Published February 2, 2011

PM Lee pledges to keep housing affordable

Government to do more to stabilise the market should it become necessary


(SINGAPORE) The government will do more to stabilise the property market should the occasion call for it, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his Chinese New Year address this year.

'The government has acted to curb speculation and cool the property market. We will do more to stabilise the market if and when this becomes necessary,' he said yesterday.

'We will keep housing affordable to Singaporeans, especially public housing. At the same time, in a prospering economy, home owners should see their properties appreciating in value over the long term.'

The government had recently announced new rules that would raise the seller's stamp duty on properties to as much as 16 per cent of the sale price if the home is sold within a year, and lower the limit that banks can lend to home buyers for a second property to 60 per cent of the property's value.

On the immigration front, while the prime minister acknowledged the 'sense of dislocation and unfamiliarity' felt by some Singaporeans, he stressed the need to keep up with the world or face stagnation and decline.

'We need immigrants to reinforce our ranks, but we must maintain a clear majority of local-born Singaporeans who set the tone of our society, and uphold our core values and ethos.

'We are managing the inflow of foreigners who want to live and work here. Many want to become permanent residents and new citizens, but we will only select those who can add value to Singapore.'

He pointed out that last year, the nation's total fertility rate fell to an all-time low of 1.16. The Chinese fared worse than the national average, at 1.02, but the decrease in the fertility rate was observed across the board.

'It could have been because of the Year of the Tiger, or perhaps the economic uncertainties the year before, in 2009. Whatever the reasons, I hope more couples will start or add to their families in the Year of the Rabbit,' said the prime minister.

'Chinese New Year is the time for families to come together in celebration, and more babies can only mean more joy in the years to come.'

As part of the effort to ensure the longevity of values and culture, the nation's mother tongues needs to be kept alive, he said.

'We regularly update and improve the teaching of mother tongue languages in our schools, to keep it current and effective.

'Hence, the recent measures announced by the Ministry of Education, which will help a new generation to use their mother tongue languages freely in a changing language environment.'