Saturday, October 13, 2012

Home prices to be discussed in Parliament

Oct 13, 2012
By Phua Mei Pin

Record housing prices, the productivity drive and separation between church and state are among the top issues that will be raised by MPs when Parliament sits on Monday.

MPs have tabled questions on these hot topics, along with others on the haze, monetary policy and the impact of MRT construction on nearby homes.

But what is also likely to be closely watched is the introduction and debate of several Bills.
A long-awaited Bill that will protect personal data and restrict telemarketers' activities is up for a second reading. Landmark changes to the laws pertaining to the mandatory death penalty are also being introduced.

The Personal Data Protection Bill was slated to be introduced earlier this year but was held back until last month for several rounds of public consultation. If passed, it will restrict how organisations can collect, disclose and use personal data, and allow people to opt out of unsolicited calls and text messages through a do-not-call registry.

MP Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) said the Bill is likely to be welcomed by the public, as it is meant to protect consumers' interests.

"It is something that the public has been pushing for," he said. "It would affect the conduct of businesses, and I hope consumers will be able to benefit from this."

Nine new Bills, including proposed changes to laws mandating the death penalty for those convicted of drug trafficking or murder, are being introduced.

Capital punishment for murder has been in place since 1871, and for drug trafficking, since 1975. While the death penalty remains, the amendments, if passed, would mark a significant milestone in the legal landscape here.

MPs have also expressed interest in issues that have featured prominently in public debate of late. One is the subject of rising home prices.

Pointing to the Housing Board Resale Price Index hitting a record high in the third quarter of this year, Mr Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) said housing prices remain a significant concern despite several rounds of cooling measures by the Government.

He has tabled a question for the Minister for National Development asking for the ministry's plans to assure the public that housing remains affordable.

"Otherwise, there will be unnecessary panic from the ground and I think we should avoid that," he said.

Several MPs have also filed questions on Singapore's declining productivity.

Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) wants to know if the Government's measures to boost productivity have been effective, and in particular, whether small and medium enterprises have been able to tap on the various programmes.

"Productivity is a critical pillar of our growth," she said. "But for three quarters in a row, we've seen productivity decline. I'm not sure enough is changing or businesses are having sufficient help."

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