SINGAPORE — Reform Party’s Secretary General Kenneth Jeyaretnam has raised concerns in a blog post about the alleged occupation of two prime residential properties along Ridout Road by Ministers Vivian Balakrishnan and K. Shanmugam.

Mr Jeyaretnam mentioned that one house he was aware of was rented out for $30,000 per month, but emphasized that this was a few years ago, and market rents have likely increased significantly since then.

He estimated that the conservative price of such properties would be around $1100 per square foot, indicating that a property with an area of 50,000 square feet (with some properties reportedly exceeding 70,000 square feet) could be worth approximately $55 million. Based on a rental yield of 3%, the annual rent for such a property would amount to at least $1.65 million.

Mr Jeyaretnam also highlighted the challenge faced by high-ranking officials, such as Mr Balakrishnan and Mr Shanmugam, who receive substantial but still relatively modest annual salaries of around $2 million.

He questions whether the ministers could afford the market rent for these former colonial mansions, which are owned by the Singapore government and should be rented by open tender every two years.

Mr Jeyaretnam has called for transparency in the auction process for these properties, and for information on the bids received.

In his blog post, he requested clarification from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) or the ministers themselves on whether they are staying at these properties and paying a market rental reached in an open bidding process.

In a separate inquiry, The Online Citizen Asia (TOC) had also been informed of the accommodation of the two ministers and had written to the SLA and the ministers’ assistants twice for clarification last month but has not received any response.

Google Maps’ street view images reveal security gantries at the entry of the addresses in question, which suggest the properties are housing ministers.

In August 2022, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai filed a written parliamentary question regarding the rental demand for colonial black-and-white bungalows, their land area, and lease duration.

In response, Minister Shanmugam disclosed that SLA manages 262 residential state black-and-white bungalows with a land area exceeding 20,000 sqft. As of 21 July 2022, 236 of these bungalows were tenanted, with a median land size of about 38,000 sqft and a median rental of about $13,000/month.

Black-and-white bungalows such as that in Ridout Road can only be rented and not sold. Many of these colonial houses were built using monies gained through the British opium trade which the Ministry of Home Affairs had scorned upon.

Based on SLA’s data, the lot size of 24,26,31 Ridout Road is 48,790 square metres or 525,171.19 square feet. 

TOC’s search could not find tender information about the two properties, raising questions about whether these prime estates were publicly tendered and the price for which the ministers got the properties.

It is worth noting that SLA is overseen by the Ministry of Law, headed by Minister Shanmugam, the Minister for Law and Home Affairs.

Until the SLA or the ministers provide answers, these questions about the alleged occupation of prime residential properties by the two ministers remain unanswered, adding to the list of unresolved queries surrounding Singapore’s political elite.

Mr Jeyaretam, in his blog post, wrote, “If SLA or the Ministers do not answer, we will have further confirmation that in Singapore’s Animal Farm, animals wearing a fascist lightning symbol are more equal than others.”

This is 6 of 60 articles written for the S$30k fundraising of Terry Xu’s contempt of court fine and cost. To see the full list of the 60 articles, visit this page.

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