Forum: Laxer ethnic quota rules may appease sellers but at expense of society

While I sympathise with Mr Gerald Patrick's struggles in the property market, I am also very mindful of why the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) imposes such restrictions (Update terms of ethnic quota to make it easier for minorities to sell flat, July 12).

As a member of the Pioneer Generation, I witnessed the pain and destruction that racial riots and disharmony wrought on the country in the 1960s.

Given the recent reports of incidents in which minorities have been unjustly targeted and harassed, I feel stringent controls for meaningful ethnic integration are still relevant.

These justifications were made clear in National Development Minister Desmond Lee's response to Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh in Parliament on July 5 (Nearly 1 in 3 HDB blocks has hit ethnic quota limits, so EIP crucial, July 6).

The economic interests of individual sellers is insufficient reason to tamper with a policy so central to national security.

Moreover, while the idea of modernising the EIP through strategic reforms is a compelling one, it is hard to imagine how.

Relaxed regulations run the risk of appeasing flat buyers and sellers at the expense of wider society by enabling the formation of ethnic enclaves.

Money cannot be allowed to trump racial harmony.

In Mr Patrick's predicament, I believe the salient question is not how the EIP can be altered to expedite flat resale, but how the pool of minority buyers for flats in prime areas can be expanded through state coordination or adjusting the asking price.

As Singapore endeavours to create more equitable and effective housing policies, it must be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi