By M. B. Sabo
I arrived Singapore via Dubai to attend an intensive two weeks course on: “Mortgage Banking Strategies, Analysis and Credit Administration.” It was a’ fascinating programme and has added value to my little knowledge on Mortgage.
Singapore, sometimes referred to as one-city state, was founded in 1965. It has a landmass of only 716 sq. kilometres and a population of 5.3 million. About 3.8 million are Singaporean citizens. It has a per capita income of $65.048, higher than most European nations. Its unemployment and inflation rates are at 2.1% and 4.6% – respectively. The National University of Singapore ranks 26th in the world, while none of any Nigerian University rank among 1,000th.
Singapore ranks the second most investment-friendly country after Hong Kong. With virtually no mineral resources, Singapore carved a niche in South-East Asia as the financial, maritime and educational hub of the region.
Mortgage practitioners in developing nations will appreciate the advances made in mortgage/real estate sector of the Singapore economy. Home ownership rate is at a staggering 91.0%. In percentage terms, Singaporean citizens own about 74% of residential homes, permanent residents/foreigners owned 22% and companies 4%.
The mortgage sector in Singapore can boast of an array of products available to its citizens. According to Mr. Alson Kong of Singcapital, the state-owned Housing Board of Development (HOB) has created a variety of mortgage products to open up opportunities to citizens. Such products include: public housing scheme, fiancé/fiancée scheme, orphan scheme, single Singapore citizen scheme, Non- citizen spouse scheme and joint single scheme.
As a deliberate state policy, a robust mortgage sector was developed to fast-track housing provision. Alson further explained that, through government intervention foreign investments in Singapore real estate has increased, interest rates have remained low and availability of cheap financing has continuously increased demand for housing.
Other factors that made investing on Singapore property compelling include: lower taxes, low crime rate/safety, affordable home loan for the low-income people, government interest to increase the population and also, the government’s continuous efforts to cool and stabilize its real estate market.
The Central Provident Fund (CPF), which is a comprehensive social security savings scheme for working Singaporeans, also invests its funds in housing provision, especially for its contributors. Contributors to the Fund can use their CPF savings to service their housing loans from HOB and banks.
Savers have the option to buy property in both public housing scheme and private properties scheme. The time is now for the Nigerian state to invest the trillions of naira lying idle in its Pension Commission into the mortgage/real estate sector.
Away from the workshop, my curiosities ventured to other side attractions.
Singapore has an efficient and modern infrastructure. It has a functional rail, maritime and urban transportation system. One of its busiest rail line commutes over 70, 000 passengers daily. Power outage caused by witches/demons in Nigeria has since been rested. It is a clean city with beautiful skyscrapers.
Singapore has zero-tolerance for corruption. It is internationally reputed for running a clean and transparent government. The laws against corruption were enforceable and indiscriminate. It is therefore, not only an investment haven but has judiciously utilized -its resources for national development. In comparison, Corruption is a multi-trillion-naira industry in Nigeria. Reports have it that over $400 billion of the nation’s resources was fritted to corruption. Even the EFFC claimed that over N21 trillion has been laundered in ten years.
Unlike in Nigeria, one hardly sees any police or the armed outfits yielding guns/tear gas canisters in the streets. There was no stop and search by the police or VIO on highway. There are no roadblocks in the city or highway. I have not seen police/warders directing traffic. I see the undue occupation of civil public space by security personnel as a sign of dysfunctional society.
We were told that Singaporeans police themselves and taught not break the law at childhood.
Singapore has managed its three major nationalities, namely the Chinese, Malay and Indians harmoniously. The Chinese control the commanding heights of the economy. The top five richest in Singapore are Chinese with vast interest in real estate, banking, IT and maritime. However, as a deliberate state policy the Malays and Indians are also empowered.
Some analysts may be tempted to say Singapore achieved development because of its small population. However, this perspective may not explain the backwardness of Gambia, Lesotho, Haiti or Guinea. My trip to Singapore (made possible by my employer) has inspired me and all hopes may not be lost in Nigeria. Singapore taught us that a patriotic leadership and committed citizenry is key in nation building.
M. B. Sabo, is of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria.