Minister Mentor calls Singaporeans DAFT for faulting Government’s housing policies

January 28, 2010 by
Filed under: Current Affairs and Politics 

Written by Ng E-Jay
28 January 2010

I have never in my life seen a politician call voters STUPID for not accepting his party’s policies, and then ask them not to cast protest votes against his party, all in the same breath.

Yet this was precisely what Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew did at a conference on Wednesday commemorating the Housing Board’s (HDB) 50th anniversary.

According to a Straits Times report “Don’t cast protest vote” (28 Jan 2010), MM Lee said Singaporeans ought to understand that the Government sells them HDB flats at a subsidised price, below market rate, so that they can own an asset that will appreciate in value over the years.

He also said voters must be “daft” if they found fault with the Government’s housing policies, and cautioned Singaporeans not to cast a protest vote against the ruling party over this.

Mr Lee’s remarks were in response to a question by dialogue moderator Tommy Koh, who pulled out a Straits Times report which said that at least three opposition parties are keen to contest Tampines GRC that Mr Mah Bow Tan (National Development Minister) helms, as they want to raise the affordability of public housing as an election issue.

True to his form, Mr Lee sought once again to strike fear in voters’ hearts by saying that their flats would no longer be of any value should Mr Mah lose to the opposition.

A politician who operates in a system of free and fair elections, and who understands that he will retain power only if voters cast their approval at the ballot box will never, in desperation, call the electorate daft if they did not agree with him or his party, nor use illogical statements to instill fear in the minds of voters.

Only a politician who knows the system is rigged, or carefully engineered (in Mr Lee’s own words) to guarantee electoral success for the incumbent, and who regards the electorate not as his masters but as his servants, will do what Mr Lee did.

Even if our housing policies are sound (and they are most assuredly not), no leader from a Government that dares to call itself democratic before an international audience should cast such aspersions at its own constituents who disagree with its policies, as that goes against every grain of the social compact between an elected Government and its people.

Why should Mr Lee be so worried about people casting protest votes against the PAP, if our housing policies truly benefit the people and have kept home prices affordable to most Singaporeans?

The answer is that the Government has allowed asset appreciation to spiral out of control, such that young couples and Singaporeans starting their first home find themselves increasingly priced out of the market.

How can Singaporeans have a decent retirement if they use up all their CPF purchasing an expensive home?

How can our citizens have a decent quality of life if all their savings are tied up in property?

The truth of the matter is that the Government has provided only a market subsidy in which first time home buyers are given a discount to the prevailing market rate, and not a cost subsidy in which first time home buyers can purchase flats at a price pegged to their cost of construction.

When the general prices of property, including private property, rises sharply, that increases the total cost passed on to first time home buyers, and the market subsidy becomes of little assistance.

The HDB has also done a very poor job of forecasting demand, and has not built enough flats to meet new demand. This has caused HDB flat prices to increase even in recessionary times. Ever increasing cash-over-valuation amounts are a symptom of this malaise.

The PAP’s argument that its asset appreciation policy allows Singaporeans to unlock the value of their homes is also flawed.

Early home buyers from the 1970s and 1980s will certainly benefit from this scheme, as the PAP at that time provided truly affordable housing.

But just as the fast economic growth of the early years of independence cannot possibly be repeated again, so there is also a very real limit to the PAP’s asset appreciation scheme that seeks to allow home prices to evolve according to economic growth.

Once home prices have been allowed to rapidly adjust upwards, or “unlocked” (borrowing PAP’s terminology), their full value has been built in, and simple mathematics dictates that further appreciation can only take place at a very slow rate.

This conclusion is supported by the fact that Singapore’s economy can only grow at a very tempered rate from now on, as Singapore has reached developed nation status and has had all the “emerging market growth potential” milked out of the economy in the past two decades.

Therefore, the asset appreciation policy will no longer give future generations of Singaporeans financial security, but will instead saddle them with a lifetime of debt.

When the pocketbooks of Singaporeans have been hurt, they will rise to vote against the PAP, daft or not daft.

If the PAP’s policies don’t change, one day they may wake up to find ballot boxes stuffed full of votes from citizens indicating that they would no longer tolerate having their dignity and quality of life trampled on so brazenly.


21 Comments on Minister Mentor calls Singaporeans DAFT for faulting Government’s housing policies

  1. MM Sz on Thu, 28th Jan 2010 3:59 am
  2. Linked under, ‘Politics’. Thanks.

    […] – Minister Mentor calls Singaporeans DAFT for faulting Government’s housing policies – The Temasek Review: PM Lee: Govt does not have control over prices of resale flats – Who Moved My […]

  3. AC on Thu, 28th Jan 2010 11:28 am
  4. I don’t see the “Daft” comment either one the Asiaone\ST link.

    Did they change the report? Do you have the original transcript?

  5. admin on Thu, 28th Jan 2010 12:07 pm

    Jan 28, 2010
    Don’t cast protest vote over rising flat prices: MM
    By Sue-Ann Chia, Senior Political Correspondent

    THE current contentious issue on the affordability of public housing was given another airing by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew who cautioned Singaporeans not to cast a protest vote against the ruling party over this.

    As Singaporeans lament rising flat prices, he said they ought to understand that the Government sells them at a subsidised price, below market rate, so that they can own an asset that will appreciate in value over the years.

    It adds to their wealth and this is an asset-enhancing policy Mr Lee believes citizens should not find fault with.

    If they do, they must be ‘daft’, he said, at a dialogue during a housing conference as part of a series of events to mark the Housing and Development Board’s 50th anniversary.

    And if National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan is unable to defend this policy, ‘he deserves to lose’ at the next general election, he quipped, to laughter from the participants, including a chuckling Mr Mah.

    But if Mr Mah loses to the opposition, he warned that Singaporeans better sell their flats fast as they would no longer be of any value.

    Mr Lee’s blunt remarks were in response to a question by dialogue moderator Tommy Koh, who pulled out a Straits Times report which said at least three opposition parties are keen to contest Tampines GRC, which Mr Mah helms, as they want to raise the affordability of public housing as an election issue to gain votes.

    ‘It will always be an issue,’ noted Mr Lee. ‘They always want it cheaper and better.’

    The Government, he said, has to price the flats at a level which is fair, not only to current buyers but past and future buyers, as it will affect property prices.

    He went on to explain why the Government had put in place a five-year limit before people can sell their new flat, saying it was to prevent speculation in the property market.

    ‘Because the moment you buy a flat, you can sell it to make a profit,’ he said.

    ‘We are giving you something more valuable than you’re paying for. So we say you cannot sell it for five years.’

    This philosophy of giving citizens an asset that will grow in value and give them a stake in the country was a recurring message in the 60-minute dialogue.

    Asked why the Government placed such emphasis on housing the population in the early days after Singapore gained self-rule in 1959, Mr Lee, who was the Republic’s first prime minister, said:

    ‘We decided from the very beginning, everybody must have a home, every family will have something to defend. And that home, we developed over the years into the most valuable asset.’

    It was also about giving people a clean place to live, as living conditions then were squalid and overcrowded.

    To a question from Hong Kong’s Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, on letting the private sector play a bigger role, he said they cannot take over the housing responsibility.

    ‘We give them land, they build, and they sell it below market price? Cannot be done,’ he said.

    ‘We give our buyer an asset which is below market price the moment he buys it. So there is no profit, it’s a loss, but there’s a strategy behind that loss.

    ‘That loss is to give the man an asset which he will value, which will grow in price as the country develops, as his surroundings become better.’

    He added: ‘This is a social responsibility which we have undertaken and that’s the reason why we are re-elected.’

    Referring to the three opposition parties that are targeting Mr Mah, he said: ‘If Mr Mah is not re-elected and these three wise men take over, then I say you better sell and get out quickly.’


    ‘If Mr Mah is unable to defend himself, he deserves to lose. No country in the world has given its citizens an asset as valuable as what we’ve given every family here. And if you say that policy is at fault, you must be daft.’

    MM Lee when asked about a Straits Times report that cited keen opposition interest in contesting Tampines GRC, which National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan helms, so that they can raise the affordability of public housing as an election issue

  7. The Crunch Time Blogger on Thu, 28th Jan 2010 12:42 pm
  8. Terry P on Thu, 28th Jan 2010 3:42 pm
  9. DAFT?!!? We were not the ones who created an over demand of homes, shortage of supply or insisted that a monthly household income of $3000 can afford a $225k home. Your people who do not normally go around creating petition are doing so. Isn’t this a clear indication that something isn’t right?


  10. George on Thu, 28th Jan 2010 8:02 pm
  11. When LKY talks like that you know he has lost it.

    Previous occasions he did same – when he threatened opponents with a knuckleduster, when he called Singaporeans ‘complacent’ when the ISD allowed the number one local terrorist to escape from detention.

  12. Singa Crew on Thu, 28th Jan 2010 10:16 pm
  13. wait… wait…

    I thought PM Lee said the PAP has no control over the prices of HDB flats?

    Yet, MM Lee is telling us that if Mr Mah (a PAP minister) loses the election, the prices of the HDB flats in Tampines will fall? In other words, the mere presence of a PAP minister is keeping the prices high! If that’s not control, I don’t know what is.

    So is MM Lee telling us that in order to have affordable housing, all we have to do is vote out more PAP candidates?

  14. Moe Gan Thai on Thu, 28th Jan 2010 11:32 pm
  15. Yes, don’t cast protest votes, but vote for oppositions, the more the better !

  16. AC on Fri, 29th Jan 2010 9:11 am
  17. Thanks for the transcript. Do not have a ST sub, so was not able to read the full article.

    “‘If Mr Mah is unable to defend himself, he deserves to lose.”

    Then why is it necessary for the old man Lee to defend him?

    Why is it necessary for the PM to intervene to emphasize that new HDB flats will stay affordable? (27 Jan 10)

    Why is it that full minister cannot defend himself, that the PM must exert himself on his behalf; that the PM’s semi retired father must also exert himself on Mah’s behalf if Mah do not suffer from any deficiencies.

  18. Fran on Fri, 29th Jan 2010 7:13 pm
  19. Dear Ng E-Jay,

    Thanks very much for your interesting blog. It’s always nice to see how people on the other side of the globe live, how they share the same joys and sorrows, what they do in their free time, etc.

    I actually have a question about your blog. Would you mind helping us with a linguistic research project? We’re compiling data from various Singaporean weblogs. All it requires is checking a few boxes. If you want to take part and/or have more questions, drop me a note ( [email protected] RE: Question ) so that I can then send you the ‘official’ project eMail. We’d really appreciate your help.

    Thanks very much in advance!
    Best regards,
    – Fran

    […] Singapore Cheese: Complete denials – Tan Kin Lian’s Blog: Affordable flats – Minister Mentor calls Singaporeans DAFT for faulting Government’s housing policies – The Temasek Review: PM Lee: Govt does not have control over prices of resale flats – Who Moved My […]

  20. Anonymous on Sat, 30th Jan 2010 11:52 pm
  21. The below link will take you to a property portal site with a posting of a 5 room HDB in the East at an asking price of $990,000

    By letting the free market reign, this is what happens. $990,000 pricing is no longer about location and sea view but a pure pricng manipulation in an overly demand driven market. The rich always wins in this market.

    Free market is not a fair market. The elected leaders need to discharge their responsibilility in looking after the interest of the ordinary people through their public polices and a governance that embodies the values of honesty, fairness, public service with a clear focus on the welfare of the people.

  22. comeonlah on Mon, 1st Feb 2010 12:55 pm
  23. After Ho Ching lost billions of Singaporeans’ reserves, LKY held an urgent meeting in the family’s multi-million dollar bungalow:

    LKY: OK! Election is coming. Let’s do what we did before. Give them some candies. Then once we’re in power, these dafts prisoners won’t know the difference what hit them.

    LHL: But Daddy, they know that we’re been giving them sweets to buy them over. They also know we intentionally will fix the opposition and suppression freedom to have an opinion. We need a different way to fix SIngaporeans. Shall we bring in foreigners who will then be indebted to vote for us?

    LKY: That’s the long-term plan. We will adjust our reasons when needed by pandering to them for now. I’ve been doing this for almost 45 years. Coming back to fixing the voters, some of them know that we give them a drumstick and take a whole chicken from them after the election.

    Ho Ching: We need a better strategy…

    To be continued….

  24. comeonlah on Mon, 1st Feb 2010 1:01 pm
  25. LKY tells us to not cast protest vote and what did he do late last year? He passed a law that make ONE PERSON assembly illegal. instead of the previous 5 person assembling to demonstrate was illegal. Mind you, there are no race riots that provoked such a law to forbid voters to assembly or demonstrate. When there was a race riot in the past, the law recognise 5 man demonstration as illegal. Now, that there were no such scenarios, on what justification does the government introduced a one-man aseembly as illegal. He is not asking you to NOT cast a protest vote. He is asking you NOT to have an opinion. For God’s sake, he’s a lawyer.

  26. Dafty Duck on Mon, 1st Feb 2010 1:16 pm
  27. But LKY said at a Saint James Powerstation about 2 to 3 years ago that 80% of the population cannot migrate as they have a lifetime to pay their housing debt. 3 years later, he comes in and says prices are high because of the foreign intake. Is this FRESH concern? He has engineered all this for a reason. Who is he kidding?

  28. Dafty Duck on Mon, 1st Feb 2010 1:27 pm
  29. If I heard another Man in White, telling me how good they are, how honest they are and how corrupt free they are, I must be fucking daft.

  30. Eunice on Mon, 8th Feb 2010 8:58 pm
  31. could you please tell me why the government does not allow Singaporeans to sell their flats until five years after they bought it ?


  32. Indonesea on Fri, 23rd Apr 2010 1:55 am
  33. Those humiliate and called Singaporean daft should be deported immediately. They are not welcome here.

  34. Clara on Fri, 4th Nov 2011 12:14 pm
  35. He is the criminal that Singaporeans should lock up or at least put him in his place by sending him to an eldercare centre.
    He has no idea how much the country’s people have tolerated his more than unreasonable government policies!
    Any country can claim that they are implementing policies! But it is a known fact that without public’s effort it will never be successful!
    He should be grateful and kiss god’s feet for Singaporeans listening to his every decision no matter how ridiculous they are.

    Yeah singapore is successful but that it due to our effort. The leaders simply point at us to do their bidding and they live such a good life with job security and etc, How is that not robbing the country in broad daylight? It is called legalized robbery. How convenient!

  36. Clara on Fri, 4th Nov 2011 12:20 pm
  37. In this housing matter, Housing prices are through the roof thanks to PAP’s policies that only seeking to satisfy their greedy wants.
    I am sure the govt earns lots of money from multiple outlets (probably foreigners with loads of cash).
    The govt has purposely kept supply of housing low to keep the price of housing artificially high. The only people who benefit are housing developers and the HDB!
    Who the hell wants to set up a family with no house/no money/nothing?!
    No thanks, I’d rather stay in my parents house than to give into your ridiculous demands. PAP must be eliminated ideally. If not, at least a sizable opposition to stop PAP from being an absolute cocky, arrogant, know-it-all figure in this sickly government. Then they know that in this world, when you are not productive, there is no such thing as job security.

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