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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Woes of Housing Joys

A couple of months back, I was a little worried that our government under the PAP was beginning to rot from within. This can happen you know when people focus so much on past successes that they forget that the present moment requires successful governing too.

One autobiography after another came off the printing press about the Lions of Singapore. As one lion after another faded and passed on, one began to wonder if the famous Chinese curse on wealth creation and preservation would come to pass in tiny little Singapore. Many Chinese believe that wealth does not last beyond 3 generations. The first generation builds wealth. The second generation maintains wealth. The third generation squanders it.

It was a scary thought because our whole life is in Singapore.

One worried whether civil service bonuses constructed around GDP growth meant that the government machinery would become slowly blinded to issues of social justice which every country faces, but which are far less of an imperative for profit-making conglomerates. One worried that the education system would be skewed to benefit the English-speaking families of Singapore. One worried that transport companies, in streamlining profits and expenditures, would neglect the needs of older folks who travel safer on long haul bus routes. One worried that people who needed homes could not afford them anymore because waves of moneyed foreigners came here to snap up properties. One did a double-take and ran screaming away from the showflat at Centro Residences because they were selling leasehold apartments in the suburbs at S$1000/sq ft.

It seemed that the country were in the throes of runaway capitalism, and the world had come to Singapore to compete and win. Sure enough, Singapore has had a blessed 5 decades or so. And sure enough, the government has provided an excellent education to its people... but there will always be those who cannot keep up. When forced to compete with highly educated foreigners who are geographically mobile, huge swathes of the Singapore population lose and fall behind... into despair and poverty. In every country, there are those who squander their chance at education... squander their HDB flat to buy new clothes... spend all they have on bags, shoes and cool gadgets... to wake up one day to realise that they are unable to look after themselves nor their children. But well... these people are still Singaporeans and one can't do as the British used to do with their people in the last century - ship them off to Australia. So something needed to be done to help them without helping so much as to reinforce undesirable behaviors.

One worried that the government cared only for the brightest and the best. I suppose it IS easy to love such people.

But well... one worries no more. The housing market restrictions will make housing more affordable... starting first with the HDB flats. I am of course rather peeved because my own properties may drop in value but I am willing to concede that I already have a place to sleep when winds howl at night and the rains beat down on us. And therefore, I can accept and live with the slew of regulations which will help those with no homes, to buy them.

I feel encouraged and this has renewed my faith in the PAP (earlier buffetted by a Minister's appalling support for an adulterer with a taste for sweet young things). The PAP has not forgotten, after all, the common man.

And if you're not convinced that the government means to help, then drive past Pathlight - the school set up for the abject failures of the hard-driving and uber-demanding Singaporean educational system. This school takes failures and turns them around. Surely Pathlight is evidence of the government's recognition that people are born into unequal homes and that a child's success in school.... and later in life is a function of the quality of home life. It turns out that large numbers of children in Pathlight school failed because their families had no money to buy them spectacles. Children won't do well if parents fight all the time. Children won't do well if they cannot see well enough to read the blackboard. And Pathlight is a shining beacon of love for those who are not the brightest and the best.

Of course, there are some who are peeved because they intended to upgrade to a nicer home. But it's odd that they're so trigger happy in their grief. If prices drop some, then they would be able to make that 30% no? They just have to wait a bit more. And gee... if you're upgrading, it does mean you already have a home, no? That surely can't be as bad as those who have no home to call their own.

I don't think it's easy to be a government who cares. I'm sure it hurts when people you work to help, don't appreciate the help. I'm sure it hurts to read hurtful insults. And I don't think many people realise that when one holds the reins of power, one can do anything. One can shoot to kill. One can declare martial law. One can change the law. One can replace a democracy with a hereditary royalty or a dictatorship. It only takes wanting. But this government is a gentle one with a firm touch and fine brains. It really does want to help the people.

I think.

Though one can't help but wonder how the government could check on a buyer's overseas property status. Hmmmmmm.... is it at all possible?


Fresh Fry aka 福星 said...

i agree with your thoughts, though there're now people who think the PAP are making PRs to sell homes + change into citizenship before they're eligible to get a HDB flat is actually a scheme to secure the ruling party's seats come the next election.

and i was appalled, totally floored. aside the possible dark agenda, making PRs abandon their houses overseas is actually a good barrier of entry that makes housing prices shoot up daily. we got to protect genuine buyers by reducing competition for them in the market.

these people didn't think that if citizenship is "forced" upon PRs who don't want to be, they can simply leave = less PRs to contest around, and even if they got the citizenship, it doesn't mean that they'll vote for PAP in the next election. they can simply vote for the other party or not turn up.

brains is such a rarity these days. *sigh*

Open Kitchen Concept said...

I do think that the housing market is crazy too. I also think there are too many people out there trying to exploit the fact that HDBs are subsidized. It's sad but true. And also.. why are so many Singaporeans out there so loaded they can afford to buy homes like I buy plants?

Wen-ai said...

I worried about the exact same things that you have mentioned in your post. Yes, finally PAP decided to do something about the housing woes, and I hope genuine buyers, like my two younger brothers can finally get to afford a flat of their own.

Richard said...

Dear Ms Lee,

I'm afraid our govt is not as benign as you might think. I'm a civil servant, who has the opportunity to work closely with these politicians. Let's just say that they are not what they are publicly portrayed to be. The rot has happened within the civil service, due to self-deluded perceptions of their own infallibility among senior officials and leaders. The housing problem is just the tip of the iceberg. Others include medical and transport ones, etc. We in the civil service are aware of these, but they are never highlighted in the local media, that seems to serve the PAP, rather than Singapore. I really fear for our country's future.

petunialee said...

Dear Richard,
thank you for your very frank, sincere and civilized comment.