Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Power to oppress

Power to oppress - words have been crafted and much thought gone into what a home (or a house) means. To many in Singapore, a home is nothing but an investment which you MUST cash out at the opportune time. Memories are unimportant, permanence is shunned like the plague when compared to the obscene amount of money that can be made by disposing of the house, never mind the neighbourhood that one has become familiar with after 10 years, the place where one's children was born and grew up in, the many happy moments during visits by friends and relatives who are ever envious of the view of the sea from the house.

This mercenary approach to life and living is now increasingly being demonstrated in communities selling out their homes to developers in what are called en-bloc sales. Going by past experience, one can expect to get a windfall from such sales. The only problem is - some people living in the same development do not want to sell, but have to go along when 80% or more of the residents vote to do so.

According to some accounts that are being related in the newspapers these days, the minority are finding this oppressive and have vented their frustrations by requesting that the law increase the mandatory go-ahead percentage to 90%. I suppose this will make it that much more difficult for a successful en-bloc initiative unless the rewards are overwhelmingly attractive - which is the purpose of raising the threshold percentage.

Although I do not face the threat of an en-bloc any time soon, I sympathise with the stayers for reasons that this blog exists in the first place. Yes, some pragmatists have made the point that in landscarce Singapore, this is the only logical and rational decision, i.e. sell en-bloc to the highest bidder so that the land use can be maximised. Well, this argument, when taken to the nth degree means that we must ask Ah Meng to vacate the zoo, or at least move to some highrise development, we must ask the Koi fish, the ducks and the swans in the Botanic Gardens to move elsewhere or start paying rent at the prevailing market price, or more logically, en-bloc the Botanic Gardents so that more optimal use can be made of the extremely expensive land that the Botanic Gardents sits on - it is a stone's throw away from the busy Orchard Road belt. It is ironic that a swan and a chimpanzee have more certainty in where they live compared to a human in Singapore. (But wait, isn't it already happening? It has been reported that motorists will have to pay $1.20 per 2 hours for parking at the Botanic Gardens now).

Under these circumstances, how can people in Singapore be happy and contented at all?

p.s. If the previous 100% consent for en-bloc to proceed worked against people who wanted to cash out, and the current 80% consent made it too easy for stayers to lose their homes, then 90% consent sounds just about right, I think. This is the percentage that stayers are proposing that the en-bloc target be revised to. This looks fair to me.


Lam Chun See said...

I agree with your views. But we must also put things in perspective. For many people of my generation, our lands were acquired by the govt and we were compensated with a meagre sum. Furthermore, we saw that our land were not developed until decades later; in the meantime the price of land sky-rocketed. Talk about oppression.

Whispers from the heart said...

I have a friend who migrated to the States. While I visit him often, he never comes back, not even once.

He told me he had nothing to come back for because he can't visit his old HDB flat, the hawker centre we used to hang out after school etc because they were all gone!

To him, there's no sense of belonging except whatever that is left in his memory.

Singaporeans like new things and nostalgic folks like us just have to swallow it.