by Augustine Low
Our politicians go out of their way to show they know the needs and worries of ordinary people.
The irony is that the harder they try, the more apparent it is that they have become out of touch with realities on the ground.
Can the Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat still be considered a golden nest egg?
Apparently, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong thinks so, saying on Sunday “your HDB flat will be both a good home for you and your family, and a valuable nest egg for your retirement.”
He has conveniently forgotten that, as National Development Minister, Lawrence Wong said in 2017: “As the leases run down, especially towards the tail-end, the flat prices will come down correspondingly.”
In fact, PM Lee himself said as much in a 2018 post-National Day rally dialogue session.
These were his exact words:
“But at 99 years, it comes back to the government. You have got 99 years of use out of it while the government gets back the land, recycle and can redevelop for somebody else. I think that is fair.
“I think that is the fundamental point which we have to understand, because if we made it forever – or if we said at the end of 99 years, you give me back the house, I give you back your dollars – well, then what about the years when you have been living in the house? You must pay rent right? Which I don’t think is the deal.”
So for PM Lee to still say the HDB flat is a “valuable nest egg for your retirement” would appear that he is out of touch with reality and with his own past statements.
If the flat declines in value with age, potentially plummeting to zero value, it becomes a constant source of worry.
Minister Desmond Lee also came out with out of touch comments about Singaporeans accepting high-price BTO flats in mature estates.
Given a choice, Singaporeans would gladly bargain down the price. Is that allowed?
Over the years, we have also heard Ministers chime in with the contention that Singaporean low-income families earning as little as $1,000 a month could also own a HDB flat.
That is hardly convincing to anyone but themselves.
Equally unconvincing is Minister Ong Ye Kung’s TikTok video showing cheap food in Sembawang.
For Singaporeans to spend $5 on roti prata and carrot cake (essentially breakfast food) is not considered cheap by any means.
It is certainly cheap for those on a million-dollar salary. But then again, millionaires would hardly be eating out at hawker centres on a daily basis – unlike the rest of us.
So affordability of meals – like affordability of housing – is relative.
For that matter, access to affordable first-class healthcare is also relative to one’s status.
As Health Minister, Khaw Boon Wan sang the praises of the country’s healthcare system in reference to his own heart bypass surgery, for which he only paid $8 out of pocket.
A reality for him as a Minister but a fantasy for us.
Sometimes they are so out of touch that they give out of this world advice.
Like Minister Grace Fu speaking in Parliament: “If you can’t buy this (meat) this week, just don’t eat this form of meat. If you can’t find chicken, let’s go for other forms of meat like eggs.”
Eggs are meat? Only a political elite can come up with that.