Tag Archive | "RP"

Message to Opposition: Don’t forget to whack the PAP

Message to Opposition: Don’t forget to whack the PAP

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NSP Sec-Gen Goh Meng Seng needs to stop scoring own goals; the enemy’s the other way.

By Terence Lee

Will Goh Meng Seng (third from left) still be smiling after the General Elections, or will his antics come back to bite him? Photo: TERENCE LEE

BACK in the good’ol days when Singapore football actually meant something, you wouldn’t see Fandi Ahmad tackle  Sundramoorthy on the pitch, even if the opponent were minnows. In fact, underdogs often raise their game when facing a far superior team.

Which makes the recent catfight between the National Solidarity Party and Worker’s Party all the more mind-boggling.

It seems that the People Action’s Party (PAP) was forgotten the week after the new electoral boundaries were made known, despite being the fattest sumo wrestler in the ring, and the most dazzling (or the most kayu) football player on the field.

Instead, you get a silly blog post by NSP Secretary-General Goh Meng Seng criticising the Worker’s Party and its arrogance, to which Low Thia Khiang, his counterpart at the WP, rebutted in Lianhe Zaobao.

Meng Seng, fresh off a press conference on Thursday when he announced NSP’s slate of candidates for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, is unapologetic.

“It’s just an emotional, sentimental post. But people mistaken it as an attack. It’s not.”

Really? Even when you said they have “lost sight” of their mission, or that they are thumbing down on other parties? Even when you insinuate that they are “arrogant”?

He continues: “When you speak your mind of course it’s going to be critical. If I don’t speak my mind I’m a politician. But when I write I’m not a politician, I’m a human.”

What shall I call you then? Uncle Meng Seng? Pops? Granddaddy? Koyok Seller?

So, here’s a veteran politician pretending to be a ranty emo-kid with a personal blog-plaything. He waved away my suggestion that he was trying to use his blog to pressure the WP to give up Moulmein-Kallang. Shrewd politician? Or am I giving him too much credit?

The usually smooth auntie-killer also trips himself up by saying: “There’s nothing (in the blog post that’s) critical about anybody. It’s just a very emotional piece. There’s nothing to do with arguing who’s right and who’s wrong.”

I rest my case.

The Opposition should start doing what they do best: Whack the PAP! Say anything, like how the Prime Minister is a pig, or how Lee Kuan Yew should go to a retirement village!

But let’s give Secretary-General Sir credit where it’s due. His party is the first to officially announce their candidates at any constituency, beating even the PAP. He has managed to attract credible candidates who left the Reform Party, which indicates some semblance of leadership ability.

His experience probably helped. While Reform Party Secretary-General Kenneth Jeyaretnam comes across as a true noob with poor media management skills, Meng Seng appears slightly better.

He has another thing going for him: He looks like someone you can talk to. He’s not as dashing as PAP man Michael Palmer, but he’s cute, in a cuddly Teddy Bear kind of way.  He’s the uncle who sips kopi downstairs, Wanbao in hand. About as heartlander as you can get.

Ah Seng’s certainly someone who seems down-to-earth, or at least gives that impression. Kenneth on the other hand, seems like the opposite: He uses his poker face and impressive qualifications to hide his political inexperience.

But as much of a veteran as he is, I think the blog post is ill-timed and poorly conceived; a symptom of a deep-rooted problem within the opposition camp: Rampant egos. Calculated move or not, there is no room in politics for undisciplined emotional outbursts. It distracts both opposition parties from the real fight against the ruling party. It gives the impression of a fractured Opposition. It could be a tool used by the PAP against him.

And there’s no guarantee WP will be pressured to give up Moulmein-Kallang, despite NSP’s shenanigans and media posturing. Which means we could be headed for a three-way fight.

In fact, both parties seem to be so focused on their petty squabbles that they literally ignored PM Lee Hsien Loong’s recent jibe: “It seems to me rather exciting day-to-day changes, transformations, quarrels, squabbles, new friendships and old enmities all surfacing at the same time. I look forward to the next installment.”

Perhaps opposition members are suffering from guilty conscience. So I related my concern to a person within the NSP. And guessed what he told me? Be patient. Sure, you can tell me that, but try saying it to the thousands of first-time voters who have watched every episode of this oddball family drama, and who actually appreciate what the government has done for them so far, despite the rising costs of living. Voters are not stupid.

But as far as I’m concerned, there’s still time to get their act together.

The Opposition should start doing what they do best: Whack the PAP! Say anything, like how the Prime Minister is a pig, or how Lee Kuan Yew should go to a retirement village!

Anything but criticise your fellow opposition member in public, and pass it off as a touchy-feely moment. Even Singapore Democratic Party man James Gomez’s horrible piece on how Singapore will experience a revolution akin to the Middle East will suffice, although it sounds like empty election rhetoric that signals how out-of-touch with the ground he may be.

Yes, I’m that desperate.

More New Nation content on GE2011 here.

Government to blame for Singaporean’s housing woes: Opposition

Government to blame for Singaporean’s housing woes: Opposition

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HDB’s housing policy skewered at townhall meeting between opposition party leaders and ordinary Singaporeans.

By Terence Lee

What Mah Bow Tan would have said

We can be sure the minister would put up a spirited defense for HDB if he was there. Looks like imagination will suffice. Below is a summary of what he probably would have said:

HDB has good reason to resort to market-based pricing.
“A cost-based system means that the same price would be charged for different flats in the same project, regardless of their location, floor, direction, and other attributes. It would be unfair for the buyer of a second-floor unit to be charged the same price as a 40th-floor unit with an unblocked view, because the latter would clearly fetch a much higher resale value.”

HDB’s financial reports show that the housing agency has been losing money.
“Some have contended that with the market-minus pricing, the HDB is making money from Singaporeans. This is quite wrong. Every year, the HDB publishes its audited financial accounts. In these accounts, the HDB’s proceeds from the sale of new flats are shown to be far below what it costs the HDB to build them. Over the last three years, the average loss on the sale and development of HDB flats was about $600 million a year.”

HDB flats are affordable.
“Whichever objective measure we choose, it is clear that there are enough HDB flats within reach of today’s homebuyers. They range from smaller, no-frills flats in non-mature estates to premium flats in mature estates, catering for different aspirations and budgets (see table above). I hope buyers choose carefully, taking into account their budgets and aspirations. Housing affordability is decided not just by the options offered by HDB but also the choices of homebuyers.”

For deeper reading

If you want to understand the issue better.

Pricing flats according to their value. By Mah Bow Tan for Today.

Are HDB flats affordable? By Mah Bow Tan for Today.

Housing minister’s frustratingly incomplete sales job, part 1. By Alex Au for Yawning Bread

Housing minister’s frustratingly incomplete sales job, part 2. By Alex Au for Yawning Bread

HDB Annual Report : Deficit has doubled – really? By Leong Sze Hian for The Online Citizen.

IF THE Housing Development Board (HDB) was a lady, then she must have felt dejected. Opposition party leaders let rip yesterday at the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) for over two hours, with the HDB bearing much of the criticism.

Curious timing indeed, considering how National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan was just recently left out of the ruling party’s Central Executive Committee for obscure reasons.

Exciting theatre might have resulted if he, or at least a Member of Parliament (MP), was there to defend her. But while one MP did express interest in attending, he was “unable to seek clearance”, said Mr Choo Zheng Xi, co-founder of The Online Citizen, the current affairs website that organised the event.

Not to say that the meeting, dubbed the “political event of the year”, wasn’t exciting enough. Turn by turn, opposition leaders lampooned the government in response to a question from the floor on HDB pricing.

More transparency, please

Mr Chiam See Tong (Singapore People’s Party), Dr Chee Soon Juan (Singapore Democratic Party), and Mr Chia Ti Lik (Socialist Front) expressed concern about the apparent lack of transparency in the government outfit’s financial accounting.

“We need to make sure that the HDB remains a zero-profit venture,” said Chee, adding that this can be achieved if they reveal the exact breakdown of development costs for HDB flats.

Chiam, an old stalwart of the opposition force, was more biting in his criticism.

Wary of what he calls “paper subsidies” issued by the government, he illustrated how the HDB prices flats at $3 when it is in fact worth only $1. They then sell the flat to Singaporeans at $2.50, calling that a discount.

“We’ve all been hoodwinked to believe that the govt is helping them with housing but actually they are not,” he warned.

Another common criticism raised by the opposition leaders was the supposed lack of foresight by the HDB, which led to the rapid rise in resale flat prices earlier this year.

Said Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam (Reform Party), who graduated with Double First Class Honours from Cambridge University: “They’ve done a poor job of managing supply. Over the last ten years, house-building has tapered off while population has grown enormously.”

The government’s immigration policy, which saw a massive influx of foreign workers and expatriates into the nation, was a major factor in the population growth, charged Mr Gerald Giam (Worker’s Party).

Offering solutions

In order to mitigate the high costs of flats and make them more affordable for Singaporeans, Giam advocated that these apartments should be fully paid with a 20-year housing loan instead of the usual 30.

“The price of new HDB flats should also be pegged to the median income of Singaporeans rather than price of surrounding flats,” he said.

More solutions were offered by the other political parties, although insufficient time was devoted to explaining these alternatives in great detail. The audience, consequently, were left with little chance to consider whether these policies were half-baked or solid.

Chia, for one, promoted the idea of create a separate category of flats for young couples and needy Singaporeans which has a lower price scale and a shorter lease period which further drives down costs.

Jeyaretnam, on the other hand, saw merit in allowing residents to own their flats indefinitely so that they can enjoy the profits reaped from rising property values. But Mr Goh Meng Seng (National Solidarity Party) does not favour this approach.

“You do not use home as investment; you use your property as an investment,” he said.

In addition, Goh added that couples applying for resale flats should not receive housing grants because such practices inadvertently raise prices by fueling demand.

Implementing something like that though could be tricky, considering how unpopular such a policy might become. But he is undeterred, believing that politicians are responsible for selling difficult measures to the skeptical masses.

Giam agreed that unpopular policies are usually flawed ones.

“The government’s immigration policy was bad, but they had this dogma that they must bulldoze an unpopular policy through Parliament. They did not consider that if many people voice out, then it may be wrong,” he said.

Do share with us whether you agree with the Opposition’s proposals on lowering HDB flat prices.