By Andrew Loh
[*Please see latest update below] According to a Channel Newsasia (CNA) report on 29 May, the Minister of Manpower, Tan Chuan Jin, was reported to have said in Parliament that “there is nothing to stop PRs from continuing to own property in Singapore, even if they have left.”
CNA later removed this part of its report altogether, without any explanation. (See here: “$400m withdrawn each year by CPF members leaving S’pore”)
The CNA report caused much anger among the public, and the removal of the particular part of its report caused confusion.
Did the minister say what CNA reported him as having said?
Or did CNA misreport what the minister said?
The transcripts of the minister’s reply – to a question posed by NCMP Lina Chiam – in Parliament will only be made available to the public in about one week’s time.
In the meanwhile, however, it would seem that Mr Tan is wrong, if he indeed said that “there is nothing to stop PRs from continuing to own property in Singapore, even if they have left.”
In fact, in November 2012, the Law Minister, K Shanmugam, made a statement in Parliament during the Residential Property (Amendment) Bill 2010 hearing that PRs are not allowed to retain thei property after they have given up their PR status.
In full, this is the relevant part of Mr Shanmugam’s speech which you can view here [emphasis ours]:
“Requiring ex-Singapore Citizens and ex-Permanent Residents to dispose of their Restricted Properties
“The final group of key amendments deals with the disposal of Restricted Properties belonging to ex-Singapore citizens and ex-Permanent Residents (PRs), and to foreign persons beneficially entitled to Restricted Properties through inheritance. Our policy is that only foreigners who are PRs and who have been given specific approval under the RPA can own Restricted Properties. Foreign beneficiaries who inherit such properties and Singapore Citizens and PRs who renounce or lose their citizenship or permanent residency, must dispose of their interests in the properties in a timely manner.
“Currently, the executors or administrators have ten years to dispose of the foreign beneficiaries’ interest in a Restricted Property if the beneficiaries do not qualify for approval under the RPA. As the estate administration process has been simplified with the abolishment of estate duty in 2008, we will shorten the disposal period to five years.
“We will now also require individuals who renounce or lose their Singapore Citizenship or Permanent Residency to dispose of their Restricted Properties. The amendment will address the current anomaly in our laws whereby an ex-Singaporean or ex-PR can continue to hold on to their Restricted Properties.”
In an article on the TODAY newspaper in October 2010 following the changes, the issue was raised by the newspaper:
“[The] Government’s decision to force those who give up their citizenship or their permanent residency status to sell any landed property they have here appears to be rather harsh. Under the new rules, such people will have to dispose of their landed properties within two years or face a penalty of $20,000 or a three-year jail term. It does not seem to matter if the landed property in question is a small terrace house or a huge mansion.”
Neither the Manpower Ministry nor Mr Tan has clarified if Mr Tan said what CNA reported him as having said, or corrected what Mr Tan supposedly said.
It indeed seems that the minister was wrong.
*Update on 31 May 2014, 18:40hrs – Facebook post by Mr Tan:
TOC has written to the minister to seek his clarification and also to seek his assistance to answer the following questions.
- How many Permanent Resident (PR)s own resale HDB flats.
- What were the statistics of PRs who own HDB resale flats who have given up PR.
- Whether all these persons have disposed of their properties pursuant to the Residential Property (Amendment).