Halimah offers to take lead to explain Lease Buyback

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob.
Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob.

Malay/Muslim grassroots leaders raise concerns about understanding scheme

A POST-RALLY dialogue yesterday found that many in the Malay/Muslim community are struggling to understand the intricacies of the Lease Buyback Scheme.

That has prompted Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob to offer to take the lead in efforts to explain the scheme.

At last week's National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that the scheme would be extended to four-room Housing Board flats - bringing the five-year-old scheme back into the public eye.

It emerged as a top concern at yesterday's closed-door dialogue with 150 Malay/Muslim grassroots leaders.

Madam Halimah has offered to take on the challenge of explaining the scheme as part of her duties as chairman of the Pioneer Generation Joint Committee. These duties include getting across the Pioneer Generation Package and MediShield Life.

"When you look at retirement, these are the core issues: income security once you retire, housing, health care... It's interrelated," she told reporters yesterday.

The Lease Buyba ck Scheme allows retirees to sell part of the lease on their flats to the Housing Board in return for monthly payouts.

Madam Halimah said some participants at yesterday's dialogue wanted the scheme to be more flexible. Others wondered about their options should they outlive the 30-year lease they would have left on their homes under the scheme.

"As we go and talk about the Pioneer Generation (Package) and MediShield Life, we will also talk about these options. To me, this is also related to the pioneer issue: the options available for them to enhance retirement income," Madam Halimah said.

"We need to drill down to the specifics, and express their concerns so that it becomes a real option for them to choose from."

Having attended four post- Rally dialogues, she said participants have expressed concerns over the lack of clarity in the details of the housing scheme. And such concerns seem stronger in the Malay community, she said, possibly due to the issue of inheritance.

"Maybe they're thinking if their child doesn't do so well, perhaps there is this option of them inheriting the lease that has not run out," she said.

Yesterday's dialogue was chaired by Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, who is also adviser to the People's Association Malay Activity Executive Committees Council.

On concerns about the Lease Buyback Scheme, he said "we will certainly study them together with the HDB", and that people "want to see how to monetise the flat without losing it altogether".

He also highlighted participants' concerns about how people without university degrees could gain qualifications while working, with a focus on mature workers who may face difficulties keeping their jobs once they pass 50. This, he said, was a valid concern for the community, which is "starting from a low educational base".

"If they are able to continue to work in the same company and the company offers opportunities for them to upgrade, that will be a wonderful outcome," he said.

asyiqin@sph.com.sg