By way of Government Gazette S360, S364 and S365, all dated 1 Jul 2010, and Acts Supplement No 14 dated 2 Jul 2010, the Land Titles (Strata) (Amendment) Act 2010 will come into operation on 15 Jul 2010 (corrections of LTSA Schedules come into effect on 16 Jul 2010).
The TV ad goes like this:
If you are, you breathe. If you breathe, you talk.
If you talk, you ask. If you ask, you think.
If you think, you search. If you search, you experience.
If you experience, you learn. If you learn, you grow.
If you grow, you wish. If you wish, you find.
If you find, you doubt. If you doubt, you question.
If you question, you understand. If you understand, you know.
If you know, you want to know more.
If you want to know more, you are alive.
Hence, the following materials from the Economic Strategies Committee and its Sub-Committee on Land Value Maximization, the upcoming Concept Plan 2011 with its two Focus Groups, the Central Provident Fund Board and the Parliament's Hansard, (especially the recent parliamentary debate on the amendment of Land Titles (Strata) Act ("LTSA") on 18 May 2010 that is in Part 2 of this long blog entry) have been correlated and contextualized to stitch together a Big Picture depicted by this patchwork quilt that blankets our tropical land. The extent of cross-talking in Parliament House is ... eye-opening, to put it mildly.
Minister Tharman said that the ESC Report led to the “central recommendation, which is to grow based on skills, innovation and productivity rather than by expanding our use of resources and especially by expanding employment in every business, every sector year after year. We should aim to get into this virtuous cycle … It takes time. We look at the way the Germans have achieved this, year after year, decade after decade – … SO IT REQUIRES A PERSPECTIVE THAT IS DIFFERENT FROM BEFORE – NOT GOING FOR IMMEDIATE GAINS, BUT BUILDING UP THE ABILITY TO CREATE VALUE AND SURPASS THE COMPETITION FIVE YEARS FROM NOW. … Singaporeans are known for being clean, competent, thorough, efficient. We must go to the next level where we have MASTERY OF SKILLS AND DEPTH OF EXPERTISE, whatever the job we do. … NOT JUST COMPETENCE, BUT MASTERY of what they are doing. … What this amounts to is a major investment in our people, – an investment that would require a partnership in the broadest sense between the Government, people and businesses. … The second theme has to do with the restructuring of the economy.” [Capitalization emphasis is by The Pariah.]
SECOND, the ESC Report is underpinned by various Sub-Committees’ Reports, one of which is from the “Sub-committee on Maximising Value from Land as a Scarce Resource” co-chaired by Senior Minister of State for National Development, Grace Fu and Group CEO of Boustead Singapore Ltd, Wong Fong Fui under the umbrella of Gahmen-Corporate joint consultative efforts.
This Sub-Committee Report deals with land productivity and land resource management that necessarily focus on land supply and land use. Amongst its recommendations are: "Manage cost volatility to create a better business environment - The level and most importantly, THE DEGREE OF FLUCTUATION IN HOUSING and office rents directly influence the decisions of businesses and talents to relocate to Singapore. However, given the small and open economy of Singapore, it is NOT POSSIBLE TO ELIMINATE VOLATILITY IN PROPERTY PRICES. NEITHER SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT INTERVENE EXCESSIVELY IN THE MARKET. IT SHOULD LET PRICES BE LARGELY DETERMINED BY SUPPY AND DEMAND CONDITIONS. ... Nevertheless, the ESC recommends that the GOVERNMENT MAINTAINS ITS POLICY OF STEADY RELEASE OF LAND TO PRE-EMPT RENTAL SPIKES. In this regard, the ESC recommends A REVIEW OF THE RESERVE LIST PROCEDURES TO MAKE IT LESS ONEROUS FOR DEVELOPERS TO TRIGGER SITES placed on the Reserve List so that supply can be more easily activated when needed. ..." [Capitalization emphasis is by The Pariah.]
Upon initial reading, Minister Tharman's spiel about the ESC Report and the blueprint for Singapore sounds very promising. But after reading the Sub-Committee's Report on Maximising Value from Land, it would seem that Minister Tharman's message was lost in translation. Why?
The emphasis continues to be on immediate gains best achieved under laissez-faire market forces to trigger release of reserve sites more easily. In turn, that would hasten the spread of Singapore's urban sprawl (instead of holding them as green lungs for as long as possible whilst preserving such lungs as part of our national landbanking for future generations). Whilst competence came through, there was no mastery and little depth because the entire report was eerily silent on the other source of land supply, viz, en bloc sales. Lady Gaga goes "Aha" with this error of omission that is an effective "mute"!
Yet urban rejuvenation and higher land-use intensity were precisely the two national objectives that underpinned the introduction of Land Titles (Strata) Act ("LTSA") in Oct 1999, wittingly calibrated to facilitate die-die-must-sell motivation even with two rounds of legislative amendments in Oct 2007 and Jun 2010, as explained in two previous blog postings:
Yet again, how was the en bloc window of opportunity optimized through higher productivity (the renewed official buzzword for the near future) in the Remaking of Singapore's private non-landed residential estates? Or was it willy-nilly frittered away? This window of opportunity was enforced and opened at significant cost to our social fabric, our community ties, our private property ownership rights, our environment, our sustainability, our nest-egg savings, our Central Provident Fund retirement financial planning and our familial wealth transfer.
After exacting such HIGH COST, how did Gahmen manage the post-en bloc consequences to ensure COMMENSURATE BENEFITS accrue to those same factors (eg, owners, environment, retirement planning, etc)?
Yes, land value was unlocked and land-use was intensified. But could the en bloc Owners afford to move back to the redevelopment even if they wanted to retain their community ties and rootedness in terms of their sense of time and being? Or did they face the Hobson's Choice of downgrading or downsizing at the expense of their nest-egg preservation, their familial wealth transfer? Or would South Korean's model of mandatory one-for-one (1-4-1) exchange (as customized within Singapore's context) mitigate the harsh consequences and help to bring our people along in the Re-making of Singapore, as opposed to leaving them behind? Although MinLaw laid the groundwork in 2007 by obtaining from their South Korean counterpart the details of South Korea’s model of urban renewal, nothing further seemed to have developed since then:
Yes, the new redevelopments look sleek and swanky with all-glass curtain wall all round. But is that sustainable in our equatorial climate and appropriate for our city high-density living culture where 90% of the units keep their curtains tightly drawn?
Yes, it is interesting to have communal gardens interspersed at varying levels and at the roof top or galley block connectors. But by according bonus Gross Floor Area (GFA) for such features without counter-balancing controls, did it result in larger building footprints that came at the expense of natural light, ventilation and spatiality as estate blocks get packed cheek-by-jowl despite the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) having a Greenmark Scheme of sorts in place?
Yes, we need to rejuvenate old estates but at what pace that would not create triple-whammy effects on unit supply, unit demand and resource demand that in turn would feed into pro-cyclical effects of short sharp boom-bust yo-yo and thus compromise our national competitiveness?
Lady Gaga just went "Aha" four times over with the above examples. There are many more examples but let's move on.
THIRD, interestingly, the same error of omission was replicated in the Discussion Topics and Preliminary Recommendations of the two Focus Groups hobbled together by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) in Jan 2010.
Lady Gaga goes "Aha" with these consistent errors of omission that are effectively "mute"! As both Focus Groups held their own Public Forum in May 2010 during which their errors of omission in respect of en bloc sales were surfaced, it now remains to be seen as to whether anything meaningful from such Public Forum will be mirrored in both Focus Groups’ Final Recommendations. If not, it merely goes to reinforce the public’s perception of feedback sinking into the proverbial Black Hole.