The PAP is unwilling and unable to solve current problems of high HDB prices, Dr Chee Soon Juan said in his opening remarks at the launching of the SDP's public housing policy.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In March this year, we gathered at the Excelsior Hotel for a very special and historic occasion – the launching of The SDP National Healthcare Plan: Caring for All Singasporeans. It was a comprehensive and in-depth alternative healthcare policy for Singapore, one which we are extremely proud of.
Today, eight months later, I am equally excited to announce the unveiling of our housing policy titled Housing A Nation: Holistic Policies For Affordable Homes. This paper is another first in Singapore's history where the SDP has conducted a detailed study of the housing system in this country and, more important, proposed solutions that address the problems that plague public housing here.
The document, which will be uploaded on the Internet and made available on the SDP website following this launch, is the result of months of intense study and debate by the SDP's housing panel.
Like our healthcare plan, you will see that this is more than the usual rhetoric offered up by the opposition. It is a plan comprehensive and detailed enough that enables a government and its public servants to carry out.
The SDP was motivated to embark on this project, in part, because we had seen the mess that former Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan had made with the public housing system prior to 2011. But after the GE last year, Mr Khaw Boon Wan took over the portfolio and after more than a year, has, unfortunately, very little to show by way of changes to the system.
Mr Khaw said that he had sleepless nights when he first assumed the job because public housing in Singapore was experiencing enormous problems with sharply increased prices and an under supply of flats.
Back then, he warned buyers that "With so much uncertainty, I must advise investors and upgraders to bear these considerations in mind when they go to (property launch) showrooms.”
That was in June 2011.
A year later, the minister, addressing the problem of HDB prices, said that he had been successful in bringing down prices and, in addition, engineered, in his words, a "soft landing” as opposed to triggering a sharp correction. "That's what we've been trying to do,” he said, "and so far, so good.”
That "soft landing” resulted in HDB prices hitting record levels. In September this year, a resale flat was sold in Queenstown for more than $1 million. In October, the HDB was marketing new 3-room flats for as much as $795,000.
In a matter of months, Mr Khaw changes his tune. Now he says that "strong demand” for housing will persist. In other words, housing prices will continue to climb.
Why the U-turn? The truth is, ladies and gentleman, the PAP Government does not have the political will to take the necessary measures to significantly reduce prices. The HDB is an enormous cash cow for this Government. The billions of dollars that it rakes in by including "land costs” in our flat prices means that the public housing is a huge profit-making enterprise. It keeps the already staggering amounts in the coffers of the GIC and Temasek well-fed.
But even if it does want to lower housing prices, it doesn't quite know what to do. What can it do apart from admitting that its policy of making public housing an investment tool to be bought and sold on the open market like any other commodity has led our housing system to such a precarious state today? Admitting failure is not in the PAP's vocabulary.
This is why the opposition has to step in. Where the Government has failed in its stewardship of the country, the people look to the opposition for remedies. To this end, the SDP is stepping up and we are taking the proverbial bull by its horns. We have come up with a set of policies that will tackle the housing problems that we face today.
I will leave the details of the paper to Jeremy Chen who will take you through the nuts and bolts of our policy. What I want to do is to address the bigger issue of why the SDP is putting so much effort into drawing up alternative policy plans.
I hope that you have been able to see that the SDP has been the party of constructive ideas in the last couple of decades. But since the last General Election especially, we have seen more and more people from the various professions coming closer to us and working with us to formulate substantive policy positions.
We do this because we recognise that the governing party has become directionless, clinging on to its archaic practices and policies in a changed and changing world. Because of its autocratic nature and top-down approach to problem-solving, the Government has been unable to address the aspirations of the people.
We see an entire generation of Singaporeans become disillusioned with the PAP as their lives and livelihoods get increasingly desperate and their futures increasingly bleak. Is it any wonder then that a majority of Singaporeans indicated in a survey that they want to leave this country? Such is signal failure of this Government.
But if not the PAP in government, then who? Who can the people turn to as an alternative? This is the dilemma that Singapore finds itself in. To be sure, this is the situation that undemocratic countries find themselves in. Authoritarian regimes crushe their opponents and render the opposition incapable of performing their duties. Its either a bad government or bust.
This is the situation that we must desperately get out of and this is why the SDP works to become the party of choice, the party that Singaporeans can look to as an alternative.
But rather than puff ourselves up and engage in braggadocio, we want to let our work, our actions and our ideas to do the talking. In the past several years, despite our lack of resources, despite all the negative publicity and despite the crippling legal sanctions against us, we have worked to become a party that is competent, constructive and compassionate. In other words, a party that can take over as government.
The drawing up of our alternative policy plans is but one aspect of this effort. Apart from our Policy Unit, our Communications team have endeavoured to become even more effective in our online reach, our Ground Operations continue to expand our ground campaign, and our Training and Development Unit work to raise the quality and quantity of our membership.
These are not boasts. I hope you don't take it the wrong way. I tell you all his because I want you to know that we are doing everything we can to extricate our country from this perilous position of being stuck in a one-party state. It is our way of encouraging you to come off the sidelines and help the party is working to take Singapore in the right direction.
And as more and more Singaporeans – competent, principled and dedicated Singaporeans – step forward to join our ranks as we hope you will do, you will see a bigger and better SDP develop.
I am confident that the publication of this paper will take us another step closer to our goal, that it will another demonstration to Singaporeans that there is emerging an alternative ruling party.