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Lease Buyback, education hot topics at post-NDR dialogue

Greater flexibility for the Lease Buyback Scheme and faster career progression for ITE and polytechnic students were some of the suggestions made by Pasir Ris-Punggol residents on Sunday (Aug 31) in a dialogue to discuss the Prime Minister's National Day Rally speech.

SINGAPORE: Greater flexibility for the Lease Buyback Scheme and faster career progression for ITE and polytechnic students were some of the suggestions made by Pasir Ris-Punggol residents on Sunday (Aug 31). The residents were taking part in a dialogue to discuss the Prime Minister's National Day Rally speech. About 250 people attended the session to share their views with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and other MPs.

The Lease Buyback Scheme allows elderly flat owners to retain 30 years of their lease and sell the rest to the Housing and Development Board (HDB). This was previously restricted to three-room and smaller flats. But Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced at the National Day Rally on August 17 that the scheme will be extended to four-room flats.

At Sunday morning's dialogue, Pasir-Ris Punggol residents offered mixed views on the scheme. Some were not satisfied with the amount the HDB pays flat owners for the remaining lease. Others felt that while it was a good scheme, it should be extended to beyond four-room flats.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo said the scheme is meant as an extra option for elderly residents who want to continue living in their flats. "If you think that it is not fair, you always have the other choices - sell your flat, keep it or rent it out," he said. Mr Teo also said that the scheme was extended to four-roomers "because we think that we don't need to encourage people to stay in a flat which is much bigger than they really need."

Some participants raised the point that an elderly couple may want to keep a bigger flat for their children. Participant Tang Yiam Boh said: "Perhaps some of the grandfathers or grandmothers may not want to sell the flat or even rent out the flat, because of the sentimental value. They also hope that their child, their grandchild and maybe even by then, their great grandchild, will come back...so they may want to keep the flat for themselves. So maybe this option should still be considered for the bigger flats as well."

Education was another hot topic at Sunday's discussion, following the government's move to create better opportunities for ITE and polytechnic students. Residents wanted to know how this can be accelerated.

MP Teo Ser Luck said there are many companies which are willing to offer jobs to such graduates. "The thing we are afraid of is whether these are good companies or not, whether they have a good career path for our students or not. Looking at ASPIRE's recommendation, they are working very hard to make sure the skills of our ITE and poly graduates...whatever they learn, they can apply to the job market."

There were also suggestions that it would be helpful to students if the government were to highlight the jobs that would be in most demand in the next five to ten years.

The need to assure future generations that they will not be burdened by a growing ageing population was also an issue that was raised during the dialogue. In response, DPM Teo said that it is important to help seniors now through programmes such as the Pioneer Generation Package, as this will help to lessen the burden for the younger working Singaporeans.