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LEONG Sze Hian -- The unofficial history of the poor in S’pore? (Part 3)

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  • Robert Ho
    The unofficial history of the poor in S’pore? (Part 3)
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 24, 2013
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      The unofficial history of the poor in S’pore? (Part 3)

      Leong Sze Hian

      Recap: In Part 2, we ended off with “three to nine per cent of households were in arrears of more than three months on their S & CC, may indicate that many Singaporeans may still be in financial difficulties”.

      Childcare centres’ rent increase as much as 400%?

      According to the article “High rent a heavy burden for childcare centres” (Straits Times, Apr 17).

      It states that “(He) is struggling with a high rent of almost $50,000 a month for the site above a multi-storey carpark in a Housing Board estate in Punggol.

      The rent accounts for more than half of the centre’s monthly operating costs of about $80,000.

      Mr Lee, who charges $1,177 for the full-day childcare programme …”.

      In this connection, it was reported that “the competition for space has jacked up rents at HDB void decks to as high as $50,000 a month in newer estates … About five years ago, the average rent was just $10,000 to $20,000″.

      So, rents have increased by as much as 400 per cent or 38 per cent per annum in the last 5 years or so.

      HDB limits supply to get more revenue?

      As to “Fewer than 10 such sites are released each year to private operators, say industry players”, why is the HDB controlling the supply and thus causing rents to skyrocket?

      Fees increase because of HDB?

      Therefore, arguably, the  primary cause of the large increase in fees in recent years may be the HDB.

      Rent to the highest bidder?

      Agencies like the HDB also contribute to the high inflation in recent years through their “rent to the highest bidder” policy in food centres (food inflation), shops (consumer goods inflation), etc.

      Relentless price increases in basic goods & services?

      The lives of the poor have been made harder because so many basic goods and services’ prices continue to rise relentlessly to generate huge increasing profits.

      Ever rising huge profits?

      Public Transport?

      For example, SMRT’s profits increased from $56.8 million to $161.1 million, from FY2002 to FY2011. This is an increase of 184 per cent or an annualised increase of 12.3 per cent.

      Healthcare?

      Hospitalisation bills for subsidised wards increased by as much as double over the last 5 years or so.

      Utilities?

      Singapore Power’s profits increased by 37 per cent or about 6.6 per cent per annum, from $677 million in FY2006/07 to $930 million in FY 2011/12.

      13,700 PAYUs?

      “As of June this year, about 13,700 households have been put on a pre-paid metering scheme (PAYU) after they had their power supplycut off or were in danger of having the supply disconnected (“More unable to pay

      electricity bills”, ST, Aug 29).

      Social workers have also said that surprisingly, there has been a 35 per cent increase in 4 and 5-room HDB households, who are unable topay their electricity bills.

      This brings up the question as to whether the U-Save Rebate for utilities are enough to offset the rising inflation of electricity tariffs and bills.

      I would think that most households may try very hard to pay their electricity bills first, over other outstanding bills, as I cannot imaginewhat life may be like when one’s electricity is cut-off.

      It was last reported in the media in 2006 that the number of accounts in arrears exceeding $ 500 for three months and longer is about 3,600, against about 10,000 reported in the media in 2005.

      So, why has the number of Pay-As-You-Use (PAYU) meters increased to 13,700 ? (“HDB and power companies – what’s happening?“, Oct 1, 2008)

      HDB?

      HDB prices increased by about 80 per cent over the last 6 years or so.

      Percentage of those who can’t pay keep rising?

      “At March 31, 2003, 4.2 per cent of HDB households with outstanding mortgage loans were in arrears of three months or more, HDB said this week in reply to queries.

      This compared with 4 per cent, or about 21,800 of the 540,000 households with outstanding mortgage loans, at Dec 31, 2002.

      And over the past six years, HDB has evicted just two mortgagors for defaulting on repayments, it added.” (“HDB owners with 3 months or more loan arrears hit 4.2%“, Business Times, Apr 30, 2003)

      “More HDB flat owners unable to pay instalments

      There has been an increase in HDB home loan defaults since late 2003.

      HDB has revealed that at the end of 2003, 25,000 flat owners out of the 517,300 households with HDB loans were in arrears for three months or more.”(“More HDB flat owners unable to pay instalments“, Jan 18, 2009)

      At its historical peak, more than 40,000 HDB households were in arrears over three months.

      HDB annual reports used to have a statistic on the number of HDB households given financial assistance, but this has disappeared for many years (now replaced by a statistic on financial assistance for the year).

      The last time that “applications for financial assistance approved” statistics were published was the HDB’s 2004/2005 annual report.

      The figure was 28,386 and 39,308 for FY2004 and 2003, respectively.

      Of course, it may also have been helpful then, to publish the statistics on the number of applications that were not approved.

      “Can’t pay” problem passed to banks?

      The HDB has said that it does not have the statistics on HDB bank loans in arrears or foreclosures.

      However, I understand the last time that HDB bank loans ‘in arrears’ statistics were disclosed, the figure was seven per cent (Feb 2007, Parliamentary debate).

      So, if HDB bank loan arrears’ statistics could be disclosed in 2007, why did the HDB say subsequently, that it does not have the statistics on HDB bank loans in arrears or foreclosures?

      I understand that there are now over 180,000 HDB bank loans which have been rising over the years, whilst HDB loans have gradually declined on a relative basis.

      Few foreclosures because … ?

      Compulsory acquisition at only 90 per cent of valuation

      Most HDB loans’ flat owners in default would have sold in the open market at valuation plus cash-over-valuation to avoid HDB compulsory acquisition at only 90 per cent of valuation.

      Those who are forced to sell would disappear from the ‘in arrears’ and also not be reflected in the foreclosure statistics.” (“LEONG SZE HIAN REBUTS PM LEE ON ‘HOUSING PROBLEMS’”)

      “As of October 2008, some 33,000 flat owners owed HDB arrears of three months or more. They make up less than 8 per cent of the 420,000 households with outstanding HDB loans.” (“HDB Defaults – Good or bad News?”, Channel NewsAsia, Nov 18, 2008) – And this was in a good year, just before the financial crisis struck in the last quarter of 2008!

      Parliamentary reply that don’t really answer the question?

      “The proportion of households with HDB loans in mortgage arrears of 3 months or more has steadily decreased over the past three years – from 6.0% (22,900 cases) at the end of 2010, to 5.6% (20,400 cases) in 2011, and 5.2% (18,000 cases) in 2012″ (“Written Answer by Ministry of National Development on flat owners with housing arrears”, Feb 25, 2013) - Note: These statistics do not include HDB bank loans which have been increasing on a relative basis compared to HDB loans, since banks were allowed to offer HDB loans from 1 January, 2003. There are also no ïn arrears” or foreclosure statistics available for HDB bank loans.

      5,500 letters of appeal in just 1 GRC?

      “The GRC wrote 5,500 letters of appeal in 2012, and that a third of these revolved around the buying and selling of flats, and requests for rental flats.”

      With 5,500 letters of appeal on HDB in one year in just one GRC, how many letters of appeal were written for all the GRCs and SMCs? – About 99,000? (15 GRCs and 12 SMCs)” (“5,500 letters of appeal on HDB in 2012 in 1 GRC?“, Jan 17).

      .

      Leong Sze Hian

      Leong Sze Hian is the Past President of the Society of Financial Service Professionals, an alumnus of Harvard University, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow and an author of 4 books. He is frequently quoted in the media. He has also been invited to speak more than 100 times in 25 countries on 5 continents. He has served as Honorary Consul of Jamaica, Chairman of the Institute of Administrative Management, and founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of Brunei and Indonesia. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional qualifications. He blogs at http://www.leongszehian.com.


      --
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