By Leong Sze Hian
I refer to the article “Population projected at 6.9 million by 2030 with strong Singaporean core” (Channel NewsAsia, Jan 29).
6.9m by 2030
Up to 6m by 2020?
According to the Population White Paper, “Singapore’s total population of residents and non- residents in 2020 is projected to be between 5.8 and 6 million, depending on our fertility trends, life expectancy, as well as our social and economic needs.
The resident population (comprising citizens and PRs) is projected to be 4 to 4.1 million, of which citizens alone will make up 3.5 to 3.6 million.”
Foreigners grow to 1.9m?
This means that the current 1.49 million foreigners is projected to grow up to 1.9 million in just seven years ‘ time.
So, what happened to the consistent rhetoric in recent years that the huge influx of foreigners will be curtailed?
More new citizens, new PRs continue to grow at same pace?
As to “The proposal is to take in 30,000 new permanent residents (PR) every year which will keep the PR population stable at about half a million. Then, from this pool, take in 15,000 to 25,000 new citizens each year, to stop the citizen population from shrinking”, what this means is that instead of curtailing the influx of new citizens, we are increasing it from the current 20,000 new citizens to as much as 25,000 a year.
Also, with regard to keeping new PRs “to about 30,000 each year currently. We plan to maintain the current pace”, means that we will not be curtailing the influx of PRs as well.
Do we need to keep growing?
The fundamental question that we may have to ask ourselves, may be why we need to keep growing the population?
The notion that we need more young people to support an aging population may not hold water, because Singapore unlike most developed countries spends very little on supporting the elderly, as we do not have pensions, universal healthcare or welfare for the elderly.
Even if we accept the argument that we need to grow the population in order to keep it from shrinking in the far distant future, shouldn’t we be focusing on the resident population, rather than the overall population to include foreigners? Why do we need to continue to increase the foreign population by so much?
Implications for Singaporeans?
The more important questions, arguably, may be what are the implications and outcomes for Singaporeans in terms of competition for jobs, depression of wages, rise in the cost of living, housing, healthcare, transport, etc?
Are we doing enough?
In this respect, for example, the white paper continues to make assumptions that productivity growth will be better, when clearly all the productivity enhancement schemes, funding, etc, have not worked. – “Up to 2020, if we can achieve 2% to 3% productivity growth per year (which is an ambitious stretch target)”
Another example is “We are upgrading the signalling systems of the North-South and East-West Lines to increase capacity on these lines by up to 20% during the peak period. When completed in stages from 2016, there will be 6 instead of 5 trains running every 10 minutes during peak periods, reducing the passenger load and shortening waiting times”.
So, starting from 2016 when the improvements will start to be completed in stages, how much less crowded is it going to get with one more train every 10 minutes during peak hours, with the population growing from 5.3 million now to six million in 2020?
Yet another example, may be to increase the number of acute hospital beds by 2,200 or 30 per cent. Considering that the increase in the total number of hospital beds over the last decade or so was zero, how can 2,200 more beds by 2020 be enough to cater for the 700,000 increase in the population?
No new initiatives?
There seems to be no new substantive initiatives to address Singaporeans’ most pressing problems like negative real median wage increase over the last five years or so, and the relentless rise in the cost of living, particularly for basic goods and services.
There appears to be much of the same old stuff, like life-long upgrading, Workfare, job-matching and placement programmes, etc.
No projection of future revenues?
What is perhaps sorely lacking is that there is no projection of any increase in government revenues or budget surpluses, and how some of these may be channeled towards mitigating the adverse impact of our continuing “pro-foreigner” growth policies, particularly for lower-income Singaporeans?
The least that we can try to do, may be to review policies such as the removal of the 30 per cent water conversation tax, decoupling the principle of increasing property taxes with increasing rents for owner-occupied homes, freezing transport fares as long as operators continue to make hefty profits, maintaining Service and Conservancy Charges (S & CC) for town councils that have operating or accumulated surpluses, capping the maximum healthcare fees payable when one undergoes treatment in subsidised wards, etc.
I wonder what the outcome of the Punggol-East by-election may have been like, if the release of population white paper had not been delayed.