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Record GDP: More can’t pay S&CC?

by Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the report "S'pore economy grows 14.7% in 2010" (Channel News Asia, Jan 3).

With this all-time record GDP growth for Singapore, what does it mean for ordinary Singaporeans?

Much has been analysed and said about declining real median wages, HDB resale prices rising another 14 per cent last year, etc. In my view, one good indicator may be how many Singaporean households have difficulty paying their Service and Conservancy Charges (S& C C)? If a household can't even pay $30 to $70 a month on S & CC, it may also be likely that it can't pay the HDB mortgage. I estimate the total number of HDB mortgages in arrears for more than three months to be about 39,000, based on the last reported statistics of 28,000 for HDB Concessionary loans and an estimated seven per cent of the159,000 HDB bank loans.

PAP town councils better than opposition?

With the looming general elections date ("General Election... one step closer"( Channel News Asia, Jan 3), one of the key issues during the elections may be how the two opposition town councils scored against the PAP town councils.

In this connection, I refer to media reports (“Better report card for most town councils”, ST, Dec 10) labout the latest town councils management report.

What is perhaps conspicuous about the town councils’ management report, is that whilst all but one of the 14 PAP town councils scored level 2 for Service and Conservancy Fess (S & CC) Households in Arrears and Amount in Arrears, the other 13 all scored level 1.

In stark contrast, the two opposition town councils, Hougang and Potong Pasir, scored level 5, for both areas. Is there something wrong with the opposition town councils?

As a layman, I think two factors that may influence the S & CC scores, is how town councils write-off their S & CC bad debts, and the balance of efficiency and compassion in chasing for arrears.

In this regard, I was surprised to see in the annual reports, that Hougang wrote-off about eight times more on a proportional basis, in the last financial year, than Hong Kah, which is about eight times bigger than Hougang in terms of total S & CC annual collections.

Hougang and Hong Kah wrote-off $87,059 and $87,532, respectively.

Despite writing off about eight times more proportionately, why is it that Hougang still ended up with level 5 scores, whilst Hong Kah moved up from level 2 to 1 in both areas?

I also find it rather puzzling as to why Hougang’s write-off in the previous financial year was zero, compared to Hong Kah’s $106,307.

As to the other possible contributing factor of efficiency in chasing for arrears, Hong Kah’s interest on late payment of S & CC, at $267,964, was about four times more than Hougang’s $8,719, on a proportional basis.

Does this mean that Hougang was more lax or perhaps more compassionate in chasing for arrears?