Singapore’s HDB scheme has no doubt provided affordable housing to the majority of Singaporeans. From its heyday in the late 70s, 80s and 90s, its contribution cannot be understated. However, of late, the HDB structure has come under increasing scrutiny, in part due to a more observant public and the growth of the online media, which facilitates a much quicker dispensation of information to a wider audience.
The layers of bureaucracy and interconnectedness of the various bodies that run and administer the burgeoning administration of this scheme needs to be streamlined in order to continue to serve the needs of Singaporeans.
The core objective behind the HDB scheme is to provide affordable housing to the majority of Singaporeans. The entire administration behind this scheme including the salaries of the civil servants is funded by public funds, which is entirely separate from a political party – even if that party has governed Singapore for over 50 years.
While many opposition politicians have belted out this fact, the message just does not appear to have properly sunk in. Many PAP politicians have repeatedly dangled the “upgrading” carrot to entice voters, which appears to work. This indicates that the bulk of both the PAP politicians and the voters still do not understand that there is a divide between public funds and the PAP.
As recent as the 2015 elections, PAP politicians have used the threat of upgrading to persuade the public. To ensure that voters have the option of making an informed decision at the polls, it is crucial to ensure that the public is educated to understand the difference between a political party and the Government. The monies that are being used to fund HDB upgrading projects are public monies. They cannot and should not be seen as used to further the interests of a political party.
The PAP government can also reap benefits by conscientiously educating the public that all HDB estates will benefit from upgrading projects regardless of which party they vote for. By making it an election issue, the PAP government is essentially creating a much heavier burden on itself. If it had not made such a big issue of HDB upgrading, it would not have created such a high degree of expectation from its voters. Would the various HDB problems such as the recent spate of lift accidents been blamed squarely and wholly on the government if the government had not claimed to be responsible in the first place?
In short, had the lines between town councils and the government not been so blurred in the first place, would the PAP government have been blamed? Would there be wriggle room for opposition parties to hold PM Lee directly responsible for the Ang Mo Kio Town Council debacle if the town councils and the governments are not so intertwined in the first place?
Singapore is gearing up for a political structure that includes more political parties. Something as crucial to the livelihoods of Singaporeans such as the HDB scheme needs to be streamlined to prevent bureaucracy blunders that unnecessarily consumes the time and resources of town councils whose primary focus should be to ensure that all Singaporeans benefit from what the HDB intended at its inception.
The myriad of organisations such as the Peoples’ Association needs to be updated and simplified. The multi layered and cumbersome network now creates inefficiencies, misunderstandings and work duplication. It also provides gaps, which give corrupted individuals within the system an opportunity to enrich themselves.
As we begin the New Year, I can only hope that this issue takes priority.