“Where laws end, tyranny begins” – This pithy quote is attributed to William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham (1708-1788). More than 2 centuries on, it still resonates resoundingly.
Poser: Where unjust laws end, then what??? I can’t pit myself against Pitt. And I am no Kingmaker. So I will leave it to you to find the answer. Will there be a choral rejoinder about the Emperor's State of Undress (or Dress) - Glass Half-Empty or Half-Full Syndrome, eh?
The House delivered “triplets". But the Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Civil Service only remembered the “twins (as shown in Part B of this trilogy). The third baby (alive and kicking and glowingly pink - our Singaporean Identity Cards, I mean) was unceremoniously thrown out with the bath water! Hello, does anyone care?
Who are the precious triplets? According to the Hansard, the triplet objectives of LTSA are:
1. “… housing units in prime 999-year leasehold or freehold areas for Singaporeans” (First primary objective – Our citizens). Waaargh .......!
2. “… creating more housing units” (Second primary objective – Higher land-use intensity). Coo-coooo ...
3. “a secondary benefit is that these developments, especially the older ones, could have been rejuvenated through the en bloc process” (Third secondary objective – Urban rejuvenation). Babble, babble ...
18 March 2010
For the next two years, I repeated this essential distinction ad nauseum (in much the same way that MinLaw also repeated the 80% (90%) en bloc super-majority ad nauseum - hee, hee ... we all have our respective pet peeves, eh?):
“Obama said. ‘It's been such a long time since we made government on the side of ordinary working folks, … I don't know about the politics, but I know what's the right thing to do, … I want some courage. I want us to do the right thing’.”
Whoa … it is so, so validating to realise the universality of this idea of “Doing right”, “to do the right thing”.
Maybe, just maybe, our Gahmen will “do right” by us condo owners with the dawn of a new day, eh? Hope reigns eternal!
Contrast the above ministerial comment with the Hansard record of what was said in Parliament for the passing of this law: Singapore Parliamentary Debates, Official Report (31 July 1998), vol 69 at cols 601-607, the Minister of State for Law said: "… As a result, these buildings cannot take advantage of enhanced plot ratios to realise their full development potential, which would have created many more housing units in PRIME 999-year leasehold or freehold AREAS FOR SINGAPOREANS. A SECONDARY BENEFIT is that these developments, especially the older ones, could have been REJUVENATED through the en-bloc process." [Capitalization emphasis by The Pariah.]
The “for Singaporeans” bit totally escaped the conscience and consciousness of Minister Mah! Let's not forget that Mr Mah is obviously very much a "thinker" as he even urged us to do "Three Thinks" before committing to buy real estate (viz, "Think carefully; Think long-term; Think about the unexpected" – Straits Times, 2 Sep 2009). Such deep and thoughtful advice coming from a "thinker" minister to go to Woodlands if you can't afford Tampines after en bloc carry dead serious weight! Or is it dead weight?
Sorry, my two left feet get entangled at times. I recall that Minister Mah happens to be the Tampines MP within that GRC (Group Representation Constituency). So what was Minister Mah saying? Was he trying to get his Tampines constituents to move to Woodlands because that is nearer to Johor Bahru (JB) so that when these constituents grow old and fall ill, it'd be a shorter hop over to the JB nursing homes (that's the "option" as offered by his colleague, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan)? Hmmmm ... now that I "think" about it more deeply, it probably makes sense because when you are old and sick, you wouldn't want to travel very far. Sheesh ... they do think of everything, don't they? Worth every bang for the buck we pay them, man! Or should I more accurately describe it as "mega-bang" for the "mega-bucks"?
“For Singaporeans” was purportedly the “primary” benefit, eh? Instead, what was “secondary benefit” morphed into “fundamental reason” and “people to naturally redevelop” ostensibly referred to corporate developers because ordinary citizens do not undertake redevelopment projects!
LTSA is pegged at kindergarten level (eg, "financial loss" formula is beyond the wildest dream of any financial adviser-accountant-economist rolled into one; how Reserve Price and Apportionment Method are set by volunteer laypersons without any substantiated basis by an independent valuer, but with guidance from savvy marketing agents who get no fee for no sale, and locked-in with vacuum-packed legalese crafted by professional lawyers who also get no fee for no sale, etc). Hence, it wouldn't be altogether inappropriate to go back to nursery rhymes that we learned in kindergarten! In line with the spirit of en bloc sales, let's clear our throats for the best collective falsetto that we can manage, eh? Ready? Here goes:
– Up and away for corporate developer-buyers post-en bloc ... Three years after 2006-07 en bloc frenzy, with progressive recognition of project revenue from developmental projects, we are starting to get headline news in Feb-Mar 2010 about developers’ profits at historic best:
Do you get the picture now? So, what's your rating for the above picture?
- R(A) rated: Restricted (Artistic)?
- X rated: Artfully obscene?
- XXX rated: Artlessly obscene???
Or did they occur unwittingly? If so, then what is the Gahmen doing about it?
Multiple choice answers:
Hence, it begs the question as to who are these “owners” who will enjoy such “viable alternative”?
Target population of 6.5mn in 40-50 years’ time was announced at the time when Singapore’s population stood at 4.6mn as at Jun 2007. Population ramped-up to 4.99mn as at Jun 2009. Based on the aforementioned Department of Statistics’ numbers, it would be reasonable to extrapolate that, at same rate of increase over the last two years, target population would be hit in 10 (not 40-50) years’ time! [Geez, would this be another instance where it could not possibly be foreseen with ministerial vision? If people who deservingly earn millions of bucks can't see, then who else can see? You and I? You must be kidding!]
Hence, “owners” with this “viable alternative” must be from part of this foreigner deluge - please read on for the explanation.
This foreigner segment is NOT the S Pass holders and entry level Employment Pass holders who are more likely to partake of the HDB housing pie – much to the heartlanders’ chagrin. Instead, these are the foreigners who can afford to buy at the rates that yield developers the stratospheric profit levels cited above. Some may even be part of “hot money” inflows given the level of investment purchases despite the persistently poor rental yield (please see the graph in Part C-3.4(j) of this trilogy). http://singaporeenbloc.blogspot.com/2010/03/trilogy-part-c-pm-said-i-am-saying.html
B-2.2 Communism, Counter-Feudalism, Democracy. Nearly a fortnight passes as the moon waxes towards being full, in ST Forum Letter (4 Sep 2009), MinLaw said: “The Government's land acquisition schemes have mostly affected land owners. The general public, on the other hand, have been the primary beneficiaries of such acquisitions, through public housing, building of infrastructure for public benefit and various other developments, including the building of condominiums - the latter allowed condominium owners to enjoy the land which was originally enjoyed by land owners.“
The birds may fly away if you do ...
C-1 PM's speeches/comments. In 2007. In 2008. In 2010. Our PM has been talking and talking.
- Sep 2009 (1.5 months later): Gahmen reversed two "speculation facilitation" measures (viz, withdrawing Interest Absorption Scheme and prohibiting Interest-Only-Loans).
- Nov 2009 (about 2 months later): Ministerial perception that speculation is under control. [CNA (24 Nov 2009): Minister Mah said, “We want to curb erratic spikes in prices due to excessive speculation, inaccurate information or market manipulation". Mr Mah added that the measures introduced in September have also helped to control speculative activity."]
- Feb 2010 (almost 3 months later): Whole government machinery scrambles almost unbecomingly to roll-out Seller’s Stamp Duty, even having to resort to a Certificate of Urgency in Parliament.
It is all the more perturbing when one contextualizes the ministerial comments in Nov 2009 vis-à-vis the Financial Stability Review released by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”) also in Nov 2009 about the "risk of renewed escalation of speculative momentum": “Sub-sale transactions as a share of all transactions, a proxy for speculative activities, averaged 11% over Q2 and Q3 2009, which was below the peaks seen in 1996-1997 but close to the 13% average seen during the buoyant property market in 2007-2008. … As Singapore emerges from recession and with the market expecting low interest rates to persist for some time, the risk of a renewed escalation of speculative momentum cannot be discounted."
Opportunity in Adversity. If we don’t get this right, then we’d have missed the opportunity of converting the silver tsunami of senior citizens into a golden lake of sustained domestic consumption by senior citizens as an integral part of our island's economic vibrancy (and not a bunch of grumpy old folks, fearful of spending their last pennies in Singapore, with some being shipped off to JB/Batam nursing homes, worried over their chronic healthcare costs and resentful of the growing social divide in a country which they helped to build from not very much).
C-3.4 Context, my dear, Context. In addition to Behavioural Economics coming into play, the following Additional Factors need to be contextualized into the whole scheme of things, as it were – something that I hope will not be lost on the Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary, the Civil Service:
(f) Demographic seismic change. Singapore’s seismic change in demographic profile started in 2000. Our number of senior citizens age 65+ is set to rival Japan soon. By 2030, Singapore is projected to have 873,300 seniors, comprising 18.7% of our resident population (2006 report by the Committee on Ageing Issues). http://www.mcys.gov.sg/successful_ageing/report/CAI_report.pdf
(j) Policy disproportion and inconsistency. HDB flats are about 50%-400% cheaper than private condos (excluding the super-deluxe category). Recent HDB announcements deemed it as speculative if non-subsidized HDB flat purchases are sold within three years (subsidized purchases, within 5 years). However, for private condos that require much higher capital outlay, disposal within one year is deemed speculative.
Although purchasing power is significantly different between HDB heartlanders and private property owners, the even greater price variance between these two property types would neutralize this factor. Hence, doesn't it point to a POLICY DISPROPORTION AND INCONSISTENCY when HDB disposal time-bar is 3/5 years whereas private property time-peg for deemed speculation is a mere 1 year?
In any case, such presumption of purchasing power differential between HDBers and private property owners may NOT hold water any more after the 2006-07 en bloc and 2007-008 sub-sale frenzies – Mainstream media reported on 13 Mar 2010 that in the process of checking illegal sub-letting of HDB flats, it was discovered that the perpetrator (a mere housing agent) in fact SIMULTANEOUSLY own 5 more private properties in addition to the HDB flat! Although this may be more an exception than the rule, it may not be that rare for HDBers to own private condos if the authorities are astute enough to slice their statistics based not just on HDB owners but also occupants!