Sell the land to foreigners? It is ‘the end’

Recently, there have been reports in the media pushing for the restrictions on the sale of landed homes here to foreigners to be relaxed. I hope the authorities quickly nip this in the bud before too much public disquiet arises.

Goldman Sachs (Singapore) is lobbying for the rescindment of the Residential Property Act which has, since 1973, restricted foreigners and Permanent Residents from owning landed residential property without prior official approval.

The investment firm argues that this change would serve as a catalyst for further foreign purchasing of private homes as well as boost the current residential property up-cycle. To further support this argument, it implies that Singaporeans already have a stake in the country by virtue of the public housing catering to 80 per cent of us.

I doubt anyone in Singapore really feels that the property market requires any more encouragement. If anything, the reverse is true — in fact, the authorities are probably contemplating measures to cool the red-hot market and bring it down to a more sustainable level.

Goldman Sachs’ reference to public housing also comes across as being slightly condescending to me.

I agree with the industry’s opinion leaders, who were quoted to be mostly against this proposal. Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development and Environment chairman Charles Chong was quoted as saying: “Landed properties should not be priced out of Singaporeans’ reach (or) it could lead to disgruntled Singaporeans.”

Others, meanwhile, said that the existing Act has the positive effect of “encouraging foreigners to commit to Singapore, to sink their roots here” and that landed property ownership is one of the “privileges of being Singaporean”.

In American author Pearl S Buck’s The Good Earth, the protagonist Wang Lung chides his sons when he overhears them talking about selling the land which he loves so much. In his words: “If you sell the land, it is the end.”

Letter from Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Source: Today, 29 June 2007