Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Appreciation & Farewell Lunch from Sembawang Town Council

Attended an "Appreciation cum Farewell Lunch" for Mr Hawazi Daipi at The Straits Kitchen in Hyatt Hotel yesterday. It was organised by Mr Soon Min Sin, General Manager/Secretary of Sembawang Town Council. He invited all the managers including Mr Terence Chan, General Manager/Secretary of Yishun Town Council to join Mr Hawazi Daipi, former Chairman of Sembawang Town Council for the lunch. Also received from the CEO of EM Services, Mr Tony Khoo on the caricatures of Mr Hawazi and myself at the lunch.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

CCC 50th Anniversary Dinner!

I was invited to the CCC 50th Anniversary Dinner at PA HQ last Saturday. PM Lee was the GOH. He spoke in Mandarin and English. In his speech in Mandarin, he used the metaphor "Depth, Broadness and Thickness" in engaging the community. In his speech in English, he used the acronym 3Ps - Purpose, Priority and People in connecting the community. He hoped the CCC could take the lead in reaching out to the other interest groups including the clans, arts and culture. About 1,600 grassroots leaders attended the function.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Book Launch on PAP Pioneers

Attended the book launch on PAP Pioneers: 50 Ordinary Stories at The Clifford Pier, Fullerton Bay Hotel this morning. PM Lee Hsien Loong was the Guest of Honour. Speaker of Parliament, Madam Halimah Yacob was the Organising Chairperson. She is also the PAP.SG Chairperson. The 2 DPMs were also special guests at this morning's book launch. In his key note address, PM Lee mentioned about The Clifford Pier, the difference between the old and new setting. It helped me to reminisce that when I was a small boy, about 10 years old,  my father brought me to Kusu Island. At that time, Clifford Pier was a jetty where wooden boat (tongkang) would ferry passengers to the southern islands including Kusu Island. I was seasick and vomited overboard because the sea was choppy and the diesel engine was belching fume towards my direction. I had nausea and vomited profusely. My only consolation on the trip was rewarded when I saw clear water with fishes swimming around the boat. I could see the bottom of the seabed when the boat was nearing the island. It was my first venture out in the sea on a boat. A journey brought back fond memories of my younger days at this morning's book launch.  


Monday, 12 October 2015

Cost of Living

Cost of living has been a controversy and is hotly debated  in public and in Parliament. Oppositions will use the platform during the General Election to argue and stir the emotion of the constituents. It is not only a local issue but a global phenomenon. It is about the standard of living as we become more affluent. When we talk about the cost of living, people generally want to compare the disparity in income between the rich and the poor and their spending power. It is only natural  as we progress and prosper as a nation, the income rises especially for those who are more qualified and experienced. With higher income, the expectations on their lifestyle also increases. No wonder many successful younger professionals and executives want to enjoy and have the 5Cs - cash, credit card, car, condominium, and club membership. It is the aspiration and envy of younger generations.
What is exactly the cost of living all about? Is it about the bread and butter issue or is it about rapid rising cost of living expenses? Responsible government will take constructive measures to cap and control on the rising cost. Government has the responsibility to leverage the income of the bottom end of the population. As lasses-faire (free and open) economy, the government cannot control on the disparity on the income of individuals especially those who are better qualified and experienced. The market forces will determine on the salary scale of the more able and compensate those who have special skills and abilities. 
The government can intervene by controlling on the inflation by strengthening on the currency since most of our consumable goods are imported from overseas. The stronger dollars can lower our import cost and, hence, pass on the savings from the exchange rate to the consumers. Government can also encourage fair and open competition by forming co-operative stores or supermarkets so that it gives the consumers the choice where to shop and buy their goods at lower prices. The government can consider giving grants, subsidies and rebates on the municipal services, including rental and utilities if there are surpluses on the budget from the thriving economy. The best measure and to create long term impact, the government can consider giving bursaries and scholarships to those who excel and perform outstanding in their studies. For adult workers and learners, the government can support with incentives to encourage them to upgrade and go for training. Government can help them with job placement if they are retrenched or change of career after they have acquired new skills. However, in desperate and worst scenario cases, government can give interim financial assistance to help them tie over the difficult period, such as, retrenchment or complete loss of income if they are sole breadwinners.
While the government can do their part to help and relieve the financial woes of the unemployed or lower income earners, it is nothing better to be self reliance. The worker must be prepared to go for training and upgrade their skills and abilities. They must cultivate the learning habits and become a lifelong learner to stay relevant and employable. They must change their attitudes and cultivate in them the values of hard work, honesty, work discipline, determination, commitment, sense of responsibility and perseverance in overcoming challenges. They must believe and build the confidence in themselves to have self esteem. Ultimately, they must live their own life and be accountable to themselves and that no one owe them a living. In Jack Neo's film "Money Not Enough" only reveals the reality and practicality of every day's life. One must lives within their mean no matter what is their income. Most important of all, they must prepare to work and ask themselves what they should do to increase their earning capacity.

Friday, 2 October 2015

HDB - Public Housing

When we became Independent in 1965, Singapore was a third world country with underdeveloped economy. There were massive unemployment, shortage of schools and poor housing with lack of facilities.
With swamp and slump shanties, the government began to resettle the villages and farmers. When the fire razed through the squatters in Bukit Ho Swee, the government speeded up the process in building new flats to house the homeless caused by the fire.
I witnessed the transformation of Singapore landscape from rural village in the 50s and 60s to urbanised satellite new town in the 80s and 90s. Singapore became a metropolis today with infrastructure and facilities of the first world.
It was the promise and priority of the government to provide permanent shelters for all Singaporeans. It was not only a shelter but affordable housing. It was the dream of home ownership that the government started with the public housing programme. Under the HDB (Housing and Development Board), the government started with low cost housing programme speedily. It was with remarkable result that 90% of the population bought and stayed in subsidized public housing.
With better trained architects and engineers, the HDB started to improvise with town planning. They built with better design and quality finished materials. HDB allows buyers to tap on their CPF savings to pay for their flats. HDB also help to provide direct housing mortgage loan and give grant to the first timers and for children to buy their own flat and stay close to their parents.

The investment in an asset on public housing gives security and protection to the aged and retired Singaporeans. The asset can be converted to cash in time of emergency. Some out of desperation, cash-in and sold their HDB flat to pay for their medical bills or debts. However, some would take advantage on the inflated value and cash-in on their HDB flat. They would squander their money from the sales proceeds and spent lavishly on their lifestyle or satisfied their desires.

Actually, there are alternatives or solutions to get some reliefs from their existing HDB flat. One is to sublet one of the rooms to collect monthly rental to support their livelihood. Two is to down-grade to a smaller unit or buy a studio apartment, if they are eligible, and keep the balance of the cash from the sales proceeds to support their living expenses. Three is to consider the "Buy Back Scheme" if they meet the HDB's criteria (age and size of the flat). It must be the last resort to sell their HDB flat. An important factor many residents neglect or ignorant is to pay the levy when they sell their flat and later wish to buy a HDB flat for second time. Many will cash-in and use the money from the sales proceeds for other purposes. They later found that they are eligible to buy the HDB flat for second time but they do not have cash to pay the levy they owe to HDB. Normally, the amount is substantial and can be thousands of dollars.

In the last National Day Rally, PM said that MND is working on "Fresh Start" to give those who have previously bought twice the HDB flats another chance to buy and own a new HDB flat. However, there would be criteria attached to the "Fresh Start" scheme so that buyer cannot abuse the system. One effective way is to control on the resale of "Fresh Start" flat. The owner can only sell back the "Fresh Start" flat back to HDB at their original purchased price.

HDB flats are heavily subsidised and it is only fair that HDB imposed levy on the re-sales of flat. Also some might have received grant from the HDB at the time of their purchase and again, it is only fair they pay back the grant when they sell their flat. If one compare the HDB public housing to a private condominium, the difference is vast and it can be as much as 5 times or more on the purchase values, depending on the location, design and size (floor area) of the private unit.