Leong Sze Hian /
The Straits Times reported that the “[National Development Minister, Khaw Boon Wan] spoke of speeding up the construction of new flats and raising the number of Build-to-Order (BTO) units from 22,000 to 25,000 this year”, on top of the thousands more of rental flats needed.
According to a Channel Newsasia report on 30 May, Mr Khaw said “the industry cannot cope with the demand for nearly 40,000 flats a year.”
The Singapore Contractors Association said the “industry currently has the capacity to build half that number.”
Imagine you are watching a school debate competition on television.
The first speaker for the proposition says: “We need to ramp up the building of rental flats as quickly as we can.”
Then, the second speaker says: “Speed up the construction of new flats and raising the number of BTO units from 22,000 to 25,000 this year.”
The third speaker says, “The industry cannot cope with the demand for nearly 40,000 flats a year (actually industry capacity is only 20,000).”
Finally, the last speaker says, “(We) should not be daunted by such a prospect, but should instead try to meet the aspirations of many young couples wanting to set up nests near their parents. Our response should be to put up more sites in mature estates, even as we ramp BTO launches elsewhere.”
After listening to the above four speakers from the same team, don’t you kind of sense that they may all be contradicting each other?
If industry capacity is only 20,000, how do you build “tens of thousands of rental flats”, as Mr Khaw said was needed, quickly on top of the 7,500 announced only last year by the former National Development Minister, Mr Mah Bow Tan, increase BTOs to 25,000 this year, increase BTOs in mature estates on top of the HDB’s original BTO plans in non-mature estates?
To put the issue in perspective, I think the problem may be that these self-contradictory remarks were not made by four speakers of the same debating team, but by the Minister himself on 27, 30 and 31 May, that is, on three consecutive days.
Perhaps what Singaporeans want now is not more mere rhetoric, but policy changes that will lead to
real desirable outcomes for the people.