Not as bad as Mr Khaw suggests

I refer to the 7 Feb 2013 Straits Times report on Mr Khaw’s recent parliament comments [1].

Mr Khaw said that Workers’ Party’s alternative road map will badly affect his housing plan to deliver 200,000 new homes in the next four years.

During the period 1996 to 2000, 157,919 new homes were built [2]. The average number employed by the construction industry over that period was 309,712 persons [3]. If we had to build 200,000 instead of 157,919 new homes then and we had to build them in 4 years instead of 5, ignoring any productivity improvement due to scaling up, we would have needed 200,000 / 157,919 × 5 / 4 × 309,712 = 490,302 persons which are 47,033 more than the 443,269 employed in 2012 [4]. However, if we can build the 200,000 homes over 4½ years instead, the employment requirement becomes 200,000 / 157,919 × 5 / 4.5 × 309,712 = 435,824 persons, approximately the number we currently employ. It may not be a bad idea to get people to choose between having 47,033 more construction employment delivering homes over 4 years versus freezing construction employment and delivering the same number of homes over 4½ years [5]. In any case, ½ year longer isn’t as bad as Mr Khaw makes it out to be.

Mr Khaw also claimed that quality of life would not suffer as Singapore gets more crowded. Let’s not kid ourselves. As Singapore got more crowded over the years, did our flats get bigger or smaller? Did they get cheaper or more expensive? In the end, a better quality life may mean a walk in the park because the house is too cramped and other things are too expensive because all our money has been sunk into our flat.

Mr Mah claimed that the Population White Paper is the most important document since independence. How can that be when we have had population planning scenarios before? Or is it the most important because the previous one done by him led to our miserable state today?

ESM Goh said Singapore succeeded because of the courage of our leaders and people to face challenges squarely. How can that be when it was not too long ago when our leaders were busy denying problems and didn’t do anything until much later when the problem had already escalated far beyond what it was when the first alarm bells were sounded by the people?

[1] Straits Times, 7 Feb 2013, Major shift in planning strategy: Khaw

[2] HDB Annual Report 2007/2008, page 56, HDB’s achievements since 1960, Building Statistics

[3] From Ministry of Manpower website, we can obtain the construction employment for 2001 ( We can then work backwards to obtain construction employment in previous years by making adjustments using Ministry of Manpower’s Annual Employment Change by Industry 1991 – 2001

[4] Ministry of Manpower, Employment
Total employment, 2012 = 3,358.1 thousands
Percentage in construction, 2012 = 13.2%
Construction employment, 2012 = 0.132 × 3,358.1 = 443,269

[5] Back-of-the-envelope calculations here are based on whatever limited public information available, Mr Khaw has access to more precise numbers. In any case, the ballpark figure should be there. Construction employment requirements also depend on improvements in technology and productivity which should see less employment required than calculated here.

While the current construction of the Downtown Line soaks up construction manpower, the period 1996 to 2000 also had manpower soaked in the construction of the Northeast Line.


3 Responses to “Not as bad as Mr Khaw suggests”

  1. ;Annonymous Says:

    A good effort on your part to sort out fact from myth but you can immediately see the uphill task. Insufficent public data, fudged data given out to obscure and confuse (as the gallant Leong Sze Hian repeatedly points out), altogether an Alice in Wonderland world where everything seems inverted. Khaw` quality of life has certainly improved – when was the last time when a heart by-pass cost $8?

  2. vocab nazi Says:

    hi, it’s ”ball-park” not ”ball-part”.

  3. sgcynic Says:

    As Mr Leong pointed, we (the PAP) are in a state of denial!

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