Chee: PAP has failed Singapore in public housing

Singapore Democrats

The PAP is unwilling and unable to solve current problems of high HDB prices, Dr Chee Soon Juan said in his opening remarks at the launching of the SDP’s public housing policy, on 4 November 2012. Below is the transcript of his speech:$CUT$

In March this year, we gathered at theExcelsior Hotel for a very special and historic occasion – the launching of The SDP National Healthcare Plan: Caring for All Singasporeans. It was a comprehensiveand in-depth alternative healthcare policy for Singapore, one whichwe are extremely proud of.

Today, eight months later, I am equallyexcited to announce the unveiling of our housing policy titledHousing A Nation: Holistic Policies For Affordable Homes. This paperis another first in Singapore’s history where the SDP has conducted adetailed study of the housing system in this country and, moreimportant, proposed solutions that address the problems that plaguepublic housing here.

The document, which will be uploaded onthe Internet and made available on the SDP website following thislaunch, is the result of months of intense study and debate by theSDP’s housing panel.

Like our healthcare plan, you will seethat this is more than the usual rhetoric offered up by theopposition. It is a plan comprehensive and detailed enough thatenables a government and its public servants to carry out.

The SDP was motivated to embark on thisproject, in part, because we had seen the mess that former Ministerfor National Development Mah Bow Tan had made with the public housingsystem prior to 2011. But after the GE last year, Mr Khaw Boon Wantook over the portfolio and after more than a year, has,unfortunately, very little to show by way of changes to the system.

Mr Khaw said that he had sleeplessnights when he first assumed the job because public housing inSingapore was experiencing enormous problems with sharply increasedprices and an under supply of flats.

Back then, he warned buyers that “Withso much uncertainty, I must advise investors and upgraders to bearthese considerations in mind when they go to (property launch)showrooms.”

That was in June 2011.

A year later, the minister, addressingthe problem of HDB prices, said that he had been successful inbringing down prices and, in addition, engineered, in his words, a”soft landing” as opposed to triggering a sharp correction.”That’s what we’ve been trying to do,” he said, “and so far, sogood.”

That “soft landing” resulted in HDBprices hitting record levels. In September this year, a resale flatwas sold in Queenstown for more than $1 million. In October, the HDBwas marketing new 3-room flats for as much as $795,000.

In a matter of months, Mr Khaw changeshis tune. Now he says that “strong demand” for housing willpersist. In other words, housing prices will continue to climb.

Why the U-turn? The truth is, ladiesand gentleman, the PAP Government does not have the political will totake the necessary measures to significantly reduce prices. The HDBis an enormous cash cow for this Government. The billions of dollarsthat it rakes in by including “land costs” in our flat pricesmeans that the public housing is a huge profit-making enterprise. Itkeeps the already staggering amounts in the coffers of the GIC andTemasek well-fed.

But even if it does want to lowerhousing prices, it doesn’t quite know what to do. What can it doapart from admitting that its policy of making public housing aninvestment tool to be bought and sold on the open market like anyother commodity has led our housing system to such a precarious statetoday? Admitting failure is not in the PAP’s vocabulary.

This is why the opposition has to stepin. Where the Government has failed in its stewardship of thecountry, the people look to the opposition for remedies. To this end,the SDP is stepping up and we are taking the proverbial bull by itshorns. We have come up with a set of policies that will tackle thehousing problems that we face today.

I will leave the details of the paperto Jeremy Chen who will take you through the nuts and bolts of ourpolicy. What I want to do is to address the bigger issue of why theSDP is putting so much effort into drawing up alternative policyplans.

I hope that you have been able to seethat the SDP has been the party of constructive ideas in the lastcouple of decades. But since the last General Election especially, wehave seen more and more people from the various professions comingcloser to us and working with us to formulate substantive policypositions.

We do this because we recognise thatthe governing party has become directionless, clinging on to itsarchaic practices and policies in a changed and changing world.Because of its autocratic nature and top-down approach toproblem-solving, the Government has been unable to address theaspirations of the people.

We see an entire generation ofSingaporeans become disillusioned with the PAP as their lives andlivelihoods get increasingly desperate and their futures increasinglybleak. Is it any wonder then that a majority of Singaporeansindicated in a survey that they want to leave this country? Such issignal failure of this Government.

But if not the PAP in government, thenwho? Who can the people turn to as an alternative? This is thedilemma that Singapore finds itself in. To be sure, this is thesituation that undemocratic countries find themselves in.Authoritarian regimes crushe their opponents and render theopposition incapable of performing their duties. Its either a badgovernment or bust.

This is the situation that we mustdesperately get out of and this is why the SDP works to become theparty of choice, the party that Singaporeans can look to as analternative.

But rather than puff ourselves up andengage in braggadocio, we want to let our work, our actions and ourideas to do the talking. In the past several years, despite our lackof resources, despite all the negative publicity and despite thecrippling legal sanctions against us, we have worked to become aparty that is competent, constructive and compassionate. In otherwords, a party that can take over as government.

The drawing up of our alternativepolicy plans is but one aspect of this effort. Apart from our PolicyUnit, our Communications team have endeavoured to become even moreeffective in our online reach, our Ground Operations continue toexpand our ground campaign, and our Training and Development Unitwork to raise the quality and quantity of our membership.

These are not boasts. I hope you don’ttake it the wrong way. I tell you all his because I want you to knowthat we are doing everything we can to extricate our country fromthis perilous position of being stuck in a one-party state. It is ourway of encouraging you to come off the sidelines and help the partyis working to take Singapore in the right direction.

And as more and more Singaporeans –competent, principled and dedicated Singaporeans – step forward tojoin our ranks as we hope you will do, you will see a bigger andbetter SDP develop.

I am confident that the publication ofthis paper will take us another step closer to our goal, that it willanother demonstration to Singaporeans that there is emerging analternative ruling party.

Thank you.

The SDP’s alternative housing policy paper, Housing A Nation: Holistic Policies for Affordable Homes, can be downloaded at:

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