Ladies and gentlemen, The Straits Times has been caught with their pants down.
Some of the quotes that Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing reportedly said at the inaugural Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore mentorship programme for students on Feb. 25, 2015, were cleaned up or censored completely by the English broadsheet.
These quotes pertained to Minister Chan's comments about [email protected] housing project and the rich-poor class divide.
The first version of ST's story, which was initially published online on Feb. 25, but has since been taken down, has been reproduced in its entirety below.
Original article with Minister Chan's quotes in full:
Building HDB flats on prime sites may not bridge rich-poor divide, says Minister
By Rennie Whang Published on Feb 25, 2015 8:57 PM
SINGAPORE - Building HDB flats on prime land is not the panacea for bridging the rich-poor divide, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said today.
This is because there then arises questions of how to allocate the flats, of cross-subsidies and even whether there would be interaction between the various residents.
Speaking at a panel at the inaugural Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (Redas) Mentorship Programme, which was attended by about 50 students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Mr Chan said: "Is it fair for someone to 'tikam' (Malay for taking a random chance), ballot and pay an artificially low price for a flat in the heart of Downtown, and five years later, after the Minimum Occupancy Period, enjoy a windfall?
"What this means is, those who did not get the flat through the ballot are cross-subsidising them."
Taking the example of The [email protected], he noted that apart from potential capital gains, residents would be paying Housing Board conservancy fees of $125 a month. Equivalent services at a private condo - including lifts to the 50th or top storey, rooftop garden - could be triple that.
To date, 16 four-room flats at the project have been sold at $810,000 to $955,000, and five five-room flats at $918,000 to $1.028 million - up from $289,200 to $380,900 for four-roomers and $345,100 to $439,400 for five-roomers at its launch.
It is questionable if social mixing takes place in the greater area of Tanjong Pagar, which has both [email protected] and one-room rental flats at Jalan Kukoh and Jalan Minyak.
"I doubt many of them even walk to each others' precincts," said Mr Chan.
While it is possible, too, to plan integrated communities to the extent of including rental flats in blocks of Build-To-Order (BTO) flats, Mr Chan asked whether Singaporeans would truly support this, and apply for such BTOs.
"Many people would wax lyrical about (solving the rich-poor divide), but we must touch our hearts (and ask ourselves), will you look down on someone because he stays in a rental flat in the same block?
"Will you shake your head and wonder why we are mixing with these people? 'Will they affect my flat value?'...If our hearts and our answers are different, it says something about us as individuals and as a society," said Mr Chan.
Real social mixing goes beyond architecture and having different housing types within the same precinct, he added. "I encourage the more successful people to give their time, talents and treasures."
The original Facebook post by ST about the original article has also been deleted.
This is the edited version published on Feb. 26 with a complete rephrasing of the headline that puts an affirmative spin on what Minister Chan said (Click on picture to go to original source):
Reasons for removal?
ST did not provide any explanations why the original article was deleted or rephrased.
However, a few reasons can be deduced from this editorial judgement made by them:
The original article could have been removed due to the perceived insensitivity of the comments as Minister Chan is one of the MPs in Tanjong Pagar GRC - where The [email protected] is located.
In other words, his comments can be construed to mean that the better-off living in his constituency have the value of their property at heart instead of the less well-off Singaporeans staying in close proximity to them.
His views can also be perceived as a shortcoming of the public housing policy, where balloting is seen as a way for families to buy flats and after five years, make a windfall off their property, leading to an uneven distribution of wealth and a subversion of the meritocratic argument that people can achieve better outcomes if they worked hard for it.
Minister Chan's views might also have vocalised and solidified the perception of some Singaporeans who feel that there is an inherent unfairness about the HDB housing system, in which buying a house and becoming wealthy from it is attributable to sheer luck.
Moreover, ST's removal and rephrasing of the article shows a lack of reporting standards.
It remains to be seen what are the implications his comments have on his constituents.
Top photo via