So, the government has told Singaporeans that they need to be responsible for their own wallets in dealing with the problem of rising costs and stagnant wages. Indeed, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (LHL) even provided Singaporeans tips on how to save money at his National Day Rally speech.
What that speech failed to address, however, was how to create wealth. Instead of focusing on how we can make more money, the focus was on how we could cut down. Is this the prevailing mindset of the ruling party? That of lack?
It is interesting to note that the government has clamped down on ways in which its citizens can earn a little more. Take for instance AirBnB.
As most readers will be aware, this is an app that allows people worldwide to let out their homes when they are away or the spare room in their homes for a little bit of spare cash. This phenomenon has taken the world by storm. Yet, in Singapore, its legality is still a little bit of a grey area.
On paper, it is illegal as HDB flat owners are not allowed to rent out their flats for less than 6 months. However, homes in Singapore are still being listed on the app. It, therefore, trundled on as a little bit of a “its illegal but we won’t take action” business.
That is until two AirBnB hosts were spectacularly fined. A consultation process was convened which ended on 31 May 2018. I understand that this is still being considered. If the proposed regulations are passed, it would seem that condominiums are “AirBnBable” if certain consents are obtained from the rest of the residents.
What about HDB flats? Don’t the majority of Singaporeans live in HDB flats?
The thing is, the government has repeatedly insisted that you do own your flat stating that you can transact on it. Both PM Lee and National Development Minister, Lawrence Wong have defended HDB ownership vehemently with him declaring:
“They can also sell their properties and benefit from any upside, or rent it out if they choose to…..important to set the record straight”.
So why is AirBnB not allowed? If the residents in my block are agreeable, surely I should be able to rent it out just like a condo owner can?
The government has insisted that a 99 year lease on a HDB flat is no different to a 99 year lease on a private apartment. Why then is there a difference here? If there is indeed no difference to the terms of ownership, then the same rules that apply to private property owners should also apply to owners of HDB flats no?
Of course, it does make sense if, factually-and-legally, a “HDB owner” is merely a tenant in a flat owned by HDB.
If Singaporeans are trying to take responsibility in creating more wealth for themselves to cope with rising costs of living, why is the government stopping them?
Isn’t it bad enough that Uber has been bought over by Grab, creating a monopoly that reduces the bargaining power of drivers while decreasing the choices available to consumers?