24 February 2009

9. CROWN JEWEL: 80% to en bloc The Istana?

[This is the concluding section of my 9-part series for Feb 2009.]

The refrain of one of the hits of ABBA, a Swedish pop group, goes like this:

“Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man's world.

Money, money, money

Always sunny
In the rich man's world.

All the things I could do
If I had a little money
It's a rich man's world.”

If economics is the be-all and end-all in this game,
then why don’t we en bloc The Istana? Does it have to be in busy, crowded Orchard Road where official motorcades would exacerbate the traffic jams now and then (time is money in our frenetic lifestyle)? Do we need all that sprawling grounds? Ever noticed that most of the buildings along our prime shopping belt are under 20 storeys? Probably for aviation clearance path in the event of escape evacuation. Or that the apartment blocks in the bordering residential district of Cavenagh Road are mostly low-rise? Again, for obvious security reasons. Imagine how much economic value would be unlocked in such prime commercial and residential districts if the storey height restrictions were lifted and as Development Charge levies once again swell our government coffers, especially in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial/economic crisis that significantly depleted our reserves.

But, I, for one will say a resounding “no” – The Istana MUST stay where it is. That is one of our last few national icons left whole and intact. There is a sense of time and place in The Istana – despite today’s building technology that would enable The Istana to be identically re-constructed brick-by-brick on cheap land somewhere else! The grounds where Queen Elizabeth may have strolled by. The steps where Chairman Deng Xiao Peng may have climbed. The hall where President Nelson Mandela dined. The spot where our Founding Father Lee Kuan Yew stood on as he took his oath of office. For all of this and more, money cannot buy.
Our national iconography, our country’s history ... forever priceless! But that’s only me and maybe 19% of you out there!

Often times, our Gahmen waves the flag of “Majority”, “80% Consent”, “Collective Will” of condo owners. So, what’s wrong since so many want to en bloc??? They don’t get it? Or we don’t get it?
Yeh, what’s wrong? Let’s grab this raging bull by the horns! This calls to mind the distinction between the two schools of governance (note: this is a deliberately over-simplistic comparison to draw out the point):

(a) “Democracy” – If all 35 people in a mob agree to kill the target victim, the lynching will go ahead.

(b) “Republic” – Even if all 35 people in a mob agree to kill the target victim, the law prohibits lynching. So lynching is stopped. But if it is effected, the lynchers will be punished. NOTE: This assumes that the law is “just” to start with. As reminded by Dr Martin Luther King, Jr: “There are two types of laws: Just and Unjust.”
In the harsh reality of the world, there are Black Swans. There is the non-equilibrium economic theory of Econophysics. There is 80-20 Pareto Distribution. So many factors, correlation ranges from 0-100%, they are dynamic and of varying weight under different sensitivities!!! Small changes can have exponentially exaggerated effect. Human beings are not 100% rational. Herd behaviour. Fear. Greed. Exuberance. Knowledge is not equal. Markets are not perfect. The end results are more random than we think. So “Majority”, “80% Consent”, “Collective Will” and the blah may well belie the needs and desires of owners (excluding speculators and flippers).

If I may dredge up the slouchy Homer Simpson in all his slothful glory: “Never under-estimate the power of stupid people in large groups!” Please excuse my irreverence ...


Mid-life Crisis # said...

Mr Pariah, you have a good sense of humour!

When you have 80% stupid people, they become very the powerful!

But where did they get this 'power'? Not from heaven but from Parliament lor.

The Pariah said...

I agree. That's "TYRANNY BY MAJORITY"!!!

Is it more socially acceptable than "Tyranny by MINORITY"? Looks like it, eh?

Sigh ... that's the kind of society into which we are degenerating! That's "progress"?

Anonymous said...

Convoluted,verbose and jargon-filled post. So what EXACTLY is your stand? While you may have valid points, being concise doesn't hurt either.

The Pariah said...

Dear Anonymous:

My stand is quite simply this:

1. An apartment is both "home" and "community" to Owner-occupiers.

2. Real estate is also a vital component of retirement financial planning - whether for Owner-occupiers or Investor-owners (other than Serial Condo Raiders/ Flippers). 3. National needs of urban renewal and higher land-use intensity (esp in teeny Singapore) are valid generally.

4. Based on the present STRUCTURE created by LAW and the ensuing BUSINESS MODALITY with CASH being the ONLY settlement mode, NOBODY is able to buy a REPLACEMENT (asset factor) upon COLLECTION of en bloc sale proceeds (time factor) in the SAME VICINITY (location factor).


5. If private property rights are to be sacrificed for larger national interest, then 1-4-1 EXCHANGE based on same LEVEL, same SIZE, same ORIENTATION must be mandated by LAW with other supporting legislative/regulatory changes to preempt further exploitation of owners who are generally not conversant with potential pitfalls in property/construction contracts.

6. Sorry if you find this blog verbose. I don't suppose, dear Anonymous, that you would read the 70-page Appellate Court judgement for Horizon Towers? That was limited to the issues in ONE condo estate, my dear.

How I wish the issues are as simple as ABC!

If they are that simple, there wouldn't be so many battles fought at (i) various condo estates where criminal acts have been committed, (ii) Strata Titles Boards, (iii) High Court and (iv) Appeal Court, eh?

Can one grasp calculus after reading one-page instructions?

Sorry for my 8-word concluding question.

Anonymous said...

I rest my case.

The Pariah said...

Thank you, Anonymous.

This blog goes beyond a spiel about "my stand". It is not a vent for letting off vitriolic steam!

Putting up a blog with ORIGINAL CONTENT (as opposed to re-hashing media spin) on a topic that wrestles with (1) Govt Policies, (2) Laws, (3) Business Practices, and (4) Social Impact is NOT taken lightly (at least not by me) if it is intended to be (although there are probably unintended consequences, as usual):

- Informative (credible enough to empower others to ask questions/seek alternatives in their own estates' en bloc attempts); - Thought-provoking (engaging enough to hopefully enable others to get viral and spin-off other ideas to tackle issues specific to their own estates' en bloc sales);

- Actionable (constructive enough for some points in previous blogs to be (a) included in some of the 2007 parliamentary questions, (b) incorporated in the 2007 amended laws and (c) addressed in the Horizon Towers' 2009 Appellate Court judgement).

Why else would people read it, eh?

Nearly 30,000 hits to date since Mar 2007.
OK lah for a blog that is (i) NOT even regularly updated and (ii) NARROWLY confined to a single topic that does NOT concern 82% HDB heartlanders and 5% landed property owners!