Thursday, November 29, 2012

Singapore : Zero Tolerance for Strikes.......

UPDATE: I was going through the comments and saw a few that claimed that I'm mistaken that these drivers are not allowed to go on strike as "essential services" workers. All they need to do is give 14 days notice then go on strike. Are you really so naive to think  so? 14 days is enough for the authorities to round the instigators up under other sections of the law before any strike can take place - and there are many other parts of the law they can use to do this. 

The term "essential services" cover a broad range of industries [Link] include telcos, postal services...even the refused collector and weatherman are providing an "essential service" based on the legal definition.  

"Taking the law into your own hands is not acceptable under any circumstances - certainly especially when it involves essential services." - Tan Chuan Jin[Link]

I have encountered quite a few strikes overseas. Once I was in Greece and all the public transport workers went on strike and I had to walk 5 kilometers carrying a backpack to catch a ferry. I've seen strikes at airports when baggage handlers stopped work and baggages pile up at the airport and planes can't take off. Once I was in a US city where all the janitors (cleaners) went on strike - you really understand how important cleaners are when toilets start to stink. The strike by janitors appeared  justified - many were fed up because they were not paid by employers, some were non-documented immigrants bullied by employers who knew they were too afraid to go to authorities, authorities ignored the plight of these workers for years. Within 1 week, with toilets all over the city started to get unbearably smelly, the authroities gave in and promised to go after errant employers.

In Singapore, strikes are illegal unless sanctioned by the minister in charge of the union. The last minister to sanction a strike was late President Ong Teng Cheong in 1986. He did so without seeking the opinion of his colleagues because he knew that they would stop him[Link]. Quite incredibly there were no reported strikes since 1986, a gap of 26 years, until 2 days ago when a group of 102 PRC bus drivers decided not to report for work when they found out they were not given the same pay increment as Malaysian bus drivers. They were also unhappy with living conditions - 10 people to a room and a stealth pay cut when overtime hours were incorporated into regular working hours. I think I'll leave it to SMRT to explain themselves for what appears to be really unfair and unequal treatment of their workers. Whatever your opinion of the foreign labor policy, I think most people agree that once we take them into our workforce we have to treat foreigners fairly...if we allow foreigners to be exploited, it will ultimately hurt Singaporeans in the workforce because employers habitually exploit foreign workers will do the same to Singaporeans. It is ironic that the PAP govt urges Singaporeans to integrate with foreigners but SMRT, a GLC,  doesn't appear to treat its foreign employees fairly .

Workers don't go on strike because it is illegal and no PAP minister today will sanction one. For many workers if they are not happy with the work conditions, they will just quit and try to find another job. A few years ago I posted about how the extremely poor contractual terms for  low wage workers especially cleaners[Link] had become widespread in May 2007. It took about 5 years before the mainstream media started discussing this problem[March 2012 Undercutting, bad contracts depress cleaners' pay] and for unions to call for fairer standardized clauses for cleaners. It was only late this year that they received some improvement in their wages after suffering more than a decade of declining wages[Link].

While strikes are not a good thing, they are sometimes necessary. Having no strikes for 26 years does not reflect healthy industrial relations but a lopsided one.  Workers sometimes keep silent about frustrating unhappy situations as they feel the system works against them and they have little power to change it. Employers can behave any way they want so long as they don't do anything illegal. They can cut pay, extend working hours, cancel your benefits, retrench workers with little compensation and practise ageism. It is sometimes argued that the less rights workers have, the more investments will come to Singapore to create jobs for Singaporeans. But raising the quality of life is not about jobs alone.

In many countries, the right to go on strike is recognised and some countries even have it in their enshrined in their constitutions. This is one of the rights Singaporeans traded away for overall economic gain. Perhaps we had it good for a while in the 80s and early 90s when jobs were abundant, workers were treasured because the labor market was tight, and businesses compete for workers by paying and treating them well. The 'happy' problem for workers in the 80s and 90s was job-hopping and that kept employers on their toes to ensure working conditions are good and workers are well paid. This situation changed when the PAP govt opened the floodgaes to foreign labor....we start the see the transition from a situation in which workers are treasured to a "hire-fire" and "cheaper is better" situation for workers. Things started to deteriorate fast for low wage workers and older workers....and these workers can't do anything about it because their power and rights have already been taken away.

When I was a kid, my neighbor was a bus driver. Today, the bus companies like to use this lofty term "bus captain" instead of the more humble "bus driver". But the bus driver of the 80s makes a decent living and the "bus captain" today struggle to make ends meet. My neighbor raised a family with 6 kids and owned HDB flat on his bus driver's salary. He had 6 kids because he wanted a boy and the first 5 children were girls. You look at how those drivers who went on strike were housed - 10 to a room in the dorm - and the low wages they were paid. It just pulls down what the bus companies will offer for local drivers. Bus companies complained that they need more foreigner drivers because they were not willing to pay wages adjusted for the high and rising cost of living in Singapore. Things are so bad at SMRT, even workers from a developing world country can't accept the way they are managed and went on strike.  If these workers are seen as providing important essential services and will never be allowed to strike, why aren't they paid well to ensure the availability of these services - the 2 former generals from SAF, one in charge of the manpower, the other CEO of SMRT should know better...we don't pay our SAF regulars peanuts like we do our drivers.

Just last year, SMRT reported the highest profits in its history and its former CEO Saw was the highest paid SMRT CEO in history. The wealth transfer from low wage Singaporeans workers to  business owners and higher management as a consequence of PAP foreign labor policy is clearly seen here.

Minister Tan Chuan Jin said that the PRC bus drivers have "crossed the line". Let us not forget that it is the PAP govt that shifted this line....and the strike action by these drivers remind us how Singapore workers have been disempowered and stripped of their rights. While some segments of our society are critical of the strike action by these drivers, we have to remember how Singaporeans have been conditioned to simply accept what is unfair and unjust simply because we cannot change it and our pro-business govt will come down hard on disobedience to make examples of those who try to initiate change. What the drivers have done is what people else where in many democratic developed countries would have done if faced with the same level of discrimination. The only difference is the PAP govt has made such action illegal when it is a basic right in many other countries.

The PAP govt has stepped forward to say they have "zero tolerance" for the strike action[Link]. We never hear the PAP leaders talk about "zero tolerance" for exploitation of low wage workers, "zero tolerance" for unfairness at workplace, "zero tolerance" for low wages and poor benefits..."zero tolerance" for poor treatment of elderly workers. The PAP govt has great tolerance for inequality that has emerged in our society. But they have "zero tolerance" for those who are brave enough to stand up against injustice. Singaporean workers gave up their rights for benefits that never materialised ....we should have "zero tolerance" for such an unfair and unjust situation.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The importance of asking questions.

I would like first to applaud Minister Heng's decision not to announce the names of the top scoring PSLE students this year. Lets take away the focus on marks and focus our education system on learning. You walk around shopping centers, notice boards etc all you see these days are tuition centers advertising themselves based on the marks their students scored in the PSLE - what happened to learning and education?...the joy of learning?

Today the 2012 PSLE results announcement day so I will show you a PSLE maths question:

Most people will look at the question and quickly come out with the answer (3)25cm2. Simple right? Triangle SQR has an area of 45cm2 (half the large rectangle). Subtract the smaller 2 triangles from this area and you get 25cm2...which is the area of C.

It turned out this is not the answer. None of the multiple choice options gives the right answer. Why? There is no way to construct triangles SXW of area 4 cm2 and  QXU of area 16 cm2 no matter where you put the point X on the diagonal. If you're interested in the more complete explanation, the full discussion of this question among a group of parents on this found here. People will answer the question even if the question is wrong.

Our education system trains people to answer questions and find solutions to problems.  We forget thaty very often finding the correct questions and the problemsto solve is actually more important. Even before you rush to answer the you have the right question?

A few years ago, I attended a course that ended with an exam. Nearing the exam, the Singaporean students started  to get anxious and kept asking the lecturer what would be tested and what would not - but the lecturer didn't want to
say anything about the exam - he told us to just concentrate on learning. About  4 weeks before the exam he announced that he was ready to talk about the exam in the next lecture. The following lecture everyone turned up, including students who had been missing from lectures for weeks - they expected the lecturer to give exam tips, talk about the structure of the exam paper etc. What they got was a surprise.

The lecturer told the class, his idea of an exam was very different from what the students had in mind. For his exam, the students would have to set their own exam questions! He divided the students to groups of 5 and each group had to come up with 5 questions. The 10 best questions that were generated by the students  would be used for the exam. To be able to set good questions, the students had to understand the subject matter much more that they if they were just trying to answer exam questions. Because it was advantageous for your own question to be chosen for the exam, the students got really enthusiastic about it....and the one thing I learned from this was you learn much more from asking questions than answering them in exams....and this is the key element of curiosity that is missing from our system that pushes everyone to focus on exams, answering questions correctly and answering more question correctly than the next person.

In an earlier posting about the PSLE, I wrote about how Israeli students rank 19 place behind Singaporeans at age 14 come roaring back to produce the best researchers and Nobel Prize winners [Link]. This is the one thing they do differently from us ...and this is the one thing we need to change in order to progress... not just for our education system but our society as a whole can benefit from asking the right questions.

Recently a survey showed that Singaporeans are the most emotionless people in the world:

“I think that in our striving for excellence such as the paper chase and career, we end up missing out on a lot of the other things in life. We end up becoming more apathetic to societal events and changes around us." - Luana Low[Link]

“If you measure Singapore by the traditional indicators, they look like one of the best-run countries in the world, But if you look at everything that makes life worth living, they’re not doing so well.” - Jon Clifton,  Gallup partner in Washington, feels that Singaporeans are sacrificing economic success and stability for what truly matters.[Link].

There is a touching video of a late plastic surgeon who after making tons of money and acquired much material wealth, came down with was only when he time on earth was running out that started asking important questions about his  life ....[here is the video] ..when you chase after a dream, have you questioned if it is the right dream?

There was a time when Singapore was a developing country and most citizens were poor - so the answer was, without asking the real questions, to make more money. Today the questions and problems have changed, yet we are still feeding the old answers of money and GDP growth to our society. We are still told by leaders that so long as we keep GDP growing all our problems can be solved. But what really are the problems ...and the questions they are trying to answer? Our National Conversation started with one of our leaders saying that if we want X amount of GDP growth we need Y number new citizens every year,...and that's how things are often framed for us. But GDP growth is not the answer because we now face a new set of questions  - how do we make our society just and equal? how do we become more democratic? how do we care for our old and sick? what will make Singaporeans happier...? We have to get the question right before we start giving answers...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Professor Elizabeth Warren : The middle class struggle...

Elizabeth Warren has won her election fight for a seat in the US Senate[Link].

I wrote about Elizabeth Warren's work a few years ago after I read her paper on the US healthcare system[Link]. Her findings were startling - she found that most people who were bankrupted by medical bills had insurance. These were not irresponsible people who did not buy coverage for themselves and their families. Yet, when they got sick, they fell through various cracks and ended up bankrupt.

The passionate professor who spent the last few years giving lectures to explain what she saw as the collapse of the middle class, joined the Democratic Party and defeated the incumbent Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown to win a senate seat:

Watch the video very carefully and listen to her explanation of what led to the collapse of the US middle class. Her detailed analysis of family expenditure over the last 3 decades showed how family savings declined in the US and the key factor that led to the decline was the rise in housing prices.  High housing prices along with rising medical cost that consumed a larger and larger component of household income destroyed the American middleclass.

“But those who held on to their homes, I've seen their property values going up, five times, 10 times, 15 times, 20 times. This was the plan which we had from the very beginning, to give everybody a home at cost or below cost and as development takes place, everybody gets a lift, all boats rise as the tide rises.” - ex- MM Lee Kuan Yew

 PAP leaders have seen rising home prices as a good thing implementing  "asset enhancement" as a national policy. Home prices rising 20 times without the corresponding rise in income means that middle class families find it harder to own a home today than 20 years ago. It puts young families into heavy debt and puts them at risk. Elizabeth Warren's speech was given in Jan 2008 before the financial crisis hit and took property price down destroying much of 'paper property wealth' that middle class families were supposed to have "accumulated". When property prices rises faster than median income, there is really no easy net wealth created because in order to cash out of your HDB at a profit you need another Singaporean family to get deeper into debt. You keep doing this until debt levels are no longer sustainable and the merry-go-round is pattern that has been repeated around the world.

If you look at the 5 year chart of HDB resale prices, it is no different from the bubbles we have seen in these countries.

They can try to keep it inflated by importing people, pushing up the population density and allowing foreign investors into the private residential market to trickle down the demand...but you cannot go on doing it forever and you can't do it without putting more burden and risk on the middle class.

Whatever your opinion of the SDP housing plan, the most important thing is they understand and recognize the  urgency and depth of the housing and healthcare problems and are willing to put up bold ideas  and open the discussion. The PAP govt's national conversation seem to perpetually revolves around how many foreigners we should allow into the country - where are the solutions to the problems faced by Singaporean families? 2 days ago, we saw yet another report by a govt agency, the NPTD,  justifying the need for more foreign workers[Link] where is the solution for the rising healthcare cost? 

A few weeks ago, a young boy had meningitis and was hospitalized for 50 days (24 days in ICU, + 3 operations to relieve pressure in the brain) . Because the parents were low income PRs, they it is likely they received 55% in subsidies under Class C. The unpaid bill came to $130K (without subsidy it would have been $290K) and in order not to bankrupt the family, KK Hospital put them on a 42 year installment.  Singaporeans households with income of above $5200, under Class C will see a bill of $101K, if granted an installment plan that is equivalent to $1000 for 8 years or $500 for 16 years.
If you still don't see the need for a universal healthcare plan that ensure everyone is covered including those with pre-existing medical conditions, be prepared to see more such cases and many in the middle class burdened by the high and rising cost of medical care. When Obama's healthcare plan comes to effect, we will be the only developed country without a healthcare scheme that ensures everyone is can afford medical care including those with pre-existing conditions.

During Elizabeth Warren's campaign, she spoke frequently about "leveling the playing field" for everyone in society. Leveling the playing field is an endless task as the rich and powerful will always try to influence the system to secure as much advantages as possible - examples include securing govt expenditure such as tax breaks, reduction of capital gains taxes, reduction of income tax for high income earners, reducing the minimum wage etc. These tax expenditures have proved costly for the American govt  who now have to cut spending on much need social programs. In the 2012 US Elections, billionaire Sheldon Adelson who made billions in the casino business spent millions donating to the campaign of several candidates to push for outcomes he wanted[Link] - fortunately Americans could see through this and every candidate he backed lost.

"I think the basic notion is right. Nobody got rich on their own. Nobody. People worked hard, they built a business, God bless, but they moved their goods on roads the rest of us helped build, they hired employees the rest of us helped educate, they plugged into a power grid the rest of us helped build," 
- Senator Elizabeth Warren[Link]

When the income gap in our society grows, we have to reduce our spending on tax cuts for the rich to level the playing field. Social mobility is in itself necessary not sufficient ...but even that is much eroded in Singapore.Less than half the PSC scholarships are given to children staying in public housing when 80% of Singapore families live in HDB [Link] - a child from a richer family is 4 times more likely to get a PSC scholarship than a child staying in a HDB flat. The education system is such that those who are able to spend more on good quality pre-school and external coaching (tuition)[1 in 2 who engage tuition teachers spend more than $500 per month] get an advantage in our education system . 

If we do not pursue a change of  policies at a fast enough pace,  the current system will erode our middle class and create an permanent underclass in our society.  The longer we take the more elusive the solutions becomes as the tradeoffs become deeper and problems become more complex.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

SDP's NOM : Finding solutions for the housing problem....

UPDATE: I have written in the post that I believe the scheme is implementable if it is restricted to limit demand and if a key problem of allocation is solved. To the credit of the authors of the proposal, they did not overlook this allocation problem. The solution takes the form of an auction scheme known as VCG ( Annex C of the proposal). If you win a bid for a highly sought after location, you pay a premium over a 'reserve' - this premium is not returned in the cash buy-back. So you can only breakeven or lose money under the NOM scheme. While a competitive mechanism is introduced, prices can still be contained if you  restrict who can take part in the auction. 

Since you can only lose and cannot make a profit from the scheme, I don't see the advantages of this scheme over some variant of a subsidized rental scheme which is easier to administer and move people out of the scheme when they strike it rich and no longer need subsidies anymore. 

The problem itself is not too difficult to understand.

In the last 20 years (1990-2009)  median household income doubled while property prices more than quadrupled. When this happens, you borrow more to purchase your home and the cost of housing starts to cannibalize your retirement funds or your making it harder for you to achieve a good quality of life as  a large part of your income goes to servicing your housing debt. As seen from what happened in Europe, Japan and USA, when housing prices rises too much relative to median income, it causes an expansion of housing debt (credit) that later causes severe economic problems when unsustainable housing prices fall. Over 45% of Singapore home loans have tenures exceeding 30 years[Link] and  bank credit has expanded $460B from about $200B just 4 years ago.
SDP's proposed solution to our housing problems is to have HDB build a class of flats (NOM = non open market) sell it at the cost of building to Singaporeans. To prevent profiteering, owners can only sell the flat back to HDB, I suppose at a roughly the same price adjusted for inflation and depreciation. The whole idea is to eliminate the possibility of huge profits from all parties - the owner and the HDB. Details of the scheme can be found here - SDP suggests selling price of $70K for 2 room flats and $240K for 5 room flats. Owners are not allowed to buy private property when they are on this scheme.

This idea is not completely new. When former Minister Mah was confronted with the problem of rising HDB prices was asked why new HDB flat prices are linked to OM (Open Market) prices. He replied that if there is no link then flat buyers can cash out on the open market making massive profits. He then said that if HDB sold flats cheaply then buyers would have to sell it back to the HDB for the same price to prevent such this idea did cross his mind.

Because there is no possibility of capital gains on either side, the NOM scheme approximates to a highly subsidized rental scheme in which a 'buyer' locks on to low rentals and chooses when he exits from the lease and get all his capital back. Banks would be ready to lend to such a scheme since it is no risk as the value of the property is guaranteed - they would be willing to lend the full amount and have you service only the monthly interest (since the risk of defaulting on the principal is zero) which case, it looks like a pure subsidized rental scheme, in which you pay rent in the form of interest to the bank. A 'buyer' can also pay the full amount for the property and stays in it for free until he is done with it...he can just return the flat and gets back his entire 'deposit' adjusted for inflation and depreciation back.

Unlike other govts that depend on land sales to fund its annual budget, the Singapore govt today collects enough in tax revenue to fund its budget without proceeds from the sale of land. In Hong Kong, the govt  includes proceeds from land sales in its revenue and uses much of it to fund its social programs. The proceeds from land sales which includes land sold to build HDB and private property goes straight into our reserves "filling govt coffers" so there is no question the govt can afford NOM  but should our govt actually do something like NOM? Are there better ways to solve our housing problems?

For the lowest income bracket, the HDB already provides rental flats with highly subsided rentals. There is no choice unless we are willing to see homeless people because the rising income gap, rising housing cost and stagnant incomes of low wage earners have priced a segment of the population out of property and rental market. For newly weds and new home buyers, the govt provides grants that are supposed soften the impact of high property prices  but the way the housing market has risen in the past decade means these grants are not enough to quell the rising unhappiness.

Singapore has not always been in this unhappy situation when it comes to housing. In the 90s, home prices were indeed affordable. Prices rose but did not become detached from median income and at one point, things were going so well, the HDB thought it could stop building rental flats and tear them down because even those in the lowest income bracket looked like they could have a shot at the Singapore dream of home ownership. But the next 2 decades did not turn out as expected. Today this high housing prices is a threat to the middleclass ...and it has created a growing underclass that cannot afford to own or rent a place. There is no govt in the world that does not intervene in the housing market in cities and completely leave it market forces [public housing around the world]. In Hong Kong, 31% live in heavily subsidized rental flats[Link] and 17% in discounted flats putting roughly half the population in public housing. Without these schemes, you will see about 10-20% of the HK population priced out of the market for decent homes living on the streets or slum housing. The free market is not going to produce a social outcome acceptable by most if not all modern societies. The question is not whether you should intervene but how much intervention is right.

The PAP govt could have kept housing on the right track by adequately supplying the market, regulating mortgage repayment period, putting restrictions on foreign buying and containing the foreign influx. The PAP did little as prices rose and Minister Khaw stepped in to do some of the things that should have been done when when Mah Bow Tan was minister. Whatever the intentions of the PAP govt, the govt coffers filled up as prices rose and the burden on Singaporean families became heavier allowing critics to accuse the govt of building reserves at the expense of Singaporeans. It does not help that the Singapore govt does not use the money for social programmes so Singaporeans see no benefit of those fat coffers built from money 'extracted' from them - Minister Mah made a critical error of saying that selling HDB flats more affordably would be equivalent to "raiding the reserves"[Link].  This remark destroyed any remaining trust that Mah would step up efforts to solve the housing problem. Minister Khaw is now doing what Mah should have done years ago but it really looks too little too late - prices are already too high.

Prices are too high.... so lets solve it by supplying the market with cheap flats with zero cost of land ...make sure nobody profits from it to prevent abuse - what can simpler than this? Unfortunately, unlike preventive medical care, public transport and university education, for housing, you cannot supply all demand for cheap housing. Suppose, the govt decides to give subsidized or free mammograms to Singaporean women above 40 years old, they can set aside the money and resources to meet all demand. But for the housing market this is just not true - the idea of pricing land at zero of near zero is highly problematic. Suppose NOM gets implemented tomorrow. HDB sells 5-room flats in Woodlands, Tiong Bahru and Bedok at the cost of construction, say $200K. The demand for flats in Tiong Bahru will be much higher than the other 2 locations - and you can't meet all the demand for Tiong Bahru because you only have so much land in Tiong Bahru. In a market system, the price of Tiong Bahru flat rises to price out some people and push them to other areas - the difference between a the price of a Tiong Bahru flat and an identical one in Woodlands is price of land. Since you can't meet all demand, you can try to ballot or allocate using a FCFS (first come first serve) queuing allocation so the property goes to those who are willing to queue the case of a ballot system it goes to the person who is luckiest. If you price the Tiong Bahru flat higher to solve the problem, you end up doing the same thing as the market in a less elegant manner.

The NOM scheme is so attractive existing home owners will want to switch to it at some point in time. A person owning a 5 room worth $600K-$800K on the open market will sell it, use $200+K to get a NOM 5-room flat live in it for "free" keep the remaining $400K to $600K, whenever he wants he can get out of NOM and get his $200K back. There is no reason why a person staying in a 4 room flat worth $400K on the market wouldn't want sell it to switch to a 5 room NOM flat costing $200+K and keep the difference  Who wouldn't want such a deal? You will see queues building up for sure because such a scheme will attract all existing flat owners who would like to encash their flats at the high prices we are seeing today. The queues will get so bad the scheme will probably fail. You can try to fix this by tightening the criteria for NOM, say by allowing only 1st time buyers to get on-board  There is already something similar that the HDB does for 1st time buyers in the form of grants however these grants are not big enough to push 5room flat prices down to the $200+K level to do this the govt would have to give grants upwards of $200K. Since there is no way to meet all demand for these flats, you need apply a criteria to limit  the demand - you have to limit and it makes sense to limit it to 1st time buyers to give everyone just one round of benefits from the scheme. Such a scheme will shift almost all the 1st time buyers from 2-4 rooms flats straight to 5 room flats.

There are 27,000 new marriages and the HDB can build about 25-35K flats with the current construction industry resources.  If the land cost per 5 room flat is 200K, the govt forgoes $5.4B that is supposed to have gone into our reserves.

Once you get the qualification criteria restrictive enough to limit the demand to match what the HDB can supply and fix the problem of unequal demand for various locations, it looks almost like a free lunch for newly married the expense of growing our reserves. If the PAP has been spending the money from the land sales on nursing homes, pensions for the old or medical care for seniors ....then NOM would mean that the govt has to cut down on these to balance its budget and you would think twice about implementing NOM. The money from land sales can potentially to fund other social programs   and we have to ask ourselves how we can best optimize our  financial resources to maximum the gains for our society.

NOM once implemented becomes almost irreversible. I can't imagine giving one batch such a generous scheme then taking it away from the next.

There are underlying causes of the real estate boom that push prices up so fast relative to median income. The money to chase property up has to come from somewhere...if not from the income of Singaporeans, where was it coming from? Easy credit in the form of low interest rates is one factor, another is foreign speculators/investors and the large influx of foreigners that drove up demand. All of these could have been contained by the govt but nothing was done until the problem became so large. If you look at the housing bubbles around the world from Japan to USA to Spain to Ireland, they have all fallen apart and taken the real economy along with it. One suspect our decision makers and economic planners would like to keep the wheel spinning a little longer by persuading us to keep the door open to the foreign influx - but history has shown you cannot keep bubbles inflated for too long,,,,the bigger the bubble the greater the damage when it starts to deflate. While it is commendable that the SDP put forth a proposal to deal with the high price of property, what we may be grappling with in the coming years may not be the unaffordability of high property prices but the unsustainability of today's high prices....we just need to open our eyes to see what has happened to the economic powerhouses of Japan and US, when the artificial prosperity from high real estate prices vanished.....