6 Apr 2012, 12.49AM
The Straits Times
Published on Apr 5, 2012
By Phua Mei Pin
At the same time, Mr Tharman, who is also Finance and Manpower Minister, maintained that the Government's broader housing policy was right as it encouraged people to own their homes, stay in their jobs and gain from asset enhancement.
The Government currently gives grants to help low-income families buy Housing Board flats.
Mr Tharman explained that, to avoid wealth disparity, the lower-income group should be helped to own property assets, rather than pay rent all their lives on other people's property.
This way, Singapore will avoid the problem elsewhere where 'the bottom 30 per cent are basically not sharing in any form of asset appreciation', which is enjoyed only by the higher-income group.
Going beyond the numbers, Mr Tharman painted the housing strategy as part of a larger social culture.
'Our strategy is not about homes per se. Our strategy is about homes, jobs and skills.'
He noted that home owners held very different attitudes towards their jobs from renters. 'They take a long-term view. They try every way of staying at a job.'
And such an attitude, he added, would usually be passed on to subsequent generations.
As for the timing of the Government's housing and other measures, Mr Tharman dismissed what he called the 'urban myth' that these had been prompted by last year's General Election (GE).
While he admitted that some housing measures had been stepped up after sentiments expressed during the GE, he rejected a suggestion from another participant that the themes of inclusiveness in this year's Budget were a response to the election.
He cited programmes on which the Government had been working intensively for several years before: Workfare income supplements for low-wage workers, training schemes for older workers, more Medifund for the needy, and various financial lifelines under the ComCare.
'Not everything starts and ends with the GE2011. And, quite frankly, this has been an oversold story,' he said.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reprinted with permission