The Ethnic Integration Policy on public housing estates is an important pillar for social stability in Singapore.
National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan says putting a racial quota on flats may have inconvenienced some flat sellers, but it's a small sacrifice Singaporeans must make to safeguard racial harmony.
He was speaking in parliament on Monday. About 300 flat sellers and buyers are rejected each year because they don't fulfil the ethnic quota in their housing estates.
But the Minister said these numbers are small - less than 1% of total annual HDB transactions.
Since 1989, the HDB has put in place the Ethnic Integration Policy to ensure a balanced mix of races within the public housing estates.
It aims to get people of different races to interact and foster social harmony.
The policy also broke up the racial enclaves in Singapore as towns see lower concentrations of a particular racial group.
And according to the HDB, only a quarter of the 162 housing estates have hit the
ethnic quota limits, compared to nearly one third 16 years ago.
Speaking in parliament, Dr Amy Khor, MP for Hong Kah GRC, asked: "In the light of the Workers' Party manifesto, which seems to suggest that they're proposing to dismantle the ethnic integration quota because they feel that we've achieved a certain level of social integration, I would like to ask the minister in his own opinion if we ever can dismantle this ethnic quota that we can ever achieve a level of social integration where racial enclaves will not re-emerge."
In response, Mr Mah said that Workers' Party's Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang, who was absent at the time, would be a better person to answer the question.
Mr Mah also said: "Whatever the motivation is behind his manifesto, the consequences of following that path is really very dangerous and disastrous.
It's like playing with fire."
He continued: "Racial harmony is not a given for Singapore. It's not a given for any multi-racial society but certainly for Singapore, we have had our experiences of racial riots in the 60s. And if you trace the history of public housing in Singapore, (you can see) the role that public housing has played in helping to create a much more integrated, a much more tolerant Singapore."
The issue of a need for the Ethnic Integration Policy emerged when the Workers' Party launched its manifesto which among other things, proposed scrapping the policy.
Several Ministers responded, calling it a dangerous idea as the ethnic quota policy is crucial to maintaining racial harmony. - CNA/ir