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HomesingaporeKenneth Jeyaretnam issued fifth POFMA order over comments on government spending, Ridout...

Kenneth Jeyaretnam issued fifth POFMA order over comments on government spending, Ridout Road rentals

SINGAPORE: Reform Party leader Kenneth Jeyaretnam has been issued a correction direction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) – his fifth this year – over claims he made about government spending, healthcare expenditure and the rental of black-and-white bungalows at Ridout Road by two ministers.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong instructed the POFMA office to issue the order to Mr Jeyaretnam, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) said on Thursday (Nov 2).

Mr Jeyaretnam made the claims in an article published on his website The Ricebowl Singapore on Oct 22, as well as in subsequent posts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and X, formerly Twitter.

He will be required to publish the correction notice on all these platforms. He had received similar orders earlier this year over comments he made about the National Day Rally package disbursements, the billion-dollar money laundering arrests and the Ridout Road rentals.

ON GOVERNMENT SPENDING

In his article, Mr Jeyaretnam claimed that most of the Net Investment Returns Contribution (NIRC) has been transferred into long term funds and therefore does not contribute to actual spending.

A statement on the government’s fact-checking website Factually said that this is untrue. 

“The NIRC comprises the investment returns of our reserves, which supplement the annual Budget each year to fund public spending,” it said.

Stating that the NIRC for the financial year ending Mar 31, 2023 was about S$22.4 billion (US$16.4 billion), the statement also said that how the reserves and the NIRC have benefited Singaporeans has been highlighted at various platforms, including MOF’s website and the CNA documentary on reserves.

Related:

Kenneth Jeyaretnam issued fourth POFMA order over comments on National Day Rally, Ridout Road rentals and money laundering

“NIRC, combined with operating revenue, form the total revenue that is used to meet annual public spending and contributes to the government’s overall fiscal position,” it said. “The NIRC has provided an annual revenue stream of about 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) on average over the past five years.”

It added that no proportion of the NIRC is earmarked for specific spending items, or for transfer into any specific funds.

“Instead, a portion of the annual Budget as a whole may be used to top up funds. Hence, it is incorrect to state that most of the NIRC has been transferred into long-term funds.”

It added that it is also false to imply that money transferred into such long-term funds does not contribute to “actual spending”.

Money transferred to all funds, including long-term funds, contribute to the disbursements from such funds, and accordingly contribute to “actual spending” which benefit Singaporeans,” it said.

ON RIDOUT ROAD RENTALS

Mr Jeyaretnam also claimed that the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) gave preferential treatment to Ministers K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan by renting out the properties at 26 and 31 Ridout Road below market value while charging the Housing and Development Board (HDB) inflated prices for land.

The statement on Factually said this was untrue, and noted that similar statements he made in earlier publications have been clarified.

“He continues to make such statements with utter disregard for the facts,” it said. “He repeatedly omitted the facts and clarifications, rather than provide them and let the readers draw their own conclusions.

“Mr Jeyaretnam’s campaign of posting false statements misleads Singaporeans on the way that SLA works, as well as on the State’s land sale and property rental policies.”

It cited the review conducted by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, which concluded that the rentals for both properties were based on fair market value and not below market valuation.”There was no evidence that the Ministers were given favourable rental rates due to their position,” it said.

Related:

Kenneth Jeyaretnam issued second POFMA order over comments on Ridout Road rentals

POFMA correction directions issued to Kenneth Jeyaretnam, online publication Jom over Ridout Road articles

With regard to the selling of state land to HDB for the development of public housing, the statement said SLA does so at the “fair market value”. This is assessed by the Chief Valuer, and not the authority, who makes the professional assessment independently in accordance with established valuation principles.

“SLA does not charge HDB inflated prices for the land,” the statement said.

“The underlying principle used by the government for determining the value of land for sale to the public and for rental of the Ridout Road properties is the same – it is to transact at fair market value.

“Whether for short-term rental or longer-term sale, the valuation seeks to establish the price that the market is willing to pay in each case, so that the government transacts at fair market value.”

ON HEALTHCARE EXPENDITURE

Lastly, Mr Jeyaretnam claimed in his article that of the S$17 billion the government spent in healthcare, only S$8 billion was used as subsidies for Singaporeans.

This is untrue, the Factually statement said.

“There is no factual basis to state that of S$17 billion in healthcare expenditure, only S$8 billion was used as subsidies for Singaporeans,” it said.

It noted that healthcare expenditure over the last three financial years ranged from S$16.9 billion to S$17.3 billion a year, with subsidies for Singaporeans ranging from S$9.54 billion to S$10.9 billion annually.

“This is reflected in the government budget book, which is publicly available on the Ministry of Finance’s website,” the statement said. 

“Excluding COVID-19 expenditure which is transitory, more than 70 per cent of total healthcare expenditure was spent on subsidies for Singaporeans.”

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