Being a Singaporean can mean many things to different people.
As seen from the popularized film “Crazy Rich Asians”, Singaporeans are portrayed as well-to-do individuals among the general global population, taking expensive Singapore Airlines flights and staying in million-dollar homes without even really batting an eyelid. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
We also have more localised films like “Money No Enough” and “881”, revealing the rest of the “figurative iceberg” of Singapore and a more colourful and uncouth side of the country.
One common theme from what represents Singapore in those films, will be the competitive nature of this nation, as well as the limited placement of slots for many things. This is seen in real life. For example, when adult Singaporean couples want to buy their first Build-To-Order (BTO) Housing Development Board (HDB) home, and they will need to first bid for the public housing unit with hopes of being selected. That’s even though they will be paying hundred thousands of dollars for one home. Such behavior may startle our foreign friends, but to us, it is the Singaporean way.
As Singaporeans, queueing, bidding, or waiting for something is also almost like a badge of honour skillset – think of our famous Hello Kitty Mcdonalds toys which made the news. We rely heavily on balloting or bidding to obtain usually limited goods even on a larger scale, such as homes, and school admissions.
In Singapore’s competitive society, balloting is not something that is frowned upon, but embraced wholeheartedly and turned into something positive. For example, we always consider those who got the top choice that they want through a ballot system as very lucky. (This is complementing to Singaporeans’ obsession with lottery TOTO and 4D, which can be a discussion for another day). Many always look at those winners and hope that they can also get the best ballot results for themselves.
Like it or not, it’s these various characteristics that make Singaporeans stand out and identify as who we are. Being brought up in a country with national day song lyrics that include “Stand Up for Singapore, Do The Best You Can” and “There Was A Time When People Said That Singapore Won’t Make It, But We Did”, it is clear that this country defies the odds to what others assume of it, and made its success in its own unique way.
With these, we will explore five uniquely Singaporean milestone ballots that locals can relate to living here.
HDB Build-To-Orders (BTO)
For first-time homeowners, you must have taken that walk in Toa Payoh HDB Hub to view the upcoming HDB launches or went on the HDB portal to figure out your eligibility to purchase a BTO HDB flat.
This affordable housing comes with government grants and rebates, making it a good deal as your first home. There is also a higher chance of letting go your first home in the future with the chance of making a profit, thanks to BTO prices being lower than the resale market rate. This makes BTOs a popular option for many new homeowners. With these reasons, BTO HDB sales exercises are often oversubscribed due to large volumes of flat applications, and to ensure that shortlisted eligible buyers are fairly treated, a computerised ballot is done.
The process starts with assessing applicants’ eligibility to buy a flat from HDB, and their eligibility for priority schemes. Applicants are then placed on an automated shortlisting based on a wide range of considerations. These include their household status, the flat type, and the priority schemes they applied for to determine applicants’ queue positions.
For those with smaller ballot numbers, they are the “lucky” ones as they get to choose the BTO unit of their choice and can brag to their friends and family about it if the estates are prime units close to the MRT.
Condo/Executive Condominium Launches
Even if you somewhat made it in life and can afford an expensive condominium or Executive Condominium somewhere in life, you do not get spared from the ballot system.
For popular condo launches, the developers will market the launch and then there will be the preview date which will usually last for two weeks. With each viewing session, visitors will be presented with the option to sign a blank cheque, expressing their interest in any particular unit. After the show flat previews, the developers will collate the blank cheques and assign the ballot numbers and booking timing and announce it to the buyers before booking day.
You will receive a ballot number, which you can easily count according to the available units to see if you have a good chance of getting the unit.
If you do not get a good ballot number at this point, you have lost half the battle and you can choose to not go ahead with the process and your blank cheque will get torn up and disposed of. For those who dare to play the game of chance, they can proceed to hang on to the next step.
A ballot number like 900 would seem to have slim chances for a development with 700 total units, especially for popular units which are the 1 bedders and 2 bedders.
With a “lousy” ballot number, it will also mean that you will have to pay more as the cheaper units are most likely snapped up by earlier bidders. Unless you “die die” must stay there, the only option is to give up and wait for another launch in the near future or look for resale options.
Primary School Admission Ballots
Since “time immemorial”, primary school balloting was a thing among Singaporean parents. It could have been easier for parents to enroll their children in primary schools perhaps in 1800s Singapore, but modern-day Singapore’s education system requires balloting to get into competitive schools.
Balloting is conducted when the number of registrants exceeds the school vacancies, which can happen in any phase from 2A to 2C Supplementary. Singaporean parents will have to check the list of primary schools that require balloting at the end of the phase to see if their child needs to ballot for a place in their preferred school. A computerised balloting will be conducted by the Ministry of Education.
Priority admission to a school will be given to children in this order:
- Singapore Citizens (SC) living within 1km of the school.
- SCs living between 1km and 2km from the school.
- SCs living outside 2km of the school.
- Permanent Residents (PR) living within 1km of the school.
- PRs living between 1km and 2km from the school.
- PRs living outside 2km of the school.
In 2023, a total of 27 primary schools were oversubscribed in Phase 2A of the Primary 1 registration exercise. Rosyth School for example, received 120 applicants for 75 spots for Phase 2A.
National Day Parade Tickets
You need to know your national day songs for this one. Singapore is a small country and even participating in the country’s birthday celebrations at the National Day Parade requires a ballot. Only Singaporeans and Permanent Residents can ballot for tickets and you will be able to join a patriotic crowd wearing red and white and sing “Stand Up For Singapore” and “Home”. There is also a free fun pack with beverages and food and memorabilia to take home.
The ticket ballot application is usually open around end-May to June each year and you will need to go to a website to fill in your particulars including name, contact details, and number of tickets. You will receive a notification to collect your ticket if you successfully won the ballot.
There are three parades, the preview two weeks before the national day, the preview a week before, and the actual parade on 9 August. Each applicant is entitled to only one ballot chance, so choose wisely and fret not if you didn’t get it this time, there’s always next year.
Commemorate Notes And Coins
Many Singaporeans are also collectors of notes and coins as they are perhaps proud of this country that defied the odds. Another benefit is that Singapore notes and coins do tend to appreciate in value over the years, because of the strong currency and overseas interest in the country.
Popular numismatic currency sets are often subject to balloting. As seen by the SG50 commemorative coins, those who were interested had to ballot for them as they were oversubscribed. The same was the case for the Singapore Bicentennial $20 notes.
The recent $10 coin to commemorate founding prime minister Lee Kwan Yew also required interested parties to fill up an application that is only open to Singaporeans and Permanent Residents. Each person can apply for up to five coins, but if the demand is high, each applicant is ensured at least one coin.
Successful applicants will receive an SMS notification from mid-August and the coins will be available from September. Although this application process is less of a ballot system, it still limits the number of coins available depending on demand. This shows that even a lot of money cannot buy things like these, as you need to be a Singaporean or PR to qualify.
Featured Image Credit: Angela Teng/DollarsAndSense
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