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In a Novel Twist of PAP’s Slogan of Ownself Check Ownself, Shanmugam Gets SLA to Rent Singapore’s Largest Private Residential Property to Ownself

It is now four days since I put up my initial post asking for confirmation from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) that Nos. 26 and 31 Ridout Road had been rented to Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan respectively and what rents they were paying. So far there has been a defeaning silence from SLA and from the two Ministers. Of course it can be rather hard for SLA to answer as the person in charge is none other than the Minister of Law himself. As a silver tongued litigator of legendary repute, whose formidable earning power as well as his self sacrifice in agreeing to take a mere $2 million per annum as a humble servant of the people was praised by none other than the PM, I am sure he is all too well aware of the dangers of self incrimination.

We still have no idea what rent these two fortunate individuals are paying but I have now learnt from reliable sources that 26 Ridout Road is over 260,000 square feet while Vivian’s rental is over 150,000 square feet. That would place them among the largest residential properties in Singapore and Shan’s property second only to the Istana in size. Some of the land at 26 may be sloping and that may reduce its potential rental value a smidgin but if the land was redeveloped for public housing or other uses I am sure the ingenuity of our civil engineers would not find it much of an obstacle. One of my informants tells me that No. 31 is like an English country estate. Of course it would be for these residences were for favoured white men, people who would be second or third rate back in Britain but who found themselves in the fortunate position of being lords over a quarter of mankind at the empire’s peak.

If the land area of No.26 is really 260,000 square feet then I do not see how it can be worth less than $250 million a year, even making allowance for the fact that the land is sloping. On a rental yield of 3% that is $7.5 million a year. No.31 should be worth at least $150 million which makes a 3% rental yield $4.5 million a year. Even if the Ministers were charged a concessionary rental yield of 1% that would still make the rents $2.5 million and $1.5 million a year. It is difficult to see how the Ministers, even on their inflated salaries, can afford to pay those kinds of rents. Nor does it look as though their spouses’ salaries would enable them to either. Of course if their wives were the kind of heavy hitters like LHL’s wife, drawing down a well-earned but secret compensation of perhaps as much as $100 million a year for adding value at Temasek and whose salary is rubber stamped by a board appointed by her husband, then it might be different.

It may be that a generous donor to the PAP, concerned that our hard working Ministers should have somewhere bucolic to relax in so that they can brainstorm novel ideas for investing money to improve the lives of as yet unborn generations of Singaporeans, most of whom will come from abroad. These donors might think it important that they are not troubled by the smell and crush of the great unnwashed mass of the present underserving and ungrateful generation of native born Singaporeans and that the best and most productive ideas can only emerge if our Ministers are enabled to live like the British lords of our grand colonial past. But in that case should not IRAS be ensuring that they collect income tax on the monetary value of this benefit in kind? And would not such an arrangement fall foul of our supposed world class anti-corruption regime?

If Shan and Vivian are indeed occupying these palatial properties and the state is picking up at least part of the tab then it is plausible that they are guilty of Criminal Breach of Trust as public servants. Even if SLA comes up with some weaselly justification as to why these lords are paying a market rent, even though there has been no auction that I am aware of, then the Government is guilty at the very least of gross mismanagement of state resources. People of Singapore, the PAP always say they are stewards of the national reserves for future generations. If Vivian and Shan are being subsidised, and the Government’s silence points increasingly towards that inescapable conclusion, I would reply that the PAP Ministers have shown themselves yet again to be astute managers of their own personal fortunes and at ensuring that state resources are directed towards them rather than to the undeserving masses. This was what my father said in 1976 and clearly nothing has changed.

Dear Shan, Vivian, PAP Ministers and PM Lee, please do not think you can forever insult our intelligence and keep quiet and hold a snap election without answering these questions but serving up the usual dish of hypocrisy and claiming to look after the interests of all Singaporeans. This is another example of how allowing the PAP to Ownself Check Ownself has become Ownself Put in Charge of State Property. Ownself Rent State Property to Ownself but Ownself Decide Ownself Rent. Or more simply We Will Do Whatever We Want and like the animals in Animal Farm you are too stupid or too scared to stop us.


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