It was introduced in 1989 to ensure a balanced mix of ethnic groups in HDB estates, and to prevent the formation of racial enclaves. It seeks to promote racial integration in Singapore by allowing residents of different ethnicities to live together and interact on a regular basis in public housing, where 80% of the population lives.
How does it work?
The EIP is implemented for all ethnic groups. Under the EIP, there are limits on the total percentage of a block or neighbourhood that may be occupied by a certain ethnicity.
When these limits are reached, no further sale of flats to the affected group is allowed, unless the seller and buyer belong to the same ethnic group. This is because resale transactions between members of the same ethnic group would not further increase the proportion of the affected group in the respective block or neighbourhood.
Why does Singapore need EIP?
In 1989, then-Minister for National Development S. Dhanabalan highlighted the emergence of ethnic enclaves in HDB estates, as shown in this image that was published on The Straits Times on 7 January 1989, in a speech to community leaders.
For example, the image showed that many Malay flat applicants wanted to live in Bedok and Tampines, while many Chinese preferred estates like Ang Mo Kio and Hougang.
While the Government was previously able to break up the communal enclaves in the 1960s and 1970s due to a massive resettlement and public housing programme, Mr Dhanabalan noted that such a massive programme was no longer feasible in the 1980s, when many areas were already built-up.
Hence, the EIP was introduced to nip the problem of ethnic enclaves in the bud before it became serious.
Benefits of the EIP
In a well-broadcasted interview with BBC’s Stephen Sackur in 2015, Senior Minister (SM) Tharman Shanmugaratnam spoke about the Ethnic Integration Policy – even calling it the “most intrusive social policy in Singapore”.
He said that the policy turned out to be the most important – and that “when it was first done, (I) don’t think we knew how important it was going to be.”
So, why was it so important?
Once people of different ethnic groups live together, they are not just walking the corridors and taking the same elevator up and down, SM Tharman explained. “The kids go to the same kindergarten, the kids go to the same primary school, because all over the world young kids go to school very near to where they live, and they grow up together.”
The EIP has helped to maintain racial and social harmony in Singapore by providing opportunities for social mixing among Singaporeans of different races.
What the Government is doing to help EIP-affected owners
There have been concerns that, when the EIP limits are reached, some flat owners may find it harder to find buyers for their flats, and could end up selling their flats at a lower price. However, as Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong explained in Parliament in 2018, the saleability of a flat in the open market is dependent on factors other than the EIP.
“Flat attributes like location, storey height, physical condition of the flat, remaining lease and market sentiments” are also considered by prospective buyers, said Mr Wong.
The Government has also implemented measures to help EIP-affected flat sellers. For example, flat owners who have bought another HDB flat but are having difficulties in selling their existing one may be given more time to find a buyer by HDB, on a case-by-case basis.
Click here for more information on the EIP.