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Have you the courage?

Eng Cheong /

个人的事再大也是小事。国家的事再小也是大事。

The above words in English means “However big a personal issue is, it is still a small issue. But however small a country issue is, it is still a big issue”.

Upgrading

At every election, there is one single thing that the government will do – upgrading of flats and precinct. I believe that everyone knows the real reason why multi-million dollar upgrading programs are unveiled at this time, although the majority chooses not to talk about it openly.

If you look at the letters published in the papers, people talk about how they are contented with the current situation or what our country has achieved since independence. They are happy and cannot imagine what will happen if they wake up on the 8th of May to find that the value of their house dropped from 400k to 200k. It is an asset which they have worked so hard to pay for in the last 30 years. Others are very pleased with the upgrading programs that they have been getting, and cannot imagine what to do if they do not get a fresh coat of paint every 5 years. They want the value of their home to appreciate. This is a personal interest.

This “personal interest” tactic is one the ruling party adopts over and over again. Recently, an NUS student asked PM Lee why flats in opposition wards are last in queue for upgrading, and it was confirmed by PM Lee that he has to take care of PAP wards first because those residents supported PAP. This was further reinforced by MM Lee when he guaranteed voters will regret if they vote opposition. The value of their flats will drop and upgrading plans won’t be carried out.

As a responsible government, how can the People’s Action Party (PAP) discriminate against Singaporeans by dividing us this way? It is well-known that their salary and the money used for upgrading comes from all of us taxpayers. They are supposed to provide fair treatment to all citizens and not utilize such funds for their sole interest of gaining votes. In fact, if they really want to win the opposition wards over, they should not just dangle carrots, but give them out wholeheartedly even when they lose.

I, too, am a normal Singaporean living in an HDB flat. Of course I would like the value of my flat to appreciate over time (again personal interest), but not at such a rate that is much faster than how our salary grows. Every time you think of how the value of your flat goes up, try thinking of those who are less fortunate in terms of affording a flat. Not everybody is eligible to rent a flat from the government, and for those who have to rent from the open market, the rental is tied to resale value, which they cannot afford.

Recently, both the Worker’s Party (WP) and PAP candidate for Hougang were asked “What do the residents need?” The WP candidate said that they needed someone who is caring, responsible and who can help them. In contrast, the PAP candidate said that they needed lift upgrading, more covered walkways and education assistance. Which answer do you prefer?

Lift upgrading is not supposed to be a gift from the government. It was because back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, housing people was more important so HDB did not provide a lift landing at every floor so as to keep building costs low. If they are making up for it now, they should not make it appear a new idea, as if we owe it to them to do something they should already have done.

Singaporeans are well-travelled and well-educated compared to a generation ago. Just take a look, which country has more covered walkways than we do? While we are in a tropical country, do we need to be so sheltered that we cannot even carry an umbrella on a rainy day?

There is a joke I am reminded of every year during in-camp training. When asked to provide suggestions as part of the improvement process, there will always be a who would suggest building a covered walkway from our unit to the cookhouse, which is just 50m away. It never got implemented, maybe because we soldiers do not need to vote in the SAF.

High Cost of Housing

Why are people marrying in their 30s? A few years back, one of my new colleagues from a neighbouring country laughed when she heard that in Singapore, couples wait for flats to get married. On the one hand, the government wants us to get married early and to boost the declining birth rate. But on the other hand, our MM Lee is saying that Singaporeans are impatient in waiting for their flats.

There are two reasons for the impatience. Firstly, not all marriages are so well-planned that you can do it five years in advance. When you feel like marrying, you just want to get married. Sure, you can rent, but why waste money to pay for something which does not belong to you in the end?

Secondly, everyone is worried about the rising cost of new flats. I don’t believe that young couples find it affordable anymore, because I have taken that route before. In 1993, my parents bought a new flat for about $95 psf at the lowest range. In 2004, my new flat was $173 psf at the lowest range.

That is an 82% increase in 11 years. A latest check on HDB (2011) for a new flat at my estate was $289,000, which is $295 psf, and translates to paying $1,144 per month on a 30-year loan. This is a 70% increase in seven years. If this sounds much higher than what you thought, it is because the sizes of new flats are smaller, and it is only fair that I compare it based on psf.

Scenario

Assuming you and your spouse are now 30 – 35 years old and are buying a new 4-rm flat of the lowest range. If you want to pay for the flat fully using your CPF, it means that both of you need to have $572 every month on your ordinary account (OA) till you are 60 - 65 years old. As OA contribution reduces based on age, this is how much you need to earn every month to ensure timely payment on your loan.

AgeOA contributionSalaryMonthly OA
35 & below23 %$2487$572
35 – 4521 %$2724$572
45 – 5019 %$3011$572
50 – 5513 %$4400$572 

 

55 – 6011.5 %$4973$572
60 – 653.5 %$5000$175 (max)
Above 651 %NA$50 (max)

NOTE: CPF’s salary ceiling has increased to $5000 from Sep 2011 onwards. So you will have to fork out cash beyond 60 years old.

Questions:

• Are you sure you can earn $5000 when you reach 60 years old?

• Are you sure both of you will be working throughout 30 years and earning this kind of salary?

• Are you sure you can achieve the CPF minimum sum of $123,000 (which increases every year) for retirement when you are 65 years old?

• Do you think this scenario is going to get worse or better?

• Are you worried for the next generation or just yourself?

• Do you still believe our minister when he says that flats are still affordable?

Before ending, let me relate a story that I think is much better than Mr Lui Tuck Yew’s.

A man was sentenced to life imprisonment. The first day when he stepped into his cell, things started to go wrong. The spoon for drinking soup had holes in it. The fish had a mouse-trap-like spring that poked into his jaw when he eats it. The chair he sits on is made up of knives that injured him. When he fell down on the floor, he sat on nails. And there are other traps that hurt him faster than he can react. He realized this is not a normal cell, but a torture chamber.

Then, he saw a small opening in the wall, and began to dig until it was large enough to crawl through. Outside lay a green patch of land with flowers and a clear blue sky. He wanted to get out, but was very worried. What if there was a chopper waiting at the other side of the wall that will drop on him and slice off his head when he sticks it out? So for the next 50 years, he just sat at his cell every day, looking out to the green pastures and the clear blue sky.

Do you have the courage to go through that opening?

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