Monday morning blues reading the newspapers?: Childcare, Healthcare, HDB, National Con., etc?

By Leong Sze Hian

Reading the newspapers on a Monday morning can be rather depressing. You may get the feeling that we may not seem to be really serious about solving the problems that Singaporeans have.

Pre-school sites won’t go to highest bidder?

Let’s start with the article “Pre-school sites won’t just go to highest bidder” (Straits Times, Apr 15).

Rents up as much as 5 times in 5 years?

It states that “the competition for space has jacked up rents at HDB void decks to as high as $50,000 a month in newer estates … About five years ago, the average rent was just $10,000 to $20,000. This has contributed to higher fees. The average childcare centre fee has climbed from $572 a month in 2004 to more than $800 last year”.

What about existing sites’ rent?

So, “The Change, (is) to be implemented in the next few months”.

Whlist this policy change is a welcomed move, does it help all the centres that are already operating in existing sites?

Why not reduce the rents of existing centres too? Otherwise, it may take years for fees to be lower – with only new sites getting “not the highest bidder” rent.

HDB is the root of the problem?

The root of the problem is the high rentals charged by the HDB.

Will not giving to the highest bidder, translate into the HDB’s willingness to accept much lower rentals compared to the 2 to 5 times increase relative to about 5 years ago?

2 anchor operators get subsidies?

It was recently announced that private operators can also apply for the subsidies that parents get on fees, which was only applicable to PAP Foundation and NTUC operated centres.

Open subsidy to all?

This is unfair competition and should be opened up so that parents can choose to go to any centre to get the subsidy – not just some private operators that will be approved after their application.

How many approved already?

By the way, can we be given an update, as to what percentage of all private operators are now approved for the subsidy?

Healthcare more expensive because drug companies charge more?

Next, let me move on to the article “Govt will shoulder bigger share of health bills” (Straits Times, Apr 15).

It states that “That healthcare is more expensive here compared to other countries in the region is inevitable, she said, adding that international drug companies charge more for their products in Singapore compared to developing countries”.

Percentage of drug costs?

What is the proportion of the costs of drugs in patients’ bills, over the total costs in public hospitals?

As an analogy, it may be akin to saying that cars are very expensive because tire companies charge  higher prices for tires in Singapore!

Missing response to Medifund question?

I am also curious as to why the article reported the following question from the residents in the dialogue session, but not her response:-

“Another lamented that to tap Medifund – government aid for the low-income – one must have first “wiped-out” the Medisave accounts of family members.”

Overpaid for past BTOs?

As to her remarks that HDB BTO flats’ prices have been unpegged from resale prices since 2011, shouldn’t the Resale Levy of up to $50,000 be removed as some may have overpaid (due to the resale prices peg) for their BTO flats in the past. (“HDB BTO prices stabilised: Really – 3-room increased 25%?, Apr 10)

Remove Resale Levy?

Otherwise, it is like a double whammy – overpaid for first BTO flat and now also pay Resale Levy to buy second BTO flat!

History of national conversations?

As to the articles “A brief history of national conversations” and “Setting a new pace for the nation”, which said that “the committee had stressed continually that the conversation was not focused on producing policy recommendations or finding sacred cows to slay … the OSC should not be a “culling session” … “I don’t think we should start our Singapore conversation on the basis of looking for sacred cows to slay … I don’t think that would be a constructive exercise”” – we are now into our at least fourth national public consultation exercise since 1991.

So, after so many “national conversations” after so many years – why do we still have so many problems and issues?

How not to start a conversation?

Perhaps an analogy may help to explain – let’s have a conversation, but let’s not talk about or focus on “sacred cows”, “producing policy recommendations”, “not constructive exercise”, blah blah blah, etc – now isn’t that a great way to start a conversation!