1) What are your motivation and desires in becoming an independent NMP?
Many Singaporeans feel that the Government needs to be more accommodative of differing views. At the heart of it, is that sense of trust. If the Government is unable to address these perceptions and sentiments, the Government’s moral authority to lead will erode. In my view, the key to being a successful NMP is to earn the trust and respect of the people of Singapore by acting as a balance between the Government and the people.
We have also witnessed many Singaporeans, who have made calls during and after the recent GE and PE 2011, for major changes directed at the Singapore real estate and tertiary education areas. Given my experience in Singapore real estate and tertiary education, I believe that I am uniquely positioned to raise under-represented issues and to represent Singaporeans to contribute significantly in both these areas during parliamentary debate. I felt motivated to do something more meaningful for Singapore and I believe that now is the right time for me to come forward and play a larger, positive role as a NMP.
2) You said a successful NMP has to earn the trust and respect of Singaporeans, that you are positioned to raise under-represented issues and represent Singaporeans, and also that you can serve as a bridge to connect Singaporeans with Parliament.
May I know how you propose to do that? Do you have any plans in mind on how you wish to achieve these aims?
The critical missing element is for the people to notice a visible difference and to perceive that the Government is listening to their needs. I feel that more can be done in communicating with Singaporeans through both on-line and off-line approaches. In particular, social media should be better harnessed as a mass communications tool conveying conversations to Singaporeans. Opportunities have opened up for NMPs to collaborate with government real estate organizations to become more involved in social media conversations to inform, to share, and ultimately, to influence. Furthermore, being on the Boards of several relevant organizations, SGX-listed companies and property award judging panels will also allow me to gather real-time feedback on Government policies.
3) Why the real estate sector?
As a senior investment banker, I had the rare privilege to work closely with some of the best investment bankers in Asia. In the world of corporate finance and Asia real estate, my achievements have distinguished me as a representative of Singapore and have brought honour to the Republic. Most recently, I was a judge on the prestigious “South East Asia Property Awards ”, which was recently held on November 30, 2011 at Fort Canning hotel and the gala dinner awards ceremony was televised across Asia on the Channel News Asia network.
I believe that I can serve as a bridge to connect Singaporeans with Parliament on real estate issues. Even though Parliament currently has a deep bench of talented MPs with real estate expertise, and Minister Khaw regularly solicits views from the industry, I feel that more can be done in this area. Specifically, I will highlight under-represented real estate issues in Parliament which includes (1) the for-profit real estate sector; (2) financial services/ capital markets in real estate; and (3) real estate related sectors such as real estate agent licensing issues.
In addition to the above issues, I will also comment on the other real estate concerns of Singaporeans in Parliament which includes (1) affordable housing; (2) educating Singaporeans on the potential risks; (3) shoe-box residential units; (4) not to neglect the office, retail and industrial real estate sector; (5) encouraging green and heritage developments and (6) housing for the elderly.
4) Any thoughts on the additional property cooling measures announced recently?
The operating environment appears to be extremely challenging for the coming 12 months with an unprecedented combination of market uncertainty, sustained global economic weakness and regulatory changes. In my conversations with Singaporeans, I had always believed that incremental cooling measures were possible, although unlikely to be bold given broader macro headwinds.
The additional buyer’s stamp duty (ABSD) was carefully calibrated to differentiate between purchases made by foreigners, PRs and Singaporeans and whether the purchase was intended for owner occupation or investment purpose.
The announcement of the ABSD likely surprised developers given that REDAS was not consulted on in the latest measures. However, I see minimal near term impacts to prices given that developers will likely adopt marketing tactics such as furniture voucher rebates, absorption of ABSD etc. The developers have an incentive to keep transacted prices relatively steady to maintain decent take-up rates in order to roll out new projects. Given that most developers have relatively healthy balance sheets, it could take at least 3-6 months to determine how buyers react to the new measures before developers decide whether to drop prices.
In my view, the luxury segment targeting foreigners could be hardest hit. While some argue that buyers in this segment are price inelastic, I believe that the high net worth buyers in this segment are investment savvy and may focus elsewhere in the region to invest in luxury real estate. In particular, other SEA countries have been aggressively marketing luxury real estate products such as Raffles residences in Manila, Four Season Residences in Kuala Lumpur, St Regis residences in Bangkok etc.
Following the latest round of cooling measures, I foresee no further demand cooling measures for the next 6-9 months and believe that Minister Khaw and MND will focus more on supply-side policies instead. It is critical that MND works closely with developers to ensure that units under planning will be released only when it is advantageous to do so.
5) Could you tell me more about your personal life?
I have lived and worked previously in New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Bangkok and had studied in San Francisco and France. This has given me a global perspective to embrace multiculturalism which is particularly important to Singapore. My hobbies are running, swimming and snowboarding.