By Leong Sze Hian
I refer to the article “Government to release more data on the Web” (Today, Jun 18).
It states that “Instead of poring over spreadsheets and data tables found across a myriad of Government websites, the public can now access more Government data on topics ranging from lightning activity to property rentals, as the Government continues its e-governance push.
The Government will be releasing more data to the public, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam yesterday, calling the move a “proactive” one that will “encourage more feedback, as well as research and analysis on issues of public concern”.
National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said he hoped to see more data on poverty, social mobility, citizens, permanent residents and foreigners. “Quality data matter for academic research and policy analysis.””
I was so excited when I read the above – thinking that more data will be released.
Encourage feedback, research and analysis on issues of public concern?
When I read the above at 5.30 a.m. on Tuesday, 18 June, I was still half asleep – I was at Changi airport waiting to board my flight to speak at an international conference on public housing.
My topic was “The Singapore Public Housing Success Story: Fairytale or Nightmare?”.
I applaud the remarks – “calling the move a “proactive” one that will “encourage more feedback, as well as research and analysis on issues of public concern”” – and I accordingly would like to respond.
When you are half awake, the mind tends to wonder – What if you know who grants me a wishlist to get any of the statistics that I have been trying to get and asking for, over the last 15 years or so. My fear as I boarded my flight was the embarrassment that so many statistics are unknown?
Well, here’s my statistics wishlist (I have arranged the sequence of the 40 item statistics’ wishlist starting from CPF, to highlight the increasing trend that lesser Singaporeans are able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum, arguably due to a large extent to the skyrocketing HDB prices coupled with very low real wage growth due primarily (in my view) to our liberal foreign labour and immigration policies – leading to increasing incidence of poverty and social ills, which sadly has not been mitigated by more generous Government or charity spending – whilst the relentless hoarding of reserves continues) :
- How many Singaporeans who reach 55 were able to meet the CPF Minimum Sum (currently $148,000), without pledging property?
My estimate – about 1 in 8
- What is the breakdown into Singaporeans and PRs, for the total workforce, employment change, long-term unemployed, economically inactive, etc? (“’Stagnant incomes can affect public’s tolerance levels’ – Link between standard of living and attitude towards immigrants: Harvard prof”)
- How many foreign university interns, foreign spouses on long-term Visit Pass-Plus, short term (project) less than a year foreign workers – are working in Singapore? (Note: I believe these categories are not counted in the foreign labour statistics)
- Yearly breakdown of new PRs granted, PRs who leave, increase in the total number of PRs, number of PRs converted to new citizens
- What is the breakdown of HDB BTO flat prices into land and construction costs for all the different flat types? (“Tan Kah Hong’s letter “How are prices of new flats derived?”, Straits Times forum, Jun 18)
My estimate – about 40% construction cost and 60% land cost
- How many in arrears over 3 months on their HDB and HDB bank loans? How many foreclosed? How many sold in the open market to pre-empt foreclosure? (Note: HDB Compulsory Acquisition is only 90% of valuation and no COV)
- How many HDB rental flats are in arrears over 3 months? How many HDB rental flat tenants have been evicted for rental arrears?
- How many ethnic quota appeals to HDB are successful in a year?
- What is the total number of flat applicants who have ever applied and are still in the queue for BTO flats (1st and 2nd-timers)?
- How many so called “case-by-case” hardship appeal cases are approved by the HDB?
- How many HDB appeal letters are written by all the MPs in all the constituencies in a year, and how many are successful
Just in case some of you may be curious about the gist of my presentation at the public housing conference. Here is a summary in a nutshell:
Public housing in Singapore does not cost the Government to single cent, because it acquired land very cheaply and sells at a profit.
Singaporeans use a lot of their CPF to pay for public housing, and when they borrow from the Government to pay – the Government also makes money by taking the pension funds of Singaporeans, at 2.5% and charging 2.6% on the mortgage loans.
- How many Singaporean families have ever applied for financial assistance ubder ComCare, and how many have ever been granted assistance?
- What is the sum total of all the Endowment Funds, like Medifund, ComCare Fund, etc?
- How many grassroots leaders are PRs and new citizens?
- How many single parents (including divorced parents) are there?
- How many people with disabilities?
- How many suicides and attempted suicides in a year?
- How much actual donations are made on a year-to-year basis, by the Tote Board to Charity (social service) (not donation commitments to Charity (social service))? (Note: Tote Board has $3.2 billion reserves)
- What is the patients’ rejection rate for Medifund (not applications rejection rate)?
My estimate – 20% (not counting those who may be told that they don’t even have to apply because they clearly do not meet the criteria
- How many have ever sought treatment for depression, mental or work stress?
- How many people have ever been to jail?
- How many people have ever had a bad credit record?
- How many people have ever been made bankrupt?
- How many homeless people, homeless shelters (how many living in them), interim housing scheme, etc?
- How many Singaporeans emigrate in a year (not just those who give up their citizenships)?
- How many Singaporeans have visited the casinos and how many visits in total have been made?
- What is the year-to-year difference between our Budget Surpluses versus our Surpluses (under IMF reporting standards)?
My estimate – if you include land sales and the return on reserves, the government may have made a surplus of S$ 187 billion cumulatively during the eight years from 2005 to 2012, compared to S$17.35 billion reported in the budget document, and about $32.1 billion difference for the last year
- What is the historical annualised rate of return on our total reserves?
My estimate – 2%
- How much is our total reserves?
My estimate – $900 million
- How much funds have been injected into Temasek, GIC and other government entity to invest over the years?
- How many non-Singaporean (foreigners and PRs) undergraduate and graduate students in the local universities?
My estimate – about 40%
- How much money is being spent a year on foreign students’ scholarships, tuition grants, etc?
- How many foreign students who were given scholarships, tuition grants, etc, have left Singapore?
- What is the breakdown of the proportion of university scholarships given to Singaporeans by type of housing and household income bracket?
- How many Singaporean students in the international schools in Singapore?
- How much sinking funds, accumulated surplus and annual surpluses, do all the town councils have?
- How much has all the town councils written off by way of S&CC arrears in the last 5 years? How many households are in arrears over 3 months on their S&CC?
- What are the historical total revenues, total expenditures, and current assets & liabilities of AIM Pte Ltd?
- Can we have a listing of the actual total annual remuneration of each of the Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, other political appointment holders, etc?