On Thursday, 29 May, Channel Newsasia (CNA) reported the Minister of Manpower Tan Chuan Jin as having said that “the Government does not track the number of Permanent Residents (PRs) who withdraw their CPF monies when they leave Singapore for good.”
It also reported Mr Tan as having said that “there is nothing to stop PRs from continuing to own property in Singapore, even if they have left.”
Also, Mr Tan supposedly said that “evaluations will be done to determine” whether such PRs who have left will be allowed to return to Singapore to work.
Mr Tan was replying to questions posed by non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP), Lina Chiam.
Mrs Chiam’s questions were:
“Among the permanent residents who left Singapore permanently by way of withdrawing their CPF monies when they leave Singapore , what is the average length of their PR status in Singapore? Secondly, can PRs keep their properties after withdrawing their CPF monies when they leave Singapore for good.”
"Can they be employed again in Singapore?"
CNA’s report caused an uproar online, with many questioning Mr Tan’s reply to Mrs Chiam with disbelief, that the Government would not track the amount of CPF funds withdrawn by PRs.
CNA’s report was published at 15:19 hrs (3.19pm).
At about 8.30pm on Thursday night, CNA posted a correction to the report.
This was what it said on its Facebook page:
“Editor’s Note: This article corrects an earlier version which wrongly stated that the government does not track CPF withdrawals by Permanent Residents who leave Singapore.”
This correction, as you can see, is actually a complete rewrite of the original report, although the url remains the same.
The original headline – "CPF withdrawals by Permanent Residents not tracked: Tan Chuan Jin” - is changed to:
“CPF members leaving S'pore withdrew more than $400m each year from 2003 to 2013”
The so-called correction, however, does not correct its original report which said that the Government does not track CPF withdrawals by PRs.
The correction in fact seems to reiterate the point:
“He said the CPF Board does not track the amount separately for PRs who have given up residency.”
But what is curious is that CNA removed entirely the part about PRs being allowed or able to retain their property even after they have left Singapore.
Here is the original report:
Here is the “corrected” report, with the part on retaining the "property" removed:
CNA does not explain why it had removed the paragraph on PRs being allowed to retain their property.
We can only wait for the official parliamentary records of proceedings in the House to be sure of what exactly it was that Mr Tan said, unless Mr Tan himself clarifies this before then. [Transcripts of parliamentary debates are only available online 7 days from the sitting.]
You can read the public’s reaction to CNA’s “corrected” report here.
Besides private property, PRs are also allowed to purchase and own resale HDB flats, without subsidy from the government. They are also not allowed to apply for HDB loans, unlike citizens.
PRs who give up their permanent resident status are required to sell their HDB flats.
In January last year, the government announced more changes to the rules for PRs owning HDB flats. [See here: "Permanent residents hit by changes".]
From August 2013, new PRs will also have to wait 3 years before they can purchase such flats.
According to a Straits Times report in August last year:
“There were 51,000 Housing Board flats fully owned by permanent residents as of end June, representing 6 per cent of all HDB flats, said Mr Khaw [Boon Wan] in a written parliamentary reply this month.
“This year, 130 flats were sold by PRs within three years of their purchase, while 320 were sold within four years of purchase, and 490 within five years.”
Why are PRs allowed to buy and own HDB flats?
This is the explanation from the HDB: