HDB, the ball is in your court

Guy Fawkes - voiddecker.com

Gunpowder treason and plot

Talk about staying competitive. If this were a competitive market, the HDB would have been trounced and rendered obsolete faster than you can say obigood.

I’m referring, of course, to the housing policy paper launched by the Singapore Democratic Party that proposes major reforms in the public housing market. Meanwhile, in other news, the HDB is still battling internal demons and dragging its feet over whether to allow singles to buy flats direct…

The proposal will be welcome by Singaporeans who despair of the relentless rise in property prices and difficulty in acquiring a simple roof over the head. Like me, they may have wondered — why does it have to be so complicated? Whether SDP’s suggestions make economic sense* is not even the main issue as long as it seeks to address the real concerns of the people. The current system is so broken in the eyes of many that we welcome any changes even if the outcome is uncertain. After all, how much worse can it get when we are already facing doomsday threats every day? It’s like a daily dose of mental conditioning as how they do it in a dystopia (“Ending is better than mending”).

This latest development also further erodes the PAPnomics theory that it takes top salaries to come up with decent policies. If a group of volunteers can come up with something thoughtful as this, it calls to question the value we are getting from our government. What we could do with is some passion to serve, not politicians who quit after losing elections. Surely that’s not too much to ask.

Interestingly, the paper discusses a notion I pondered on recently: the obsession with property investing in Singapore, fuelled by the lack of capital gains tax, is harming entrepreneurship and the spirit of enterprise. Instead of investing in new ventures and companies that generate actual wealth for the country, cash rich Singaporeans spend their time in condominium showrooms in search of the next property to invest on. Huge amounts are poured into an asset market that doesn’t benefit the economy. I don’t know if there’s any truth in this grand theory; since I’m known more for my staircase wit than thought leadership, I leave it to you to decide.

I am in a pensive mood today, and as I browsed through the policy paper, I started imagining the possibility of an alternative government. The significance is not lost on me that it is Guy Fawkes Night here in the UK today. Yes — remember, remember, the fifth of November – how can we forget? It helps that there have been fireworks going off all around me the past 3 days, even next door as I wondered if my house will burn down. A recent Economist article wrote that “it has become common among intellectuals to wonder whether 70 years is about the maximum a single party can remain in power, based on the records set by the Soviet Communist Party and Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party”. As the alternative gets more real, perhaps our own version of the Grand Old Party may not be around come its 70th anniversary of power in 2029.


* The paper appears to use the term rent-seeking differently from how economists such as Joseph Stiglitz use it. In the paper, it is more in the literal sense (i.e. seeking rental income), while the term generally refers to seeking economic gains by manipulating the social or political environment (see wiki here).