Monday, April 5, 2010

We can't control the rising HDB resale prices, wet market rental hikes and another other hike


Ah Tan and Ah Lim slowly walked up to the stage as the audience stood and clapped. A couple of grinning senior RC members led the way and another handful of grinning junior members followed behind. Ah Tan and Ah Lim were shown to the seats in the middle of the stage. After they were seated, the senior RC members settled themselves on the left and right flanks. The emcee then made a short introduction to the audience.

AH LIM (leaning towards Ah Tan and whispering): Hey Tan, this is not going to take long right? I've got to go for a high-tea later leh...
AH TAN (whispering back): Don't worry lah, won't be long one.
AH LIM (still whispering): By the way hor, today's event can claim off-in-lieu or not? Sunday morning leh!
AH TAN (still whispering back): I think so bah, better check with Mr Teo.
EMCEE (finishing his introduction): And now, let's hear from our honorable Mr Tan!

The emcee handed over the microphone to Ah Tan and the audience clapped excitedly. Ah Tan recited fluently the message that his secretary has drafted for him and ended it with a smile. The audience clapped passionately again.

EMCEE: Okay, you may now ask the honorable Mr Tan questions. Who's going to start the ball rolling?

A young man in polo t-shirt walked over to the microphone in the middle of the hall.

YOUNG MAN IN POLO: Mr Tan, the HDB prices are getting higher and higher everyday and just recently a penthouse maisonette in Bishan Street 24 was sold for $900k! That is even more expensive than those private condominium! The HDB resale prices are getting out of hand and this is soon going to be another property bubble waiting to be burst! Isn't the government going to do anything about it?

The young man ended his question with a stern look and walked back to his seat.

AH LIM (nudging Ah Tan): Wow... that question again...
AH TAN (holding up the microphone): These resale prices are set by individual households who transact flats on a willing buyer, willing seller basis, and are affected by movements and sentiments in the wider economy, including the private property market. Hence, we do not have control over prices of resale flats.

A wave of murmurs grew among the audience.

EMCEE (shouting into the microphone to overcome the noise in the crowd): Okay, let's continue with another question!

A dark skinny middle-aged man walked up to the microphone.

DARK MIDDLE-AGED MAN: Sir, Sheng Siong has increased our wet market rental by a 30%! Like that very difficult to do business! I can't even earn enough to cover rental! Can government ask them don't increase so much or not?

The dark middle-aged man frowned and walked slowly back to his seat.

AH LIM (whispering to Ah Tan): Sorry, forgot to warn you about this one...
AH TAN (holding up the microphone): Well, I won't complain if I were you...

Ah Tan was interrupted with a wave of loud clamor in the audience.

EMCEE (shouting into the microphone): People! People! We can't hear Mr Tan with your noise! Can we let Mr Tan finish?

As the clamor quieted down, Ah Tan held up the microphone again to continue.

AH TAN: When Sheng Siong planned to take over six wet markets, they have wanted to convert them into supermarkets. But we told them that the wet markets have to stay because they do not meet the criteria for conversion into supermarkets. If we didn't do anything at that time, you won't even have a wet market now.

Ah Tan paused as he noticed that he was speaking louder in dismay.

AH TAN: Sheng Siong’s managing director Lim Hock Chee had already explained that he had no choice but to increase rental rates in order to recoup their $25 million purchase of the wet markets. And anyway this is a private matter between Sheng Siong and the stall owners. Hence, we do not have control over rental prices of wet market stalls.

Another wave of murmurs grew among the audience.

EMCEE (shouting into the microphone to overcome the noise in the crowd): Okay, Mr Tan has already answered you. Let's continue with another question!

A plump middle-aged woman with heavy makeup walked up to the microphone.

PLUMP WOMAN: Hello Mr Tan, the electricity bill is going up again next month. Every quarter also increase, already increased four times liao! Everytime also say because oil price increase! My monthly electricity bill already more than $100 liao, if like that sooner or later will become $200! How can the government let them anyhow increase price one?

The plump middle-aged woman sighed and walked back to her seat.

AH LIM (nudging Ah Tan): Electricity bill got increase again meh?
AH TAN (holding up the microphone): Madam, SP Services has already explained that this hike is due to a continued increase in fuel oil prices. I trust that they've done ample investigation before increasing the tariff. The Energy Market Authority has already approved the revised tariff, and furthermore, SP Services has already been privatised. Hence, we do not have control over the cost of electricity.

Yet another wave of murmurs grew among the audience.

As the emcee attempted to control the crowd again, Ah Lim took out a piece of tissue to wipe the perspire off his forehead.

AH LIM (whispering to Ah Tan): Hey, don't you find this multipurpose hall very hot?
AH TAN (whispering): I think it's because there're only a couple of fans on the stage and one of them is not working.
AH LIM (whispering): Walau... can't they do anything about it?
AH TAN (whispering): Don't worry, this multipurpose hall will have aircon soon enough.
AH LIM (whispering with eyes wide open): Wow... really ah?
AH TAN (whispering with a grin): Yap, really. Because we're going to increase the town council service and conservancy fees. That, we can control!



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