Saturday 31 December 2022

National Awards COVID-19: More than 100,000 individuals to receive special state awards for helping Singapore fight COVID-19 pandemic

9,500 individuals will receive the National Awards (COVID-19)
99,000 individuals and 800 teams will receive the COVID-19 Resilience Medal and Certificate
By Joyce Teo and Shabana Begum, The Straits Times, 30 Dec 2022

More than 100,000 individuals in the community, business sectors and Government who went beyond the call of duty to help Singapore battle the Covid-19 pandemic will receive national recognition.

Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Thursday that the awards affirm the contributions and sacrifices that these people have made.

“These recipients come from across different sectors, different segments of the society.

“They include our front-line healthcare workers (in the) public health sector, public service sector, private sector, as well as the people sector, which will include non-government organisations, volunteer organisations, as well as community organisations,” he said.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a visit to the Project Lionheart art exhibition at Changi Airport Terminal 1 that celebrates individuals who embodied the Singapore spirit during the pandemic.

“I am proud of this Singapore spirit, the spirit of resilience, the spirit of unity and mutual support,” said Mr Gan, who is co-chair of the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force (MTF).

“I am confident that with this Singapore spirit, we will always come out of any crisis in the future stronger and more united.”

An overwhelming majority of the award recipients will receive either the Covid-19 Resilience Medal or the Covid-19 Resilience Certificate – new national awards – for their contributions in the nation’s fight against Covid-19.

The names of these award recipients will be announced at a later date.

They include familiar names such as Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, Singapore’s director of medical services and adviser to the MTF and other government agencies in crafting the overall strategy for managing the outbreak. The crew of a Scoot flight that travelled to Wuhan in early 2020 to bring back Singaporeans stuck in the Chinese city will also be receiving an award.

Award recipients also include nurses, general practitioners, patient service associates, pilots, school principals and scientists whose contributions helped see Singapore through the pandemic.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement on Thursday that the number and spread of individuals receiving the awards reflect how the fight against Covid-19 has been a whole-of-nation effort. They include individuals who provided medical care, surveillance and testing, organised the vaccination drive, oversaw safe distancing and ran dormitory operations.

The three recipients of the Meritorious Service Medal (Covid-19), which is the apex of the National Awards (Covid-19), come from different sectors. They are Prof Mak, Ministry of Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Pang Kin Keong and PSA International group chief executive Tan Chong Meng.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong first mentioned the special Covid-19 awards in his National Day Rally speech in August, when he thanked those who had participated directly in the pandemic fight.

“When doors around the world were closed, our people kept our hearts open to help one another, staying stronger together,” he said in a Facebook post on the awards on Thursday.

“As we now learn to live with Covid-19, let’s continue supporting one another to see ourselves through the challenges ahead.”

About 99,000 individuals will receive the Covid-19 Resilience Medal and 800 teams will receive the Covid-19 Resilience Certificate, the PMO said.

About 4,000 individuals are from the public healthcare sector, 4,500 from the public sector, and about 900 from the private and people sectors.

The national awards for Covid-19 include the Public Service Star (Covid-19), the Public Administration Medal (Covid-19), the Medal of Valour (Covid-19), the Commendation Medal (Covid-19), the Public Service Medal (Covid-19) and the President’s Certificate of Commendation (Covid-19).

A full list of the National Awards (Covid-19) recipients is available at

Friday 9 December 2022

How BTO Flats are Priced, and what are the land and building costs? HDB gives the breakdown

HDB reveals for the first time breakdown of development costs of BTO flats, reiterates it 'doesn't apply profit margin on costs'
By Michelle Ng, Housing Correspondent, The Straits Times, 8 Dec 2022

Build-To-Order (BTO) flats are priced such that they remain affordable for buyers – an approach that is “fundamentally different” from that of private developers, who price their residential units for profit, said the Housing Board on Wednesday.

In a statement, HDB added that as BTO flats are highly subsidised, their selling prices cannot fully cover development costs, which include construction and land costs.

In the 2021-2022 financial year, the total development costs for the 13,506 new flats HDB handed over to buyers came to $5.346 billion.

Revealing the breakdown of development costs, HDB said the bulk – $3.167 billion – went to land costs, while $2.077 billion went into building costs. The remaining $102 million was incurred when HDB acquired flats from former owners.

This means it cost HDB on average $396,000 to develop each of the new flats handed over to buyers in that year, with an estimated $365,700 collected in sales proceeds per unit. The proceeds after including housing grants amount to $347,000. The figures do not account for flat attributes such as flat types and locations.

HDB’s statement comes after the issue of affordability and pricing of BTO flats was raised multiple times in recent months, including in Parliament.

In November, Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh had pressed Second Minister for Finance and National Development Indranee Rajah for details of the development costs of BTO flats and subsidies provided to buyers, with the minister saying it was not meaningful to provide such information, as what mattered was whether people could afford a flat.

Following that exchange, netizens had called for HDB to be more transparent about the way it prices new flats.

On Wednesday, HDB detailed how it prices BTO flats and contrasted its approach with that of private residential developers, which it said price for profit.

HDB’s flat pricing approach is totally separate and independent of the BTO projects’ development costs,” the board said, citing how it increased subsidies to keep flat prices relatively stable amid rising property prices and construction costs increasing by nearly 30 per cent due to Covid-19-related factors.

All subsidies are factored into flats’ prices when they are launched as BTO flats.

HDB noted that the increase in BTO flat prices over the past decade has kept within the growth rate of household incomes.

From 2012 to 2021, the median resident employed household income grew by 26 per cent, while incomes for those in the second-lowest income bracket grew at a faster rate of 32 per cent, it said.

In comparison, the average selling price per square foot (psf) of a BTO flat in mature estates grew 22 per cent from 2012 to the first three quarters of 2022 – from $479 to $584. Those in non-mature estates grew 16 per cent, from $311 to $362.

HDB’s flat pricing approach and costs are also available to the public, unlike those of private residential developers, said the board.

First, construction costs of every BTO project are publicly available, as prices of awarded contracts are published on the HDB InfoWeb and government procurement portal GeBiz.

Second, HDB publishes the cost of building flats and the revenue from the sale of flats in its annual report, similar to private developers. However, HDB’s report reflects the development loss from its home ownership programme, while private developers’ annual reports mostly show profits, it said.

On land costs, HDB said it pays fair market value as determined independently by the Chief Valuer. Land price for public housing is lower compared with that of private housing in the same area, which reflects the more stringent eligibility criteria and conditions that BTO buyers must meet in terms of income, citizenship and minimum occupation period, said HDB.

HDB incurred a record $4.367 billion deficit in its latest financial year 2021/22, of which $3.85 billion was due to the home ownership programme.

The substantial deficit shows “in real terms” HDB’s commitment to affordable, accessible and inclusive public housing, it said.

To determine affordability, HDB said it looks at residents’ household incomes and compares them with the range of flat types and selling prices of BTO flats for every launch.

In the first half of 2022, 90 per cent of buyers who collected keys to their flats in non-mature estates and more than 80 per cent of those who did so in mature estates spent 25 per cent or less of their monthly income on their mortgage, HDB added. This compares with international benchmarks of around 30 per cent to 35 per cent.

A new flat’s market value is established by considering the prices of comparable HDB resale flats nearby as well as the unit’s individual attributes, HDB said, adding that it then applies a significant subsidy to ensure new flats are affordable for buyers.

Prices of recently transacted comparable HDB resale flats are shown alongside BTO selling prices at each launch.

“These prices clearly show that each BTO project is priced substantially lower than comparable resale flats, due to the significant subsidies applied,” said HDB.

ERA Realty’s head of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak said HDB’s statement clearly details how the “entry-level pricing” of BTO flats is kept affordable, but noted that some Singaporeans may still think prices are not low enough.

“Given that people tend to see housing affordability as a whole – both the BTO market and the HDB resale market – the rapid price growth in the resale market in the last two years has raised many concerns,” he said.

“But there is a difference between ‘affordable pricing’ and ‘low pricing’. If you’re comparing the HDB flat that you bought from the Government 20 years ago with BTO flat prices today, of course the absolute price has risen, and it has risen in line with income growth,” said Mr Mak.

Associate professor of economics Walter Theseira of the Singapore University of Social Sciences said the contentious issue is whether land costs – which form the bulk of development costs – should or should not be considered part of the true cost of building flats.

While HDB makes clear that affordability is the main factor in determining prices of new flats, there is still room for interpretation on some matters, he added.

For instance, taking the comparable market price for HDB resale flats in the area as the starting point when pricing BTO flats is, in a way, taking land costs into account.

“Market price reflects the value buyers place on the location and affects the official valuation for land costs, albeit with a discount for public housing use. As much as HDB says that land costs do not matter, land costs unavoidably enter into the equation through the reference to HDB resale market prices,” said Prof Theseira.

“Thus, both HDB and private developers do take reference to market prices, but the difference is that HDB then alters the selling price with affordability in mind while the private sector marks up for profit,” he said.