home owners through en bloc sales? Geez, can any one ask for more???

In such environment, there is precious little transparency and information is kept very close to the chest and the requirement for a "committee" structure necessarily descends to a "Committee of One" if anything is to get going! And yet the onus of proof is now laid squarely on the shoulders of the minority dissenters - how to prove "kelong", you tell me. ["Kelong" is a Malay word for an ethnic fishing contraption in this part of the world - it is most apt in this context because (i) en bloc business can be downright fishy and (ii) Singapore traces her origins to a mere fishing village; this word is also the Singaporean patois for "rigging" a match.]

2. Justice is not free and it doesn't come cheap either! If the property marketing agent who gets paid a whopping commission that could run into hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars is NOT required to procure a valuation report at the outset but after the fact when everything is almost fait accompli, then why does the Strata Titles Boards require the minority dissenters to produce a valuation report (which also doesn't come cheap) as a basis to even mount a challenge? More so if your minority is a group with a grand total of 4 or even a lone maverick!

Is it now a numbers game too? The number may be small but that doesn't detract from the validity of the minority's concerns. If you don't OR can't ask the question, you won't ever get an answer! Then what? Lump it? In my previous blog, I said "Justice Delayed is Justice Denied"! Now, I add to say "Justice Hurried is Justice Buried"!

3. Who sues ... who to sue? To be or not to be, eh? Where the Developer-Buyer has very deep pockets, it's fair game. Where the consenting majority has overwhelming numbers as opposed to the paltry number of dissentlng minority, it's also fair game. Let's scare the chickens to frighten away the monkeys. Let's see who blinks first? Remember, this is THE JUNGLE!

Could the Developer-Buyer sue the consenting majority? What about the consenting majority counter-suing the Sales Committee members? Even within the Sales Committee itself, could the vote-dissenters sue the vote-consenters for a deciding resolution that went awry? Could the Sales Committee members counter-claim against the lawyers and the property marketing agent for failing to do their job properly and comply with the technical requirements of a collective sale?

Could the dissenting minority sue the consenting majority for appointing or agreeing to the appointment of an incompetent and/or negligent Sales Committee, and also sue the the Sales Committee for not tendering for the services of an effective property marketing agent and lawyer, for not substantiating upfront an objective basis for setting the Reserve Price or the apportionment method, for willy-nilly saying "how high" when the property marketing agent "recommended" that they "jump" instead of asking why, how and what? Is this GOOD FAITH as required under the law? It smacks more of BLIND FAITH!

This is NOT about being unduly fractious or litigious! When the Sales Committee takes on certain RIGHTS, it also takes on corresponding OBLIGATIONS. This is about EQUITY. As a parent, you have certain rights over your child but also certain obligations towards the same child. As a vendor of goods/services, it goes the same way vis-a-vis the customer - basically, you can't have your cake and eat it too, eh?

Could a government body be challenged for not procuring an independent objective basis before endorsing/imposing the majority's will on the minority or for failing to probe if there is any possibility of "kelong" (Singaporean patois for "rigging", usually of a match) or for not getting statutory declarations from the relevant parties to preempt the statutory provision from being circumvented?

You must have heard of this term "money politics". That's politics - and even then, it's not kosher - at least, not so rampantly in Singapore for now! Surely, we CANNOT, and MUST NOT, have "money justice"?

My dear blog readers, now do you see why I said at the beginning why en bloc sales are a "microcosm of our societal values"?

"This is my country. That was my home." - so goes the title of my poem on this blog. Somehow, the concluding words of "happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation" in our National Pledge ring more hollow this year than in previous years!

PM Lee said in his 2007 National Day speech: “I know many older Singaporeans worry about whether they can make ends meet. We are making changes to help you to work longer, earn more and build your retirement savings. We will enhance the value of your HDB homes, which are a nest-egg for old age. We will improve the CPF scheme, so you can enjoy a steady income and peace of mind in your golden years”. PM Lee also said that the Gahmen “cannot solve all the problems alone” and that "everyone must play a part ... we each must take responsibility for ourselves, make the effort to do well, and provide for our families and our old age ...”.

Yes, PM Lee is spot-on in putting his finger on the worries of "older Singaporeans" but these similar worries hold true even for the "not-so-old but not-that-young" Singaporeans too when both of these groups continually assess their retirement savings. Whilst PM Lee's message is more specifically targetted at the bottom 10-20% income-earners, these nagging worries apply equally to the middle and upper-middle class who form the 70% bulk.

In addition to PM Lee's assurance of the Gahmen's efforts to "ENHANCE" the value of HDB homes (public flats), will the Gahmen likewise allow the owners of HUDC/executive condos/ private apartments to "RETAIN" the value of their homes instead of continuing to let the market blatantly exploit this legislative-review lag time so as to unlock the value of our homes for the corporate Developer-Buyers??? All the more so when this unconscionable exploitation is facilitated by the laws passed by this same Gahmen in 1999!!!

The so-called "WINDFALL en bloc profit" will NOT enable us to get a new REPLACEMENT unit around the SAME VICINITY because the collective sales proceeds are typically 70-100% BELOW the replacement cost!
[To get a replacement unit of equivalent age in the same vicinity is NOT VIABLE because either (a) all old units in the entire district are also under imminent en bloc threat or (b) there simply aren't any old units of equivalent age left standing any more!]

Already, so many of us have lost or will be losing our homes ... and are now or will soon become Squatters, Refugees, Downgraders and Downsizers. How many more CASUALTIES of Squatters, Refugees, Downgraders and Downsizers must we Singaporeans suffer before this Gahmen will act (especially since the Gahmen prides itself for being on-the-ball at all times)???

The Pariah is one sad Singaporean in 2007!

4 comments:

rebelrouser said...

Thanks for a wonderful satirical piece on the state of my homeland.

I am a Singaporean who left the country via marriage to my colonial master and now resides in London but still own an intended retirement flat in Singapore.
It stuns me think that this flat of mine is just 23 years old and deemed unfit to outlast its freehold tenure while I live in a Victorian home built circa 1845 full of its beautiful historical artifacts that we so tenderly preserve!!
Unfortunately,my flat is now a target for en-bloc sale and I have yet to live in my dream retirement home for a single day!This last vestige of my memory will disappear like all of the other landmarks in my life there.

Each year when I return home I find I no longer recognise it. All the relevant landmarks that mark my own upbringing are gone. All my schools, university, the neighbourhood where I grew up , have all disappeared. I feel like Rip Van Winkle in a time warp. I have nothing to show my kids about my past, other than the friends and ex-colleagues and relatives I have and they are the only reason I return each year to renew those ties!
Yet here in London I play host and surrogate parent to all fellow Singaporean expats, students and visitors. Feeding them their comfort food of Chicken rice and laksa when the mood catches me.

Perhaps Singaporean identity could be simulated everywhere we go and let's just forget about returning home to shifting sand and theatreland of props!

Amazingly as an expat who has lived in many parts of the world , I find Singaporeans flourish well if not even better everywhere. We of immigrant stock are genetically engineered to adapt to constant change.

So the future generations of Singaporeans are all going to be genetically made and bred outside of Singapore. We are going to be global post-modern nomads, expanding our territory , our island border over the whole wide world, simulating our pragmatic approach to life as an ever changing kaleidoscope. But the question is will the whole wide world welcome the likes of us?

A breed who only know the price of everything but the value of nothing.


PS..I think the ageing folks in Singapore better start investing in niches for their ashes , or there won't be any left..maybe we go buy enbloc too, stock up for sale even after we die....foreward planning , why after all death like taxes are the only definite certainties in life..huh?

The Pariah said...

Dear Rebel Rouser:

I'm glad that you enjoyed my little attempt at satire in the midst of poignant nostalgia and insightful thoughts about our "Homeland"!

Most Singaporeans have little inkling about "Living amidst History". Therefore, our social fabric is weak as we know NOT how to weave together the transpired past with the evolving present into the preferred future.

I reckon that we have the trappings of nationhood but merely that, "trappings". Not too long ago, MM Lee in his prescience has even mumbled aloud as to whether Singapore will survive as a nation. I think The Grand Old Man has hit it spot-on!

As for pre-buying niches for ashes, nah ... it's even easier to en bloc the columbarium with the silent majority and equally silent minority residing there!!!

rebelrouser said...

lol...any columbarium for sale or potential enbloc? I think most are religiously connected, don't know if one needs to change faith to do that..nah, just send our ashes to partake in the land reclamation , that is RIP for the good of the country!

Trappings, true indeed, Singaporeans are so emotionally, financially trapped in our pigeon holes and concrete boxes.
Time we dismantle that box and fly out from that hole .

There is a whole world waiting to be purchased en bloc..so fear not. After that there is the moon..

The Pariah said...

Hee, hee ... Rebel Rouser ...

The Minority Dissenters can fly to the Moon in their frozen fright.

The En Bloc Flippers, Property Speculators and Property Option Traders can roast in Mars!