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Easing property curbs isn’t on Singapore’s radar, Deputy PM says

Private and public housing in Singapore. (PHOTO: Roslan Rahman/AFP via Getty Images)

By Faris Mokhtar and Haslinda Amin

(Bloomberg) -- Singapore has no immediate plans to ease property curbs, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said, amid renewed calls by developers to loosen a measure that penalizes them if they fail to complete and sell new projects within five years.

“It is not on our radar at this point because we need to make sure that we stabilise the economy and we address long term structural issues,” Heng, who is also finance minister, said in a Bloomberg TV interview Wednesday.

Singapore imposed curbs in July 2018 to arrest house-price growth. To stop land hoarding, developers have five years from the time of purchase to build and sell all units at a site or risk being hit with a 25% levy, a measure which developers have labeled as punitive.

The curbs have helped keep a lid on the market, with prices gaining just 0.5% in the fourth quarter. Sales have also fluctuated, with January transactions rising 15% after a 54% slump in December.

Earlier this month, the government loosened another restriction for some developers, exempting listed companies with a substantial connection to Singapore from the Qualifying Certificate regime. The regime requires firms to complete development within five years and sell all units in a project within two years of its completion.

The move prompted speculation that it was the first step in unwinding the property curbs. “They are reading too much into that,” Heng said.

“In Singapore’s context, property is not just an investment, it is a home for people and we must make sure that we get that right. That everyone must feel that this is my home, this is something which I as an ordinary worker has something to look forward to,” he added.

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