Sunday, August 19, 2007

Did the PM mention the old flats in Hougang and Potong Pasir?

Hi Friends,

I watched PM Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech tonight.

He almost got me glued to the goggle-box!

He seemed to have covered a lot of ground- from Education/Ageing population/CPF and HDB upgrading with government funds. He has become a very polished and confident orator, much like his father , MM Lee.

But I must confess- I was not giving the speech my complete and unadulterated attention.

You see, I was also surfing the TV channels and watching the Man City-Man United match at the same time. And I must have missed some salient points by the PM.

For instance, when mentioning that all HDB flats built earlier than 1980 would be upgraded, he must have mentioned Hougang and Potong Pasir.

Common sense dictates that since the flats in these 2 wards are amongst the oldest in Singapore, it must be their turn for the “sprucing up” seen all over that “Google earthesque” map of Singapore that PM referred to so frequently?

But , I did not hear the magic words of Hougang and Potong Pasir.

Ah, it must have been when I switched channels to watch Man City score the solitary goal against the now very desperate Man United.

Punggol 21-plus with its water feature seemed so fantastic and it must have mesmerized many of you. But did any of you hear the PM mention Hougang and Potong Pasir, eh? You must have.

Now that the match has ended and after licking my wounds and tending to my bruised ego ( esply as my other team Leeds United is now in League One with -9 points!) , I will surf the net for the complete and unabridged speech of the PM to see for I, me and myself the magic words of Hougang and Potong Pasir.

It must be somewhere in the transcript- the whole two and half hours’ worth of it. Right?

Dr. Huang Shoou Chyuan

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Greedy landlord + helpless tenant = UGLY SINGAPOREAN

Signed and sealed with a handshake, yet no deal
(ST Forum 18.8.07)

AMID the hot property market, both in rental and sale, my search for a place to rent has exposed unethical behaviour on the part of both agents and landlords.

When I first moved to Singapore in 2002, looking for a place to rent was a hassle-free process.
Sure, often places I liked were out of my price range, but that was to be expected. At least a price was cited at the beginning and if you accepted it, you provided a letter of intent and a cheque. You shook hands and the deal was done.

Not so anymore. I have been looking for a new place to rent for the past couple of months after my landlord increased the rent 400 per cent. Not once, but three times, have I looked at a place, accepted the stated price, signed a letter of intent, shaken hands, and handed over a cheque, only to receive a phone call from the agent or landlord that the price had gone up.

My family has wasted a tremendous amount of time and energy running around the island, meeting agents and going back with our chequebooks, only to be told that they were negotiating with other people on the side the entire time.

I am upset by such unethical behaviour. An eye-to-eye agreement with a firm handshake is now meaningless.

It saddens me in particular that this is often done deliberately, with agents and landlords making deals with several people at the same time, demanding signatures and cheques from them, and then making a selection.

Hence, we are still homeless, even though we are willing to lower our standards significantly in terms of both size and style, move farther out of the city, and pay twice or triple what we currently pay in rent.

Perhaps at this rate we should just move out of Singapore as it is increasingly becoming a less attractive place to live in. If many expatriates do likewise, what will happen to real-estate values?

Laura Thornton-Olivry (Ms)

My comments

Hi Friends,

I want to comment on this note-worthy letter in today’s forum page.

Laura was alluding to how landlords are not honoring the prospective tenants' letters of intent. An even worse scenario than this is becoming common. Existing tenants are being asked to vacate their homes with nothing more than two months' notice from their landlords!

The relative shortage of rentable apartments has led to a dangerous situation. We can thank the ridiculous “en-bloc” fever and the buoyant economy for this.

The rentals have gone out of the world and it is not just market forces of “supply and demand” that is causing the greatest harm to Singapore’s reputation as an economically competitive nation. The behaviors of the landlords are also responsible.

Let me say that mine is not a case of sour grapes. I have had at different times been a landlord and tenant and I do know what is and is not acceptable behavior. It used to be that the tenancy agreements are 2+2 or 1+1 ( ie 2 years tenancy with option for additional 2 years etc) and only after the initial 2 years or 1 year ( as the case may be) is over, that the landlord will raise the rentals or get new tenants after the old have left.

Unreasonable behavior of landlords

In the recent race of the rentals to the stars, I have been told that landlords now just give existing tenants 2 months’ notice to vacate and that is that. Apparently, there is no need to prove that the tenant had not lived up to his part of the tenancy agreement and hence had violated a contract. The tenant is literally being “kicked” out. He has no right to seek any recourse and he then becomes just another house-hunter. He is at the mercy of the “wolf-like” greed of the landlords!

In my many years as a landlord and tenant, I have never seen any clause ( not even in microscopic fine print) that allows such an unequal treatment of any of the parties.

Unequal treatment under the tenancy contract
Just let the tenant try to leave the lease prematurely and see what happens? Other than giving legitimate reasons such as citing the “diplomatic clause” that he is leaving Singapore -having been sacked or repatriated (even then it can be terminated only at least after 12 months) , the tenant would most likely be unable to break the contract without compensating the landlord.

What is the tenancy agreement for and what is the point in getting it stamped and scrutinised by lawyers and going through a seemingly useless ritual, when the tenant can be kicked out at the whim and fancy of any greedy landlord? Any legal eagles want to comment?

The greed of our countrymen is causing great harm to Singapore’s reputation as a affordable place for foreigners to live and work in.

The market will find its own solution ( it always does)
I am a firm believer that in the “free market” a rational equilibrium would be found sooner or later by market forces. But I still find such conduct quite unbelievable and abhorent.

The natural outcome would be that foreigners will increasingly stay outside of the city and District 9,10,11 or even in HDB estates. Or their companies would just set up shop in KL or elsewhere. People are not THAT stupid!


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Friday, August 10, 2007

The National Day Parade could have been even better…

Hi Friends,

I actually watched the parade today. It was interesting, heart-warming even.

The military hardware was reassuring and the heartware represented by personnels in all the different wings of the military were as usual faultless and put in a credible showing.

However, a certain marching contingent seemed out of place.

All other contingents were unifiers of Singapore’s citizens

All the other contingents were a public show of Singapore’s unity- that creed and culture need not be an impediment to Singapore’s aspiration to be a city of possibilities, and that diversity would not be a hindrance but a strength. Hence Singaporeans of all hue and colour and of both sexes marched side by side proudly and the whole nation’s heart beat as one with them.

One partisan contingent reminds of our "dividedness".

This other contingent was a show of partisanship- as if to say that only those that wore the all-white uniform on their bodies and the lightning flash on their sleeves deserved a place in Singapore’s political arena. A sort of winner’s justice?

How else can we explain that only the ruling People’s Action Party had a marching contingent on this our National Day? Do not the Worker’s Party activists want to celebrate Singapore’s 42nd birthday too? Are not Chiam’s Singapore People’s Party’s and the National Solidarity Party’s members patriots as well?

My suggestion:

1.All political parties should be invited for national parades. Granted, not all will jump at the opportunity to participate ( and you know which party I am alluding to – you don’t need to be a “rocket”-scientist to read my kind …clue in the “rocket”).

2.If possible, they should all march in an integrated contingent perhaps with alternating flags of different parties.Though some marchers may not take kindly to having to hoist other party’s flags, these are just minor logistical details to be sorted out later.

3.If the idea of inviting other political parties is so repugnant to the organisers, then no political parties should march and only grassroot activists will march under the People’s Association’s banners. After all, the PA is “supposed” to be non-partisan ( snigger snigger)


The entity and concept of Singapore is only slowly emerging and the nation’s identity is beginning to become separated from the ruling party that rules it – and it is a good thing. ( And that is one reason I displayed the Singapore flag together with fellow Singaporeans)

Hence, let not PAP’s sole participation in what should be a non-partisan event set back our development as a united and cohesive nation.


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan