NDP speech: working together

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivered his traditional National Day message on 8 August from SAFRA Toa Payoh, where SAFRA built its very first clubhouse back in 1975. In his speech, he touched on our current economic growth, domestic measures, social and education policies, and the future of the nation as an inclusive society.

As you can see, some salient points deserve mention:

“We have cleared the queue for HDB flats, stabilised BTO prices and tightened up on property speculation and excessive borrowing.”

According to HDB, the average application rate for First Timers (first-time applicants who have not yet enjoyed any housing subsidy) in the latest BTO exercise was 0.81875. This means that for every 1 flat available, 0.81875 First Timers were vying for it—which also implies that all First Timer applicants got their flats.

BTO prices have been stabilised by delinking them from the resale market via an increase of government subsidy. BTO flat prices in this way do not follow the surge in resale flat prices.

In Punggol, for instance, 3-room BTO flat prices stayed between $150,000 and $210,000 from 2010 to 2012, 4-room BTO flat prices rose mildly from between $240,000 and $330,000 in 2010 to between $260,000 and $340,000 in 2012, and 5-room flat prices stayed between $330,000 and $410,000 from 2010 to 2012.

 Other new cooling measures this year include the increase in stamp duties for home buyers in January and the more recent home loan framework that requires lenders to consider borrowers’ debts when granting property loans.

 “We have added more buses and increased the number of bus routes.”

According to an LTA release in the first quarter, a total of 93 bus services have been improved with 143 new buses added on the road by last March.

Under the Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP), a total of 215 new buses had been added to the roads as at end June to improve 101 existing bus services and introduce 12 new routes.

Plans are also on track to deliver around 280 buses by the end of this year, more than half of the 550 committed by the Government under the plan to improve the bus network and commuter experience!

“We need foreign workers to serve our economy and Singaporeans’ needs, and immigrants to make up for our shortfall of babies.”

Since the White Paper on Population in January provoked strong reactions, the debate has stirred up longer-term issues pertaining to marriage, parenthood, and population which the Prime Minister has promised to tackle.

Among the peripheral concerns he mentioned, crowding, congestion, and the preservation of a strong Singaporean identity were key.

He also restated the need to balance the tightening of foreign workers and immigration with maintaining investor confidence and keeping “Singapore open for business”.

“We need to strengthen this spirit of togetherness.”

Referencing the recent cases of dengue and haze, PM also applauded the way Singaporeans “stood together and took care of one another” and urged us to strengthen this sense of community.

He described a need for Singaporeans to give greater mutual support to one another and help the less fortunate by volunteering for causes that we care about and organising ourselves to work for the common good.

Like he pointed out, we are “not just separate individuals, but a community with a shared purpose and a sense of collective responsibility”.

“We will tackle the cost of living, for example healthcare costs, especially for the elderly.”

He also noted that the Government would play a play a bigger role in building a fair and just society, the goal being to enable every Singaporean for success through education and lifelong learning.

Equal opportunity was also mentioned, and the assurance given that help will be delivered to those from less well-to-do families from as early as pre-school.

The opening of some 20 Social Services Offices should contribute to that!

The hope is for a more equal society where every family can afford their own HDB flat and low income workers will get better wages through initiatives like Workfare.

Of course, things are continually changing in Singapore, so kudos to those working hard to keep things stable and coherent for the rest of us!

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