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Friday, 12 February 2010

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GONG XI FA CAI

How To Ensure Affordable Low Cost Housing?

The Government and HDB should consider seriously to practise market segregation into two HDB housing markets, in order to curb speculation and to ensure affordability of HDB flats, as I suggested in a posting in Mr. Tan Kin Lian's Blog. Mr Tan agreed with me that this approach could work.

The first HDB property which is said to be heavily subsidied by the state must be sold back to the HDB at cost. The HDB can then re-sell at near cost, based on adjusted price, with some appreciation in value to another first timer or second timer.

A first-timer who wants to upgrade to another bigger HDB flat or if he moves on to a private property, should sell back his first HDB flat to the HDB at cost.

A second time HDB owner should either buy from the open market at higher price or he should be allowed to buy from the HDB at an adjusted price (not subsidised) higher than cost (subsidised) but lower than market price. If a second timer chose to buy from HDB, he should sell back to HDB again. If he buys from the open market, he sells back to the open market and not HDB.

Those who choose to venture into the open market should transact at open market prices later on. For choice units bought back from first timers, the HDB should be allowed to release them into the open market but these would not be purchased back by HDB at open market prices.

Those who already enjoy two times purchases from HDB should only be allowed to transact in the "open" market, i.e., they cannot purchase from HDB again.

This way, the fluctuation and escalation in prices should be contained.

The HDB must manage the first market by controlling buy-back and make prices reasanoable and affordable for average Singaporeans. The second market is left to free market forces for "stubborn purchasers" or "die-hard" speculators who prefer to take up such risks.

Once price is contained in the first market, it will start to dampen and hit the second open market. I am sure speculators will think twice about speculating if the idea is implemented.

We can see if people who demands to sell as high as possible will get marginalised and stuck in the second market to regret.

There would then be 2 markets for HDB flats. The HDB should not behave like a private developer. It should manage one market for first timers and also those who prefer to buy the second time from HDB and keep the prices in this market low and affordable.

At present the HDB is pushing out new flats at high prices, chasing after HDB resale flat prices by tagging its price based on market pricing, and they are catching up very closely with private property prices, be it under BTO or whatever marketing scheme,  These new owners also expect a ridiculuos appreciation in property 5 years later. This appreciation is causing the escalation and a "bubble" in HDB flat prices.

A national housing policy should not be capitalised by any persons or entities for the purpose of speculation. I believe my suggestion is practical and is fair to both existing and new HDB purchasers.

This is much better than "forcing" all to join in the speculation fray, capitlaised by parties, due to a restrictive national housing policy which was designed inherently to support unrealistic "asset enhancement" and "appreciation", but actually causing a "bubble" in the HDB housing market most of the time and affecting general affordability.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Speedier mediation for PMEs

Minister for Manpower Gan Kim Yong announced on 26 January 2010 during his opening address at the Singapore Tripartism Forum On Managing Manpower Challenges that a tripartite mediation process will be in place next year to help junior and mid-level professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) earning up to $4,500 a month to address common employment issues with their employers. (Source : Mypaper 27 January 2010)

Currently, PMEs mostly have to resort to civil litigation to settle employment disputes with their employers, which can be costly and protracted for both parties. Quite often, the disputes involved the entitlement of retrenchment benefits. Current employment laws and regulations in this area are still non-existent or immatured to protect PMEs. As a result, employers are able to take advantage of employees when retrenchment is necessary.

I had been a victim of such bad employment practices during a previous downturn when I was retrenched from my 13-year PME job and I was a member of an NTUC affiliated union . The NTUC had advised me then about the the setback of existing regulations in protecting PMEs facing retrenchment. At the end, I had an unsatisfactory meagre setllement as compared to my length of service, despite NTUC's support for my case.

Mypaper subsequently had clarified to me in an email that the mediation process covers three areas:
1) salary arrears,
2) issues arising from individual employment contracts,
3) payment of retrenchment benefits.

However, only issues concerning salary arrears can be taken to MOM's Labour Court.

Is it also due to a handicap or the non-existence of employment laws that cases could not be taken up to the Labour Court? When there are no relevant laws, how could the Labour Court be convened to hear a dispute? There would be no basis to  adjudge a case.

With no avenues to refer disputes to the MOM's Labour Court, non-unionised PMEs and those unionised but earning in excess of $4,500.00 are greatly disadvantaged. Even those who failed to seek redress through the new dispute resolution process will come to a dead end.

What are the real reasons behind this unwillingness to give ample protection by statutues to a PME facing retrenchment?

How long would the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) or any other relevant Authorities take to review current employment laws and regulations in this area?

Why is the salary cap fixed at S$4,500.00 for the tripartite mediation process?

Why is there a general reluctance by the MOM and our Government to look at mandatory payment of severance pay or retrenchment benefits in Singapore?

How long more must a PME employee wait to be adequately "protected" from unfair employment practices?

Reference : Mypaper January 27, 2010
Speedier mediation for PMEs
By Rachel Chan