Lim Tean challenges claim on family offices’ low impact on Singapore’s property market and inequality

Lim Tean challenges claim on family offices’ low impact on Singapore’s property market and inequality

Leader of the Peoples Voice, Lim Tean, expressed his disagreement with Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan’s recent statements in Parliament, in which Tan claimed that there had been no residential private property transaction attributable to family offices over the last six years.

In response to questions by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai and Sengkang GRC Member of Parliament Louis Chua, Minister Alvin Tan explained, “Purchases by foreigners have been relatively low, at about four per cent of all private residential property purchases on average over the last three years.”

He added that the inflow of foreign funds through family offices had little to no impact on Singapore’s Official Foreign Reserves and inflation.

Mr Lim took to Facebook, arguing against Mr Tan’s remarks, saying, “Does Alvin Tan think we are so naive to believe that the ultra-rich individuals who are the beneficial owners of these family offices cannot buy in their own names or their spouses or children’s names and that purchases must only be done in the name of family offices?”

Mr Lim then accused the government of turning Singapore into the “Monte Carlo of Asia,” a playground for the rich and privileged, driving young talented Singaporeans away due to escalating rental and property values.

In Parliament, Mr Tan stated that Single Family Offices (SFO) managed about S$90 billion of assets as of 2021, less than two per cent of the S$5.4 trillion assets managed in Singapore.

Furthermore, he mentioned that foreign non-retail individual clients, which include family offices, accounted for approximately 20% of the increase in total Assets Under Management (AUM) from 2017 to 2021.

Regarding Singapore’s official foreign reserves, Mr Tan clarified that most assets managed in Singapore are invested outside the country and typically remain in foreign currencies, having minimal effect on the Singapore Dollar exchange rate.

As for inflation, he attributed the increase in core inflation since late-2021 to global energy, imported food prices, and stronger domestic wage growth.

Despite these explanations, Mr Lim remains unconvinced about the government’s stance.

In his Facebook post, he lamented, “That is the sad state we have arrived at under the PAP. A nation of the haves and the have-nots. A nation where indigenous Singaporeans feel they have to leave because they can no longer afford life, which is otherwise splendid for the ultra-rich foreigners who call this playground home.”

MOS Alvin Tan’s response contrasts public reports on foreign spending in Singapore

The Monetary Authority of Singapore estimated there were about 700 family offices at the end of 2021. Industry experts say the current estimate is more like 1,400, with mainland Chinese the biggest drivers of growth.

The backlog alone of single-family offices applying for tax incentives and pending approvals is around 200, according to Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam in response to a question filed by Workers’ Party Louis Chua in March.

The presence of recent Chinese arrivals is keenly felt in Singapore, with some relocating to luxury homes with waterfront views on Sentosa Island, which also houses a theme park, a casino and a prestigious golf club.

The price of golf memberships for expats at the exclusive Sentosa Golf Club surged last year to S$840,000 as more Chinese join.

A report from real estate consultancy OrangeTee & Tie in October last year revealed that Chinese buyers snapped up the biggest share of Singapore’s condo market in 2022 compared with other foreigners, as total foreign buying of private non-landed homes almost bounced back to pre-pandemic levels.

Chinese buyers purchased 932 private non-landed units in the first eight months of 2022, almost twice the number bought by Malaysians. They accounted for 6.7 per cent of total transactions in 2022 and took the top spot for luxury condominiums going for $5 million or more.

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