On Monday (Nov 7) in Parliament, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh and Second Minister for Finance and National Development Indranee Rajah exchanged words about the cost of development of new HDB flats and the details of subsidies given to buyers, with Ms Rajah refusing to provide a breakdown of the total development cost of all new Build-to-order (BTO) projects.
Instead, Ms Rajah said providing a breakdown of the total development cost of all new BTO would not be “helpful or meaningful” for those purchasing them.
Many netizens reacted to her responses, calling for transparency while stating that Singaporeans can make their own decisions once they see the data.
Mr Singh had referred to POFMA correction orders issued last month to former GIC economist Yeoh Lam Keong and others regarding statements about Singapore’s past reserves as well as losses made by the HDB in a BTO project.
He then asked for a breakdown of the development costs of new HDB flats as well as the dollar value of the subsidies applied to the assessed market price of these flats.
Ms Rajah explained that development cost consists of land cost and construction cost, and added “What we sell to Singaporeans, less the total development cost, will give you, in virtually all cases, a net loss, because we are subsidising, we are selling below market value.”
But to provide a breakdown would “not (be) helpful or meaningful” for buyers.”
“Should we give the total development cost? We don’t think anything would be achieved by doing so. The reason is this – what is the real important thing to Singaporeans? The real important thing is, are you able to afford a flat?”
“Every Singaporean who buys a BTO knows that actually the price that they are paying is less than what you would have to pay if you were paying at pure market price. That’s why BTOs are so popular.”
However, Mr Singh armed back that a detailed publication of HDB’s subsidies is necessary, citing the prime location public housing (PLH) model as a reason.
Moreover, he added, “With resale prices reaching record highs today and therefore pushing up the market price of land, increasing the size of the subsidies… would appear to be the main way through which BTO prices can be kept affordable.”
“What is preventing HDB from publishing the dollar value of HDB subsidies for new BTO flats?”
The exchange between Mr Singh and Ms Rajah may be found here.
Netizens appeared to see Mr Singh’s point, calling for transparency.
One commenter on Facebook offered another proposal, writing, “Best to put it out for public consensus to find out whether they prefer to know the breakdown. If there is any holding back of info to the majority wish, then it will probably create an air of suspicion.”