Monday, November 29, 2010

Sustainability is the KEY ISSUE

Straits Time reporter called me up today to ask me about PM Lee's speech made on PAP's congress on Sunday. My first response is that the Prime Minister is just executing what he has said in last General Eections 2006. (Watch the above video). He will always look for ways to "buy support" and this announcement of "goodies" for the Election year 2011 will definitely be viewed as "buying support".

What make it worse is that the main bulk of the increased government revenue, as hinted by PM Lee who pointed out the increase in tourists due to the casino resorts, comes from casino-related taxes. I would have to agree with Ngiam Tong Dow that the ruling party has gone "astray" and its policies lack moral bearings.

I would prefer all these collections from such "immoral source" be used to reform our Healthcare Insurance system as well as providing more subsidies to Education, especially for the vulnerable group.

I was asked on whether such goodies in the coming Budget would affect my party's (NSP) performance in the coming elections. I said whether my party win or lose, it is just a democratic process. I am more concerned about how voters make their choices. If such goodies could actually "buy them over" by the ruling party then it would be a very setback for Singapore's democratic progress. The key issue of any General Elections should not lie on how much "Red Packet" the ruling party is going to give you, not even about how much HDB upgrading is at stake.

I said categorically that A GREAT POLITICIAN SELLS HIS VISION FOR THE FUTURE, NOT PORK BARREL. Voters should look beyond immediate gains or goodies handed out and look at the policies that will affect their future and their future generations.

One example I cited for GE2006 is that PAP didn't tell voters that they were going to increase GST from 5% to 7% in spite of me asking them openly in my rally speech for them to state clearly whether they are going to increase GST from 5% to 7% and then 10%. But we know that immediately after GE2006, the Prime Minister declared that GST would be raised "to help the poor"! However so far, we have not seen any concrete programs that utilize this increased revenue to help the poor! On the contrary, we have seen the increase of Singaporeans forced to live on beaches, collecting card boards and living in poverty! (For reference, please read this link.)

The Health Minister Khaw has tried to clarify during GE2006 that the means testing for healthcare would not take place that "soon" but it just kicked in just about a year later!

I was asked about PM Lee's mention of issues for next GE, particularly immigration, housing, helping low-wage workers and a sense of disorientation among Singaporean due to rapid changes in the society. I would say that all these are just "symptoms" of the KEY PROBLEM/illness of PAP's policies. The KEY PROBLEM is SUSTAINABILITY.

From politics, immigration, minimum wage, housing, retirement financin (CPF), transport to healthcare, PAP's policies are not sustainable at all in the long run. I have touched on politics in my other postings here with regards to Post LKY era and I will not repeat.

I will break down other issues into different posts on my blog for the coming days and weeks, all talking about the sustainability of these policies.

While PAP thinks that First Class candidates means top bankers, lawyers and other elites as their core, I believe that good candidates are those who have the passion to serve, who believe that politics is all about public service and those who can deliver the voices of the people into the parliament.

I have told the reporter that NSP is not going to sell HATRED in the coming GE as it was the norm for opposition to talk bad about PAP. We are going to sell our policy views on the sustainability for our Nation and future generations.

Just watch this space.

Goh Meng Seng

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What does "Freak Election Results" mean?

Well, this is definitely not an alien phrase for all of us. PAP has been talking about it for donkey years and this phrase has been raised again recently.

RP SG Kenneth gave a good rebuttal on "Freak Election Results": “How could it be a freak result if it is the will of the people?”

Yes, how could PAP ever think of such term? Does it mean that the people are "freak" to vote in opposition to replace PAP? How could the will of the masses be considered as "FREAK"?

Well, some PAP supporter has put it another way, when "freak" opposition members who have character flaws are voted into parliament, then it is considered as "freak election results". Sound good right? But wait, why would the masses vote someone who are "freak" with character flaws into parliament in the first place? What would these PAP supporters call them?

In democratic countries in the world, politicians who lost their elections, will just bow out, thank his supporters and respect the will and choice of the people. No matter how seemingly "unjust" the results could be. The following is the "DEFEAT SPEECH" by the President of Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan after she lost her elections yesterday.

Opposition parties have not mentioned about "Freak Election Results" when we know there are people who vote for PAP out of fear.We can lose elections but we must not lose our character. Never blame the voters, least accusing that as "Freak Election Results" because it is a disrespectful insult to the voters. Although we might have lost an elections, but we must win back applause and respect.

I initially thought that those who proclaim "Freak Election Results" are just Sore Losers. Only Sore Losers will make hell lot of noise when they lose, just like our childhood friends who will cry father cry mother when they lost a game or two.

But on second thought, there is more to it. It may really be a "Freak Election Results" because the ruling party has become so FREAK that Singaporeans will just abandon them. Maybe this is the real reason for "Freak Election Results" to happen.

Goh Meng Seng

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Contest in Tampines against Mah Bow Tan and ...

The above picture shows a major event coming up in Tampines on 21 Nov 2010. Tree planting, Neighbourhood Renewal Programme and free Dinner etc. The intriguing thing about this poster is on the left bottom corner where it states Guest of Honour as Mr. Masagos, the newly promoted minister of state for Education and Home Affairs. The distinguished guests include all other MPs of Tampines except Minister Mah Bow Tan, the anchor minister of Tampines GRC.

As there is a hint here that MBT may not be standing in Tampines, I have told a ST reporter that PAP or Minister Mah should make clear whether he is still standing in Tampines or any other place else because I will follow him. PAP has claimed that they take GE as the "contest of ideas" and I would like to contest MBT's or PAP's idea of public housing as investment.

If MBT is to retire from politics, which is more probable than moving to other GRC or SMC, then such intentions should be made known so that I could contest such idea of Public Housing against future Minister of National Development.

Of course, I hope that it is just coincidental that MBT is out of town and unable to attend the above mentioned event on 21 Nov 2010.

Many people tend to think that Tampines is a "sweet ground" to contest for the next GE. However, in reality, Tampines is traditionally a "hard ground" for opposition parties. The main reason is that more than 32% of Tampines flats are 5 room flats, executive flats, condominium or landed properties. (refer to data released by Department of Statistics in 2000).

Although Mah Bow Tan is one of the rare PAP members/ministers who have lost an election before (in Potong Pasir 1984) but he is definitely not a pushover. It is precisely the fact that he has tasted bitter defeat that he is exceptional careful in cultivating his own turf in Tampines. Choosing one of the hardest ground in Singapore is one of the first step to ensure better chances of defence against challengers. A typical HDB estate would have only 9%-15% of 5 room flats/ condominium. (eg. Ang Mo Kio estate has about 9%) Tampines is one of the very few HDB estates with such high percentage of 5 room or higher flats.

Intriguingly, a couple of opposition parties begin to be interested in Tampines GRC or rather, contesting against Mah Bow Tan AFTER NSP has set the fire on the HDB issues since 2008/9. I was tasked by my party to take over the responsibility to form a team to contest in Tampines and I have formulated the Minister-specific strategy since then. Most people in opposition parties are not very keen in contesting in Tampines basically because of the higher middle-upper class mix in Tampines, which is traditionally viewed as more supportive of PAP generally. Truly so, Tampines has NEVER been a "hot spot" since its inception.

NSP has been contesting in Tampines GRC for the past elections. NSP has been contesting in Tampines GRC since its inception in 1988, except for 1997 GE whereby it was a walkover for PAP. In 2001 and 2006 GEs, NSP candidates stood in Tampines GRC under the SDA banner.

Thus, while I am not surprised at SDA declaration on Berita Harian as well as SDP's assertion of interests that they want to contest in Tampines GRC, I am sadden by the fact that they have disregarded NSP's continuous political effort in Tampines GRC for the past two decades. Especially so when NSP has successfully turned Tampines GRC from a "traditionally cold spot" into a "hot spot" via various deliberate strategic moves made in the past two years. Unfortunately the bees will definitely be attracted to the honey.

I sincerely hope that SDA and SDP should reconsider their position so to avoid multi-corner fight in Tampines GRC. I think in general, Singaporeans do not wish to see multi-corner fights at this instance. However, if all rational reasoning fails, I am prepared for the worst scenario as well.

Goh Meng Seng

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

HDB 50 Years: From Affordable to Struggle

Note: This is the article which I wrote that Minister Mah Bow Tan is trying to "rebut" in his weekly column in Today newspapers. This article first appear on NSP newspaper, North Star, which we have sold thousands and thousands in various parts of Singapore.

Goh Meng Seng

HDB is celebrating its 50 years of existence recently and has started a round island exhibition of its past achievements. It has even come up with a two part TV series on Channel News Asia to glorify its past achievement. For the first 20 years or so, from 1960 to 1980, HDB has done a relatively impressive job of providing cheap public housing for the majority of Singaporeans.

However, we must recognize the fact that without the Land Acquisition Act that empowered the PAP government to acquire land from many small and medium land owners at dirt cheap prices, it would not be possible for HDB to redistribute these lands in terms of cheap public housing to the masses. Without the sacrifices made by all these land owners, the PAP government would not be able to acquire up to 80% of land in Singapore at an unimaginably low prices.

Thus, it would not be complete to talk about HDB’s achievement of housing more than 80% of Singaporeans without looking at the power given to the government via the Land Acquisition Act as well as the enormous sacrifices made by many land owners in the past. The Land Acquisition Act and HDB are the pillars of the socialist land reform tool that is aimed solve the problem of inadequate housing for the masses. The government has the privilege and power to forcefully acquire land from many land owners at dirt cheap prices but it also has the social obligation to redistribute these lands to the masses via HDB by providing cheap public housing.

The enormous amount of past PAP’s political capital is derived from the success of such land reform effort to provide cheap public housing at REAL SUBSIDIZED prices to the masses. When the late Minister Teh Cheang Wan (who has committed suicide after corruption probe) tried to explain about affordability of the new increased prices of HDB in a news article published in Straits Time 1981, he has put up an impressive chart of the breakdowns of costing for the various HDB flats. The costing includes construction and land costs. The selling prices were based on these costing in which different amount of REAL COST SUBSIDIES were given. Most of the time, the subsidies stated were more than the land cost stated.

It is almost impossible for us to know the present costing of any HDB flats built in modern days, least REAL COST SUBSIDIES if any. The pricing mechanism of HDB’s new flats has been changed drastically, from cost based pricing to resale market based pricing. HDB claims that it is giving “MARKET SUBSIDIES” when it prices the new HDB flats at a discount from the resale market prices. I guess I could also tell my customers that they are getting “MARKET SUBSIDIES” from me when I give them some discount on the products they buy from me, this is in spite of the fact that I am still earning a profit from the sales.

If the prices of new HDB flats are based on the resale market prices, wouldn’t it be in the interests of HDB and the PAP government that the prices in resale market to be kept high so that they could sell their new HDB flats at higher prices?

This pricing mechanism is flawed. On the surface, it is supposedly based on “market forces” but could such market force price the flats in accordance to the general affordability of the people? The answer is obviously no. Such pricing mechanism will only capture the availability of liquidity and demand that is created by population growth. It cannot represent the actual “affordability” as it could not reflect real income growth as well as general inflation rate.

In recent years, the prices of the HDB resale market are heavily influenced by:
1. The increase in demand caused by the influx of foreign migrants who became Permanent Residents (PRs).
2. The excess liquidity that brought in by these PRs.
3. The shortage of new HDB flats due to HDB’s inability to forecast accurately the demand of housing
due to the rapid population growth.

All these factors have nothing to do with the real income growth and affordability of Singaporeans. In fact, it is not difficult to realize that over time, HDB prices have outstripped income growth in the past decades.

During my father’s generation, a family with only one income could possibly pay off its HDB mortgage loan within 10 years. For my generation, we could only pay off our HDB mortgage loans with two incomes of husband and wife. For our present and next generation, they could only afford their new HDB flat with a 30 years mortgage paid by two income earners! It is very obvious from this general observation that HDB prices have outstripped our wages at least by two times.

Minister Mah Bow Tan whose Ministry in charge of HDB has tried very hard to prove the affordability of HDB by using all sorts of statistics. It has used an inherently bias Median Household Income of HDB flat applicants as well as statistical data comparison between income growth and HDB resale price growth for the period of 1999 to 2009. This comparison is totally inadequate. We should look at the comparison of income versus HDB resale prices for the period of 1990 till 2009 instead. This is the most appropriate comparison because the PAP government started its “Asset Enhancement Scheme” in early 1990s.

Although the data is incomplete due to the lack of data for the period from 1991 to 1994, but it is very obvious to us that the HDB Resale Price Index has outstripped Median Household Income growth by 200%. I shall also quote the analysis from Lucky Tan’s blog:
1. From 1990 to 2009, RPI rose to 442 (442% of the base year) but household income rose only to 211 (211% of the base year) i.e. income rose at roughly half the rate property rose over a 20 year period. The RPI was only 34.1 in 1990, today it is 154 i.e. a HDB flat today is 4.5 times the price 20 years ago but household income is only 2.1 times.

2. You will notice the big jump from 1990 to 1995 when the RPI rose from 34.1 to 101.9. That jump occurred just after CPF was liberalised for housing in 1991. During that period household income only went up by 36% but HDB price almost tripled. CPF basically went from funding retirement to funding
home purchases.

The conclusion is very obvious. Due to the fact that HDB prices have outstripped income growth for the past 20 years, it is inevitable that we will be shortage of funds for retirement since almost all of our CPF funds are being used to pay the 30 years mortgage for our flats.

Minister Mah Bow Tan and PAP leaders have not denied the fact that with the present HDB prices which need a 30 years mortgage payment, Singaporeans would have shortage of retirement funds in CPF. CPF would have failed its mission in providing savings for comfortable retirement of most Singaporeans. In fact, Minister Mah has suggested a way out of this situation: Monetize your HDB flats to finance your retirement. It is a very nice sounding way of saying you need to sell off your flats for your retirement!

It is really a cruel suggestion to all hard working Singaporeans who have worked so hard for more than 30 years of their life to sell their flats and lower their quality of live for their retirement just because the cheapest HDB housing in town during their time has sucked up almost all of their CPF contributions which left little for their retirement.

HDB has started out as a good socialist tool for land reform and redistribution. However it seems that half way down the road, it has totally diverted from its original humble but important objective of providing cheap public housing.

It has developed into a monster that overpriced basic housing which results in it cannibalizing on Singaporeans’ retirement funds. If we do not stop the PAP government’s Minister Mah from perpetuating this policy direction of high HDB prices, we would be supporting his plan to get Singaporeans to sell off their HDB flats for retirement in future!
Is this some big achievement for HDB to brag about for its 50 years existence?