24 December 2010

NOT Wikileaks, but Wikipeeks into LTSA and GPCs

NOT Wikileaks but Wikipeeks! And since it is Christmas, turkeys for these Wikipeeks are in order!

1st Wikipeek ... into how the Land Titles (Strata) Act (LTSA) is retrospective in effect, as further elaborated upon in paragraph 4 below.

Singapore prides herself on the "rule of law". Legislation should be prospective, not retrospective, because it would otherwise undermine one of key characteristics of "rule of law". Retrospective legislation destroys the certainty of law, is arbitrary and is vindictive (being invariably directed against identifiable persons or groups) which - in this case - would be all strata-title owners who purchased their units before the inception of LTSA in Oct 1999 that govern en bloc sales. It serves to reinforce my point that LTSA is an unjust law at source (just as apartheid laws were unjust) with full legality but with highly dubious legitimacy.

2nd Wikipeek ... into how LTSA has calibrated the en bloc sale process to run counter to the "best practices" of Government Land Sales (GLS). In Singapore, there are only two sources of land supply: (a) GLS and (b) en bloc sales. The relevance of this comparison is set out in paragraph 5 below.

In fact, it is very telling when you take a step back and reflect upon the Big Picture of:

(i) The brazenly skewed calibration of LTSA as per my 2008 and 2010 blog postings, even to the extent of making it retrospective in effect;

(ii) The ostensible inability by the authorities (viz, MinLaw, SLA, URA, MAS, CPF) to collate and/or consolidate comparative statistics to analyse pre- versus post-en bloc financial, economic and social consequences on the population, especially extant citizen owners, despite being given two real-life examples culled with my very limited citizenry resources as per my previous blog posting:

(iii) MinLaw's fear-mongering about one-for-one (1-4-1) exchange mechanism that has been adopted by other countries as one of the templates for urban rejuvenation and higher land-use intensity and MinLaw's resistance towards a "win-win-win" exchange business model (rather than the present "win-lose" sale method) explained in my old 2008 National Day blog posting of:

They tell you ONE THING and one thing only! Our Gahmen is purportedly IGNORANT about and INSENSITIVE to this "new" (but in fact, underpinned by age-old values of common sense and rectitude) concept of "shared value", as articulated in the article entitled: "Creating Shared Value" by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) (Jan-Feb 2011 issue). In essence, this HBR article made the following key points: [Bold emphasis is by The Pariah.]

- "The capitalist system is under siege. ... Business is caught in a vicious circle ... They continue to view value creation narrowly, optimizing short-term financial performance in a bubble while missing the most important customer needs and ignoring the broader influences that determine their longer-term success.

- "The recognition is there among sophisticated business and thought leaders, and promising elements of a new model are emerging."

- "The solution lies in the principle of shared value, which involves creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges".

- "The synergy increases when firms approach societal issues from a shared value perspective and invent new ways of operating to address them."

- "Realizing it will require leaders and managers to develop new skills and knowledge – such as a far deeper appreciation of societal needs, a greater understanding of the true bases of company productivity, and the ability to collaborate across profit/nonprofit boundaries. And government must learn how to regulate in ways that enable shared value rather than work against it."

- "The concept of shared value ... recognizes that societal needs, not just conventional economic needs, define markets."

- "However, companies have overlooked opportunities to meet fundamental societal needs and misunderstood how societal harms and weaknesses affect value chains. Our field of vision has simply been too narrow."

- "Governments ... will be most effective if they think in value terms – considering benefits relative to costs – and focus on the results achieved rather than the funds and effort expended."

- "Governments ... often assume that trade-offs between economic and social benefits are inevitable, exacerbating these trade-offs through their approaches." [Comment by The Pariah: Similar to the fears of former Law Minister, Prof S Jayakumar, about trade-off between 1-4-1 exchange and the resultant lower en bloc sale price, the current Law Minister Mr K Shanmugam’s ministerial reply in Parliament on 22 Nov 2010 on the Residential Property (Amendment) Act similarly cited “Trade-Offs”, thus revealing the old school “win-lose” mentality within the Establishment-types as opposed to exploring “win-win” opportunities under the new model of “Shared Value” as articulated in this HBR article.]

- "The right kind of government regulation can encourage companies to pursue shared value; the wrong kind works against it and even makes trade-offs between economic and social goals inevitable. Regulation is necessary for well-functioning markets, something that became abundantly clear during the recent financial crisis. However, the ways in which regulations are designed and implemented determine whether they benefit society or work against it."

- "Regulations that enhance shared value set goals and stimulate innovation. They highlight a societal objective and create a level playing field to encourage companies to invest in shared value rather than maximize short-term profit."

- "First, they set clear and measurable social goals ... Second, they set performance standards but do not prescribe the methods to achieve them ... Third, they define phase-in periods for meeting standards, which reflect the investment or new-product cycle in the industry ... Fourth, they put in place universal measurement and performance-reporting systems, with government investing in infrastructure for collecting reliable benchmarking data ... Finally, appropriate regulations require efficient and timely reporting of results, which can then be audited by the government as necessary ..."

To avoid confusion between Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Creating Shared Value (CSV), the HBR article also sets outs a comparative chart:

As you may note from the right-hand column of this blog, I have set out a string of "take home" summary points. Oooops ... "take home" summary point is my faux pas because en bloc sales take away your home! Anyway, bearing in mind such summary points, we should then question as to whether institutional checks-and-balances are in place vis-a-vis MinLaw, eg, in curtailing LTSA from being retrospective in effect or in preempting LTSA from running counter to GLS best practices. Having gone through due process of multiple parliamentary bill readings in the last and current centuries, that's where it would now lead us to the role and responsibilities of another animal called Government Parliamentary Committees (GPCs).

1. Government Parliamentary Committees - Framework. Whilst I
am fully cognizant of what Curiosity does to the Cat, I am nonetheless curious about the role of GPCs within Singapore's brand of parliamentary democracy. It is part of my active citizenry in engaging the authorities on the en bloc law and the ramifications arising therefrom.

1.1 In the book entitled “The Singapore legal system” (2nd edition) edited by Kevin Tan Yew Lee, it reads as follows:

QUOTE - Government Parliamentary Committees 159
Early in 1987, the First Deputy Prime Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong unveiled plans for the formation of Government Parliamentary Committees (GPCs), each focussing on a specific area affecting the future of Singapore.160 These GPCs must be distinguished from other parliamentary committees in that they are organs of the People’s Action Party and are formed, not as a constitutional obligation or a convention but at the initiative of the Government of the day. Mr Goh cited three main reasons for the formation of GPCs. First, more participation from the MPs was needed, especially in a Parliament dominated by one party, secondly, the public would also have a say in the policies through the resource panels and thirdly, it would strengthen our democratic institutions and take us into the 21st century.

In all there are currently 11 GPCs each corresponding to a government ministry, and each consisting of five backbenchers, and chaired by one senior Member. Each GPC is backed by a 12-member resource panel and their task is to concentrate on a particular area affecting the government of the country examining all intended Bills in that area and in some instances, they will be consulted even before the Bill is drafted.

The creation of GPCs was, I think, a step in the right direction given the state of oppositional
representation in Parliament. Its use as simulated critics of Government legislation will definitely be far more effective than expecting backbenchers to take on the role of Opposition members. Furthermore, the level of debate and discussion on each policy has, in my opinion, reached a greater level due to the specialised nature of the GPCs and the utilization of experts outside of Parliament. This has led community leaders and professionals to participate more actively in the affairs of the state, ALBEIT BEHIND THE SCENES.

159. This brief account has been compiled entirely from newspaper clippings. See The Straits Times, 17 January 1987, at pp 1, 22 and 23; The Straits Times, 14 February 1984, at pp 1, 14 and 18.
160. See The Straits Times, 17 January 1987, at p 1. - END QUOTE.
[Capitalization emphasis is by The Pariah.]

1.2 In the then Prime Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong's speech at the Official Opening of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) 1999 Mid-Year Ex-Co Meeting, 4 May 1999, under the sub-heading of "Widening Political Participation", Mr Goh said:
QUOTE - Another feature unique to Singapore is the Government Parliamentary Committees (GPCs). Introduced in 1987, GPCs are limited to MPs from the governing party. They monitor closely the policies of particular ministries. Assisting the GPCs are Resource Panels, comprising MAINLY EXPERTS AND INTERESTED LAY PERSONS. The creation of the GPCs allows for greater participation by the backbenchers. They provide a wider range of views in Parliament and help Cabinet Ministers refine policies. They also serve as sounding boards and provide valuable feedback and suggestions to the relevant ministries on issues of public interest. - END QUOTE. [Capitalization emphasis is by The Pariah.]

1.3 But something apparently happened to GPCs after 1991 General Election!!! The following is an extract from an obstensibly encyclopaedic-based web-site about our Singapore Parliament:
QUOTE - It was envisaged that GPC members would act as a sort of proxy opposition in Parliament, challenging the views of Cabinet members. However, in the 1991 general election the PAP LOST FOUR SEATS TO OPPOSITION PARTIES and SUFFERED A 2.2% DROP IN POPULAR VOTES compared to the 1988 election. Goh, who had become Prime Minister in 1990, said in a post-election press conference that GPCs would be abolished as the increased number of Opposition MPs meant they were no longer needed. The PAP would return to the old system of having internal party committees meeting in private. A few weeks later, he said that GPCs would continue to exist, but their members would no longer take an adversarial stance in Parliament. - END QUOTE. [Capitalization emphasis is by The Pariah.]

In 1991, there were only 81 seats in Parliament. So, it would appear that 4 opposition seats out of a House of 81 and a 2.2% drop in popular vote from the previous General Election (GE) was sufficiently uncomfy to warrant GPCs to be de-fanged (not that they ever drew blood from even an occasional nose bleed)! In any case, when the House was expanded to the present-day 84 seats and opposition MPs dwindled to a paltry 2, it would appear that GPCs are still obliged to lip-sync in soaring choral harmony these days, ugh?

Hmmmm ... digressing a little ... IF popular vote in the upcoming 2011 GE should plummet by, say, more than 2.2% (as it did in 1991 GE) or 14.3% (being the highest-lowest maximum fluctuation in PAP support level in the last four GEs of 1991, 1997, 2001 and 2006), I wonder what size of weighty PAP hailstones would befall upon us from Heaven as all Hell breaks loose by their definition? It is probably an unChristian musing as to what would happen ... if it turns out to be, hypothetically speaking, a strategic GE walkover with a 52.3% win (66.6% last GE win minus 14.3% maximum swing)!

Musing, musing ... that's all I'm innocently doing WITHOUT forgetting that we don't know the precise number of newly minted Singaporeans who would be voting in 2011 GE. I suppose one could hazard an "educated guess" about the new-mints by comparing the Dept of Statistics' 2010 and 2006 mid-year estimates (bearing in mind our declining birth rate in the absence of baby bumper crops since the last Dragon Year of 2000, hitting a historic low fertility rate of 1.22 in 2009 with an unsurprising 2003 Durex survey finding that named Singapore as the one of the three countries with the lowest sexual frequency scores, viz, Sweden (102), Malaysia (100), and Singapore (96)):

Total Population:
2010 - 5,076,700 (100%)
2006 - 4,483,900 (100%)

Singapore Citizens:
2010 - 3,230,700 (63.6%)
2006 - 3,145,800 (70.0%)

Permanent Residents (PRs):
2010 - 541,000 (10.7%)
2006 - 472,700 (10.5%)

Non-residents (non-citizens/PRs working, studying or living here):
2010 - 1,305,000 (25.7%)
2006 - 875,500 (19.5%)

2. GPCs - Pay and Pay OR No Pay. According to the People's Action Party (PAP) web-site updated 18 May 2009, there are 10 GPCs, comprising 9-11 backbenchers with most committee members doubling-up for two GPCs. Sensibly, there is also a pattern of cross-ministry representation with a spectrum of knowledge/skills in each GPC (eg, MinLaw's Senior Parliamentary Secretary sits on the National Development GPC, and MND's Senior Parl Sec is in the Law GPC).

However, there is another level of de-fang in that a GPC member for a certain ministry who is also an office holder of another ministry CANNOT table parliamentary questions relating to the GPC ministry (eg, MND's Senior Parl Sec who is part of the Law GPC cannot table questions in Parliament for MinLaw). Hmmm ... does that mean they are wary even of their trusted office holders in case of back-biting of their own party cadre members of ministerial rank in the House?

It is NOT known who are the "mainly experts and interested lay persons" in the Resource Panels who will "help Cabinet Ministers refine policies ... serve as sounding boards and provide valuable feedback and suggestions".

Since these de-fanged GPCs are PAP organs, it is also NOT known whether the committee members are paid extra remuneration commensurate with their duties and responsibilities.

Whether as pseudo-oppositional adversaries in the past or as obligingly cooperative bedfellows at present, the PAP obviously consider the role of GPCs to be IMPORTANT to our brand of parliamentary democracy to commit such levels of backbencher resources. So are GPC members paid?
Yes or No?

2.1 If the answer is "Yes": I trust that GPC members are NOT directly paid with public funds but with PAP party funds. If the GPC remuneration comes from public funds, the Auditor-General and/or Public Accounts Committee should have stepped in since 1987.

Even if the GPC remuneration comes from PAP party funds, I reckon that there remains a distinct element of public accountability because such feedback and suggestions from GPCs/Resource Panels go towards the various government agencies' and ministries' calibration of proposed public policies and laws to be passed by Parliament.

As I was commenting to a top civil servant recently (hee, hee ... he calls himself a "retiree" these days which is a definite misnomer), often times I resent being categorized as a stakeholder by the Civil Service. Reason: I am more than a stakeholder. I don't buy and sell my stakes depending on some ROI target or some equally crass yardstick. I am a citizen of "not a country". I live (and die) by the policies and laws so cleverly calibrated by the Civil Service and the Government for as long as I remain a Singaporean.

As a top civil servant, he'd be cognizant that my stance as a citizen runs pretty much as a mirrored parallel to what historian Lord Thomas Macaulay said in the British House of Commons in the 19th Century: "We are your leaders. In our hands are the issues of great good and great evil - the issues of the life and death of the State." Hence, what is an issue of life and death of the State is - on the obverse side of the same coin - an issue of life and death of the citizens of such State!

2.2 If the answer is "No": Clearly, there is use of public resources because backbenchers are paid with public funds. In the aftermath of the global financial meltdown in 2008, Straits Times (25 Nov 2008) reported that MPs "whose allowances are pegged to public sector pay, will get S$190,000, down 16 per cent" (viz, PRE-meltdown, it would have been S$225,000). It would appear that there is serious moolah in this PART-TIME JOB as "backbencher" - about S$16k to S$19k per month (S$190k or S$225k ÷ 12 months, respectively)! Net of expenses for secretariat/research and such like, it would likely be S$12k-S$15k each month for a part-time backbencher.

Based on the booklet entitled "What is Public Accountability" published by the Policy and Research Department of the Auditor-General’s Office, July 2010:
QUOTE - Public accountability is an important pillar of any parliamentary democracy. Any public body that uses and manages public funds AND RESOURCES is accountable to Parliament. ... The citizens of Singapore are the ultimate owners of our nation’s financial resources. It is important that they understand and support the processes and systems that ensure public accountability. - END QUOTE. [Capitalization emphasis is by The Pariah.] Yada, yada, yada ... now that I "understand" it, can I get some answers from the Auditor-General's Office before I, as a thinking citizen, can be called upon to "support" it with my heart, mind and soul???

3. GPC - Contributions with Accountability and Transparency. Based on the above reasoning (which I trust is fairly reasonable), one could then reasonably ask:

- What were the contributions of GPCs for (A) Law, (B) National Development and (C) Finance to the LTSA law?

- Did GPCs weigh in LTSA ramifications, as correlated to Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act, Central Provident Fund Act, Residential Property Act, Housing Developer (Control and Licensing) Act, Housing and Development Act, and all other policies by URA, BCA, SLA, HDB, CPF and MAS where they impact (peripherally or directly) upon our property market and the use of CPF savings sanctioned for residential purchases?

Just as the price of rice is to Thailand/Vietnam, ... the price of onions is to India, ... so too is the price of property to Singapore with our teeny 710.3 sq km and the highest city population density in the world at 7,022 persons/sq km (and likely growing)!

As PM Lee Hsien Loong said during parliamentary debate on Civil Service salary revisions on 11 Apr 2007: “The Cabinet is accountable to Parliament, it is accountable to all Singaporeans.”

Similarly, the then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said in his speech on "Governance and Growth in Emerging Asia" at the Asia Society Hong Kong Centre’s Annual Dinner on 11 Nov 2008: "I believe that all successful political systems share at least four broad attributes. First, there must be accountability and transparency ..."

So, can GPCs be accountable and transparent? Will they? And where GPCs have tapped on the knowledge and skills of a Resource Panel of "community leaders and professionals to participate more actively in the affairs of the state", why is there the need for it to be "behind the scenes" as author Kevin Lee put it in the abovementioned book?

What is there that cannot stand up to public scrutiny? Are these GPC members as holders of political office and/or parliamentarians such shy daisies who will wilt in the light (or heat) of day? As politicians, surely they know that the political arena is a hot kitchen and those who
choose to step into the kitchen must be able to take the heat, eh? Can GPCs publish a report of their contributions to their respective ministries? It doesn't matter whether their contributions are accepted or implemented, in full or in part, immediately or deferred for future re-consideration. At least, it would assure plebian "lesser mortals" that the institutional checks-and-balances are actually at work and are effective to some reasonable extent (perhaps 75%? OK lah, even if they are only 66%)!

Acta Non Verba ("Action, Not Words"), eh?

4. LTSA is given retrospective effect as a law. Singapore take pride in good governance and rule of law. Hence, laws are almost NEVER passed with retrospective effect.

However, the following paper shows LTSA's retrospective effect by drawing parallels with the recently introduced Seller's Stamp Duty: http://www.scribd.com/doc/45870666/Singapore-Land-Titles-Strata-Act-Law-passed-with-retrospective-effect

Way back in 1999 and again in 2007, I raised the issue of constitution in asserting that LTSA was given retrospective effect, as shown in these two initial blog postings in Mar 2007:

Para (e): http://singaporeenbloc.blogspot.com/2007/03/understand-en-bloc-majority-vs-minority.html

Para 1: http://singaporeenbloc.blogspot.com/2007/03/constitution.html

Luckily (for me), Time is on my side. With the passage of Time since 1999 and by using the Seller's Stamp Duty in 2010 for comparative purposes, this point of retrospective effect is now proven. I rest my case.

5. LTSA runs counter to best practices of Government Land Sales. The best practices of Government Land Sales (GLS) should be extrapolated for en bloc sales to the extent applicable. Even where they are NOT applicable due to the inherent differences in the nature of these two animals, en bloc sales certainly should NOT be deliberately skewed and calibrated to run counter to the best practices under GLS. That, in my opinion, is how en bloc sales are effectively turned into a mockery and a farce! A legalized scam, if you will. Classic oxymoron, eh?

The following paper shows the "Possible fallacies of the 'free will of Majority' in en bloc sales" and how en bloc sales run counter to GLS Best Practices:

6. Context. Let's contextualize ACCOUNTABIILITY and TRANSPARENCY by drawing some parallels from East to West ...

In the East (China) - Business Times article entitled "China to crack down on shady developers" (21 Dec 2010) reported that "the Ministry of Land and Resources highlighted the 'complicated' situation in the sector and said high prices in some cities had triggered widespread public concern" and that "developers that build high-end properties on land that was initially sold for affordable housing projects will see that land repossessed by the government and their income confiscated, it said".

Such land sales by Chinese local authorities to commercial developers are similarly on "willing buyer, willing seller" basis and yet the Chinese regulators are shifting the onus to these developer-buyers who will be made to bear the brunt in the event of misconduct or under-selling by the sellers. Hence, the Chinese authorities are laying claim to political will to call it to account. The Chinese Commies are already putting into practice what American management guru, Prof Michael Porter, exhorted in the abovementioned HBR article, viz, "Governments ... will be most effective if they ... focus on the results achieved". Talk about getting more bang for your buck and being "Cheaper, Better and Faster" - According to Phoenix TV channel broadcast in Sep 2006, our Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong's pay is 126 times that of Chinese President Hu Jintao (ie, PRE-Apr 2007 ministerial pay hike):

In much the same way that the Singapore Gahmen assert that en bloc sales are similarly based on "free will of Majority" on "willing buyer, willing seller" basis. Whilst Singapore's en bloc scenario is NOT a mirrored parallel with the Chinese land sale situation, there are enough common denominators (viz, contractual sale, free market forces, unlocked land value accruing to developer-buyers, high profits from redevelopment earned by developer-buyers of such land).

Hence, I can't help but wonder what the Singapore Gahmen is doing about the "David vs Goliath" en bloc battles with "Double the price; Half the size" shortfall typically faced by individual owners (the little Davids) vis-a-vis the "Double the price; Double the size" windfall commonly lapped up by corporate developer-buyers (the behemoth Goliaths), as shown by the two real-life examples in my previous blog posting:
If guided by good sense and rectitude, divergence and competing needs are not necessarily a case of "the Government" versus "the People", or "Big Business" versus "the People", and greater convergence could be forged. Piggy-backing on Prof Michael Porter's key exhortations as already practised by the Chinese Government, I'd like to ask: When, when, when will our Gahmen start to "focus on the results achieved" from this en bloc phenomenon??? The "results achieved" MUST NOT be evaluated from the "narrow" twin-faceted perspectives of urban rejuvenation and higher land-use intensity under our national agenda BUT ALSO from the more encompassing perspective of "fundamental societal needs" and the "societal harms and weaknesses", as translated into financial, economic and social consequences for extant en bloc owners and environmental/ sustainability concerns for our land.

In the West (England) - As Britain's Financial Services Authority are contemplating deferrals and other regulatory caps to battle the British banking industry's shameless bonus pay-outs after the massive public bail-out as a consequence of the 2008 global financial meltdown, the bankers make all kinds of threatening noises about relocating to other countries as they claim that the UK would then become a less attractive financial centre. Guess what the British Business Secretary, Mr Vince Cable, said? He retorted: "We're not going to be bullied". These arose from talks between senior bankers and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mr Cable.

Likewise, in Singapore, there is constant dialogue between industry and Gahmen. But you'd have noted my previous observations in the 3-part Casino Singapore blog postings about:

- the "too little, too late" baby steps taken by MinLaw, MND, HDB and MAS in respect of en bloc law, intense flipping of private strata-title/landed and public housing properties, legislative and policy exploitation, etc,
- the brazen backbending by URA, BCA and SLA,
- the backtracking by IRAS, and
- the lack of action by CPF Board.

The above state of affairs starkly contradicts PM Lee Hsien Loong's comments about the Wall Street fiasco during his interview in Chicago: "So you’ve got to find a way to have a supervision which is going to adapt because whatever rules you make, the people who are operating — the bankers, the financiers — will find a way to optimise" (CNA, 16 Apr 2010). Ditto for the developers, eh? Sigh ... knowing it is one thing; doing something about it is another, as they say.

Therefore, will our Gahmen continue "to be bullied" by the all-mighty corporates? Or will our Gahmen next prove that they are capable of living up to PM Lee's expectations of "adapting" nimbly - to be a little (instead of far) behind the curve even if they can't be ahead of the curve? I reckon our regulators see their efforts to serve corporate interests with such zeal and zest as "business-friendliness" and "fostering GDP growth for public good". Substituting "GDP growth for public good" with "GDP bonus for private good" in their Key Performance Indicator (KPI), it is not too difficult to appreciate why most regulators would NOT (or why they'd choose NOT to) examine if they have been had! Truth hurts too much, I suppose.

However, beyond a certain point, it becomes an abdication of regulatory duty and/or a loss of regulatory focus. It could also be perceived as a case of being intimidated/bullied or being gullible and conned into believing the corporate spin - similar to how Bernie Madoff effectively fobbed off the Securities Exchange Commission watchdog from nailing down his Ponzi scam despite specific and repeated "red alerts" by whistleblower Harry Markopoulos. That's when Governance gets tainted with questions of Credibility and Moral Authority!

During the recent Great Recession triggered by global financial/economic implosion, the Singapore Gahmen also used public funds to bail-out our corporations, as did the governments of many other countries. These corporates were direct beneficiaries of public moneys doled out under the 2009-10 Resilience Package EVEN AS THESE CORPORATIONS WERE ANNOUNCING HIGH DOUBLE-DIGIT OR TRIPLE-DIGIT PERCENTAGE INCREASES IN NET PROFITS FROM 2H 2009 in the case of developers, as per my previous blog posting:

As these corporate developers took public funds as part of the national bail-out, they must similarly be held to account. Are MinLaw expending resources to collate and publish equivalent data for the estates that went en bloc during the 1999-2000 and 2005-2007
frenzies where the redevelopments have since been launched for sale? Now that we have the benefit of hindsight and a track record of slightly more than a decade, the two sets of 1999-2000 and 2005-2007 en bloc data can - with credence and credibility - call into account this piece of legislation that invoked majoritianism to impinge on private property rights, driven by potential commercial benefit/profit that is typically actualized, especially under the new en bloc business models presently adopted by developer-buyers. Such statistical analysis would perhaps provide a sound basis for MinLaw to seriously explore other counter-balancing measures (eg, mandating one-for-one (1-4-1) exchange for qualifying Owner-occupiers as an additional settlement option) to "do right" by the citizens whom they are supposed to serve (rather than the corporates).

Deafening silence from the GPCs only proves PAP's lack of accountability and transparency in respect of the LTSA papers submitted to GPCs for Law and National Development. Likewise, it reinforces similar unaccountability and opacity on the part of the Civil Service when MinLaw fails to make public the pre- and post- en bloc data, bearing in mind that the consequential ramifications affect the property market with rippled effects across public and private housing sectors and with massive CPF withdrawals for residential purchases at stake.

Issues of ACCOUNTABILITY and TRANSPARENCY are NOT limited only to LTSA. Similar parallels can be traced to the series of flash floods in Singapore in 2010 when we were told by:

- Minister for Water Resources and Environment Encik Yaacob Ibrahim: the Orchard Road "flood was caused by an intense storm” (Duh?); such floods occur only "once in 50 years" (Ooops, after the worst flood in 1978, the good minister forgot about the flash floods in 2007, 2009 and 2010!);

- Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong: that for "an island in the tropics", it is not possible "to be completely free of floods”, that "we have to learn from these episodes, do post-mortems, find out what happened, and upgrade our infrastructure and systems" (To date, six months have gone by ... any publication of such detailed post-mortems yet?);

- Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew: "no amount of engineering can prevent flooding", "it is an Act of God". (Hmmm ... so???).

In Singapore - In what way did Encik Yaacob Ibrahim as Minister for Water Resources and Environment and Mr Tan Gee Paw as Chairman of the Public Utilities Board take ACCOUNTABILITY for the freak flash floods? Whilst we would not deny the past credible contributions of Mr Tan Gee Paw in the 1970s, it was insensitive (to say the least) to choose 2010 (the year when we suffered a series of 4 flash floods in Jun-Jul) to award Mr Tan the Distinguished Service Order a couple of months later in Aug as part of the honour roll of National Day Award recipients. Does it epitomize galling audacity or brazen arrogance? Does it expose unbelievable political naivete?

In the UK - when they had the worst snowstorm in 18 years this wintry Christmas, what did Mr Colin Mathews as the CEO of the British Airports Authority (BAA) do? He apologized publicly and he also decided to forego his annual bonus for 2010. This is taking ACCOUNTABILITY for the freak snowstorms - even in the PRIVATE SECTOR! However, as BAA was sold to Ferrovial, a family-controlled Spanish construction group, the British Government were powerless vis-a-vis BAA as a foreign-owned company and the Civil Aviation Authority also failed as a regulator. [I just hope that the sale of our power stations in Singapore to various MNCs will not result in parallel fiascoes for Singapore in future.] Surprise, surprise ... no claims of "Act of God" from the British Government over the exceptionally heavy snowfall. Over this Christmas, it hit me that God has varying levels of accountability in different parts of the world! Poor God, He is not spared either.

More and more, it would appear that citizens have to "kow-tow" (bow) first to Big Business, then to Government. This is probably a natural trajectory as Government put the needs of Big Business over that of Citizens. As Big Businesses amass enough clout over time, they increasingly hold the power to call the tune in terms of jobs, resources, economic priorities and social values.

Whether you can afford to buy a roof over your head may well depend on how much holding power the developers have ... fully exploiting en bloc law to unlock land value for themselves, withholding redeveloped units for phased releases, holding investment units, attracting hot money inflows, concentrating vicinity land purchases to manage market pricing, facilitating consortium-like flipping and other forms of speculation, etc.

Going forward, Gahmen may well have little choice but to sing to the tune of Piper Developer! This is because having willy-nilly allowed the Singapore property market to ramp-up with a 3.5-hump mutant camel with sharper swings than even the Hongkong property
market (especially from 2007 to date), do you seriously believe the Gahmen have the chutzpah to wrangle and wriggle? Please refer to the graph of comparative regional property indices extracted from the Monetary Authority of Singapore's "Financial Stability Review" (25 Nov 2010):

With due respect, that's my Wikipeek take ... may we drink a toast to more Light and not just Heat in the New Year!