Sunday, September 23, 2012

HDB did not heed academic advice in 2009 to control HDB prices

Severe asset inflation a risk: Economist
Government must act now to control the prices of HDB flats. -ST

Fri, Aug 14, 2009
The Straits Times

By Melissa Tan

SINGAPORE risks 'severe asset inflation' during the economic recovery, a local economist has warned.

But this danger can be averted if the Government acts now to control the prices of HDB flats, said Mr Paul Yip, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) associate professor of economics.

Asset inflation - meaning a rise in price of assets such as stocks and property - is a possible consequence of the United States' current expansionary fiscal policy, Professor Yip said yesterday.

He was speaking at an NTU symposium - on exchange rate systems and Asian macroeconomic policies - which brought together 11 macroeconomists from institutions such as Stanford University and Delhi School of Economics.

'Many people say that the property market is rebounding, but I don't think so; we are still bottoming. Recovery will be slow ... and a few years later we might have severe asset inflation, much more than the rise today,' Prof Yip said.

'So if you are a stock investor or property investor, it's very easy. Just hold your stock and shares for another three or five years - the price will climb to be much higher. But if you lose money, don't blame me,' he quipped.

Prof Yip noted that the US government has lowered interest rates and expanded its money supply in a bid to avoid a repeat of the Great Depression.

But post-recession, the government may fail to shrink the money base back to pre-downturn levels, he said. In that case, excess US dollars would flood the market.

'For Singapore, there may be an inflow of money from the US, increasing the money base and therefore the money supply... When the recovery comes, there will be wage inflation and consumer price index inflation, and this will fuel asset inflation,' he told The Straits Times.

'Rents will rise and then people will be able to charge even higher rents, causing a vicious circle,' Prof Yip said.

'To curb asset inflation early, the Government can supply more HDB flats and prevent HDB prices from going up with private property prices - among other things. The price will become unaffordable because we have the wrong market structure; developers are trying to maximise profit by selling in batches and using price discrimination.'

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