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Khaw dishes out relationship tips

STILL basking in the afterglow of his 37th wedding anniversary a fortnight ago, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday doled out relationship advice to young couples when asked about repayments and penalties should they break up after booking a flat together.

Mr Khaw said they should not worry about being unable to afford a flat, but focus instead on strengthening their relationship. That is because the Government will ensure there is always a flat within their budget. He said: "We control the construction programme, and we set the price. So don't worry."

Mr Khaw was replying to Mr David Ong (Jurong GRC) who asked how the Government could help the financially challenged repay the Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG) should their relationship fail before going through with their flat purchase. The AHG is given to low-income first-time home buyers. If they cancel their flat booking, they must return the money and forfeit a 5 per cent deposit.

Mr Khaw replied that the cancellation penalty is "common industry practice" and HDB's 5 per cent forfeiture rate was quite reasonable, compared with the rates charged by private developers.

Fortunately, the number of such cases is small and going down, now that the market is cooling, said Mr Khaw. In a "hot" market, many couples buy a flat, thinking they may not be able to afford one when they eventually get married, he said.

His advice to young couples? "I guarantee you there will be many property bubbles and busts, but work on your relationship... (That) is always permanent. Two weeks ago, my wife and I celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary - I think that's what couples should try to work at," he said, to applause from the House.

RACHEL AU-YONG

Interim caregiver help a success

ABOUT 700 patients have benefited from the Interim Caregiver Service so far, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in a written reply to Mr Chen Show Mao (Aljunied GRC).

The service provides seniors with personal care for up to two weeks after they are discharged from hospitals. More than 60 per cent of patients are able to receive the service on the actual day of discharge or the very next day. And 80 per cent receive it within three days, he said.

He added that 60 patients had considered the service but turned it down for various reasons, such as families deciding to provide the caregiving.

The number of interim caregivers is expected to grow to about 100 by this month, to serve up to 130 patients a month, he said. When the pilot started in March last year, there were 12 caregivers.

The service is currently extended to all six acute general hospitals and four community hospitals.

RACHEL AU-YONG

Unsold apartments face deadline

ABOUT 15 per cent of apartments with an impending "disposal deadline" remain unsold, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

Developers must sell all units in a development within two years of obtaining the Temporary Occupation Permit. If they do not, they must pay a fee to extend the deadline, under Qualifying Certificate (QC) conditions.

In a written response to Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), Mr Khaw said there were 5,339 units from 32 private residential developments with a disposal deadline falling within the two-year period between May this year and May 2016. Of these, 791 remain unsold.

Mr Khaw added that between 2012 and May this year, there were no private residential units developed by QC holders which were approved for conversion into serviced apartments.

RACHEL AU-YONG

'Progress' in anti-trafficking fight

SINGAPORE takes a serious view of human trafficking crimes and has made "significant progress" in its fight against them, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday in a written reply.

He was replying to Dr Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC) who had asked for the Government's response to the United States' latest Trafficking in Persons report, which again placed Singapore in Tier 2 of a four-tier rating system.

Mr Teo, who is also Minister for Home Affairs, said that while Singapore acknowledges the efforts in producing the annual report, the US needs to adopt an objective and robust methodology that ensures a "consistent, transparent and measurable" standard is applied to all countries.

It should also take into account the different legal structures and domestic contexts of the countries covered in its report, he said.

Pledging Singapore's full commitment to fighting human trafficking, Mr Teo pointed to an inter-agency task force formed in 2010 to combat it. Since December last year, the Government has set up specialist investigation and prosecution teams to look into human trafficking cases. A mechanism has also been developed for civil society groups to refer potential cases to the authorities. The Government is working closely with Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) on his proposed Private Member's Bill against human trafficking, said Mr Teo.

ANDREA ONG

PRs who fulfilled NS obligations

OVER the past five years, about 7,200 secondgeneration permanent residents (PRs) who were liable for national service fulfilled their obligations. Over the same period, about 2,600 of such eligible PRs renounced their PR status, prior to serving NS.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who was responding to Mr Arthur Fong (West Coast GRC), said his ministry has cautioned that these former PRs who have not served NS "will face serious adverse consequences when they subsequently apply to study or work in Singapore".

RACHEL AU-YONG


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