The Workers Party had a few ideas about how to make public housing cheaper for Singaporeans. The main idea was to peg the prices of new HDB plans to the median incomes of Singaporeans applying for them.
I did not find this idea impressive. By that, I mean that the idea did not make me go "Wow, brilliant!". I did feel that the idea was generally okay - it was reasonable; sensible; not terribly exciting; and some gaps needed to be filled in. But overall, the idea was at least worth further consideration.
What appalled me was the PAP's reaction to the idea. More specifically, Mah Bow Tan's reaction. It was an utterly misguided, defensive and insecure reaction. The worst part was when Mah accused the WP of trying to "raid" the nation's reserves, as the government would have to sell land at lower prices.
To some extent, I can understand Mah's defensiveness. After all, he's been doing a terrible job at managing public housing. For years, Singapore's population had been rising sharply (due to the open-door policy to foreigners), but Mah forgot to build more flats. Consequently, HDB prices spiked massively, and lots of people couldn't afford a home anymore.
Nevertheless, Mah's "raid" comment was entirely unjustified. (You can imagine that if Mah's and Low's positions were reversed, the PAP would have launched a defamation suit and sued Low to death or bankruptcy, or maybe locked him up under the ISA for speaking words to incite social unrest).
Firstly, "raiding" the reserves means that you're like a thief or a robber, taking out money from the national reserves in a dishonest or unethical manner. However, the WP's proposal has nothing to do with taking money from the reserves. It has nothing to do with the reserves suffering any loss. At worst, it means that the land sales give the reserves a lesser gain.
For those of you who are not clear, let me elaborate. Suppose that in a given year, the PAP ministers give themselves a 20% pay increase. The next year, they give themselves a 10% pay increase. This isn't a loss. This isn't a pay cut. This is a pay increase. The increase is 10% lower than the previous year, but it is still an increase, not a decrease.
Secondly, if you look carefully at the mechanics of the WP's idea, you will understand that in principle, it doesn't even necessarily mean that new HDB flats must become cheaper. Instead it just means that the price of new HDBs should move in tandem with Singaporeans' median incomes.
Thus if the average Singaporean earns less, then the price of new HDB flats should decrease. If the average Singaporean earns more, then the price of new HDB flats can increase. The WP formula is not meant to make the government poorer, or even "less rich". The WP formula is simply to ensure that public housing remains affordable at all times, for the average Singaporean.
Sounds fair and reasonable, right? LOL, no wonder Mah objected.