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Posts Tagged ‘Khaw Boon Wan’

Relating to the related third parties

In Money, News Reports, Politics on February 14, 2015 at 2:59 am

I wonder what sort of Valentine’s Day Mr Danny Loh and Ms How Weng Fan are having today? It can’t be comfortable for the husband-and-wife team to hear themselves being mentioned so many times in the august chamber of Parliament. What’s worse are all the innuendoes and sometimes blatant charges levelled against them by the People’s Action Party ministers and MPs.

Like,

  1. How they took advantage of their membership in the Workers’ Party and their friendship with its chief to set up a money-spinning commercial vehicle in the form of FM Solution and Services.
  2. How they over-charged the town council for managing fees, by about $1.6million a year.
  3. How, despite their double-hatting, it was not clearly stated in documents for all town councilors to know.
  4. How they were invoicing, approving and signing cheques from the town council to themselves.

The WP, to give its due, tried to defend its agent.

Like,

  1. How the couple stepped in when nobody else wanted the job.
  2. How they went from employees in Hougang town council to setting up a company because the entity made it easier to manage a town council which now had to deal with Aljunied and Punggol East as well.
  3. How the fees were settled via open tender.
  4. How they had no say in other tenders and that it was the WP MPs who co-signed cheques anyway.

Needless to say, the WP’s position cut no ice with the PAP side, who used words such as integrity, honesty, pattern of denial and deflection and even (gulp!) unlawful to describe the WP’s relationship with their managing agent. The WP said it wasn’t as though no one knew of the managing agent’s antecedents. Everything was out in the open (just not in the books…) But the PAP’s reply is that this is not the way things should be done, not by Financial Reporting Standards required by law anyway.

The G ministers keep asking the WP if it would sue the managing agent. The couple, as well as fellow shareholder Yeo Soon Fei must be wondering what their political masters will do now.

If the WP sues, then it would be like caving in to the PAP and turning around to slap a friend who had helped in time of need, as Mr Low Thia Kiang had described them. If it does sue, who knows what else would be unearthed that would do the party more harm than good? The trio might well hit back to protect themselves.

What about that “forensic’’ audit that the PAP side keeps calling for? The Auditor-General Office didn’t do a full audit, but a partial one over a limited period, which was why it could only say that it didn’t have enough information to ascertain if there was any wrong-doing.

One definition forensic audit: An examination and evaluation of a firm’s or individual’s financial information for use as evidence in court. A forensic audit can be conducted in order to prosecute a party for fraud, embezzlement or other financial claims. In addition, an audit may be conducted to determine negligence or even to determine how much spousal or child support an individual will have to pay.

So the PAP is calling on the WP to get someone to comb through its finances and, presumably, make good its boast that no money is missing. It is not unlike the case of the National Kidney Foundation, when auditors KPMG produced a report for the new NKF board which led to the civil suit with the old board and T T Durai. National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who was Health minister at that time, referred to this yesterday, adding: “I’m not sure if this may happen in the case of the town council.’’

Precisely. Why would the WP investigate itself? Or are we talking about the “new’’ town council after the next general election?

Hmmm… what new regulations the G will come up with now that Parliament has unanimously approved a motion for stricter oversight over town councils? Besides having the authority to compel town councils to submit reports, I wonder if it will include giving the G the authority to order a forensic audit (if it already does not have the power).

I hope the media aren’t waiting for the Committee of Supply debate next month to give us the next instalment of the saga. In fact, the people behind FMSS should have been chased down way long ago. What are they up to now? They are no longer managing the town council right?

What saddens me is that this is really a grassroots saga and there seems to be little movement on the grounds of Hougang, Aljunied and Punggol East. One resident asked WP’s Yee Jenn Jong about the report a couple of nights ago “but he didn’t answer and walked away quickly’’, according to Education Minister Heng Swee Keat. (Wow. PAP’s got ears peeled in opposition territory.)

Nobody else deluging the town council with email? Crowding Meet-the-People sessions for an answer? Calling for a meeting with their MPs, just like the Sengkang residents did when they heard that a columbarium was coming up?

Is that why WP MPs could tell the PAP side in Parliament that they were only answerable to residents – because residents couldn’t be bothered? I would be surprised if residents think that all is okay in their town council. At the very least, they should get a full accounting of how the town council intends to pull up its socks. Residents don’t need to be PAP or WP supporters to ask questions of their elected representatives. They would simply be exercising their rights as citizens.

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Fire crackers and poppers in Parliament

In News Reports, Politics on February 12, 2015 at 3:40 pm

When I was growing up in a kampong, every household would have a long bamboo pole or galah with a string of gigantic fire crackers which we would let off at midnight on CNY. They would go BANG! BANG! BANG!!!!! BANG!!!!!!!!!

That was the sound that Law Minister K Shanmugam made in Parliament earlier today. Workers Party Low Thia Kiang, on his part, did what the little girl who was me did. He lit a cracker, threw it on the floor and it went POP!

Yep, there were fireworks today in Parliament. Plenty of noise and smoke. But was there light?

I think the G ministers who spoke managed to cut through the Auditor-General’s report on the finances on the Workers’ Party town council to get to some key points. Of course, as politicians, they used some pretty choice words in layman’s language rather than the bean counting bureaucratese of an auditor.

So the WP was incompetent – yes, that can’t be denied. The town council was in a shambles as Mr Shanmugam described it. Even the WP did not deny that it wasn’t up to scratch managing one of Singapore’s biggest town councils. Of course, it was left to the PAP to point out that it had made big promises during the general election, of being able to run an operation as well as any team of People’s Action Party MPs. Those promises have now turned out empty.

The Big Question: Would those who had voted the party believing in its competence ask themselves if they had been deceived? Or would they be willing to give the party a second shot?

Then again, Mr Low’s reasons (or excuses) for the incompetence were beguiling. Nobody, at least no professional body of estate managers, wanted to work for the opposition, he lamented. He cited the times the WP put out tenders but got no bidders. It is an argument which would be met with some nods. Why would a business want to associate itself with an opposition party with one town council when the other side had more business to give? At the back of the minds would be this fear that the all-powerful PAP G would seek some kind of retribution…

You would have expected Mr Low to reject the motion which calls for stiffer penalties in a tighter framework. But he didn’t. He said that the framework review should protect residents’ interests even when town management changes hands from one party to another. Implicit in Mr Low’s statement is that there is deliberate hobbling by the State or previous town council and obstacles put in the way of a smooth handover. “If an opposition aspires to be the next government, perhaps, it may need to build an army of civil servants first. This is a strange political situation for any democracy,” he added.

Mr Shanmugam described the argument as playing the “victim card’’.

The thing is, Singaporeans, by and large, quite like victims. They are small, powerless and easily bullied. Turning victims into villains would take some doing. It would take, errm, falling resale prices, uncleaned corridors and extremely high service and conservancy charges.

The Big Question: Would people want to wait for that to happen or is there enough evidence to show that the WP is capable of digging itself out of the hole it is in? Or would they agree that the WP was unnecessarily hobbled by a thicket of rules and bureaucratic inertia?

Plenty of big figures were bandied around today, of overpayment and cosy relationships between WP partisans who worked in the town council. Mr Shanmugam went to great lengths to show that money “lost’’ isn’t money lost in the normal sense of the word. Here are two ways he cited:

FIRST, the lost money could be found, in the pockets of the managing agent who approved, verified, certified payments – to itself. There were 84 cheques in just the period of audit for FY2012/13, amounting to $6.6million. Yes, there was a counter-signing party, who is Ms Sylvia Lim, chairman of the council. She was aware of the double-hats the managing agent was wearing but did she do more to ensure no conflict of interest? There was no transparency, no clear processes in place, Mr Shanmugam fired. The point, of course, is whether the managing agent was making more money than it should…

Ms Lim acknowledged one case of overcharging for lift service and maintenance and claimed it was not intentional as             the agent had used  the wrong unit multiplier” to compute prices. “There was absolutely no intention on the part of the committee nor the contractor to approve higher payment rates,” she said, adding that some of the money had been clawed back.

Said Ms Lim: “The town council has no issue with disclosing the value of related party transactions. Moving forward, we have suggested that the Ministry make it clear which parties are considered related in the town council context.”

In other words, you never said what was needed to be disclosed. So how would anyone know? Hmm. I wonder how what she said squares with fiduciary duties and compliance with Financial Reporting Standards…

SECOND, the money was lost through “inflation’’ of the managing agent’s fees. The total fees paid by the town council to the managing was nearly $22 million over four years, way more than what other managing agents charged. Tampines town council, for example, paid its agent $16.85 million, for over five (not four) years.

This meant that every residential and commercial unit under the WP’s charge was paying way more than what those in other town councils were. Like, how a shop in Aljunied would be paying $14.92  compared with between $4.80 and $6.65 elsewhere. In July last year, even as noises were made about its finances, this sum was raised to $15.82.

Mr Shanmugam had an interesting way of putting it: “Maybe there was no one taking money, through the backdoor in the dark of the night. Because the money was going out in broad day light, through the front door.’’

I can’t help but think that if a PAP MP had been on the receiving end of the firing squad, there would be plenty of calls for heads to roll. In fact, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan talked of how CEOs in Japanese companies would have committed hara kiri. (Methinks he’s put a step wrong.  Surely, he realized that this is not something that should have been said by the Bigger player? )

The pity is that attention would be diverted to his choice of words rather than the painstaking attempt made by Mr Shanmugam to show that there was some deliberate mischief (or pattern of non-disclosure) going on. Like, why should the managing agent set up FM Solutions & Services when they could have been employees of the town council? Why wasn’t it made clear to all town councilors and in documents that the managing agents who doubled as key officers of the town council actually owned the company? Why doesn’t the town council ask the agents to produce bank accounts so that it’s clear what sort of money they had made from the TC? (I wonder if there is any law which can compel the managing agent to disclose its bank accounts. ..)

The Big Question: Mr Shanmugam dropped plenty of ominous words such “unacceptable’’ and “unlawful’’ which seemed to presage some kind of legal action although I’m not sure undertaken by whom? He also kept on about how the town council seemed reluctant to answer questions on the managing agent’s work and finances, and how the AGO was only auditing a segment of the TC’s work and not a “forensic audit’’ of everything. What is this all leading up to?

Obviously, the G and the PAP wants the WP to eat humble pie and prove it is not beyond taking action even against its own partisans. Mr Khaw even asked if it would sue the managing agent for return of money lost. (This was in reference to how the agent was being paid 20 per cent more than the previous managing agent that ran Aljunied)

He added this: “MND is studying what other legal recourse the aggrieved parties may have.” Intriguing. Who are the aggrieved parties? The residents? The G will sue on its behalf? Or will some resident take up the cause?

Then comes the threat: Until the town council “cleans up its mess”, the Government will also withhold from it an annual service and conservancy charges grant of several million that MND gives to every town council. ST reports that for the WP, it amounts to about $7 million each year.

You know what? I keep wondering what the various grassroots bodies in Aljunied, Hougang and Punggol East are up to. Where are the citizens’ consultative committtees? The residents’ committees? The hawker associations? They purport to represent the residents. Why hide behind the G? They can’t be happy about the grants being withheld. Why not come out to attack or defend your elected representatives?

Anyway, the fireworks continue tomorrow. Maybe instead of fire crackers, some dynamite will be exploded…

A deadly serious business

In News Reports, Society on January 30, 2015 at 2:12 am

So Eternal Pure can’t build its temple-cum-columbarium in Sengkang after all. National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the G didn’t know it was a purely commercial company and had nothing to do with religion. Here’s a peek at what happened from the point of view of the company 

They were dead on the money. What could be better than going into real estate in Singapore? Shoe-box apartments for the living might go empty, but a shoe-box for the dead? Everybody needs a shoe box sooner or later, unless they prefer to be set adrift in the sea. And in Singapore, with its ageing population, people will be queuing up to see the showflat. Plus, this niche property development won’t be subject to the vagaries of G controls, or debt servicing ratios. Yep! A columbarium it is!

The members of the Living or Dead company based Down Under congratulated themselves on hitting on the idea. Their underground cavern shook. Claws were sharpened. Bones jangled. Saliva dripped. Until someone intoned zombie-like that private columbariums were already in existence and buying land would drain the company’s coffers. It might prove a dead loss. What the hell!

There was a deadly silence, until a bony one suggested bidding for land intended for a religious purpose. Why not build the shell and rent it out to a religious organization? And then build a columbarium on the side?

Somebody guffawed, clapping his paws. What a heaven-sent idea! These temples and churches don’t have much money (and City Harvest is busy in court), they could out bid any one of them for the land. A small, cautious voice piped up: Is this allowed? Won’t the G check to see if a religious group was bidding for the plot? Then it would a dead end…

The fanged one looked up from his red liquid diet. Private companies were already allowed to bid for land for religious purposes, he said. These G fellas assume that the companies are set up by the religious organisations or in some kind of joint venture…

“Assume? They don’t check?’’ asked a clawed one.

“Naah. Haven’t done so in 20 years…’’ replied the fanged one.  “But we will need a name that sounds religious…’’

After some brain-storming which did not include the headless one, they decided on Heavenly Life. They dug into their pickets and unearthed $20m, setting aside $5.2 m for the bid. Of course, they won. The Living or Dead members thought they would be safe for all eternity, drawing an income from Singaporeans’ obsession with real estate. They didn’t reckon that their plot would be undone by….Singaporeans’ obsession with real estate.

The members met a second time to discuss the dark forces massing to attack their proposed columbarium. The living was unhappy about living next to the dead. The homes of living were their places of rest, the living said, and they can’t rest easy next to the resting places of the rest. Plus, the value of their homes would go down.

The fanged one, draining his cup, insisted that the Singapore G was good in the way that it would refuse to climb down despite the noise. “It is not in its DNA,’’ he said knowingly. “I’ve had a taste of it.’’

The clawed one wasn’t so sure. He preferred to slash the residents and accuse them of nimby-ness. “Let’s attack that front, and hopefully, we will keep our plot and our other plot won’t be discovered.’’

But things were not to be.

It wasn’t nimby-ness that killed the plans of the Living or Dead. Residents had discovered the plot and raised a stink to high heaven about the G awarding the plot to a commercial company.

The G said it had never intended the plot to go to commercial companies. It just hadn’t caught up with private sector’s dark and nefarious ways of making money and didn’t think to ward it off with any garlic, wooden stakes or special incantations. You know, it’s like how you wouldn’t expect a woman disguised as a man to attend a function that is clearly for men. The word most commonly used: ASSuME

Plus the religious groups were pushing back – and they were people that the G could not afford to antagonise.

The Living or Dead had to stop its shares trading on the stock market Down Under. They re-grouped. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Their underground cavern shook. The fanged one demanded blood. The clawed one broke up the furniture. Only the zombie remained unfazed. He intoned: They could pick a religion – Taoism, Buddhism or any Chinese diety – become converts, start a religious organisation and bid for the land legitimately.

The rest looked up, be-witched by the idea. Until a small, cautious voice piped up and said that the nimby issue would still be an issue. Did the Living or Dead want to waste precious time combating these would-be neighbours? It would drain the life out of them…

The headless one nodded with his foot.

The fanged one picked his teeth.

The clawed one started his manicure.

The bony one rattled.

They wanted revenge.

They turned to the small, cautious one.

With one voice, they said: “Go infest the place.’’

Is this home – truly?

In News Reports, Society on January 3, 2015 at 1:09 am

I have been thinking for weeks about writing a “look forward’’ blog post – and now it’s too late. It’s Jan 3. So many people are crystal ball gazing or putting forth personal or national aspirations that I was flummoxed last night when a friend asked if I had a resolution for the new year. I realized that I don’t have one.

But a thought struck me when I was scanning today’s newspapers. I think the article in ST would have caught readers’ eyes: how a Duxton Pinnacle flat fetched $900,000 in the resale market. It’s a 95 sq m flat bought for $340,000. Woooah! So the iconic (or ugly, in my view) Pinnacle flats were finally allowed on the resale market a month ago after meeting the HDB’s ownership deadline rules. The article tried to dampen any feelings of envy by talking about how unique the flat is, and how neighbouring similar sized HDB flats were already going for three-quarters of a million bucks.

First thought: What a windfall for the couple who sold the unit! It doesn’t seem to have been affected by the fall in HDB resale prices,  by 6.1 per cent for the whole of last year! Then again, we wouldn’t know since the Pinnacle@Duxton is a new product on the market. Which leaves me to think: how many others in this HDB estate would be off-loading their flats for such a windfall? I see a green-eyed monster growing in me….

How many people actually age in place? According to HDB, six in 10 people are still living in their first flat. That’s good – because it is their home, truly.

Apparently, most of them are concentrated in the Tanjong Pagar (where Duxton is) and Chinatown areas. I don’t think anyone is surprised by the places named. That’s where quite a few of the elderly live, and they would want to age in place, as many elderly people want. In fact, a survey last year showed that about 81 per cent of those above 65 want to age in their existing flat, as they found it comfortable, had an emotional attachment to it, or want their children to inherit the flat. I think the HDB upgrading projects are magnificent moves to get people to stay in place. I can’t imagine my mother, for example, negotiating the stairs at her age without a lift that stops at every floor. Perhaps, the upgrading programmes contributed to the six in 10 ratio of people staying put. Or it could have been smaller.

But staying put for ages can be viewed as quite silly because the residents didn’t take advantage of buying and selling, upgrading to a bigger flat and reaping profits. That’s what most people think about – the future gain. That’s why you have people who bought BTO flats in Sengkang grumbling about the siting of a columbarium. They haven’t even moved in, and they’re thinking about resale prices…

So the HDB wants to come up with more ways for families to live near each other. If the elderly wants to age in place, and the younger ones are attracted by market incentives (read: subsidies/grants) to live near them, hopefully the younger ones will want to age in place and the cycle starts again with their children. Except I am now reading about people asking for home distances to be “widened’’ for incentives to live near each other. (I was thinking to myself, maybe the HDB should give incentives for parents and children to live in the same constituency/GRC…that’s a wide enough distance…)

Professor Tommy Koh wrote about his three wishes for the new year published in ST today, and worried that Singapore was becoming a “market society’’ which knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.  He hopes that Singapore will be less obsessed with money and less materialistic.

Maybe we can start by not thinking of the place we live in as something we can make money from. But as a home.

According to a five-yearly HDB household survey released last week, fewer HDB residents are satisfied with their flat, a drop from 96.4 per cent in 2008 to 91 per cent last year. Residents’ main concerns were related to the condition of ageing flats, HDB stated. Additionally, resident satisfaction with their neighbourhood stood at 92 per cent, down from 95.1 per cent five years ago. Respondents cited inconsiderate neighbours as the main reason, HDB said. (So either we’ve become more inconsiderate over the years or we have new types of neighbours…I don’t think I want to go there…)

About 25 per cent of the complaints that HDB receives concern ceiling leakages in flats, according to MND minister Khaw Boon Wan.  Now, the responsibility for maintaining the flats and addressing such leakages fall on both the upper and lower floor flats. The problem arises when the upper floor residents refuse to allow HDB officers in to fix the leaks, which could take as long as three months or even a year to fix. I think the problem is also the cost which the upper floor residents will also have to bear – the HDB funds half, the other half is split between upper and lower floors. Since the upper floor residents aren’t affected, they would view it as an imposition…until THEIR own ceiling leaks.

Mr Khaw wants more power for the HDB to enter flats. It’s a reasonable request for power even though I don’t like it at all. I guess we have to get used to living in older structures and know where responsibility lies…and maybe more emphasis on this should be placed. I don’t just mean promoting neighbourliness, but a DIY culture.

I have always been amazed at how westerners fix up everything in the house on their own without resorting to cleaners, painters, plumbers, electricians and carpenters. I suppose it’s because it is cheaper to do so. Here, it might well be cheaper and more convenient or even a habit to just sell and move out to a newer place. We don’t have a DIY culture, but a disposable one.

My own place is getting old. I have to fix one air-con unit, lights in the living room and my book collection has outgrown the shelf space I have. I need to change my sofa and television set both of which have been with me for more than 10 years. I am getting annoyed at the surrounding construction work which will block my view of the neighbourhood when the buildings are up. I suppose I can also look for a newer place since I will get a good profit from my home despite falling resale prices. But I think not.

So my new year resolution will be: This is my home, truly – and I will make it beautiful.

A non-conversation

In News Reports, Politics, Society on February 1, 2013 at 3:47 am

Hah. So Singapore will grow in size after all to hold our huddled masses. Although looking at the map on ST’s page 1, you wouldn’t have a clue as to what was going on? What in heaven’s name is that? A map of a bigger Singapore? If so, which parts? Seems a waste of space to me – just a cut-off of Singapore with pictures superimposed on it.

Back to the point:
You know, there are a few things which stood out for me in today’s extensive reports of land use, but they have nothing to do with the proposals. It’s a lot to process…

I am referring to what some ministers said:

DPM Teo Chee Hean: “Let me be clear, the White Paper focuses on the interests and benefits of Singaporeans.’’

Hmm….I should certainly hope so. I wonder if DPM Teo realises how he comes across…In my view, he sounds pissed. At the way people don’t seem to understand the rationale for the White Paper? That we’re not sure that the G has done its best to balance the no-immigrant camp and the more-immigrant camp scenarios?

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan: “Please don’t worry.’’

Thank you very much for the assurance but, of course, we worry. We should. We shouldn’t be expecting the G to do all our worrying for us. We want to be assured that we are in good hands, and raise questions and concerns.
There are other reports too which made me wonder what was going on.

PMO Minister Lim Swee Say: “Just imagine if 10 years ago, we had a Singapore Conversation to talk about one day 10 years from then… population may reach 5.4 million, then start to put in place infrastructure, housing, MRT. Today, we will be much better off, isn’t it?”

Aaah…so the Singapore Conversation is about this? As expected, the report in ST showed that the focus of participants was on the population report. You know what? Why wasn’t it a Green Paper, which is meant for public consultation and therefore can be the subject of the Singapore Conversation? Why is it a White Paper, which is a firmer indication of what is to come?

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who heads the Singapore Conversation team, was also at the same event as Mr Lim. Rather intriguingly, he said the Singapore conversation should not stop despite the White Paper. There was “value in having both of them in parallel, he added, though he did not elaborate’’. Good on ST to point this out.

So could he please elaborate? Because why is he having a conversation with the rest of us when some directions have been set for the country in the White Paper? No way, we can change directions now right? I mean, all that work by civil servants will go to waste.

You know what. Actually I think we should be thankful to have such a meticulous and hardworking Government. It is quite wonderful to see how the different agencies have come together to put up a package that encompasses so much, whether green spaces for parks, more homes, transport, creating a babydom, more living space through reclamation, more university places…

I think an earlier generation would probably sit back and let the Government do all the thinking and work everything out for us. But times, they are a-changing. People will be obsessed with headline figures, yes, but I can bet that many are poring over the details or even coming up with radical ways of solving the population dilemma, like fining every couple who don’t want children to help pay for those who do!

This is why the timing of the Population report in the midst of an on-going Singapore Conversation is so disconcerting to me. The Government wants to be efficient in making projections, yet make a show of consulting the people? Those projections must also be based on Singaporeans’ values and attitudes, for example, towards foreigners, meritocracy, work stress.

What is our Singapore Conversation going to be about now?

Hot case and hot property

In Money, News Reports, Politics, Sports on January 15, 2013 at 6:52 am

Trying trysts
I’m having a hard time trying to make sense of the sex-for-grades case. Which way does this go: She gave sex so she can get good grades? Or: If she gave him sex, he will give her good grades ? Or: She loves him and never thought anything about grades? Or: He wasn’t averse to having something on the side but grades didn’t cross his mind?
I think we know more about MontBlanc pens (and he says he uses Shaeffer), monogrammed tailored shirts and his red sofa (who has a picture?) which is where both trysts occurred.

The media needs to give a better guide on what the case is about – the criminal one. We all know teacher-student sex is wrong; married man-other woman sex is wrong. The criminal part is again on that famous word “corrupt intent’’.
Anyway, it was fun to read about the exchange between law teacher and ex-law student (and nobody’s found out where she works???) I was especially amused by her use of “undue prejudice’’ instead of favour or disfavour in her statement to CPIB. I don’t think I would ever use such a phrase but now I will bear it in mind….
What’s interesting is that like the Ng Boon Gay case, it sheds light on CPIB’s practices. A key one appears to be: You not afraid the whole world will know about you? – that was in response to Darinne Koh’s request about a lawyer. I believe a similar statement/comment/promise was made to Cecilia Sue in the Ng Boon Gay case too.

Hot property
Not women, but those places were people want to buy to live in or invest in. So we have PRs screaming unfair that they have to pay more stamp duty etc. It’s a further differentiation in the status of a PR and citizen. I am tempted to say that PRs should lump it. They still have their own home to go to while the rest of us have to actually live here. But then again, that would make me sound real xenophobic.

For me, the most important thing is whether property prices will fall as a result. (I also want to buy something lah.) And how creative developers can get in making the price right. They’ve shown themselves to be extremely entrepreneurial in the past. An ST Forum page letter writer already alluded to this today – give rebates, absorb stamp duty etc. Then the G would have to jump in again. Very hard to rein in private enterprise…

As for those gigantic ECs, seems like Mr Khaw Boon Wan thinks that capping the size would put paid to all the high-priced skysuites. That, and restricting the development of public areas to add to the unit’s size. Then there is the dual key concept for multi-generational families to live next to each other, except that some owners are renting it out. Now they definitely must be multi-generational families.

Actually, I didn’t realise it was so easy for EC owners to rent out their places. They don’t have to abide by HDB rules on staying on a certain period before renting it out? I would love to know how many people are profiting this way – and also how does the G even know about this? Taxes on rental income? Check against registered addresses?

He hath spoken

In News Reports, Politics on January 9, 2013 at 12:30 am

I feel sorry for the Prime Minister.

It’s been one thing after another in recent months. Strike-gate, Palmergate and now town councils. We shouldn’t forget the EC issue as well – you know those big penthouses meant for the sandwiched class? All taking place in an economy that’s slowing down, a labour crunch, poor productivity scores…and escalating COE prices.

Nevertheless, he hath spoken on town councils – and none too soon. I’ve often wondered why as head of the People’s Action Party, he hasn’t reined in his MPs. Instead, they are offering all sorts of explanations on the town council-AIM transaction and how the issue should be looked at. I guess even the PAP isn’t immune to the Facebook phenomenon, with trigger happy MPs and Ministers deciding to let fly in the name of engagement. Where’s the party whip? WHO is the party whip anyway?
But that’s looking at it from the PAP point of view. From the point of view of a reader and a Singaporean, it’s been interesting politics. You get to know a person better when their views are not controlled…

So now the PM has ordered a review of the town council-AIM transaction. By MND, the governing ministry. I guess there will be some unhappiness with that. You can just expect calls for an independent review. After all, if there was anything untoward in the transaction, shouldn’t MND have spotted it in the first place? It’s like telling MND to go through self-criticism.

What’s more interesting is how he wants a review of the “fundamental nature’’ of town councils. I wish the PM expanded on this point. Is he talking about the separation of political and public service aspects of town councils? Does he think the whole Town Council Act should be gone over with a fine-tooth comb? And if we’re looking at the “fundamental nature’’ of town councils, shouldn’t more people be involved in this exercise? Instead, he’s given a deadline of a month or two… How come? So the issue will be settled before he calls for the Punggol East by-election?

Alert: I am going to start meandering from here…

a. On politics and business
The PM has focused attention on town councils. Now what about shining a spotlight on the PAP’s own policies and practices? A small light? Like what sort of companies it has, for what purpose etc. You know, basic stuff…I keep wondering if the PM himself had been kept in the loop about AIM and its aims. Surely MND Minister Khaw Boon Wan knows more?

b. On ECs
Mr Khaw’s focus seems to be on ECs, like getting his ministry to review this gambit developers have of selling off free open spaces for profit. You know, it’s time he called for a review of the “fundamental nature’’ of ECs as well. Clearly developers aren’t listening to his exhortations to keep to the core of the EC policy: subsidised housing for the sandwiched class. He had better do it fast too because a whole lot of land has been allocated to the building of ECs in the coming couple of years.
You know, I’d really like to hear from these developers of EC skysuites. Get them to account for why they fly in the face of policy. Instead, the media is hyping up the sales, bringing more and more people to these EC showrooms. Heck, I want a sky suite too!!!!

c. On the possible PAP candidate
Wow! Did you see those credentials of Dr Koh Poh Koon? Looks like the PAP has ditched Ong Ye Kung or he’s ditched the PAP for a good private sector life in Keppel…

Home sweet EC home

In Money, News Reports on December 6, 2012 at 1:08 am

I am turning green. With envy. Jealousy. CityLife@Tampines is oversubscribed three times, with many many people interested in those 4,300 sqf penthouses.  And here’s my rant: How can those people who earn less than $12,000 a month afford this? Neither ST nor BT published the price that those luxury homes or sky suites in CityLife@Tampines  is going for (How can? Basic info!) And I am too lazy to go check on past articles which others paid to do the job should have done.

Something must be terribly wrong with the executive condo scheme  if homes are going for a million bucks or so, whether new or resale. . Even the restrictions on sale of the unit aren’t deterring people going by the interest showed.

Minister Khaw Boon Wan sent out this intriguing message earlier reminding developers of the objectives of the EC – to cater to those who can’t meet HDB income ceiling requirements and can’t afford private property. Well, seems like a lot of people can…go for private property I mean.

So I am wondering what Mr Khaw meant by his reminder: That ECs should be priced cheaper? Less luxurious? But if those with $12,000 a month can afford it, why not? Or should the G really be looking at that income ceiling instead and re-examining the original concept of ECs?