Something is wrong somewhere with EC scheme

From ‘Khaw:Something not right with EC scheme’, 27 April 2013, article by Woo Sian Boon, Today

A few months after some super-sized Executive Condominium (EC) units were sold at eye-catching prices, sparking a public debate on whether the EC scheme was being abused, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has signalled that the scheme will be tweaked.

Speaking on Thursday evening to participants at an Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) session focused on housing, he said that “something is wrong somewhere” with the scheme. “We cannot carry on the ECs with these current rules,” he said.

 …Referring to the qualifying income ceiling for ECs, Mr Khaw said: “Hence, there is a sense of inequity here. The lower-income groups are getting less subsidies than somebody who is earning S$12,000. So, something is wrong somewhere. Therefore, we cannot carry on the ECs with these current rules.”


$2 million EC condos aside, Khaw Boon Wan remained a stout defender of the EC scheme up till now. During the Jan Parliament sessions this year, he called it a ‘wonderful’ scheme because it was like giving Singaporeans a ‘Lexus at a Corolla price’. He could have made the same analogy for Nparks purchase of a $2200 Brompton bicycle, except that something did in fact go terribly wrong with the Brompton deal. Chan Chun Sing would refer to buying an EC like eating XO sauce chai tow kuay in Peach Garden.

4 months since the EC grilling by fellow MPs and our MND Minister now realises that something is amiss, not sure WHAT that ‘something’ is and WHERE it is. Your guess is as good as mine, sir, but it’s not very reassuring to hear such U-turns from our leaders. It’s like undergoing emergency amputation surgery while still conscious and hearing your surgeon murmuring ‘ehhh, something’s not quite right’ when your bloody sawn leg is already dangling by its tendons.

Wavering confidence and uncertainty has inflicted many a politician, including LKY himself. At the launch of his book Hard Truths, he said:

The message I want to convey is a simple one: we are a nation in the making. Will we make it? Am I certain we’ll get there? No, we cannot say that. Something may go wrong somewhere and we’ll fall apart.

In response to a horrific rape of a 5 year old child, the Delhi high court said ‘something somewhere is wrong‘. If you hired a plumber to clear your shit-congested toilet bowl and he said ‘something is wrong somewhere’, you’d probably want to flush him down the loo too.

‘Something is wrong somewhere’ is the kind of doubt any lay Singaporean may express, and it’s a flaw we knew all along from the moment someone decides to build fountains and presidential suites for executive condos, or sells off a Queenstown 5-room for $1 million. We don’t need to hear this coming from an authority who’s supposed to be finding and fixing the problem. If they can’t, well, then there’s ‘something wrong somewhere’ with the kind of pay they’re getting to do the job.

Yet, there’s one thing that Khaw seems to be dead confident about: That the government loses ‘hundreds of millions’ of dollars just to build HDB flats.  It explains why you never hear reports of HDB making tidy profits these days, it’s like a monk announcing that he won first prize in the lottery. Not so in the past. In 1970, someone calculated that the HDB made an ‘enormous profit’ from rental of flats and shops. In 1982 it was reported that the board made a $7 million windfall off carparks. In 2002, they made reportedly $87 million from carpark operations, half of that from fines.

How HDB manages its finances today remains a mystery, though our ministers would love to brag about how the government is constantly in the red to justify its noble mission of ‘public housing’. I suppose with all this ‘deficit accounting’ to deal with, it’s only fair that HDB gives its staff the occasional treat, like a Dinner and Dance at MBS with Daniel Ong as MC, for example (more proof of that ever happening here). Did the government subsidise THAT as well?


One Response

  1. The one thing I am sure is that “something is wrong somewhere” is in the HDB books. If the Ministry cannot identify it, just release it to the public and I am sure they will gladly confirm if HDB is loosing billions as the Minister claims or it’s all part of AIM creative accounting method. I still do not understand why the building cost of a HDB is top secret, unless someone is drinking Teh

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