HDB, Housing, West Coast, SingaporeWay before the whole Punggol East by-election and Population White Paper exploded on the scene, there was an announcement about new schemes for boosting birth rates.

One of these is the Parenthood Priority Scheme, which deals with Build-To-Order (BTO) flats offered directly from the Housing and Development Board (HDB). Essentially, the scheme sets aside a significant portion of BTO flats and balance flats (30% and 50% respectively) for first-timer married couples that have at least one citizen child below the age of 16 at time of application.

On the surface, it seems like an obvious benefit to encourage our born-and-bred Singaporean couples to have children and grow our “core” group of Singapore Citizens.

But let’s look a little deeper shall we, and try to apply it to the typical Singaporean couple. When they first start considering marriage, it is likely that both have been working for awhile, but not what you would consider established in their careers. Their funds are enough to cover the usual trappings of marriage; a wedding banquet, solemnization event, photography and maybe even a honeymoon. They most likely wouldn’t be able to afford a private property on their own, but combined as a family nucleus, they can just get by paying for a three or four bedroom flat from HDB.

They may even have had enough foresight and commitment (rare enough these days) to apply under the fiance/fiancee scheme, so that they don’t need to wait for their marriage certificate to start the BTO process. But wait… there’s something missing, isn’t there? What about baby? Without a citizen child, they’d be second in line behind first-time couples with a child (who is nominally Singaporean).

But again, wait a minute… just who are these first-time couples with a child? The typical Singaporean couple outlined above is already juggling resources to deal with a wedding and a new house. Do you think they have the time and money to squeeze in their first child too? I’d hazard a guess, just by looking at the friends around me, that very few Singaporean couples would qualify for this priority on their first time.

Here is where things start to get interesting. Who exactly would fit the profile of a first-time HDB buyer, with a child (or children) in tow? Well, what about newly-minted citizens? Most Permanent Residents (PRs) who are planning to accept Singapore citizenship would bring their family over. Moreover, the profile of such PRs (well-established career couple with one or more young children) is perfect for this scheme.

What we’re wary of is our young, born-and-bred Singaporean couples, who have grown up, schooled and served in our nation, becoming second fiddle to citizens who were just “parachuted” in and given priority.

Now, we understand that a young family with children starting life anew in a new country needs assistance as much as possible. But this policy is crippling our very own local-born citizens precisely because they have grown up here and, in the case of the males, because they have given two years in service! Suddenly, local born-and-bred citizens are the worse-off segment of the 55% “core” in 6.9 million people… (Read our other article on our take on the population white paper.)

Not only that, the child (or children) that allows all this priority treatment is only nominally a citizen of Singapore. When the child reaches the age of 21, he can decide between keeping his Singapore citizenship, or that of his home country. We doubt that many born-and-bred Singaporean children will have that privilege.

We’re sure that this isn’t something the government had in mind when they formulated this plan. We believe that some tweaking of the scheme is in order. Instead of restricting it to first-timer couples with children, the scheme should be independent of how many times that particular couple has bought a flat from HDB.

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