I usually ignore the stack of junk mail flooding my letterbox – it goes straight into the wastebin. There was, however, one flyer that caught my eye:
It seemed like the letter was written out of desperation and made Madam Chua appear vulnerable. Reading it sent a host of emotions through me: Anguish, helplessness and anger.
I felt anguish because Singaporeans like Madam Chua are paying absurd amounts of COV for HDB flats. I have not met Madam Chua but I imagine that being a single mother, she could use $50,000 for her families needs instead of ploughing it into her flat on top of the loan she would have to take for the flat.
I kept going through in my mind how did our public housing system, originally intended to provide the people with affordable housing, end up in a state where single mums have to go into debt just to find a home for their children.
I couldn’t help but think of the enormous waste of financial resources that go into real estate in Singapore – funds that could have been put to much more productive and meaningful use like education and business start-ups.
This is a situation that we address in the SDP’s the Non-Open Market (NOM) Scheme (see Housing A Nation: Holistic Policies for Affordable Homes page 21). Under our plan, someone like Madam Chua who have children who are, I presume, under the 12, would get priority to buy new BTO flats.
She can then opt to buy an NOM flat at a fraction of the price of the one she has offered to pay – $70,000 for a 2-room flat. The only difference is that she can only sell her flat in the future back to the government, not in the open-market. But she needn’t worry because she would have enough left in her CPF to retire comfortably and whatever she earns now can be used for her children (and even send them to quality day-care centre) instead of servicing her housing loan. (Read page 12 of our Housing Policy).
I also felt helpless because with the PAP wielding a tight leash over the mass media, people like Madam Chua are not able to read about the SDP’s alternative housing policy. Many Singaporeans still don’t know that the SDP has a plan that addresses their housing needs. The Internet is one avenue but its reach is still limited.
Former US president, Jimmy Carter, wrote, “With an informed citizenry, governments can be held accountable for their policies, and citizens can more effectively choose their representatives. Equally important, access to information laws can be used to improve the lives of people as they request information relating to health care, education, and other public services”.
I felt angry because while PM Lee spoke of a housing policy with greater inclusiveness at this year’s National Day Rally, single mothers like Madam Chua seem to have fallen by the wayside. If Madam Chua was confident that the government cared for people like her, surely she would not need to resort to flooding letterboxes with such frantic sounding flyers.
The learning of Madam Chua’s plight has made me even more determined to spread the SDP’s housing message through the walkabouts and house visits. Our primary concern is to improve the lives of citizens like Madam Chua and to speak up for them in Parliament. My colleagues and I in the party pledge to do just that.
Neuman, Laura (editor). Access to Information: A Key to Democracy, The Carter Centre, USA, November 2002. http://www.cartercenter.org/documents/1272.pdf
Bryan Lim is a member of the SDP’s Central Executive Committee and Head of the Ground Operations Unit.