Let’s be honest: WP’s proposed USB scheme would not have supplemented BTO supply

As our representatives, parliamentarians should be held to high standards of honesty and integrity.

The Workers’ Party (WP) claims that the People’s Action Party (PAP) took its call in 2019 for the Government to build fewer BTO flats out of context.

Now, WP says that under its proposal four years ago, the supply of BTO flats would be “supplemented by additional flats under the WP’s proposed Universal Sale and Lease Back (USB) Scheme”.

A closer look at WP’s housing paper in 2019 would reveal the inherent contradictions.

Inherent contradictions

First, WP Chief Mr Pritam Singh’s recent statement that the Government should have built more BTO flats directly contradicts the party’s 2019 proposal to reduce BTO flat production to 9,000 units annually.

The Government built 15,000 to 17,000 BTO flats annually from 2018 to 2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic affected the housing supply.

WP’s 2019 proposal for the PAP Government to reduce BTO flat production would have caused a more severe shortage of flats, and much longer waiting times.

Second, WP’s USB Scheme would not have supplemented BTO flat supply in the near term.

Under the WP’s proposal, homeowners can only opt for the USB scheme when their HDB flat has 30 years left on the lease.

This means that it would be another 12 years from now before any HDB flat can qualify for the USB scheme since the oldest resale flats today would be at most 57 years old.

If we’re talking about the supply of BTO flats in the near term, WP’s USB scheme would not have factored into any context.

It’s unlikely that the WP isn’t aware of this fact, since it came up with this policy proposal in the first place.

This calls into question the WP’s intent behind its vigorous defence of its contradicting statements; this back and forth is just grandstanding that distracts from the issue at heart.

As MP for Kebun Baru SMC Henry Kwek said in his forum letter:

“The lesson is not that the Government is more clairvoyant than the WP, but that the demand for HDB flats can change quickly and unpredictably. We have to acknowledge this, while doing our best to anticipate demand in working out our building plans.”

Having said that, there’s one thing that the PAP and WP are in agreement about: That the Government should focus on building flats — which it has been doing.

But political leaders should also uphold honesty when debating issues that are important to Singaporeans — honesty in scrutinising policy proposals as well as the courage in admitting when one has made a mistake, especially a serious one such as this.

Images via HDB, Nathan Oh on Unsplash