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Progress made in housing, but more to be done: Khaw

SINGAPORE — Much has been done in the area of housing, but it remains a “work-in-progress” in the face of changing demographics, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who last night reminded voters that this General Election is like buying a new house — too important to leave to chance.

PAP supporters at a rally for Sembawang GRC yesterday. Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan, who is the anchor minister for the ward, spoke on how various measures have improved the housing situation during his speech yesterday. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong

PAP supporters at a rally for Sembawang GRC yesterday. Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan, who is the anchor minister for the ward, spoke on how various measures have improved the housing situation during his speech yesterday. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong

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SINGAPORE — Much has been done in the area of housing, but it remains a “work-in-progress” in the face of changing demographics, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who last night reminded voters that this General Election is like buying a new house — too important to leave to chance.

Speaking at a People’s Action Party (PAP) rally for Sembawang Group Representation Constitution (GRC), he outlined various measures and improvements on the housing front to illustrate how the Government and Singaporeans could tackle challenges together as well as “what more we can build together.”

Mr Khaw, who is the PAP anchor minister for Sembawang GRC, cited the recent announcement to double the Special CPF Housing Grant, the construction of 100,000 new flats, the new Proximity Housing Grant, the Fresh Start Housing Scheme and measures to build more rental flats as examples of what his ministry has achieved in the past four years.

The 100,000 new flats have cleared the waiting queue by newlyweds for new flats and the waiting time for rental flats has been cut to four or five months, he noted.

The Fresh Start Housing Scheme — announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at last month’s National Day rally — will give families with young kids living in HDB rental flats a second chance to own a 2-room flat again, even though they have bought and sold a subsidised HDB flat before.

“We will implement it as soon as we can. Because we do not want to leave anyone behind. This is our commitment,” said Mr Khaw.

“It is a continuation of a commitment that dates back 50 years. We have always wanted every Singapore family to have the peace of mind, to pursue their dreams in a stable home which they own. This way we can better ensure that your children can enjoy and benefit from the same Singapore that you have.”

The measures to cool the housing market have led to the market “moderating very nicely”, but some developers are unhappy and some property agents find their business and income affected, he noted.

Referring to the SG50 film 7 Letters, in which a director of one of the short films mocked the cooling measures and talked about how it landed him in a disastrous situation, Mr Khaw said: “Unfortunately, we cannot have home prices both high for the sellers and low for the buyers.”

He added: “I believe most Singaporeans support the (cooling measures) and prefer the current situation to four years ago.

“Singapore is already a nation of home-owners. Nowhere else in the world can you find this. But still, public housing is always a work-in-progress as we need to ... respond to changing demography and changing aspirations,” he said in his speech at a field opposite Woodlands Drive 16.

He added: “We have done a lot for housing, but we still have things to do.”

Last night, he also echoed the sentiments shared by other senior PAP leaders over the course of the hustings, stressing that this General Election is “serious business” that decides who will form the next Government as well as setting the direction for Singapore post-SG50, with a wrong move possibly leading to grave outcomes.

Drawing a parallel between choosing whom to vote for and shopping for a new apartment, Mr Khaw said buyers typically assess apartments and comb through details with due diligence. This is the correct approach, he said.

The General Election is even more important than buying an apartment, he said, as, while a wrong housing decision can be reversed — albeit with some financial losses — a wrong electoral decision may have “severe if not tragic consequences”.

Restoring the status quo ante, or “terbalik” may not be possible, he noted. “We noticed some Opposition candidates have spoken of wanting to take over Government, they said no need to worry, even if there is change of Government ... the good Civil Service will make sure everything is okay,” he said. “These are the politicians who think elections are a gamble. They think voters should play dice with their future.”

Adding that there is no guarantee there would be a PAP Government after Polling Day, he said even if the party wins enough seats to form a government, no one can be sure that it will be a strong PAP Government.

“We all know how much damage a weak government, paralysed by constant debate after debate and policy paralysis ... can do to the country, to the people. There are too many examples in so many other countries,” he said.

He urged voters to carefully go through each party’s manifestos, to “objectively assess if the party has a credible plan and whether the party is able to implement the plan”. Voters should ask candidates contesting in their constituency “serious questions”, he added.

Noting that visitors and foreigners marvel at Singapore’s achievements, which came about against all odds, he said: “Our success is because Singaporeans stay united as one united people, (and) work closely with the Government. Together we tackle problems objectively, rationally, professionally. Support us, support a good, competent and clean Government,” he said.

In his Mandarin speech, Mr Khaw noted the party may not be perfect, and may make mistakes occasionally. But when that happens, it will admit to it and correct it immediately, he said.

Its new candidates are picked very carefully, because they want to ensure candidates come on board with an intention to serve residents, and have the mentality of selflessness and sacrifice, he added.

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