Singapore Media Watch

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Your views: What can we do to try to prevent another Singaporean from being driven to desperation because he or she cannot pay bills?

Mr Tan Jee Suan, a 46 year-old Singaporean odd-job labourer with two young children, committed suicide by jumping on to the MRT track at Chinese Garden station on October 18.

According to media reports, he had been receiving financial assistance from South-West Community Development Council of $120 a month from September 2003 to November 2004, $375 a month from November 2004 to June 2005, and was rejected twice last year and this year applying for financial assistance, because his household monthly income was $1,400.

On his third attempt to apply for financial assistance in February, he was advised to apply for the Pay-As-You-Use (PAYU) meter to pay for utilities, but he found it too complicated and gave up.

He had a history of not having a steady job, and after being unemployed for the last four months, owed over $1,000 in utilities for more than four months, HDB payments, school fees for a year, etc.

Of late, they were having difficulty putting three meals on the table, and were surviving mostly on instant noodles. When Mr Tan was found, he had only $16 in his wallet.

His last act on the day he died was to tell his wife that he would find some money to give to her and gave nine dollars to his youngest son for the family's dinner and transport fares, and told him that he was going to work and asked him to look after his mother.

Despite being a person with a polio disability, his wife was working in a factory earning about $500 a month. She pays about $50 a month for her medical fees.

Her husband had complained of body aches, but refused to seek medical treatment because he said he could not afford to.

She did not even have the bus fare to go to see her husband’s body, and the policeman who informed her of her husband’s death gave her five dollars.

They still have 15 years' left of their housing loan to settle and Mrs Tan said that she has to pay more than $300 a month from her CPF for the three-room flat... So far, Singaporeans have donated about $500,000 to the family.

The utilities company in a letter to the media on October 25, said that it has "on many occasions, referred families in dire financial straits to the Community Development Council". Hence, Mr Tan lost his will to live, despite being referred by the utilities company to the CDC.

I would like to suggest that schools can also send an alert when a student has not been able to pay school fees for say more than six months, so that no Singaporean will ever be driven to desperation again, without anyone knowing about their plight.

According to HDB’s annual report, it gave financial assistance to 28,386 flat owners for the financial year ended March, a drop of 26 per cent from the previous year.

According to the Department of Statistics General Household Survey 2005, there were 113,646 households with monthly income below $1,500, and 106,384 households with no income from work – presumably most of which are retirees.

According to the article "Mortgage sales of HDB flats on the rise: But trend is to be expected as banks' portfolios mature, say industry watchers" by Siow Li Sen (Business Times, Oct 20), and a New Paper report on October 20, just four property auction companies have had increasing HDB bank loan foreclosures of about 38 flats a month (456 a year), which is an annual increase of about 690 per cent (456 divided by 190 divided by 3) over the 190 flats foreclosed in the first three years after bank loans started for HDB flats on January 1, 2003.

All the banks offering HDB loans declined to reveal figures on their foreclosures. After three years and nine months, the default rate of about one per cent is quite high as there are already about 700 foreclosures out of a total of about 70,000 HDB flats with bank loans.

On October 13, HDB announced a new procedure that from January 1 next year, those who want to apply for a housing loan will first need to obtain a loan eligibility letter before they can commit to buying a new flat. How many Singaporeans have to lose their homes and CPF, before we re-think the policy change of giving the first charge on property to banks?"

The utilities company in a letter to the media on October 25, said that it has "on many occasions, referred families in dire financial straits to the Community Development Council". Hence, Mr Tan lost his will to live, despite being referred by the utilities company to the CDC.

I would like to suggest that schools can also send an alert when a student has not been able to pay school fees for say more than six months, so that no Singaporean will ever be driven to desperation again, without anyone knowing about their plight.

According to HDB’s annual report, it gave financial assistance to 28,386 flat owners for the financial year ended March, a drop of 26 per cent from the previous year.

According to the Department of Statistics General Household Survey 2005, there were 113,646 households with monthly income below $1,500, and 106,384 households with no income from work – presumably most of which are retirees.

According to the article "Mortgage sales of HDB flats on the rise: But trend is to be expected as banks' portfolios mature, say industry watchers" by Siow Li Sen (Business Times, Oct 20), and a New Paper report on October 20, just four property auction companies have had increasing HDB bank loan foreclosures of about 38 flats a month (456 a year), which is an annual increase of about 690 per cent (456 divided by 190 divided by 3) over the 190 flats foreclosed in the first three years after bank loans started for HDB flats on January 1, 2003.

All the banks offering HDB loans declined to reveal figures on their foreclosures. After three years and nine months, the default rate of about one per cent is quite high as there are already about 700 foreclosures out of a total of about 70,000 HDB flats with bank loans.

On October 13, HDB announced a new procedure that from January 1 next year, those who want to apply for a housing loan will first need to obtain a loan eligibility letter before they can commit to buying a new flat.

How many Singaporeans have to lose their homes and CPF, before we re-think the policy change of giving the first charge on property to banks?

Singapore Power’s profits increased by 53 per cent last year. SBS's profit after taxation rose 5.1 and 158.6 per cent, for 2005 and 2004 respectively. SMRT's profit after taxation has risen from 56.8 million in 2002 to 103.6 million in 2006.

Now, before the expected increase in revenue and profits from the fares hike effective October 1, SMRT has reported a 13 per cent year-on-year rise in net profit to $31.5 million for the second quarter ended September 2006. I would like to suggest that there be a review of whether and to what extent basic essentials like utilities and transport should continue to be profit-making when they are in essence monopolies?

Leong Sze Hian

82 Comments:

  • The government is pro business, pro share holders, NOT pro citizens, and definitely NOT pro-poor citizens. They will not listen so please get your view off their elitist face and stop complaining and whining. I hope some MPs, (million dollar George Yeo??) will tell me I am wrong. Please George, tell me that I am soooo wrong.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:23 PM  

  • I hate to say it but I am afraid this would not be the first neither would it be the last case of a Singaporean who would rather off himself than to navigate the tough hoops we put up to deter free-loaders from our public assistance schemes.

    I think that at each agency handling public assistance, they are doing what they can by the book. The book makes them check and recheck as to give out public monies without due diligence would render the public servant to be negligent in duty.

    I wonder, though, in our overseas investment forays, when the due diligence is not sufficient and public monies are lost to the tune of billions, are the parties responsible held accountable or blame it on market forces?

    Welcome to "Uniquely Singaporean", where we check, re-check and double-confirm before we give out hundreds of dollars to individuals and families but splurge $2b on investments with due diligence that does not cover political risk?

    Don't you just LUV our Uniquely Singaporean quirks?

    By Blogger *The Lunatic Fringe*, at 10:55 AM  

  • I came, I saw, I solved it.

    About Me

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    * October 2006

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    30 October 2006
    WHY WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO REFUSE OUR ORGANS TO PAP, MINISTERS

    WHY WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO REFUSE OUR ORGANS TO MINISTERS, PAP MPs, ETC

    1. This is not a blog or essay because I have stopped writing for some time and cannot seem to write with such facility any more. So, this is a discussion suggestion topic that I hope other, better bloggers will pick up and illuminate and elucidate for all of us.

    2. The topic is, I think, a timely one. Every day, people die and their organs are harvested. Especially those who die young, especially in accidents, a large number of them, motorcycle accidents [because riding a motorcycle can be dangerous, even fatal].

    3. WE HAVE NO CONTROL OR SAY OVER HOW OUR ORGANS SHOULD BE USED OR FOR WHOM.

    4. This is not surprising because in many countries, Ethics demands that organs should not be sold and if an organ owner is allowed to decide who his organ/s should go to, this will allow organs to be SOLD, which is probably Morally bad.

    5. In Singapore, the PAP govt has decreed, I believe, that IF YOU DO NOT OPT OUT OF GIVING YOUR ORGANS, YOUR ORGANS CAN AND WILL BE HARVESTED AND THEIR USE DECIDED BY THE PAP GOVT.

    6. Once the term "DECIDED BY THE PAP GOVT" is understood, we peasants all know what that means. IT MEANS THAT IF LEE KUAN YEW NEEDS A NEW HEART OR KIDNEY OR LIVER, HE WILL GET IT, OVER AND ABOVE ALL THOSE WHO MAY HAVE BEEN IN THE WAITING LIST LONGER.

    7. Why do I say that? Proof? Well, Lee Kuan Yew and his entire PAP govt have never stated whether some [meaning THEY] do get priority over others in the waiting lists. AND WE ALL KNOW THE RECENT CASE WHEN LEE KUAN YEW's WIFE WAS STRICKEN WITH A STROKE IN LONDON AND LEE KUAN YEW COMMANDEERED AN SIA JUMBO JET TO BE FITTED OUT AS A MEDICAL FLYING AMBULANCE TO FLY HER BACK, WITH ATTENDANT DOCTORS, NURSES, CONSULTANTS, TECHNICIANS, ETC, BACK TO SINGAPORE FOR IMMEDIATE TREATMENT -- NO WAITING, INSTANT ATTENTION, WHICH NO ONE ELSE IN THE WAITING LISTS HAD THIS KIND OF PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT. Why didn't Lee Kuan Yew, like other billionaires, simply use the services of normal, conventional Flying Ambulance Services, that are so much cheaper? Thus, I consider my proof of statement proven. We all know the Truth, don't we? Lee Kuan Yew is Emperor and he and his famiLee never have to wait for anything. Including organs.

    8. Thus, if we are not allowed to have a say to WHICH GROUP of people we would REFUSE our organs to be given to, we could end up all prolonging the lives of the very people we hate, and many in Singapore hate Lee Kuan Yew and his Ministers and even all the PAP bigwigs. We should therefore, have an option that says that we can refuse our organs to be given to A CERTAIN CATEGORY OF PEOPLE. This could include the PAP Ministers of every ministerial rank or PAP MPS [excepting of course, the two and a half Opposition MPs].

    9. Otherwise, abuses will abound and these are probably already being the practice. For example, if both Lee Kuan Yew and Tan Jee Suan need a new heart or kidney, etc, and there is only one organ available, then it is obvious that Lee Kuan Yew will get the new organ immediately even if Mr Tan had waited years longer.

    10. Second abuse: Mr Tan jumped in front of an MRT train to kill himself, due to there being no help from the PAP govt for his plight of being unable to feed his wife and 2 children. Do you think that Mr Tan, given the choice, will allow his organs to be harvested for Lee Kuan Yew? I think not and everyone will agree with me. Similarly, a Malay Muslim who had been marginalised all his life by the PAP system will not want to donate any organ to the very PAP Ministers who allowed, and probably decreed, this marginalisation. This is only Fair. We cannot change the Lee Kuan Yew decreed harsh laws and rules and his "get out of my elitist, uncaring face" policies, but our organs are something money cannot buy [the PAP will probably change this policy one day if we are allowed to refuse them our organs] and this is all the pitiful little leverage we have to keep those in power reasonable. If we can refuse them our organs, the PAP Ministers may at last, begin to enact better and fairer policies out of fear that if too many of us opt out, they will have no organs when they need one.

    11. True, currently, we can opt out of having our organs harvested. But we may want only to prevent some miscreants from enjoying our organs, so we should be able to opt out of a certain category of persons from getting our organs.

    12. For example, another Ethical example, suppose a murderer murdered a young woman but is severely wounded in the process. He is taken to the hospital and needs a heart transplant to save his life. The only organ avalable is that of his victim. Should he get her heart? We should have a clause that says that those who harmed us should NOT get our organs. And the PAP has harmed a great many people, including myself, my son and my little niece. I have detailed these in soc.culture.singapore and a search there, using the search term: RH: LKY crimes will throw up some. I certainly don't want my organs to go to Lee Kuan Yew or any of the over 10,000 PAP members. I would like to be able to opt out. Can Mr Wang, the fine lawyer who writes an excellent blog, draft such a clause for us all to discuss?

    13. I have run out of points. Can other, better bloggers discuss? Thanks.

    Robert HO
    30 Oct 06

    P.S. I have disabled all my Comments because I don't want to spend time moderating. My email address and contacts are in my "Lee Kuan Yew rigs elections' posts.

    By Blogger Robert HO, at 12:46 PM  

  • We check and we double check on how to give money to people who needs it
    because the point is we do not want to encourage ppl who gamble away this money on 4D, TOTO and such, who are fit and able to work and decide not to.

    However, how often does our public servants go and check for sure such are true instances.

    How often are our money channeled to incorrect investments.

    How often are our money spent on scholarships to students who on paper are good and efficent yet lack the EQ to phrase a proper critique.

    How often are our money spent on scholarships to students whose families are earning household incomes of S$100,000 and above a month.

    How often are our money spent on acts of showmanship to welcome foreign guests who would bring insults to our country.

    How often are our money spent on emergency acts which people who can afford the emergencies and not spend it.

    How often are money spent on committes to discover solutions which do not solve anything.

    If we can reduce these how oftens and channel them into the needy and those who really need the money.

    Perhaps we would become a first world country.

    By Anonymous Rowen, at 3:06 PM  

  • As I have mentioned time and time again, and as a reminder - do you know where can Temasek get extra money other than from the reserves. It is from those GLCs my dear friend.

    Now you know the reason why most monopoly entity in Singapore have to be corporatised. So that there is excuse for them to raise prices in the name of Shareholders return. And the biggest shareholders in all these entities is none other than Temasek. Basically it is a tactic [a cunning idea in disguise] to continue to squeeze Singaporean to support their spending spree.

    Since Temasek and GIC is using the people's fund [Reserves] for investment. I suppose that makes every Singaporean a shareholder of the investments. As such, I believe all Singaporean are entitled to dividend of some kind, and perhpaps a half yearly or annual payout would surmise. And supposingly GIC and Temasek are generating reasonable returns in their investment, which they claimed to be, then to ask for dividend is most reasoble in my view. However, I would not call for divident to be paid out to each individual. I believe if divident (if it is ever generated) should be used to help lower the basic cost of living of the people, such as lower transportation charges, basic medical benefits and even a fund for unemployment etc.

    Having said, I am just wondering where did all those returns from investments go to - Is it real or just simply paper play like a game of monopoly.

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