Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed the nation on 20 August with his National Day Rally where he touched on several pressing concerns for Singaporeans. The issues discussed included affordable housing options in Singapore, how to help boost lower to middle-income young seniors’ retirement savings, recession and inflation concerns, how to support seniors in maintaining their health as they age, as well as PM Lee’s succession plans within government.
Let’s look at each discussion point, and explain what this will mean for you moving forward.
1. Introduction Of A New Classification of BTO Flats - Standard, Plus, Prime
Currently BTO projects are classified as mature and non-mature estates. This classification was first introduced in 1992 where mature estates were defined as areas with limited land space and high demand, while non-mature estates were defined as areas with lots of land space but less developed amenities. Since then, as non-mature estates continued to be developed, the distinction between mature and non-mature estates have started to blur.
As such, PM Lee introduced a new classification system for BTO launches. BTO projects will now be classified into Standard, Plus and Prime locations, with the Plus category being a brand new classification for BTO flats.
Singaporeans are well aware the BTO flats are offered at a discount compared to open-market property prices and that flats in locations that are closer to the city centre or transport hubs are likely to be able to fetch a higher resale price. One of the aims of the new classification of BTO flats is to reduce the “lottery effect”, where only those lucky enough to ballot and get a flat in a central location are able to reap these high returns on their property when they sell it.
With the new classification, greater subsidies will be given out for Plus and Prime BTO launches, but these subsidies will be clawed back upon their resale into the open market. The pool of resale flat buyers that can purchase from choicer (Plus) and the choicest locations (Prime) will also be restricted via an income ceiling.
The Minimum occupancy period (MOP) for Plus and Prime location will be longer at 10 years as compared to just 5 years for Standard projects. This will especially help prevent people from quickly “flipping” their BTO flats for a large profit, tempering future resale prices. This also allows for a good social mix to be maintained within all government housing estates.
The reclassification of BTO projects is not retrospective and will not apply to existing flats or BTO projects that are already launched. The new classification will commence with BTO launches in the second half of 2024.
The table below is a summary of the new BTO classification.
|Standard||All over the island||Standard||5 year minimum occupation period (MOP)|
Could be closer to transport interchanges or town centers
|More Subsidies than Standard||10 year MOP|
Subsidy recovery when flat is resold on the open market (less than prime location flats)
Some Income ceiling restrictions for buyers of these flats on the open market
|Prime||Previous Prime Location Housing (PLH), most central and choicest locations||Most subsidies available||10 year MOP|
Subsidy recovery when flat is resold on the open market
Full Income ceiling restrictions for buyers of these flats on the open market (S$14,000 a month for couples and S$7,000 a month for singles)
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2. Greater Accessibility For Singles Buying HDB Flats
PM Lee acknowledged in his speech that more and more Singaporeans are choosing to remain single and that there is a need for more flexible and affordable housing options for this group of Singaporeans.
Currently, single Singaporean Citizens over the age of 35 who are looking to buy a BTO flat are only able to buy 2-room flexi units in non-mature estates. Not being able to buy BTO flats in mature estates meant that singles who cannot afford to buy private property are restricted to living in areas that were further away from the city centre.
Singles everywhere can rejoice as these restrictions will be eased. PM Lee announced that under the new classification of BTO flats, singles will be able to buy 2-room flexi units across all three classifications — Standard, Plus and Prime. They will also be able to purchase 2-room Prime resale flats, or Standard or Plus resale units of any size other than three-generation flats.
Read Also: HDB Housing: Single Singapore Citizen Scheme
3. Supporting Singaporean’s Retirement Savings – S$7 billion Majulah Package For Singaporeans Aged 50 and Above
Lower and middle income Singaporeans aged 50 years old and above will receive a boost to their retirement savings through the new Majulah package. Those who are of the Pioneer and Merdeka generations will also stand to benefit from the Package. All in all, the Majulah package will total S$7 billion and benefit 8 in 10 Singaporeans aged 50 and above.
PM Lee acknowledged that young seniors (i.e. those in their 50s and early 60s) are a particular sandwiched generation who have to take care of their aged parents as well as their children. While they have experienced more prosperity than those of the Pioneer or Merdeka generations, they have also earned less than a lot of their younger counterparts and have had less time to reap the benefits of the ever improving CPF system.
The Majulah package aims to quell some of these young seniors’ anxieties about retirement, as well as to encourage those who have the ability to continue working for as long as they can.
The Majulah Package will have three components. Further details on how the package will be rolled out will be announced in 2024.
|Earn and Save Bonus||Retirement Savings Bonus||Medisave Bonus|
|Eligibility||Lower and middle income workers (including part time and self employed individuals)||Individuals whose CPF balances have not reached the CPF Basic Retirement Sum, regardless of employment status||To be confirmed|
|Amount Receivable||S$400 - S$1,000 yearly, as long as the individual continues working||One-time CPF bonus of S$1,000 - S$5,000||One-time bonus of S$500-S$1,000|
|CPF account||Special Account or Retirement Account||Special Account or Retirement Account||MediSave Account|
4. Macroeconomics Concerns And Support for Retrenched Workers
PM Lee recognised the rising geopolitical tensions globally, concerns about inflationary pressures, as well as a potential international recession. Domestically, PM Lee argues that the Singapore economy remains resilient and that the government anticipates that Singapore will avoid a recession and have positive economic growth this year. He stated that while inflation remains higher than what most Singaporeans are used to, inflation is still slowly coming down.
As for those who are faced with retrenchment, PM Lee announced that the new 4G leaders have a new scheme in the works to support workers and give them the space to attend skills courses to upgrade themselves before seeking new employment so that they are able to pursue meaningful employment opportunities and are not forced into the first available job out of desperation.
This new scheme will act as a temporary safety net for workers in between jobs so that their basic and immediate needs can continue to be met while they upskill themselves. PM Lee reiterated that as long as an individual is “willing to make the effort, the Government will go the extra mile to help [them]”. More details about the scheme will be announced later in 2023.
5. Age Well SG – A New Programme To Support Our Ageing Demographic
Ageing was a core issue that PM Lee addressed at his National Day Rally. Currently about 1 in 5 Singaporeans are aged 65 years old and above. Come 2030, that statistic will be closer to 1 in 4 Singaporeans. PM Lee discussed all the different considerations the government has taken to ready Singapore for her ageing population.
Infrastructure within HDB homes will be upgraded to become more senior-friendly under the upgraded Enhancement for Active Seniors (Ease) 2.0 programme. This will be part of a wider Age Well SG Programme.
These changes will be rolled out gradually, starting with estates like Ang Mo Kio and Bukit Merah, which have some of the highest percentage of seniors. Enhancements include wider toilet entrances and foldable shower seats within flats. Streets and linkways that seniors frequent will also be revamped to make estates feel safer for seniors’ use.
Neighbourhoods will also be made more wheelchair friendly through infrastructure enhancements like barrier-free ramps and raised zebra crossings. Pedestrian crossings will be made more pedestrian friendly, with longer “green man” to allow seniors to have more time to cross with ease and narrowed roads to slow down cars. HDB block signs will also be made bigger and more colourful so that it is easier for seniors to see and recognise.
All of these implementations and more are done with the intention of fulfilling many seniors’ wish of living out their golden years in their own homes as feasible as possible.
The network of Active Ageing Centres (AACs) where seniors can engage in fun and fulfilling activities with their peers will also be expanded. One of the biggest threats to seniors is loneliness and not being physically or mentally stimulated. It is vital for seniors to remain active in their retirement and have a robust social network for mutual support.
The expanded AACs network pairs well with the current Healthier SG campaign that helps encourage seniors, with the guidance of their primary care doctors, take greater responsibility for their physical health and seek out preventative care. Together, all of these improvements work together to ensure that seniors can have as robust and fulfilling a retirement as possible.
6. PM Lee’s Succession Plans Back On Track
PM Lee has affirmed that despite the pandemic's disruption to his initial intention of stepping down as Prime Minister before turning 70 in 2022, his plans for succession are now back on course. He reassured Singaporeans that the recent political scandals within the PAP have not disrupted his own succession plans, and urged Singaporeans to give their full support to Deputy PM Lawrence Wong and his team moving forward.
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