Leong Mun Wai's Facebook Post Sparks Intense BTO Pricing Debate with Sim Ann

After Senior Minister of State for National Development, Sim Ann responded to PSP NCMP Leong Mun Wai’s Facebook post about BTOs (Built-to-Order flats) earlier this month, she now invited him to a full debate.

On Dec 20 (Monday), Ms. Sim answered the points raised by Mr. Leong Mun Wai in a Dec 16 Facebook post: “I invite Mr. Leong to go beyond social media posts and file a motion in Parliament so that we can have a full debate.”

The Backstory

The Progress Singapore Party Non-Constituency Member of Parliament had written in a much-shared Dec 8 Facebook post that in the context of the price of HDB flats, “land costs should be taken out of the picture” and that “the time has come for us to question whether even our public housing policy has lost its way.”

On Dec 11, Ms. Sim answered in detail the points Mr. Leong Mun Wai had raised, writing that the Government has kept BTOs affordable for Singaporeans and will continue to do so.

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“Essentially, Mr. Leong wants the Government to price BTOs much lower, disregarding land costs if necessary,” she added.

The Senior Minister of State also wrote that while the government is sympathetic to people’s concerns around higher housing costs, increasing housing subsidies would mean decreasing funding for other spending priorities such as education, healthcare, and security.

Round 2

On Dec 16, Mr. LeongMun Wai  thanked Ms. Sim for her response, calling it “one step towards a more thorough and productive public discourse.”

However, he does not believe that HDB flats are subsidized “because the government has net positive cash flow from each HDB flat it sells disregarding land costs.”

Mr.LeongMun Wai  then brought up Singapore’s reserves, writing that the current greater need is to do more to help the present generation “overcome their many challenges.”

He added that land sales proceeds “should not be put into the reserves, but used in the current budget every year because state land is a perpetual asset whose value does not diminish over time but is renewed after the end of each lease term.”

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“Our future is not guaranteed by how much reserves we have,” wrote Mr. Leong, “but by having the future generation witness the success of the current generation” through creating jobs for Singaporeans and giving them financial security “so they have the leeway to become productive, innovative and resilient. 

If we need to use more of our annual investment returns (not the principal) to achieve that, we should not hesitate to do so.”

SMS Sim reiterated public housing as a core government commitment to Singaporeans but took issue with the NCMP having accounted land value as part of the country’s reserves, which Ms. Sim says Mr. LeongMun Wai  has “mixed up with the discussion on BTO prices.”

Calling this “another matter altogether,” she wrote that “there is no room for magical thinking here.”

She added that, like others, Mr Leong has an “over-confidence in the adequacy of our Reserves” and has called for the government “to use more investment returns to fund current spending.”

Furthermore, the NCMP “wants Singaporeans to believe that we should save less in our Reserves for future generations, and can afford to draw down more of our Reserves for today’s needs,” and called this “a wrongheaded proposal which carries serious consequences.”

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Shortly after Ms. Sim’s post was put up, Mr. LeongMun Wai  shared it on his own Facebook page. /TISG

Sim Ann responds to Leong Mun Wai: ‘Drastically lowering BTO prices… would only end up hurting all Singaporeans’