WP's land sales proposal draws more criticism

A suggestion by Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh to raise government revenue from land sales drew criticism for the second day in a row during the Budget debate.

The WP assistant secretary-general had made the point on Tuesday, when he said the party does not support the plan to raise the goods and services tax (GST).

Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) yesterday took issue with Mr Singh's suggestion: "The point here is that we do not want to build in a formula which promotes indiscriminate or rash sales of land, to increase revenue for immediate spending."

Under the Constitution, revenue from land sales is not available for budgetary spending, as land forms a part of Singapore's past reserves.

Mr Singh (Aljunied GRC) had said concerns about the abuse of land sales can be addressed with a cap on earnings used, such as "not more than 20 per cent of the value of average land sales over 20 years, or 20 per cent of land sales for that year, whichever is lower".

But Mr de Souza countered that land sales revenue can fluctuate. Even if pegged to average land sales over 20 years, the average can be pushed up each year through more sales. He said it is more prudent for land sales to form part of the reserves, and to invest these reserves to achieve healthy net investment returns contribution.

On Tuesday, Mr Singh's suggestion also drew criticism from PAP MPs Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) and Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten). Mr Lim said once land is sold, the asset is gone, leading WP's Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC) to say the Government's definition of land sales includes leases.

In response to Ms Lim, Mr de Souza said that regardless of whether a lease returns to the Government in 10 or 100 years, spending income from land sales for immediate needs is not prudent.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2018, with the headline 'WP's land sales proposal draws more criticism'. Print Edition | Subscribe