S & CC: 6% can’t pay?

Choa Chu Kang Town Council improves S&CC management

I refer to the article “Choa Chu Kang Town Council improves S&CC management in FY2015 report” (Channel News Asia, May 30).

Choa Chu Kang improves to “Green” to be the same as all the other PAP town councils?

It states that “For S&CC Arrears Management, Choa Chu Kang climbed back into the Green band, after being labelled Amber in the previous report. Fourteen TCs scored Green, while Aljunied-Hougang-Punggol East Town Council’s score was “pending”, the TCMR showed.”

Since Choa Chu Kang Town Council is the only town council which improved from Amber to Green, with the rest maintaining their Green band – I looked at Choa Chu Kang Town Council’s annual report for 2014/2015 ended 31 March 2015, and found the following interesting information:-

Doubtful S & CC debts up 24% to $1.5m in a year?

“Allowance for doubtful conservancy and service debts amounting to $1,515,045 (2014: $1,219,088) has been estimated on the basis of age of debts, result of recovery efforts and historical experience”.

Does this mean that doubtful S & CC debts increased by 24.3 per cent ($1,515,045 divided by $1,219,088) in one year?

Doubtful debts of all town councils?

What is the total doubtful S & CC debts for all the town councils?

Instead of focusing on individual town councils – I would like to suggest that the Town Councils Management Report also give the overall statistics for all the town councils.

6% of S & CC “doubtful” or “overdue”?

As to “Conservancy and service fees receivables amounting to $1,757,839 (2014: $1,834,686) are not impaired, as the management believes that it will be collectible in the foreseeable future as a result of recovery efforts and based on historical experience” – does it mean that about 6.3 per cent of the total S & CC collected of $51,777,827 ($1,515,045 + $1,757,839 divided by $51,777,827) was “doubtful” or “overdue”?

How many can’t pay?

Is this an indication of how many residents may have difficulty paying their S & CC fees?

What is the percentage for all the town councils?

Leong Sze Hian


14% price differential – BTO vs Resale Index?

3,770 BTO flats launch

I refer to the article “3,770 BTO flats, 5,170 balance flats in mature and non-mature estates launched for sale” (Straits Times, May 24).

The price for Sembawang EastCreek@Canberra BTO 4-room HDB flats starts from $235,000.

BTO price increased by 4.4%?

In the May 2013 BTO launch – Sembawang Eastbank, Eastbrook and Eastwave@Canberra were selling 4-room flats from $225,000.

This is an increase in the lowest priced 4-room flats by 4.4 per cent ($235,000 divided by $225,000).

URA index fell 9.4%?

But, the URA resale price index fell by about 9.4 per cent during the similar period (134.7 20161Q divided by148.6 20131Q).

Have BTO prices really “stabilised”?

So, have BTO prices really “stabilised”?

Please explain 13.8 % price differential?

If so, shouldn’t prices have fallen by about 9.4 per cent, instead of having increased by 4.4 per cent?

How do we explain the 13.8 per cent (9.4 + 4.4) price differential?

Leong Sze Hian

Re-employment guidelines revised: For better or worse?

Guidelines on re-employment of older workers revised 

I refer to the article “Highlights of revised Tripartite Guidelines on the Re-employment of Older Workers” (Straits Times, May 18).

Employer determines performance and fitness to be re-employed?

It states that “Employers should aim to re-employ the majority of their older employees. Re-employment contracts should be offered to all employees who are medically fit to continue working and whose performance are assessed satisfactory or better.”

Does this mean that the employer can arbitrarily choose not to offer re-employment to the employee, if the employee is assessed by his employer to not have satisfactory work performance or is not medically fit to continue working?

Employer can offer any terms?

As to “Employers and employees are encouraged to be flexible in negotiating re-employment terms and benefits. Reasonable adjustments to employment terms, including wages and benefits, may be made – but employers should consider the impact on the income of re-employed staff, particularly low-wage workers” – does this mean that an employer can offer any terms – large pay cut, longer work hours, heavier work load, different job scope, etc – and if the employee does not accept – the employer would have fulfilled its obligations under the legislation?

In such situations, the employee may not be eligible for any Employment Assistance Payment (EAP) at all?

One-time payment of $5,500 to $13,000?

With regard to “Employers should consider all available re-employment options to identify suitable jobs for eligible staff. If employers are unable to offer re-employment, as a last resort, they are required to offer an Employment Assistance Payment (EAP). Revised EAP amounts – that could be 3.5 months of salary, at a minimum of $5,500 and capped at $13,000 – take into account rising wages and the fact that employers’ re-employment obligations will be extended by two years” – does it mean that If the employer does not want even to offer any terms – its just a one-time payment of $5,500 to $13,000?

Protecting workers?

Isn’t the legislation and guidelines arguably, rather weak in protecting workers? Do we have possibly the weakest re-employment legislation in the world, from the perspective of workers’ rights?

Leong Sze Hian

HDB Lease Buyback: $1.7m gain or loss?

More go for HDB Lease Buyback Scheme

I refer to the article “More go for HDB Lease Buyback Scheme” (Straits Times, May 16).

It states that “After learning that his work contract would not be renewed next year, 68-year-old security officer Abdul Rahman Kemat and his wife decided to sell part of the lease on their four-room flat to get some passive income.

Sold 46 years lease to HDB for $144,000?

The couple, who had 81 years left on their lease, sold 46 years back to the Housing Board for about $144,000 earlier this year.

Of this sum, about $119,000 went towards buying Central Provident Fund Life plans, which provide the couple with a combined monthly payout of $1,000.

His 64-year-old wife, Madam Samah Saat, works as a school canteen helper, earning about $50 a day. They are among 1,506 households who have taken up the HDB’s Lease Buyback Scheme since it was introduced in March 2009.”

Each flat lose $1.7m?

If the 4-room flat is worth $450,000 now – and if it appreciates at say an average annual rate of 5% (HDB historical rate of appreciation is about 6%) – it may be about $2,482,207 in 35 years time.

In this connection, I understand that HDB flats have generally always been able to appreciate in value due to schemes like the Selective En-bloc Redevelopment Scheme (SERS).

The $144,000 paid to the couple – if assumed to be borrowed at an average interest rate of 5% (currently the banks’ HDB housing loan rate is about 1.8%) – will accrue to about $794,306, in 35 years time.

So, in a sense, does it mean that the flat owner may stand to lose about $1,687,901 ($2.482,207 minus $794,306)?

If so, then who gained $1,687,901 per flat?

Are there any developed countries in the world that takes away arguably, so much of homeowners’ equity in a national reverse mortgage scheme?

Reverse mortgage?

In a typical reverse mortgage in other developed countries, the homeowner would borrow against the equity of his home, and receive the net proceeds of the market value less the loan plus accrued interest, on his demise or sale of the home.

Leong Sze Hian



More non-Malay families in HDB rental flats?

More Malay families living in rental flats

I refer to the article “More Malay families living in rental flats” (Straits Times, May 11).

It states that “The proportion of Malay families living in one and two-room rented flats has doubled in the last decade, government figures show.

Last year, there were 14,600 households headed by a Malay living in such flats.

This was 10.9 per cent of all Malay-headed households, up from 4.9 per cent – or 5,779 households – in 2005, according to the latest General Household Survey released in March.

The HDB has ramped up the rental flat supply from 42,000 units in 2007 to 53,500, with an aim to boost this to 60,000 by next year.”

23% of the increase in rental flats went to non-Malay families?

Does this mean that about 77 per cent or about 8,821 (14,600 – 5,779) of the increased supply of 11,500 (53,500 – 42,000) rental flats, went to Malay families?

Please note that the above is an estimate as the Malay households data is from 2005 whereas the HDB supply data is from 2007.

Two-thirds of rental flats are non-Malay families?

With regard to “However, Malay households also form a growing proportion of one- and two-room rental households.

They account for almost a third of 45,500 such households, up from about one in six a decade ago.” – Does this mean that about two-thirds (45,500 – 14,600 = 30,900) of one- and two-room rental households are non-Malays?

% of HDB 1 & 2 -room flats increase every year?

In this connection, since the percentage share of HDB 1 & 2-room flats is at its highest in 10 years (2005 – 2015), at 5.6 per cent (increasing gradually every year from the low of 3.9 per cent in 2008 – does it mean that more non-Malay households are also in 1- & 2-room HDB flats?

HDB 1 & 2-room: Only 1.6% p.a. increase in income?

As to “Low-income Malay workers could have been “displaced by cheap immigrant labour” in jobs such as cleaning, she said.

Among AMP’s family services clients, insufficient Central Provident Fund savings – due to unemployment or ad-hoc jobs – was the most common reason for living in a rental flat, accounting for 86 per cent” – the real change in average monthly household income from work per household member among resident employed households by type of dwelling 2005 -2015 – for HDB 1 & 2-room flats was only 1.6 per cent per annum.

What about “excluding employer CPF contribution”?

Moreover, the data is “including employer CPF contribution”. Is the annualised increase even lower than 1.6 per cent “excluding employer CPF”?

I understand that it used to be that the household income statistics were also given “excluding employer CPF contribution”

Leong Sze Hian


Job entrants less than those who left the workforce?

Chee Soon Juan misunderstood MOM data

I refer to the article “Chee misunderstood MOM data, painted ‘alarmist picture’ of jobs market: Ministry” (Channel NewsAsia, May 5).

It states that “the increase in local employment that Dr Chee refers to is not the total number of new jobs taken by locals in 2015. It refers instead to the difference between total number of locals entering jobs and those leaving jobs, for example owing to retirement, MOM stated.

“This difference, or the ‘net’ number of new jobs taken by locals, was 700 in 2015 and it does not reflect the total number of new jobs for locals,” the ministry added.”

Jobs growth is new jobs less jobs lost? 

A simplistic explanation of locals’ jobs growth is the number of new jobs created less the number of jobs lost.

So, locals’ jobs growth was 700 against 31,600 foreigners’ jobs growth last year.

50,770 new PRs/citizens granted?

However, this may have to be seen in the light that there were 20,815 new citizens, and 29,955 new Permanent Residents (PRs) granted  in 2015.

What happened to the “foreign workers” who became “local workers”?

Even if say just 15,000 of these were working and had their residency status converted from “non-local: to “local” – shouldn’t the locals’ jobs growth have increased by at least 15,000?

Job entrants less than those who left the workforce?

As to ““The basic reality is that our local workforce growth has slowed,” the ministry said. It attributed this to smaller cohorts of younger workers entering the workforce; larger baby boomer cohorts exiting it; and Singapore’s employment rate of 80.5 per cent for residents aged 25 to 64 which is “already relatively high by international standards and cannot grow much further”.

These trends are expected to persist in the medium term due to our demographic realities, MOM said. “This is why we are stepping up efforts in industry transformation – to create not just more jobs but better quality jobs for our people,” the ministry stated.” – how is it possible the the new local entrants to the work force is almost equal to or less than the locals who retired, died whilst still working, left the work force for other reasons, migrated to work overseas, etc?

Why not give the breakdown of the statistics?

Reciprocate trust with more transparency?

Since the people have given their trust and mandate – shouldn’t we reciprocate by being more transparent?

Leong Sze Hian


43% of university students are foreigners?

1 in 3 local university students admitted from Poly

I refer to the article “1 in 3 local university students admitted last year is a polytechnic student” (Straits Times, May 2).

It states that “The Ministry of Education (MOE) has revealed that last year’s local university intake had the highest ever proportion of polytechnic graduates at nearly 34 per cent, up from 24.7 per cent in 2011.”

NUS has 34% international students? 

Isn’t it a coincidence that the percentage of international students at NUS is also 34 per cent, according to Times Higher Education?

43% non-S’porean students?

Do these international students include PRs?

If not, if we assume that the percentage of PR students is about the same as the 13.5 per cent of the local population – the percentage of PR students may be about 8.9 per cent (66 per cent x 0.135)?

So, does it mean that the percentage of non-Singaporean students is about 42.9 per cent (34 + 8.9)?

Reciprocate trust with more transparency?

Since the people have given their trust and mandate – shouldn’t we reciprocate by being more transparent?

Leong Sze Hian

Foreign workers hit all-time high?

Unemployment rate for S’poreans improve

I refer to the article “Unemployment rate for Singaporeans improves in first quarter: Manpower Ministry” (Straits Times, Apr 28).

It states that “The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 1.9 per cent as of March 2016. The rate for citizens fell to 2.6 per cent, from 3 per cent in December, and that for Singaporeans and PRs combined was 2.7 per cent, down from 2.9 per cent, according to preliminary estimates released by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) on Thursday (April 28).

This was largely because a smaller proportion of young people aged 15 to 24 were working or looking for work, MOM said.

Total employment reached 3,667,600 as of March 2016.”

No breakdown of employment into locals & foreigners?

Although the MOM report did not breakdown the total employment into foreigners and locals, we can estimate it from the number of unemployed and the unemployment rate.

The estimated number of locals’ employed is 2,237,037 (60,400 unemployed locals divided by residents’ unemployment rate of 2.7 per cent).

Foreign workers hit all-time high of 39%?

So, does it mean that the percentage of foreign workers is about 39 per cent (3,667,600 total employment – 2,237,037 locals divided by 3,667,600)?

This is higher than the 37.9 per cent in December 2015 (1,387,300 foreigners divided by 3,656,200 total employment).

Hence, has foreign employment reached another all-time high of about 39 per cent?

How many new PRs/new citizens?

By the way, how many new PRs and new citizens were granted in the first quarter of this year, which may throw a different light to the numbers estimated above?

2% of jobs growth to locals?

Also, since only 2.2 per cent of jobs growth last year went to locals (700 jobs) against 97.8 per cent (31,600 jobs) to foreigners – how many of the 11,400 jobs growth in the first quarter went to Singaporeans?

Leong Sze Hian

0.9% p.a. real wage growth in 10 years!

Worry when wages race ahead of productivity? 

I refer to the article “When wages race ahead of productivity: Should we worry?” (Sunday Times, Apr 24).

0.9% p.a. real wage growth in a decade?

The real average wage growth was only 0.9 per cent per annum from 2004 to 2014 (Source: Ministry of Trade and Industry Economic Survey of Singapore 2015).

To put this in perspective – a worker who earned $1,000 would only have had a real increase of $94 to $1,094 after 10 years!

Similarly, a worker who earned $2,000 would only have had a real increase of $188 to $2,188 after 10 years!

S’poreans’ real wage growth even lower?

As I understand that the statistics are for residents – was the real average wage growth for Singaporeans even lower than 0.9 per cent?

“Average” means more than half had less than 0.9%?

Since it is “average wage growth” – does it mean that more than half of Singaporean workers may have had real average wage growth of even less than 0.9 per cent?

Many countries had low wage growth despite higher productivity growth?

Although productivity at 0.8 per cent per annum lagged behind real wage growth of 0.9 per cent – the consistent rhetoric over the years that wages should not go up without corresponding productivity growth may not hold water, as many developed and developing countries had low real wage growth despite higher productivity growth.

For example, the real average wage growth as a ratio of productivity growth for Australia, United States, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Britain, was 1.0, 0.7, 0.4, 0.1, 0.0 and -0.5 respectively.

Singapore’s ratio was 1.2.

Leong Sze Hian

Jobs: Strange data on IT workers, union members?

More people lost jobs last year

I refer to the article “More people lost jobs last year, with manufacturing and services hit hardest” (Straits Times, Apr 20).

It states that “Seventy per cent of those who secured new jobs found them in a different industry from before, with wholesale and retail trade and administrative and support services being the most likely areas with vacancies.”

72.8% of IT workers shifted to other industries?

According to the MOM report – 72.8 per cent of Information & Communications workers who were made redundant and managed to re-enter employment – shifted to other industries.

The above seems rather odd, given that “The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) told The Straits Times that in 2014, when there were 150,000 technology professionals working in Singapore, about 15,000 vacancies could not be filled” (“S’pore may lack 30,000 professionals by 2017; not enough local grads, says industry”, Straits Times, Feb 8).

Union members harder to get re-employed?

The other odd statistic may arguably be that the “Rate of Re-entry into Employment of Residents Made Redundant” for union members decreased from 69.1 in 2014 to 59.6 in 2015.

In contrast, the rate for non-union members increased from 67.1 to 67.6.

So, does it mean that union members had a harder time relatively – in getting re-employed?

Locals redundancy 40% more than foreigners?

As to “Overall, residents were less vulnerable to lay-offs compared to foreigners, with the incidence of redundancy among residents at 7.1 layoffs per 1,000 employees lower than foreigners at 7.7 per 1,000” (Channel NewsAsia, Apr 20) – 9,090 or 58 per cent of the 15,580 redundancies were locals, with 6,490 being foreigners.

So, locals’ redundancy was 40 per cent (9,090 divided by 6,490) more than foreigners.

Foreigners’ jobs growth 4,400% more than locals? 

Since foreigners’ jobs growth last year was about 4,400 per cent more than locals’ jobs growth (31,600 foreigners divided by 700 locals) – locals (Singaporeans and PRs) may be in a sense being hit at both ends.

I shutter to think how many thousands of per cent more it was for Singaporeans, since “locals” include PRs!

Leong Sze Hian