If he did not even realise the irony and incongruity of his messaging, it shows how out of touch or how audacious Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has become.
At the National Day rally, he told Singaporeans they are fortunate to each have at least $200,000 of wealth.
PM Lee said, “Take for example, a first generation resident in Ang Mo Kio. His four room flat would now be about 40 years old, and can fetch more than $400,000 in the resale market. In a good location, probably more. When he bought the flat 40 years ago, how much do you think he paid for it? $25,000. Even accounting for inflation, this is a huge appreciation. This is how we have enabled many Singaporeans to have a substantial asset to your name, even lower income households. In fact, if you take our homeowners who are 90 per cent of the population, and you look at the poorest one-fifth of homeowners, each have on average $200,000 of wealth in his or her HDB flat. $200,000 of wealth. That means you take the value of the flat, you subtract off his mortgage unpaid and he still has $200,000 to his name. This does not happen anywhere else.”
Mind you, it’s not even cash – it’s locked up in the value of their HDB flat. This takes into account the fact that a 4-room HDB flat is worth about $400,000 and jointly owned by a couple.
But since Singaporeans need a roof over their heads, will they ever get to enjoy this so-called wealth they possess?
Most of all, it comes as somewhat of an affront when you consider that PM Lee, who makes almost $200,000 a month, considers it such a big deal that after a lifetime of hard work and savings, each Singaporean could have $200,000 worth of asset to their name.
There is also irony and incongruity in him giving advice to people on how to manage the cost of living, like going for $3 meals at hawker centres. This is someone who has never had to tighten his belt before, telling others how to tighten their belt.
In any case, isn’t it the government’s job to curb the rise in cost of living rather than dispense tips on how to cope? If the government had not exacerbated costs by raising water and electricity prices, among other measures, then the burden of higher costs would not have fallen on the people in the first place.
It’s the same out-of-touch dissonance with PM Lee telling Singaporeans not to worry about the 99-year lease on their HDB flats because “actually, 99 years is a very long time.”
He misses the point. People are not worried about the 99 years per see – it’s the fact that the HDB flat, once seen as an appreciating asset, is now considered a depreciating asset, despite what Minister Lawrence Wong says. With each passing year, the value is likely to go down and this is enough to cause grave concern.
As for 99 years being a very long time, the rejoinder from Singaporeans would be that to withhold CPF savings until people reach the reach of 65 and beyond is also a very long time.
The problem is that the more you think about the messages and advice PM Lee dishes out, the more wacky and incongruous they seem.