Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam made his now infamous comment about families earning $1,000 a month being able to buy a flat.
This kicked up a storm on the Internet. But instead of taking a second look at what the Minister said, other cabinet members stood up to defend the nonsensical statement, claiming that all the grants and subsidies afforded by the Government enable low-income families to buy the flats.$CUT$
If that’s the case, then why are more and more poor Singaporeans seeking to rent flats? Straits Times ran this story in August last year:
For the past 18 years, Mr Adam Teo’s home has been a two-room rental flat in Toa Payoh, littered with books, toys and clothes.
Moreover, the 24-year-old is now his family’s sole breadwinner, supporting his mother and two younger siblings.
Years ago, his father became mired in gambling debts, and eventually left home without a trace. Mr Teo had to drop out from his polytechnic diploma course.
He now works as a packing assistant and takes on odd jobs such as distributing fliers, just to feed the family and pay his siblings’ school fees.
Ask someone like Mr Teo if he aspires to have a home he can call his own, and the answer is invariably ‘yes’.
‘Our goal is to buy a flat eventually, but life is getting harder, and things more expensive,’ he said.
The problem was acute enough for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to include it in his National Day Rally speech in which he admitted that the situation is so bad that the Government had to increase the supply of rental flats for the poor:
The role of the rental flat, meant for the poor and needy who cannot afford their own home and lack family support and other housing options, has come into sharp focus again following the recent National Day Rally.
Recognising that there are Singaporean families who cannot afford to buy flats, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in his rally speech that he was raising the rental supply to 57,000 by 2015. The previous target, announced earlier this year, was 50,000 by next year.
The report made no bones about the increasing number of the poor who are unable to afford buying their own homes:
More households are renting now, with the number having grown to 45,000, up from 40,556 households reported in 2008.
If flats are so affordable for the poor, how is it that more and more have to rent? Funny how in just six months the scenario has changed so dramatically. Perhaps DPM Tharman should check with the PM, only one of them can be right.