Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the Second Reading of the Land Betterment Charge Bill (Bill No. 7/2021)
Sir, this Bill recognises that those who reap economic rewards from the development of land benefit from public infrastructure.
As such, it is equitable that such economic benefit is returned to the community.
I have three points of clarification on the Bill.
Ensuring accountability for concessionary relief extended
My first point is on the mechanisms in place to ensure that the planning objectives of the Bill are achieved.
The new section 13 of the Bill provides the Land Planning Minister the power to provide concessionary relief from land betterment charge for the purpose of meeting certain planning objectives.
These conditions include that the relief will lead to a more optimal use of land, improve the productivity of the construction sector, and promote environmentally sustainable development of land.
These objectives are wide-ranging and very general in nature.
Given how broad these objectives are, can Minister explain which of these specific planning objectives the concessionary relief granted to a development is intended to achieve?
Can Minister also explain how he envisions the development will achieve the intended planning objectives?
Additionally, given that a fairly long time frame may be required to determine if some of these objectives are achieved, what measures are in place to track whether the concessionary relief granted achieved the intended planning objectives?
Scope of Minister’s power to grant general exemptions
My second point is on the scope of Minister’s power to grant general exemptions from the land betterment charge under the new section 12.
In contrast to the Land Planning Minister’s power to provide concessionary relief, the Minister’s power to grant a general exemption is not expressly limited by any planning objectives.
Can Minister provide assurance that the Minister’s power will be exercised in line with the purpose of the Act as set out under the new section 5?
In other words, will Minister’s power to grant general exemptions be consistent with objectives of urban development, enhance productivity for the construction industry, and promote environmentally sustainable development?
Recovering benefits from unlawful developments
My third point is how the government will recover benefits from any unlawful development.
The new section 40(2)(d) provides the Authority the power to direct a person to pay a penalty tax if the Authority considers that restoring the land and other restorative steps is not reasonably practicable or is undesirable.
However, even if an unauthorised activity ceases or the land restored, the developer may still have reaped benefits for the period that the unlawful development lasted.
At present, the Authority’s power to either order restoration or impose a penalty tax appears to be mutually exclusive.
Can Minister clarify what powers the Ministry has to require that a developer disgorge the benefits that it has reaped from an unlawful development?
Notwithstanding these clarifications, I stand in support of the Bill.
Read the speech here.