Tan Jee Say — former PPA to former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong — but better known to me as a makan kaki from a monthly lunch group I attend, has been making small waves recently by allowing political website The Online Citizen to publish a (white?) paper he’s cobbled together called New_Economy_-_Jobs_and_enterprise_Singapore_15_Feb_11
Click the link above and you shall receive the full paper intact.
He’s followed that up with a guest appearance as a panelist last night for TOC to critique the Government’s Budget 2011.
Since everyone and his Reform Party want to remake and/or regenerate Singapore (hope springs eternal in every dumb ass’ breast) be4 it goes the way of Egypt and Tunisia — and perhaps Bahrain, Libya and who knows where else? — let me add my two cents’ worth of regeneration mana.
Topping all else that must be done is that Singapore must rethink its housing for all policy be4 all those who can’t afford it are crushed generation after generation by a well-intended policy that a significant part of its beneficiaries have no strength to accept.
I had written previously that it’s nuts for the garmen to promise affordable housing for all and that it should concentrate its efforts on the bottom 20%.
Today, I’m revising that to Yes to a roof for all. But no to home-ownership for all.
Sure, in theory, owning a property is a good store of wealth as well as an appreciating asset in the long run.
But unlocking that value of that property depends a lot on the timing of the sale and purchase.
Many Singaporeans, given the good economy that’s bubbled along for decades, would be able to enjoy the gold mine that’s their home.
Unfortunately, there are also many who aren’t cut out to own their homes: among them will be those who can’t buy their first home without government subsidies and grants. Who later can’t pay their mortgage without huge hardship to themselves and their family, so that they become the epitome of the Chinese proverb of “ten pots and nine covers”.
And from this group will be the sub group who fail to keep up with their instalments and have their property repossessed or sold at a significant loss.
Take a look at the high number — 53%! — who can’t meet their minimum sum requirements when they turn 55 and know that there are many sad individuals in there for whom the lure or the trap of property ownership hadn’t done their route to a safe retirement any good.
So my suggestion is that the Government slays this major sacred bull of homeownership for all and accept that there will always be a thick undercrust — say 20% — who won’t be able to benefit from home ownership. Perhaps quite the contrary. And then work out how to look after them from cradle to grave.
Of cos, at the start of each Singaporean’s life, it’s impossible to tell with accuracy who will fall into that undercrust, because those who start at the bottom 20% needn’t end up there; while those who didn’t start there, could, due to life’s vicissitudes, descend into the abyss.
What a far-sighted government should do is
- ensure there’s always low-priced public vanilla rental housing for the bottom 20%. It’s done a marvellous job at keeping one-room rental flats at $26 per month. There should be more of such housing.
- use the funds that would have gone into providing subsidising home ownership (grants of every variety to encourage home-ownership) and allot each living Singaporean a lump sum for an annuity to yield enough to cover basic but spartan living cost at age 65. So rich or poor, from birth — or from whenever the scheme begins — here is something concrete to ensure you’ll have a crust in old age.
With these two gi-normous safety nets, I say the Government should then withdraw from all but defence, law and order, education and health, about which latter two, more will be aired in a subsequent post.
This way, those who want to stay poor, can. Those who want more, can aim for the sky and not have the way they earn, spend and invest distorted by vacillating policies that try to handle the dynamics of change but end up not pleasing a lot of people in the meantime.