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I am dead serious!

Someone I know sent me this link about the columbarium brouhaha in West Sengkang and added for good measure: “by some accounts, this Lam guy
doesn’t seem to be handling this very well. sounds a bit like the HDB and URA functionaries of old. more trouble for Baby God.”

This is what I wrote in response: “Frankly I don’t know y these people r making such a fuss… Bishan, Takashimaya, even some good class bungalows in Kheam Hock Road r all built around or on top of old graves… soon it will be Bidadari.

So what if there’s a columbarium?

The people in landed prop around St Ignatius Church in King’s Road have not only a columbarium as a neighbour but also wakes day in and out…

The West Sengkang people are making a fuss now probably as an excuse because prop prices r falling and they want out…

If I were BG, I would say to those who want out: “Please take back yr deposits. And for good measure, I will offer those returned units to those in the Pioneer Generation, who have never had the benefit of buying a discount price home from the Government, who own private property and who would like the privilege of also owning a HDB home direct from the Government. As a special concession to this special group of Singaporeans.”

And I would be the first to jump at such an offer — as after all, with the best of effort, I probably won’t have more than 30 years to live and what better way to get daily reminders that I am not going to live forever than by living next to a columbarium!

I am dead serious about taking up such an offer, if it materialises.

I am also dead serious when I say that I hope our Government would re-learn how to take a firm stand when the occasion arises. Not try to accommodate more and more demands, especially when they aren’t reasonable. Otherwise why should caveat emptor apply to anything any more!

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Misdirected largesse

OK, call me sour grapes but I think the government’s continuing “upgrading” of private estates is misdirected largesse.

So, $20 million will be thrown on another nine estates (see repro of Channel News Asia story below) after $167 million had already been spent on 54 private estates.

So, I don’t live in any of the estates that had or will be benefitting from another slosh of tax payers’ money. So pardon my jaundice.

But IMHO, I think the G should be more targeted in its generosity. For example, why not direct the money at pioneer generation members who live in private estates and whose home values hit the dreaded $21K annual value. “Dreaded” because that cuts them off from subsidies when hospitalised and prevents some health care services like hospices providing free care from turning to the G to ask for subsidies for this group of patients, never mind if they are severely ill.

I have raised this matter with highly placed individuals who believe it or not retort that if I felt so strongly about hospices missing out on subsidies when they treat my mum — who falls into the $21K category — then I should donate funds (such as the $100 per month which G provides with no means test to her since she can’t perform 3 self care functions) to the hospice looking after her!

Such a suggestion completely misses the point.

I will let that be. Yet I will not let that be.

Because while reading the latest private estate upgrading news on the CNA website, I also chanced on the internet a write up about Chiam See Tong’s victory in 1984.

I remember that occasion very well.

I was living in the Cairnhill constituency then and that night as we watched the election results being announced live on TV, the apartments in the blocks around me rang out with such loud cheers you would think it’s dawn of the New Year.

Later I learned from a sibling, there was a similar phenomenon in the Sixth Avenue neighbourhood where she lived. Such cheers of glee reverberated from landed property to landed property that one who didn’t know nothing about SG politics would have imagined it’s the defeat of a pesky small time opposition wannabe 🙄

SINGAPORE: Nine private estates will be upgraded at a cost of S$20 million under the Estate Upgrading Programme, the Ministry of National Development (MND) said on Friday (Jan 9).

The nine estates slated for upgrading are:

•Clover Estate

•Lentor Estate

•Thomson Faber Island Gardens,

•Toh Tuck Estate,

•Meng Suan/Springleaf Estates,

•Happy Gardens,

•Sea Breeze Garden,

•Toh Estate

•Jln Merbok, Jln Layang-Layang, Kln Kakatua, Jln Selating, Jln Rajawali and Shamah Terrace Estate.

The upgrading works will include providing footpath lighting or safety railings to enhance safety and security, covering drains to create footpaths, creating barrier-free access such as ramps, improving the estates’ landscaping and parks and enhancing the estate identity, the ministry said.

According to MND, these nine estates were developed more than 30 years ago. More than 4,800 households will benefit from the improved facilities when the work items are planned and constructed in three to four years’ time, it said.

More than 54 private estates have been upgraded under the Estate Upgrading Programme at a cost of S$167 million.

Prior to upgrading, the Neighbourhood Committees or the Citizens’ Consultative Committees will conduct surveys and/or dialogues with the residents to gather their views and ideas on the upgrading works, the ministry said.

Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Chairman of the Estate Upgrading Programme Committee and Minister of State for National Development and Defence, said: “This is truly a collaborative effort, with residents taking ownership and playing an active role in deciding what improvements they hope to see in their estates to make the living environment better for all.”

Prepare yourselves, GE is nearer than you think?

OK, I’m no political pundit. Nor an academic in political science who should be better able to read the political tea leaves than your average auntie. I also don’t move in the circles of great thinkers and insiders in Singapore’s elite political sphere..

But to parody the Wet Wet Wet song, I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes. GE’s all around me, and so the feeling grows; it’s written in the wind; it’s everywhere I go..

.. that the next General Election for Singapore, IMHO, is a lot nearer than all the august big brains — Eugene Tan, Bertha Henson, Kit Wei Ching, Song Seng Wun to name a few — in our midst have been predicting.

“The bet is that it will be late next year or early 2016 to take advantage of the SG50 hype,” said Bertha, while Song thought the PAP would prefer to concentrate on the SG50 festivities for most of 2015.

Then they say there are the contentious and likely amendments to the Broadcasting Act and Town Council Act to get out of the way be4 the next poll.

Ditto the thoughts of some acquaintances of mine who appear to run with the in-politics crowd.

These give all sorts of reasons why GE won’t be before SG is done with its SG50 celebrations, as more goodies have to be distributed first be4 the ballot papers are handed out 🙄

Still, the consensus of the knowledgeable is that the polls will be called a good year before the government’s use by date of January 2017. Their forecasts grow granular around the months of September to December 2015, or at latest January 2016.

I beg to differ, not least because of what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the PAP’s 6oth birthday last Sunday.

He said the next general election will be a “deadly serious” fight between the PAP and the opposition and that “every seat, every GRC, every SMC will be contested. Every seat, every contest will be a national contest, not a local one. Every seat is a general election, not a by-election.”

Wasn’t PM stating the obvious? When had the PAP ever gone into a GE without making it a “deadly serious” fight with the Opposition? When had it not contested “every seat, every GRC, every SMC”? When had it ever treated a national election as anything but a national contest and a general election, not a by-election.”

If it isn’t a GE rally speech, I don’t know what is.

To me it was clear as a bell that the Sec-Gen of the PAP was signalling to the party faithful that GE isn’t months but possibly only weeks away and so better be battle-ready.

As for the feel good effect of SG50 softening even the most hardened of the Singaporean hearts that are against the PAP, I feel PM had better take a cue from what happened to Churchill after he won the war. The epitome of British leadership lost the election immediately afterwards.

Instead if  PM chooses to go to the people before SG50 celebs take off, what better way could there be for the PAP to celebrate 50 years of nationhood than for the PAP to collect yet another resounding victory at the polls.

I hope I am right as I can’t see PM and most of his cabinet ministers continuing to rush around for another year as they have been doing this year at myriad functions that seek to thank this, that and the other besides the Pioneer Generation!

If nothing else, some of them will collapse from exhaustion while others because of their packed please-the-people schedules will have no choice but to let their portfolio run on auto pilot.

Not a good state or slate to go into election battle surely?

So shall I bet my Pioneer Generation Card against your SICC card that the January 19 2015 sitting for this Parliament will be its last 😆

I am curious… but not yellow…

so will ask the Ministry of National Development and other ministries, agencies, statutory boards or what have you to please let me and other equally kay poh Singaporeans know

1) MND’s reply (see below) –to one of Mediacorp’s several questions ignited by the seemingly lousy debt collecting ability of the Workers Party when it came to the s&CC of households in its Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council –makes me hungering for more.

MND, do give a total breakdown of just how many 1, 2, 3 and 4 room flats there are, instead of lumping them into 3-room and smaller and 4-roomers. And don’t stop at just four Town Councils! Please give statistics for all 16 Town Councils.

That way, kay pohs on both sides of the divide — pro-PAP and pro WP — will see the exact picture of who gets what and how much. Then can better compare and contrast.

Shouldn’t be a Herculean task as I’m sure all the needed data are in the MND or the HDB’s database.

2) Other stuff that I am curious about is crime statistics. Not where crimes are committed but which town council has the dubious reputation of having the most residents calling Changi prison home at one time or another in their life.

Breakdown of their crimes too would be great for then we will know which crime flavour — murder, assault, molest, cheating, CBT, arson, you get the picture — permeates the air of which TC.

3) Another set of numbers that should prove interesting is which TC has the most residents depending on public assistance.

4) On the plus side, I would like to know which TC has nurtured the most government scholars and the most graduates. Good too if we are told whether any TC is the best breeding ground for Singapore politicians. Or where they would move to once they get into Parliament.

While Singapore and the world now knows that 1 in 3 residents in AHPETC didn’t pay-won’t pay-can’t pay their S&CC bills, it would be interesting to uncover if Tanjong Pagar Town Council is where most of our politicians live 😆

Question: How is the S&CC Operating Grant computed?

MND Answer: The S&CC operating grant is allocated to all Town Councils (TCs) based on the number of HDB flat units and the flat types. Smaller flat types get higher grants.

The grant enables TCs to subsidise the S&CC for residents living in 4-room and smaller flats, with more being allocated for 1-room (S$33.70 per month), 2-room (S$26.20 per month) and 3-room (S$17.00 per month) households. The grant for each 4-room household is S$9.00 per month.

This grant formula has been in place since 1999, and is applied consistently to all TCs. S&CC grants are not based on the number of voters, nor does it apply to private property residents. TCs will receive more grants if they have more and smaller HDB flat types.

Ang Mo Kio TC and Tanjong Pagar TC receive more grants than AHPETC because they have more and smaller HDB flats. Ang Mo Kio has 89,127 HDB flats, of which 39 per cent are 3-room or smaller. Tanjong Pagar has 75,050 HDB flats, of which 59 per cent are 3-room or smaller. In comparison, AHPETC has 71,760 flats, of which only 29 per cent are 3-room or smaller. Likewise, even though Chua Chu Kang has about the same number of HDB flats (71,348) as AHPETC, Chua Chu Kang receives less S&CC grant (S$4.9 million compared to AHPETC’s S$7.2 million), because only 12 per cent of its flats are 3-room or smaller.

Red for MND town council press release…?

due to a misleading phrase about Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East’s inability to collect S&CC money from households in the Opposition Workers Party controlled ward in a timely manner.

Tell me what would you think when you read this in the Ministry of National Development’s FY2013 Town Council Management Report: “Under S&CC arrears management, the sharp decline in the TC’s S&CC arrears situation is of grave public concern”.

Sharp decline in the TC’s S&CC arrears situation. I did a double take. Isn’t that good? Well no apparently as the following four words “of grave public concern” show.

Then alamak! I get it. The news release writer had meant “sharp deterioration in the TC’s S&SCC situation”. Why didn’t anyone correct him or her?

It reminds me of a misunderstanding I just had with one my mother’s helpers.

Yesterday was raining heavily and as I had many purchases that mustn’t get wet, I called ahead hoping one of the helpers would come down to the car porch and take up the shopping as I live in a crumbling 50 year old condo which has no sheltered parking.

The phone rang endlessly but no one picked it up. Tried again and again and then gave up.

Stormed up to the flat annoyed yet fearful. What if something like Nightmare on Elm Street had happened to all three?

I needn’t have worried. All three were fast asleep.

One helper on hearing me shut the front door came out from mum’s room blinking away her afternoon nap.

After I checked the landline and found that it hadn’t been switched off I asked: “Why didn’t you answer the phone when I called?”

She muttered something that made me close to ballistic.

“If you heard the phone ringing why didn’t you answer?” I demanded between clenched teeth.

She repeated what she said earlier.

“Why didn’t you answer phone? Phone!!”

She looked confused. And damn it! She repeated once more what she first said.

I told myself to keep calm. I thought of Gandhi. Mahatma. When you are in the right etc etc..

It was only at dinner that I realised what the most recent addition to the household (2nd helper was hired only in July; Picky Siti has been with us for 7 years) had said.

“I here! I here!”, meaning she was in mum’s aircon room. Not “I hear! I hear!”

Which brings me back to the MND’s press release. It’s OK for a newly arrived Myanmar FDW to cause confusion with her mangling of English. Not for an official release writer.

This brings now to the MND’s Town Council specifics about those arrears.

Aljunied’s S&CC arrears rate rose from 2.6% in FY10 to 8.4% in FY11 and FY12, after Aljunied merged with Hougang. These rates were significantly above the national norm of about 3%.

In December 2012, the TC committed to improve the TC’s arrears situation. However, its S&CC arrears rate had further increased to 29.4% as at end Apr 2013.

What effect does MND hope to have on discerning Singaporean voters with these revelations?

Would this seeming inability to collect what is due to the AHPETC make them shake their heads and vow never should this brand of incompetency be allowed to run our country?

Or would the revelations make some among the discerning voters think one or all of the following:

1) There must be a concentration of poor people in AHPETC

2) There must be a concentration of canny skivvers in AHPETC who are able to keep delaying paying what they owe

3) Those who want to be successful should move far away from AHPETC for poverty and dishonest skivving could be as infectious as SARS

4) Those running AHPETC must have hearts of gold to hold back from driving those unable to pay to the wall. Thus demonstrating a caring spirit that others only mouth.

I wonder which of these my dear regular readers will pick? 🙄

If the last then I fear for the future of the PAP.

Uncle Swee Say doesn’t get it re CPF?

It’s incredible but I must accept it as the awful truth for why else would Mr Lim Swee Say give this comment on the ongoing CPF controversy?

Here is what he said: “Instead of thinking about whether you can spend your savings in the CPF at the age of 55, I think we should think about how can we help our Singaporeans to continue to remain employed, to continue to earn a good living, continue to have good jobs, and at the same time to continue to contribute to the CPF because the more money they have in CPF, the longer they defer the use of the CPF — this will mean they will have more for retirement.”

Folks, I think the whole kuffle-fle re the CPF isn’t about staying on in the workforce after age 55 but how members could get out of the workforce with their CPF money to goyang kaki.

Of course those who are fretting that they don’t have enough for their minimum sum and yet want to empty their CPF kitty are living in a parallel universe.

But to tell them to carry on working so that they can both build up their CPF and simultaneously delay the time when they need to tap the CPF isn’t going to convert them to the Government’s view.

Instead best to tackle the root of the problem — which is the desire to withdraw the minimum sum and at the same time cry foul that they don’t have enough in their CPF to cover the minimum sum.

Uncle Swee Say should ask G to redesign the CPF scheme for the sake of unionists who call him boss, if no one else. Put the most important thing first — which must be the minimum sum needed to feed workers too old or too disinclined to work.

Why not ask G to put the cart firmly behind the horse, not before it?

Which is first thing first.

Make sure members in the full bloom of working life are putting away the projected minimum sum required to keep their body and soul together when they are like 10X reboiled tea leaves. 🙄

If that sum ain’t in their CPF account, then no-touch for housing, medical bills, education, what have you, geddit?

Better still, once that sum has been saved, channel it to buy an annuity for disbursement at the official retirement age.

Lagi better if G could sweeten all this by lending, interest free, each adult Singaporean starting work the projected minimum lumpsum that would accrue to his/her cohort at retirement to buy an annuity.

Annuities bought when young with disbursement not starting till decades later will surely be more valuable and pay out more than one bought at 55 and disbursed just 10 years later.

Of course G would retain an interest in each annuity till the advance or loan has been fully paid for by the CPF member. And the CPF member would have every incentive to clear that debt because then and only then would he/she be able to tap the continuing stream of savings to buy homes, pay medical bills and other things that are allowed in today’s more liberalised CPF system.

If Uncle Swee Say can swing the CPF redesign this way, it would be a win-win situation for those who run the CPF and those today demanding the end of the CPF.

What bugs me about our Government…

Unlike what the doyenne of PAP critics Catherine Lim claimed, I am one of millions of Singaporeans who trusts our Government, especially when it comes to my CPF.

This said, I have one bug bear.

The bug bear only came into my room in the last few years.

I had been considering moving to HDB in my sunset years, especially after I discovered that HDB flats as young as 3 years (!!!) could be bought in the resale market. These are SERS flats and they are in choice locations.

One of mum’s friends snapped up one in Tiong Baru when she was already 80! And she took the top floor of a high-high rise!

I visited and I was “sold”.

But like the careful person that I am, I looked to my left and right and then front and back and then pondered again.

Then wham! My option as a private property owner to buy HDB in the open market was taken away overnight. All in the interest of cooling our bubbly property market.

I might have accepted it as another of G’s policies to keep our good ship SG on even keel.

But what got — and still gets — my goat is that HDB home owners continue to enjoy the bonanza of being eligible to private property — whether to live or invest in — and continue to hold their HDB.

Why, I ask myself, especially if the HDB property owner is only a PR and not a citizen. 🙄

Where is the level playing field, between citizens with private property who want to acquire a HDB unit from the resale market and PRs owning resale HDB being allowed to buy private property?

Where is the level playing field between citizens and citizens, when on the one side are those like me — who have never benefited from the state’s subsidised housing — prevented from buying resale HDB and those who have had one or more bites of the hugely subsidised new direct HDB cherry and then are given the extra privilege to buy private, even as the Government is trying to douse the speculative sparks in the property market!

One way I can read this is the G’s way of closing the income and asset gap among Singaporeans! But since our really rich won’t contemplate HDB for love or money, it means those who are effectively held back are only the middle income who are truly squeezed by the falling value of their cash assets, the rising cost of living and their dwindling earning power which moves inversely with their rising age.

Thus if boy-oh Roy Ngerng and his looney gang had wanted some support, this would have been a better cause for them to adopt. At least where I am concerned.

Even then, I won’t have lent him one cent, let alone donate it, if it meant encouraging him to defame anyone, let alone the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile I reproduce a letter from the ST Forum Page which continues to express private property owners’ grief and grievance against the unfair treatment of better off Singaporeans. Resonates with me. Wholly!

THERE are four factors to be considered when discussing whether HDB flat owners who move to private property should be allowed to keep their old flats (“Let HDB landlords enjoy their rent”; Thursday).

First, one reason for banning private property owners from co-owning an HDB flat is the fear of driving up prices in the resale market that could become unaffordable for first-time home buyers.

Without the ban, affordability can be sustained only by channelling more public funds into building more new flats, rather than recycling the existing stock.

Second, residing in private property accords the owner the benefits of exclusivity, prestige and better facilities.

There is a price to be paid for these benefits, and not hoarding a public flat should be one of the costs.

The upgrader has already benefited from the first ownership of affordable housing in the form of an HDB flat that helped pave the way towards owning a private home.

The first-time home owner who goes straight into buying private property does not enjoy this benefit.

The argument that the rules penalise a flat owner for becoming wealthy is not convincing, as there is the option of not owning private property.

Third, there are already schemes allowing HDB owners to sublet their homes partially or in full.

A retiree can even rent out the whole flat after the mandatory five-year occupation period if he lives with his children.

It seems odd that a retiree would want to hoard an HDB flat to support his retirement when he could simply choose not to buy a private property.

Fourth, Singapore’s rental market is heavily leveraged on foreigners’ demand. Whenever the volume of foreign tenants declines, there will be many homes left unoccupied.

Unoccupied private homes are a poor investment. Unoccupied HDB flats point to public policy unwisely executed.

After all, HDB was founded on the basis of providing an affordable home, not providing an affordable investment.

Liew Eng Leng