Corrections regarding false statements of fact in Facebook post published by Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam on 15 June 2024
Corrections regarding false statements of fact in Facebook post published by Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam on 15 June 2024
min read Published on 04 Jul 2024
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The post published on Facebook by Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam on 15 June 2024 contains the following false statements of fact:

  1. The Government intentionally sets artificially high land prices, for sale to HDB.
  2. The endowment and trust funds are not transparent.
  3. The Government maintains a large land bank of heritage properties to keep land prices as high as possible and preferably rising rapidly. This is part of the Government’s strategy of boosting the reserves.

Falsehoods and Facts

#1 Falsehood: The Government intentionally sets artificially high land prices, for sale to HDB

Facts

  • The prices for sale of state land to HDB are not set by the Government. Rather, the Chief Valuer (“CV”) determines the sale price, and fixes it with reference to the fair market value.
  • The CV is an independent office, whose appointment requires the President’s concurrence, and whose professional assessment is made without influence from the Government.
  • Further, the CV determines the sale price based on established valuation principles, taking into consideration relevant resale transactions on the open market, and other relevant factors such as specific parameters of the site. Such valuation principles are similarly adopted by professional valuers in the private sector. 

 

#2 Falsehood: The endowment and trust funds are not transparent
 
Facts

  • Top-ups to the endowment and trust funds can be found in the Revenue and Expenditure Estimates (i.e., the Budget book) and the Supply Bill, which are tabled to Parliament for approval.
  • The amount of top-up to each endowment and trust fund, as well as the starting and ending-FY balance and annual outlay, can be found in the various Financial Statements published by either the Government, the relevant Statutory Board appointed as the trustee / agent / custodian, or the Institution of a Public Character / charity. These Financial Statements are publicly accessible.
  • Key expenditure items making up the total outlay of each fund are also listed within the respective Financial Statement of each fund. For example, the Statement of the GST Voucher Fund in the Government Financial Statements breaks down the annual disbursement into the four components of the GST Voucher scheme, i.e. (i) GST Voucher - Cash, (ii) GST Voucher - MediSave, (iii) GST Voucher - S&CC Rebate, and GST Voucher - U-Save.

 

#3 Falsehood: The reason why the Government maintains a large land bank of heritage properties is to keep land prices as high as possible and preferably rising rapidly. This is part of the Government’s strategy of boosting the reserves.
 
Facts

  • The Government’s approach to land management is based on Singapore’s planning and development needs, and not to maximise land sales proceeds nor to increase the value of the reserves. Certain properties in Singapore are not redeveloped but conserved because of their heritage and/or historical value. This was explained by Minister Edwin Tong in his Ministerial Statement on the rentals of state properties on 3 July 2023.

 

The Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Finance, Chee Hong Tat, has instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to issue a Correction Direction to Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam in respect of his Facebook post, dated 15 June 2024. The Correction Direction requires recipients to insert a notice against the original post, with a link to the Government’s clarification.

 

Additional Clarifications

The reserves benefit current and future generations of Singaporeans.

The post also claims that “Singaporeans derive little to no benefit from the reserves”. This is misleading.

  • Singaporeans benefit from our reserves. How our reserves and the Net Investment Returns Contribution (“NIRC”) have benefited Singaporeans has been highlighted on various platforms, including the MOF website1 and the CNA documentary on reserves2.
  • For example, the NIRC, which comprises the investment returns of our reserves, supplements the annual Budget each year to fund public spending3. For the financial year which ended on 31 March 2024, the NIRC was approximately $22.9 billion. The NIRC has provided an annual revenue stream of about 3.5% of GDP on average over the past 5 years.
  • The reserves also serve as our crisis fund. During the Global Financial Crisis and across FY2020 to FY2022 in our fight against COVID-19, our reserves helped us to weather crises without having to incur debt that will have to be borne by future generations. The total draw on past reserves for COVID-19 response measures across FY2020 to FY2022 was about $40 billion. By tapping on the reserves, the Government was able to fund public health measures as well as economic and social support measures, to save lives and protect livelihoods.

 

The Government remains committed to providing affordable public housing.
 
The post claims that “Singaporeans may not be able to afford sky high public housing”. This is misleading.

  • About 80% of Singapore’s resident population live in HDB flats, of which about 90% own their homes. This is one of the highest home ownership rates in the world.
  • HDB prices new flats with affordability in mind. HDB flats are priced significantly below comparable market value, as the Government provides market discounts to ensure affordability for Singaporeans. There are a wide range of HDB flats to meet different budgets and needs.
  • HDB also offers substantial grants to offset the purchase price of flats. First-timer families buying BTO flats can receive up to $80,000 in housing grants on top of the subsidised flat price, while resale flat buyers can receive up to $190,000 in grants.
  • In 2023, 8 in 10 first-timer families who collected keys to their new flats or bought resale flats with HDB loans had a mortgage servicing ratio of 25% or less upon key collection. This means they can service their monthly HDB loan instalments with their CPF contributions, with little to no cash outlay.
     

1For reserves-related FAQs on the MOF website, please see: https://www.mof.gov.sg/policies/reserves/how-do-singaporeans-benefit-from-our-reserves

2For the CNA documentary series on reserves, Singapore Reserves Revealed, please see: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/topic/singapore-reserves-revealed

3See Q24 and Q25 in the Section on “How do Singaporeans benefit from our Reserves?” on the MOF website.

 

 


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