The Battle of Tampines

By Goh Meng Seng
10 December 2010

Yes, I know, I am supposed to write about the unsustainable policies of PAP. But the Straits Times’ constituency report on Tampines is just too interesting to be missed.

I have made a comment on The Online Citizen Facebook with regards to Minister Mah’s column on TodayOnline and it is as follows:

Two years ago, before TOC went into the homeless issue and I banging on the unaffordability of HDB flats, many people think that HDB under MBT is great. When I first started the fire on HDB issue coupled with my minister-specific strategy aiming at MBT Tampines, many people say I am crazy. They reasoned that Tampines has the best flats which is appreciating, why would they want to vote for someone who tell them their flats are too high a price?

I am glad that after one and a half year of banging on housing issues with the help of New Media blogs and websites like TOC (and Temasek Review), we manage to change people’s mind and get this very important point across. So much so that even hardcore PAP supporters have to admit that high HDB prices are a grave concern.

We have successfully completed half of the mission of political education, raising issue like Housing into hot topic. Now, according to ST, there are still 28 out of 30 who thinks MBT shouldn’t be blamed for this HDB blunders. The other half of the mission is to convince voters that we must safeguard MERITOCRACY as our CORE VALUE by voting out those ministers who have screwed up.

I have written an article entitled “Basis of Meritocracy: Competency and Accountability” for the next issue of NSP North Star. This is to address the second part of the campaigning. I will put up this article in January 2011.

It is interesting to note from the ST report that “about half” in Tampines support PAP. To me, it actually means LESS THAN HALF supported PAP because if the figures are that great, it would have reported “MORE THAN HALF” supported PAP. This is in spite of the fact that 28 out of 30 don’t “blame” Minister Mah.

It is also interesting to note the fact that the question of affordability of HDB flats is “no longer there”: i.e. apparently, EVERYONE, including PAP supporters, has accepted that affordability of HDB FLATS IS AN ISSUE. This is a vast different from two years ago whereby people would pour scorn on me for raising high HDB prices as an issue.

The strange part is this: according to Mah Bow Tan’s write up on Today, he is open to debate about HDB issues. I have requested a live debate with Miniister Mah but till now, no response from him just yet.

It is also interesting to note that Minister Mah has shifted his position subtly from his earlier assertion that “you could sell your flat for retirement” to “most probably you don’t need to sell your flat and downgrade for retirement” because they have “savings, CPF” etc… BUT WAIT! With a 30 years mortgage payment to the max, how much money would an ordinary folk has in his CPF when he reach 60 years old? Well maybe the million dollar paid minister would have lots of other assets and savings, but for an ordinary folk, this is DEFINITELY NOT THE CASE!

The blatant truth is, with a HDB flat to be liable for a 30 years mortgage, Singaporeans would be FORCED to sell their flat and downgrade for their retirement financing!

It is quite surprising that after I have declared that Minister Mah’s HDB policy is TOTALLY NOT SUSTAINABLE in the long run, he insisted that to remain “SUSTAINABLE” he needs to keep the present pricing policy! Scarcity of land is the reason he cited. But as I have mentioned before, this is NOT an issue when all LAND sold by the government comes with a 99 lease!

Minister Mah also claims that there is “hefty subsidies” for HDB flats. It is already a well known fact that HDB only gives “discounts” NOT ACTUAL SUBSIDIES to buyers. In fact, they overpriced the land which they have acquired DIRT CHEAP from Singaporeans. Then, they give discounts based on that price!

Contrary to what Minister Mah’s assertion, pricing new HDB flats at COST WILL NOT COMPROMISE the BUDGET. This is basically because whatever revenue they gained via LAND SALES, go straight into the reserves, not the Budget revenue! Thus, by cutting down the price of the LAND sold to HDB will NOT compromise the BUDGET at all!

The Battle of Tampines is about the future of our children. It is also about defending our core values of Meritocracy, especially so when we are pay the HIGHEST SALARY in the world to our ministers.

Goh Meng Seng