Housing woes for a PR

Posted: February 25, 2010 by fievel in Labels: , ,

Woke up this morning to this piece of news...heard from my mother, the unofficial broadcaster of all family news, that one of my uncles, a Malaysian PR living in Singapore for the past 15years, decided to give up waiting for the housing prices to turn south and jumped into the resale market as rental costs continue to price him and his wife out. They used to rent a whole HDB unit but now can only afford to rent a room in a HDB flat; with new measures taken by the government, in what can only be seen as "too little too late", to cool the housing market, he is now required to pay up to 20% downpayment for this flat purchase. They are afraid of any further measures taken against PR's favor and so they are jumping in quicker than they can think. They paid their option deposit to the real estate agent and are now desperately going around the extended family looking for loans to help them with the $40,000 cash shortfall required for down-payment and other costs such as stamp fees and real estate agent fee.

I find this story to be rather disturbing, not just because it happened so close to me...but because I think this is a representative case of many other lower wage PR workers in Singapore and their plight. (I hate to digress but yesterday I was at a dental visit when a foreign indian couple with a pregnant wife decided against treatment because they can't afford it, and opted for just taking painkillers instead. Can you imagine being pregnant and having to live with a toothache so bad you can't sleep? (she told the dentist she couldn't sleep))

With my uncle's job being a heavy industry laborer in his 40s, I do not see how he can expect to be financially productive for that many more years. His wife works in a kopitiam and earns $1500 a month (only because she is currently on good terms with the boss and she runs the drinks stall) - she is also in her 40s. The flat they bought was a 3 room flat in Tampines that is 25 years old, looks rather dilapidated, and costs $30k cash above valuation at $300,000.

Their jobs are not the progressive type and hence their salaries have been stagnant for many years now. It doesn't really take a crystal ball for one to foresee that they will end up in dire financial straits a few more years from now, if they are not already in one.

So this is one of the social repercussions that people will have to deal with, just because of Mah Bow Tan and HDB's collective failure and lack of ability to "predict" market demand and supply for housing, afterwards using a slipshod measure to counter the problem. I really wonder if he did indeed graduate from Operations Research as his major. Supply management can be a very sophisticated science but the way Mah is doing it, swearing by his built-to-order mandate, is outrageously juvenile and borderline stupid...definitely nothing in the  multi-million dollar salary level intelligence going by most people's standards.

I hope my uncle will clear his head and simply return to Malaysia. He must have forgotten why he came out here in the first place - to create a better life for himself, and he is obviously not doing that here. Something is very wrong with the way Singapore is being run now. But of course you can also choose to ignore all that you've read online and pretend all is alright.

excellent stuff from the band 'live'

Posted: by fievel in Labels:

Older Chests - Damien Rice

Posted: February 24, 2010 by fievel in Labels:

Uproar against rental housing is a joke

Posted: February 9, 2010 by fievel in Labels: , ,

It appears there is a hot new issue going around kopitiams regarding our beleaguered Mah Bow Tan and his housing policies. This time, it is regarding the issue of sudden decisions to build blocks of rental flats in Tampines and Pasir Ris for housing the growing army of homeless families of Singapore.

[refer: Straits Times: Uproar over new rental flats]

Apparently, HDB owners of adjacent blocks in these selected sites have gone to their respective MPs and HDB to protest against 2 issues;
1) HDB did not consult the surrounding residents before beginning work on building these rental flats
2) They have several concerns about having a block of homeless Singaporeans living next to their homes

What kind of jokers do we have among our midst?
Do they know what it means to be living in a HDB flat? It is public, subsidized housing! (though these days I beg to differ on the definition of 'subsidized')

Can these people get real please? Do they know that they are also renting their flats from HDB, except they did so with a 99 year or less lease? The homeless are just like any of us, except their finances have been caught short and they are in a homeless, or rather, long-term-rental-less plight. Please do grow some empathy!

If they are concerned that their HDB prices will be adversely affected by having another block so near to theirs, I think that is another ridiculous claim. Almost 90% of flats are going to have no clear open space next to them eventually, in fact, it is so certain that you should never purchase a flat with a nice plot of empty land next to it. You can only be more assured of your existing open spaces if you own a private property, or else get a new government who doesn't intend to squeeze 85% of the 6.5 million citizens into HDB pockets.

And since when has HDB or our government  bodies ever consulted the citizens before? Why are these guys crying foul only now? Did PAP consult the citizens when they decided to hike their ministerial salaries to obscene levels in 2006? No. Did they consult you when they decided to build the casinos? No. Did they consult you when they decided to increase our population to 6.5 million? No. A big fat NO. So stop pretending to be so surprised. (Somehow I think the joke is really on these fellas since they were the ones who voted Mah Bow Tan into Tampines in the first place.)

One particular thought fleeted across my mind as I read about this piece of news - why are there so many homeless citizens all of a sudden? Where are they living right now as these blocks are being built? It can't be they are all from Angsana home in Buangkok or Sembawang park's tents....maybe they are preparing to evict the citizens who have been falling behind on their HDB mortgages in recent years? Who knows?

All in all, I think we need a new Minister for National Development to take over Mah. Somebody with fresh perspectives and not just fancy spectacles. Somebody with a vision to proactively create a better life for our citizens through his/her work and not just someone defensive and always in denial of real problems.

Rachael Yamagata - Quiet

Posted: February 7, 2010 by fievel in Labels:

Hub-wannabe of everything, but hub of none.

Posted: February 5, 2010 by fievel in Labels:

-random thought

JK Rowling - The fringe benefits of failure

Posted: February 2, 2010 by fievel in Labels: , ,

I thank the cosmic forces that allowed me to stumble upon this Harvard commencement speech by JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter. Every word, every sentence of her speech wins my complete admiration. Do sit through the beginning warm-up jokes though'

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

As is a tale, so is life,
Not how long it is, but how good it is
Is what matters

~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Nuclear Singapore

Posted: by fievel in Labels: ,

Check out the audacity of PAP in their latest fantasy play with GDP desires.
I think there comes a point when the Singaporeans need to stand up and say "enough is enough!". And if putting a nuclear plant on our little island is not that time, then I say to those of you who share my sentiments, let's get the hell out of here because this is no longer the Singapore you and I knew. Nuclear power on a 30 by 40km island?!?! How much dumber does it have to get?

The stupid REALLY just got dumber. They want to put nuclear on Singapore...little red dot gonna become little yellow radioactive dot...things are truly getting out of hand. And if the past effectiveness of this incumbent group of politicians are anything to go by, a nuclear plant will be built before you can even pack up your luggages.

I will be the first to start a public protest if Lee Hsien Loong and S R Nathan decides to pursue this dumbass plan of Tharman and co.

The blindless pursuit of GDP number will now literally kill us all.

Singapore Mulls Nuclear Power, Fewer Foreigners, Minister Says
2010-02-01 06:00:00.8 GMT

By Shamim Adam
Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Singapore should consider using
nuclear power and depend less on foreign workers in its efforts
to transform the economy in the next decade, a government-
appointed panel said.
The city state must aim to double its productivity rate in
the next decade and encourage companies to expand abroad to spur
growth after emerging from a recession last year, Finance
Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who heads the Economic
Strategies Committee, said in Singapore today. The
recommendations have been accepted by the government and will be
addressed in the budget to be unveiled on Feb. 22, he said.
Singapore is seeking ways to ensure its economy expands in
a more sustained manner after three recessions in the past
decade, with its most recent slump the deepest since
independence in 1965. The government has said it wants to boost
productivity to make up for an anticipated slowdown in growth as
the nation becomes more developed.
The panel today announced seven proposals to restructure
the economy. They include making the city state a hub for global
companies seeking to expand in Asia, improving energy security
and being more flexible in land usage.
The committee urged the government to study using nuclear
energy as a future source of power and the import of coal and
electricity. It also recommended the creation of a “waterfront
city” on existing port facilities run by the Port Authority of
Singapore in the southern part of the island when the lease
expires in 2027.

Foreign Workers

The government plans to reduce the Southeast Asian island’s
dependence on foreign workers by raising levies imposed on
employers hiring overseas labor in a “gradual and phased
manner,” Shanmugaratnam said. Policy makers will seek to
maintain the foreign labor force at the current level of about
one-third of the total workforce, he said.
Singapore has been looking at ways to restructure its
economy since 2001, with the government-appointed Economic
Review Committee that preceded the current panel urging changes
to policies relating to taxation, wages and new industries to
draw more investments.
That led to the promotion of industries such as
pharmaceutical manufacturing, biotechnology research and wealth
management to offset slowing electronics exports. Singapore’s
efforts to be a more competitive place to do business has also
seen it shave 9 percentage points off the corporate tax rate
since 2000.
Singapore may grow at a slower annual pace compared with
the average 5 percent expansion of the past decade because the
$182 billion economy is more developed now, Prime Minister Lee
Hsien Loong said last week. Gross domestic product may grow 3
percent to 5 percent in 2010, after a 2.1 percent contraction
last year, the government forecasts.

Boosting Income

“We have to do it so that progressively and inexorably,
our economy will be transformed,” Lee said Jan. 25. “Then,
provided we can raise our productivity, even if our total GDP
grows more slowly, our workers can become more productive and
our income per capita can continue to rise.”
Singapore’s productivity rate lags behind that of the U.S.,
Japan and other countries, the panel said today. Productivity in
manufacturing and services are about 55 percent to 65 percent of
the levels in the U.S. and Japan, it said.
Productivity growth of between 2 percent and 3 percent
annually will help GDP increase by 3 percent and 5 percent per
annum in the next 10 years, the panel said. The rate averaged 1
percent in the last decade.

Global-Asia Hub

“We have significant room to increase productivity in
every sector of our economy,” the panel said in a report.
“This shift to productivity-driven growth will require major
new investments in the skills, expertise and innovative
capabilities of our people and businesses over the next
The country is targeting as much as S$12 billion in fixed-
asset investments this year, after attracting S$11.8 billion in
Singapore should aim to be a “key Global-Asia hub for
global players seeking to tap opportunities offered by a rising
Asia, and for Asian enterprises looking to expand beyond their
home markets,” the panel said.
Singapore’s manufacturing industry makes up about a quarter
of the economy and its dependence on electronics and
pharmaceutical exports has made it vulnerable to fluctuations in
global demand and business cycles. That pushed it into a deeper
recession than many neighbors in last year’s global slump.
The government aims to keep its manufacturing industry an
“integral” part of the economy even as it seeks new strategies
to help it grow faster than other advanced countries, Trade
Minister Lim Hng Kiang said in November.

Complex Manufacturing

“High value and complex manufacturing generates good jobs
with diverse skill requirements, provide opportunities for
constant upgrading and stimulated demand for sophisticated
services,” the panel said, recommending that the industry
continue to contribute as much as 25 percent of GDP. “We should
continue the shift into complex manufacturing.”
The panel recommended fostering the growth of local
companies. There were about 530 Singapore companies that had
revenue of more than S$100 million as of 2007, and the target is
to create 1,000 such enterprises by 2020, the panel said.
The government should help companies expand abroad by
forming institutions such as an export-import bank and export
credit agencies, the panel said.
The panel recommends that the government develop an
“underground master plan” to create more space as there may be
limits to how much land it can reclaim, it said.

Reading between the lines

Posted: February 1, 2010 by fievel in Labels: , ,

When Mah Bow Tan contested against Mr. Chiam See Tong for the Potong Pasir GRC back in 1984, Lee Kuan Yew brought up each of their academic records for comparison; obviously, Mah had better grades and that was played as a card to his advantage in that election, albeit still not a good enough reason for the electorate of Potong Pasir GRC to choose him.

More than 20 years later, Chiam See Tong fended off PAP's new contestants who along with stellar academic track records, even had the added wings of $2 shark fins soup and abalone porridge and not to mention, PAP's dangled carrots of upgrading funds for the constituency if they voted for PAP.

Yesterday, Straits Times featured an interesting post headlined "Mah blasts opposition", [see link], in which his apparent key message to the Tampines electorate was more or less to the effect of " vote for who you think can do more for you ". The deft little play here, however, was that there was this big photo of him giving out free money to a needy woman grinning away in a crowded event with many onlookers.

That photo should be available in the link I posted above, but should it have been taken off, here is the screen print.

"Pork barrel politics" is a term many critics of PAP had used before to describe the style of many of our incumbent politicians. If you don't know the term and are simply too frigging lazy to wiki it, fret not, here's the wiki link to "pork barrel".

I don't know how you, the Tampines resident, feel about this, but personally, I find the message I read between the lines here to be rather distasteful, though familiar. It didn't work in Potong Pasir but hey, who knows, it might just work in Tampines!

P.S. I think "who can do more for you" is a silly benchmark in choosing your future MPs because currently, it is more of a case of "who truly wants to do more for you" that matters.