Building on numbers

In Money, News Reports, Writing on December 15, 2012 at 8:06 am

All those building numbers are making me dizzy. You know, the number of BTO flats to be built, private homes, EC sites and land sales…What I know is that we are building like crazy.

So I had a good look at the private housing numbers that are coming up, depending of course on whether developers buy and build on those sites that the G is releasing as reported today.

Actually, I am not sure I care. Isn’t the problem whether or not people can afford to buy property? Does a bigger supply of homes translate to lower property prices? I had to plough through half of the ST P1 story to find out that it won’t.
I went to BT and found that the land releases for private homes are represented as “joyous tidings’’. I wonder for whom? Private developers? Or home buyers? (you would think that plenty of people are unhoused at the moment)

I am not sure what to think after reading the stories although I’m sure the real estate types would make more of it. BT had a chart on number of homes to be built while ST had maps of plum sites. I wish one paper would have BOTH so I don’t have to read so much text.

What I was interested in was that ECs will form 45 per cent or 3,110 of supply in the “confirmed’’ list in the first half of next year. I guess we’ll see more penthouses for the sandwiched class soon. Isn’t it time we took a look at the sky-high EC prices and see if the policy still holds? I mean, ECs are classified as “private housing’’ even though they are subsidised and subject to some HDB-like rulings. Are EC developers making a killing on taxpayers’ money? I want to be enlightened.

Another numbers story that left me in a fog was over how we spent a record $7.4b on R&D last year. According to ST, it was by both private and public sectors, although it didn’t say who was responsible for how much. Reading the article though, you would think this was all G largesse, courtesy of A*Star. Especially when it mentioned that $16b had been set aside for the next R&D five-year plan – 20 per cent more than over the previous five years.

I had to turn to BT for the full picture. And that is: Private sector research, especially by foreign companies, out-paced that of the public sector. Local companies still lag behind, not a good sign given the productivity push Singapore is embarking on.

Also, here’s an interesting case of how numbers can look good or bad:
ST said that last year’s research spending of 2.3 per cent of GDP brings Singapore “closer’’ to other countries famed for research, such as Denmark.
It added that the Republic’s target is to get it up to 3.5 per cent in 2015, which would put it on par with the top research countries such as Israel and Japan.

BT, on the hand, did not refer to the levels of research in other countries. Instead it pitted Singapore’s achievement against its own target: Despite a red-letter year, the country’s research intensiveness is 2.3 per cent of the economy, still some way off its 2015 goal of spending 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product on R&D.
Amazing what sort of spin you can give to numbers. Also shows why you have to read more than just one media for a full picture.

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